Rep. Elissa Slotkin at a town hall in East Lansing, Oct. 2, 2019 | Anna Liz Nichols
U.S. Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Holly) hosted a virtual town hall with constituents Thursday evening to discuss the recent school shooting at Oxford High School, the surge in COVID-19 cases in Michigan and the bipartisan infrastructure deal that was passed in Congress last month.
Slotkin began the town hall by discussing the Oxford shooting in Southeast Michigan that left four students killed and seven people wounded. Slotkin began the conference saying there has been a “normalization of violence” and that something must be done to prevent future tragedies like this.
“The loss of these four young people has really traumatized our students, our teachers, those who were injured, those who were just in the building,” Slotkin said. “It’s a deeply traumatizing event.”
Slotkin noted the “extraordinary outpouring” of support in the community since the shooting and thousands of dollars have been raised for the victims and their families. There also have been several vigils and memorials for the community to mourn together.
Slotkin also pointed out the need for a drastic change in the nation’s mental health infrastructure to better deal with those who are suffering from mental illness and prevent future tragedies like this.
“It is very, very clear that as a state and as a country, we are not doing enough with mental health infrastructure to keep up with the demand,” Slotkin said.
“This tragedy also makes clear that we have a severe problem with mental health,” Slotkin continued. “Across the country, frankly, we had a crisis with mental health before COVID. COVID obviously made it much more intense. And then a tragedy like this just exposes all the holes in the services that we need for our young people.”
Slotkin then shifted the conversation to addressing the surge in COVID-19 cases that is currently ravaging Michigan. Michigan just discovered it’s first case of the omicron variant in Kent County on Thursday. As of Wednesday, the state has had a total of 1,368,541 positive cases and 24,845 deaths since the start of the pandemic.
Slotkin said after her visit at a St. Joseph Mercy Hospital this week, it was clear that the main concern of hospital workers is for people to get vaccinated.
“When I asked staff at the hospitals what they wanted, they said very clearly to please beg people to get vaccinated so that we can get back to normal,” Slotkin said.
Slotkin also said federal COVID relief dollars need to be distributed to Michigan hospitals, echoing Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Michigan House Republicans introduced a $1.2 billion plan to help with COVID-19, including $300 million to recruit and retain health care workers.
“[I] will just say that we have significant federal dollars that have been appropriated to the state of Michigan for COVID relief,” Slotkin said. “And I couldn’t have heard more clearly this week, [that there is] the need from our hospitals for some of that relief money. “
Slotkin ended with promoting her work on helping to pass the bipartisan infrastructure deal signed into law last month. Her colleague, U.S. Rep. Fred Upton (R-St. Joseph, talked with the Advance this week about receiving numerous threats following his vote in support of the bill.
The bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes provisions for a $110 billion investment in repairing and rebuilding roads and bridges, $90 billion for public transit, as well as $66 billion for passenger rail improvements.
The bill also includes $65 billion for initiatives to expand broadband internet access, a provision Slotkin said will enable the state “to have broadband internet in every corner” of Michigan once the state has spent all of the funds it was appropriated.
“This is the most significant infrastructure investment we’ve made here in this country, and it’s going to transform Michigan over the next decade,” Slotkin said. “It’s going to rebuild our state and it’s going to create tens of thousands of middle class jobs and jobs that cannot be outsourced, not be sent abroad.”
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