Thursday, April 9, 2020

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell: HHS Should Let Internationally Trained Doctors Play More of a Role in U.S. Healthcare

Debbie Mucarsel-Powell

With the nation continuing to face the coronavirus pandemic, a congresswoman from South Florida is backing a proposal to help doctors trained abroad who live in the U.S. play more of a role practicing medicine.

This week, U.S. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, D-Fla., showcased her support of U.S. Rep. Tony Cardenas’, D-Calif., proposal to have the U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Department create a task force “to examine the shortage situation, determine common obstacles for internationally-trained doctors to re-enter the medical field, and make recommendations to Congress.”

Mucarsel-Powell weighed in on Tuesday as to why she was cosponsoring the bill.

“As we face this unprecedented medical crisis, there is an entire untapped, skilled workforce of immigrants who could help us fight this pandemic on the medical front. These foreign-educated physicians living here in America want to help us address the shortages we are seeing at our medical facilities, and we are not in a position to turn away their help,” said Mucarsel-Powell.

Mucarsel-Powell insisted having more internationally-trained doctors practicing medicine would help in South Florida.

“South Florida has a great pool of internationally-trained doctors and medical professionals who stand ready to serve during this time of crisis. We need to explore ways to engage and empower this medically-educated group so they can assist in these life-saving efforts,” she said.

“The coronavirus pandemic has opened our eyes to the major hurdles and inefficiencies in the American medical licensing and immigration systems and shined a light on the severe shortage of physicians in our country,” said Cardenas. “Right now, thousands of doctors and healthcare workers are working around the clock to treat patients and contain the outbreak, but hospitals across America are woefully understaffed with more and more doctors and nurses becoming sick from the virus. We have thousands of internationally-trained physicians living in the United States who are ready and able to do the job but are unable to practice due to unnecessary regulation. By removing these barriers and allowing these doctors to practice, we not only strengthen our healthcare system but are better positioned to tackle any future health crisis we may face.”

If the bill passes, the task force would examine the national shortage of physicians and how it is costing the federal, state and local governments. The task force would also see how many internationally-trained physicians are in the U.S. and why some of them are not practicing medicine. The task force would also be charged with making “recommendations to Congress to ease barriers to re-entry into the medical field for these individuals.”

The South Florida congresswoman’s office noted that 17 percent of healthcare personnel working in the U.S. are immigrants, including almost a quarter of all doctors and cited statistics from Association of American Medical Colleges which found the “physician shortage could expand to nearly 122,000 clinicians by 2032, including a shortfall of about 55,000 primary care physicians.”

“Internationally-trained doctors are more likely to practice primary care medicine, more open to working in rural and low-income areas, and are also multilingual and multicultural. According to the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG), there are roughly 7,000 – 9,000 immigrant physicians applying every year with about 53 percent overall succeeding in being placed into residency slots. Internationally-trained physicians make up a disproportionate number of residency positions filled in primary care fields and underserved areas,” the congresswoman’s office noted.

The bill was sent to the U.S. House Energy and Commerce Committee at the end of last week. So far, there is no companion measure over in the U.S. Senate.

Mucasrel-Powell isn’t the only elected official from South Florida working on the matter. Noting that the number of coronavirus cases in the Sunshine State was on the rise, at the start of last week, state Sen. Annette Taddeo, D-Miami, called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to take a page from Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s, D-NY, playbook and “follow New York’s lead and ease current restrictions on foreign graduates of medical schools already in Florida to aid in the state’s emergency response.”

Taddeo sent a letter to DeSantis and urged him to change the current policy.

“As the numbers of infected Floridians continue to skyrocket, our front-line medical professionals and medical facilities need more help,” Taddeo wrote DeSantis.”Governor [Andrew] Cuomo, through multiple executive orders, has temporarily modified the rules and regulations to allow for more medical professionals to help against the COVID-19 crisis.  One of Governor Cuomo’s executive orders includes a provision to temporarily allow graduates of foreign medical schools having at least one year of graduate medical education to provide patient care in hospitals.”

Taddeo’s office insisted “multiple trained medical professionals have been reaching out to her, offering their expertise to help in the spreading COVID-19 pandemic in Florida, but the licensing procedure has prevented their participation” and praised Cuomo’s efforts.

“Governor Cuomo’s order, by contrast, allows unlicensed graduates of foreign medical schools who have completed at least one year of graduate medical education to provide patient care in hospitals,” Taddeo’s office noted.

“Now is the time to let them help,” Taddeo wrote.  “I strongly urge you to take immediate action to allow them to help during this crisis.”

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

Rand Paul Endorses Kat Cammack to Replace Ted Yoho in Congress

rand paul

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., threw his support behind Kat Cammack in the crowded Republican primary to replace retiring U.S. Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Fla.

On Wednesday, Paul endorsed Cammack, a former aide to Yoho who led his campaign when he upset longtime U.S. Rep. Cliff Stearns, R-Fla., in 2012.

