In Tele-Community Forum, Mainers Voice Concerns as Pandemic Worsens
Portland, MAINE – Tonight, nearly 4,000 Mainers from throughout the state came together in a telephone community forum to discuss the coronavirus crisis the. The forum, hosted by 16 Counties Coalition, provided Mainers an opportunity to share their stories, stay connected, and to get factual information and support from trusted community members including health care workers, a faith leader, small business owners, labor leaders, and an economist.
“My husband was disabled and hasn’t filled out taxes for a long time. I tried to call Susan Collins, but I was told I should just hold on and wait. The IRS website says to wait, but they also say you need to file. It’s so confusing,” said Lisa from Bradford.
“While the shipyard remains open, many make the difficult choice of going into work where it’s difficult to distance yourself from others, or to go on unemployment. It’s a decision that can mean food insecurity or putting your family at risk,” said Josh Johnstone, BIW employee.
”In many ways, doing well. We may have lost our mobility, but we have not lost our humanity. We all know the issues. But we don’t have any leadership. People are desperate for leadership, ” said Naomi from Portland.
“Health care workers in our state are fighting to make sure that they have the personal protective equipment that they need. And when they take up that fight, it is not just to protect themselves and their own families, but to protect their patients and the community,” said guest Todd Ricker, union representative for the ME State Nurses Association.
“What we heard from Mainers is that times are hard, and they’re only going to get harder — and these people don’t trust Senator Collins to put the needs of working Mainers families over corporate interests,” said Willy Ritch, executive director of 16 Counties Coalition. “They know Senator Collins voted to reject paid sick leave for all working Mainers and Americans. They also know Susan Collins pushed hard to get exemptions and bailouts for the same corporate employers who are currently forcing Mainers without access to leave to choose between a paycheck and getting sick themselves, possibly putting their families, coworkers, and customers at risk.”
The tele-event highlighted Mainers’ frustrations with the lack of leadership Senator Susan Collins has shown throughout the COVID-19 Crisis. Some of the issues presented by callers included difficulty accessing information about receiving the direct payments passed in the recent stimulus; being left out of the paid sick leave provisions and having to face tough choices, and concerns about whether the bill will actually provide relief for working families. In a poll conducted during the event, 74 percent said they believe big corporations will benefit far more from the stimulus than working Mainers.
16 Counties Coalition convened a panel of three community experts to speak about the coronavirus, the stimulus bill, and the federal response to the crisis has impacted Mainers: Dr. Julia McDonald, a family physician and staff member at MaineGeneral hospital, local small business owner Andrew Volker, and retired economist Marcus Hutchins. The panelists were also joined by special guests, including the Rev. Dr. Jodi Cohen Hayashida, minister of the First Universalist Church of Auburn Josh Johnstone, a rigger at BIW, and Todd Ricker, union representative for the Maine State Nurses Association.
The event was also cosponsored by a number of Maine organizations, including Maine People’s Alliance, Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund, Mainers for Accountable Leadership, and Maine Small Business Coalition.
About the 16 Counties Coalition
The 16 Counties Coalition is a year-long grassroots advocacy campaign aimed at amplifying the voices of families and working Mainers and encouraging Senator Susan Collins to vote in favor of the people she was elected to represent and defend. The campaign will mobilize members through small- and large-scale events, through digital action, and paid television, radio, and digital ads.
DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.