Congressional candidate Carolyn Long published a plan this week to steer the country through COVID-19 recovery, hoping to convince voters in Washington’s 3rd Congressional District that she’s the better choice to lead the region out of the pandemic.
The Democrat’s plan focused on bolstering health care, unemployment and infrastructure. It addressed emergency aid — extending the enhanced unemployment benefits that expired at the end of July — as well as longer-term issues, such as a lack of child care.
Long said in an interview with The Columbian that she wasn’t focusing on the cost of her proposal during this initial planning stage. Instead, she and the campaign team that helped to author the document focused on removing barriers to economic recovery.
“I was motivated to do this because of what I saw as a lack of leadership in Congress and a lack of leadership in the incumbent,” Long said. She was referring to Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, the Republican congresswoman from Battle Ground who’s been elected to represent the voters in the district five times.
“We have people still talking about a CARES Act that was passed five months ago. Congress hasn’t done its job,” Long said.
Long unveiled her 17-page plan Wednesday evening and followed up the release with a press conference Thursday afternoon on Facebook Live. The conference also included endorsements from three Vancouver-based constituents: a union laborer, an intensive care nurse and a small-business owner.
Congress’ response to the pandemic, Long said, has been “anemic.” She criticized her general election opponent for lack of leadership.
“We need fresh, bold leadership to get Southwest Washington back on track,” Long said during the conference.
Herrera Beutler voted to pass emergency aid legislation in March. Since then, she’s prioritized helping businesses in her district secure disaster loans through the U.S. Small Business Administration.
The Republican lawmaker has also been pushing for Congress to pass legislation to extend the Paycheck Protection Program, which incentivizes business owners to keep their employees on the payroll. The program stopped accepting applications last month.
What’s in the plan?
Long is calling on Congress to extend the enhanced unemployment benefit that expired over the summer, which provided an additional $600 a week to those who lost their jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic, on top of typical unemployment insurance. Her plan calls the enhanced benefit “a rare success story preventing tens of millions from falling into poverty.”
The Democrat is also urging more funding for K-12 schools than the allocation initially set aside in the CARES Act. During remote learning, schools need to provide Wi-Fi hot spots for students who might lack access, as well as devices such as laptops and tablets, Long said. As schools transition back to in-person instruction, they’ll need more for protective gear and cleaning supplies, her plan states.
Long also restated her pledge to improve broadband infrastructure, a consistent refrain since she announced her second congressional run in July 2019.
“There are a number of counties in the 3rd Congressional District where a third of the residents don’t have access to high-speed internet,” Long told The Columbian. “It’s something I’ve been talking about before the pandemic.”
Her plan also calls for other infrastructure improvements as a way to reinvest in the region’s economy — especially bridges and roads, she said.
“There are many models in the past that have shown when you invest in infrastructure, you create jobs,” Long said.
The final main pillar of Long’s COVID-19 recovery plan focuses on health care. She reiterated another campaign promise that stretches back to her first race in 2018, pledging to protect the Affordable Care Act and work to establish a low-deductible public option.
“The reason that I talk about the Affordable Care Act so much is it protects tens of millions of Americans with pre-existing conditions, and of course COVID will probably be categorized as a pre-existing,” Long said.
Long’s plan also calls for stricter oversight of government funds, a graduated $15 federal minimum wage and expansion of the Child Care Development Block Grant program.
The full document is available on Long’s campaign website. She plans to hold a Q&A session over Facebook Live at 4 p.m. today.