Last month, President Donald Trump assembled a bipartisan group, made up of members of the U.S. Congress, to advise on how to reopen the economy amid the COVID-19 pandemic. U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen, a Democrat from Nevada, is a member of this group and spoke with KUNR's Bree Zender about her work on the task force.
Zender: What are a couple of your biggest priorities when it comes to this federal reopening plan?
Rosen: What that means for Nevada is that they're going to have a seat at the table with the White House and the rest of the task force, trying to figure out what we do going forward. So what I've decided to do is really make this a collaborative effort between everyone in Nevada. So of course, working with the six of us in the federal delegation to hear what everybody else is hearing as they're talking to people up and down the state. Working with the governor, his teams, what they're working on [and] what their priorities are. I've been calling and contacting all the mayors to send to me what their worries, questions and hopes for the future are, what they think we need to consider. And the same thing through our national association of counties, our NACo, with all counties trying to reach out, call and email, and work with them to build a Nevada blueprint for success going forward.
Now some things, of course, will be Nevada specific. Maybe mining, gaming, things that are very much Nevada and will be some of the same [issues that others] across the country [have had]. In rural and urban areas, testing, PPE, equipment, education, digital divide, how do we train people, all those things. But I plan to make this a living document, one we can all use collaboratively, and I'm just very excited and proud to be able to do that for Nevada.
Zender: You mentioned some Nevada-specific relief. Can you go into more detail on tourism?
Rosen: Nevada-specific, though really, the hospitality industry. I'm the only member of the federal delegation that sits on the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee. So what that means is [when] gaming was excluded from getting this [Paycheck Protection Program Small Business Administration], those PPP loans, if you had under 500 employees and received more than 30 percent of your revenue from gaming, you were excluded. That particularly [hit] a majority of our small businesses up and down the state, the restaurants, bars, truck stops, et cetera. I spoke with [SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin]. We worked very hard. We didn't want them to pick winners and losers. We got that restriction removed. So now everyone can apply for the PPP loans. We're going to be sure that they can apply for other economic injury [and] disaster loans through the SBA. We're working hard with our SBA on all of that and that's probably the most important thing that we have that's Nevada-specific that was having challenges.
Zender: Let's take a look at workers for a minute. We've seen record filing of unemployment in the past weeks. Data shows that this shutdown disproportionately affects people of color and women, who are statistically more likely to have low-income jobs that were either reduced or furloughed. What should be done to support these communities as we begin to reopen?
Rosen: What this really lays bare is a lot of the disparities in our communities: economically, digitally, the digital divide for telemedicine [and] for tele-education. [Some] kids have broadband and some don't. How do they go to homeschool? How do we make sure that women, who often are already underpaid in tough jobs, how do we [make] sure that we support them when they're the breadwinner [for] their families? [With] unemployment insurance, we're giving an extra $600 a week just for that very purpose. And so there's a lot of things that we can do. And I think going forward, some of the other things that we're going to need to do is try to put money into education, to retrain people who may lose their jobs, or give people an opportunity to train in better-paying jobs. Of course, across the medical spectrum, we see that we need all kinds of things, from nurses [to] technologists and people to work in our pharmacies, et cetera, et cetera. So there's a lot that we can do to protect our underserved minority communities, women, of course, across all communities. And when we do that, our families will thrive.
Zender: Are you pushing for more direct payments at this point?
Rosen: You know, I think that the first thing we have to do. We've passed four packages pretty rapidly. It had to happen rapidly because unfortunately, as I don't have to tell anybody who's listening, COVID hit all of us — the whole world — just fast and furious. And so we had to do what we could to shore up our medical infrastructure. You have the first wave of payments to families and work on businesses. We had to give more there. And so now that we're taking this breath, we realized to reopen, we need more testing. See if you're sick or have antibodies. We need to find therapeutics. We need to have a vaccine. We need to address the digital divide, food insecurity, economic insecurity, so many things. So there will be multiple packages, I believe, going forward, but we have to have oversight first to be sure that these trillions of dollars that we've already allocated actually do get allocated, number one. And then more importantly, when they're allocated, they go to the places that Congress intended them to go.
Zender: Do you expect this pandemic to change much of Nevada's economic landscape in the long run?
Rosen: In the long run? No, I don't. I think what Nevada, you know, we are known worldwide for the excitement that we have here in Las Vegas, in particular: the shows, the restaurants, the spas and all of that. Nevada, of course, all throughout Nevada we have a great, booming outdoor adventure activity: cycling, hiking, biking, skiing, you name it. Boating in Lake Tahoe to Lake Mead. And so we have a lot going on there. I think that the tourism industry is going to stay strong. It's just going to take a while to come back. I do think though, we have to be sure that we make future investments in Nevada to help grow and diversify our economy. [There are] so many things out there that we want to pursue and work on in solar energy, battery storage, conserving water and our natural resources, and protecting them. So there's a lot of [opportunities] here in Nevada. We're going to have to invest in that as well, but I think our tourism industry is exciting. I always want us to be known for that across the state and to grow the rest.