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Working during the pandemic

By Rep. A. Donald McEachin

As I write this in early May, we have entered the second month of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the second month of Gov. Ralph Northam’s stay-at-home order. Most of us are tired of being at home, tired of being separated from family and friends and frightened of both the virus and the cratering economy.

In compliance with both state orders and orders in the District of Columbia, my offices are closed, but we are all working remotely. We are here for you and eager to help. If you have an issue or a problem with a federal agency, my office is happy to help. Just go to my website, mceachin.house.gov, to get started. We are also happy to record your opinion on any news topic.

Last month, while I could not physically be out and around the district, I’ve hosted several virtual events to inform and assist constituents. We had a roundtable with small business owners to hear directly from them about their concerns and needs. I also had a tele-town hall with experts to help with coronavirus concerns. If you have further questions, feel free to post them on Twitter, and I’ll get you answers.

In early May, I held a virtual panel about at-home schooling. I know many parents are struggling with this new responsibility, and children are struggling with distance learning over the internet. We were fortunate to be joined by Atif Qarni, the Virginia Secretary of Education, Jason Kamras, Richmond Superintendent of Schools and several prominent teachers including Rodney Robinson, former Richmond teacher and National Teacher of the Year.

As this pandemic continues, we are all becoming increasingly aware and appreciative of our frontline and essential workers and the critical jobs they do. Health care workers, grocery store employees, farmers, food processing workers, senior center staff, trash collectors, mail delivery persons and many more keep us going in these difficult times. We thank them and honor their service.

But I know there are many more folks in our district who are working hard to make a difference, to pay it forward, to help all of us get through this. And while they are most frequently anonymous and not looking for praise, I have started a thank-a-neighbor program. If you know someone in your community who is making a difference during these trying times, we want to be able to shout them out and give them a public thank you. Please submit their name and what they’re doing to VA04projects@mail.house.gov.

The Congressional Art Competition for local high schoolers is open until 4:30 p.m. May 27. Please email a high-quality photo of artwork to VA04.Projects@mail.house.gov.

Pre-registration for the Congressional App Challenge, where high schoolers develop apps for the computer, is also open now and once students have signed up, they can start coding immediately. Information on all of the above programs can be found on my website at mceachin.house.gov.

My congressional colleagues and I may be working remotely but we are, nonetheless, busy working on legislation to mitigate the problems Americans are facing in this pandemic. I have led on a series of letters, including working to increase funding for nursing facilities and assisted living centers, funding for higher education and supporting the shipbuilding industry. I have also led on letters to highlight the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on communities of color and on low-income families.

We have now turned our attention to more legislation to help with ongoing impacts of the virus. I am particularly concerned about getting funding to states and localities. Without state and local funding, many critical and hard-working employees will go unpaid and unable to take care of their families. We depend on them every day, and we need to make sure they know they will get their hard-earned paychecks.

Please know my office and I are here to serve you during these disquieting and unsure times. If you have questions or concerns or just want to let me know your thoughts, please go to my website, mceachin.house.gov, and I promise you we will be back in touch.

Congressman Donald McEachin represents Virginia’s 4th Congressional District.