“Kat Cammack is a conservative outsider and a big government fighter,” Paul said. “She will stand with President Trump to build the wall and secure our borders, protect life, and defend the Second Amendment. We need to send strong conservatives like Kat Cammack to Washington who have the courage to take on career politicians and drain the swamp. She is a passionate patriot who has the know-how, work ethic, and backbone to make a real difference. Kat Cammack is exactly the kind of representative we need more of on Capitol Hill, which is why she has my full support in her campaign for Congress.”

“It is truly an honor to earn the endorsement and trust of Senator Rand Paul in our campaign for Florida’s Third District,” Cammack said. “Rand is an ardent defender of the Constitution and will never shy away from a fight to limit government and protect individual liberties in Washington. With the extremists on the left growing bolder in their push for socialism every day, we need those leaders now more than ever. If given the privilege of representing our district, I would be proud to stand alongside him on Capitol Hill for conservative values and to work every day to drain the swamp.”

Cammack is running in a very crowded primary in what is considered a solidly Republican district. Other Republican candidates include businessman and author Ryan Chamberlin, former Gainesville City Commissioner Todd Chase, businessman Bill Engelbrecht, Ocala Mayor Kent Guinn, former congressional staffer Joe Millado, Clay County Commissioner Gavin Rollins, businessman and former congressional aide Judson Sapp, physician James St. George, businessman David Theus and businesswoman Amy Pope Wells.

Four DemocratsAdam Christensen, Phil Dodds, Richard Rowe and Tom Wells–are running in this solidly red district which stretches from Clay County to parts of Gainesville and Ocala.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

 

Bernie Sanders Suspends Presidential Campaign Making Joe Biden the De Facto Democratic Candidate

Bernie Sanders

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., suspended his presidential bid on Wednesday, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden as the de facto Democratic nominee who will challenge President Donald Trump in November

While he won the New Hampshire primary and the Nevada caucus and was edged out by former South Bend Mayor Peter Buttigieg in Iowa by the slimmest of margins, Sanders never bounced back after losing to Biden in South Carolina and on Super Tuesday.

With Biden far ahead in the delegate count, Sanders bowed to reality on Wednesday.

“Today I am suspending my campaign. But while the campaign ends, the struggle for justice continues on,” Sanders insisted. “Let us go forward together. The struggle continues.”

Biden quickly moved on Wednesday to reach out to Sanders’ supporters.

“Today, Senator Sanders announced he was suspending his campaign. Bernie has put his heart and soul into not only running for president, but for the causes and issues he has been dedicated to his whole life. So, I know how hard a decision this was for him to make — and how hard it is for the millions of his supporters — especially younger voters — who have been inspired and energized and brought into politics by the progressive agenda he has championed. Bernie has done something rare in politics. He hasn’t just run a political campaign; he’s created a movement. And make no mistake about it, I believe it’s a movement that is as powerful today as it was yesterday. That’s a good thing for our nation and our future,” Biden insisted.

“Senator Sanders and his supporters have changed the dialogue in America. Issues which had been given little attention — or little hope of ever passing — are now at the center of the political debate. Income inequality, universal health care, climate change, free college, relieving students from the crushing debt of student loans. These are just a few of the issues Bernie and his supporters have given life to. And while Bernie and I may not agree on how we might get there, we agree on the ultimate goal for these issues and many more,” Biden added. “But more than any one issue or set of issues, I want to commend Bernie for being a powerful voice for a fairer and more just America. It’s voices like Bernie’s that refuse to allow us to just accept what is — that refuse to accept we can’t change what’s wrong in our nation — that refuse to accept the health and well-being of our fellow citizens and our planet isn’t our responsibility too. Bernie gets a lot of credit for his passionate advocacy for the issues he cares about. But he doesn’t get enough credit for being a voice that forces us all to take a hard look in the mirror and ask if we’ve done enough.

“While the Sanders campaign has been suspended — its impact on this election and on elections to come is far from over. We will address the existential crisis of climate change. We will confront income inequality in our nation. We will make sure healthcare is affordable and accessible to every American. We will make education at our public colleges and universities free. We will ease the burden of student debt. And, most important of all, we will defeat Donald Trump,” Biden continued.

This marks the end of Sanders’ second presidential bid. Sanders ran for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2016 but lost out to former U.S. Sec. of State Hillary Clinton. In that campaign, Sanders won more than 20 states and 43 percent of the delegates.

The most prominent socialist in American politics in recent decades, Sanders served as mayor of Burlington, Vermont during the 1980s before being elected to the U.S. House in 1990. He was elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006.

Frederica Wilson, Florida Democrats on Capitol Hill Call on DHS to Stop Haiti Deportations Due to Coronavirus

Insisting that Haiti does not have the healthcare resources to battle coronavirus, nine Democrats representing Florida in the U.S. House called on the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to reverse plans to deport Haitians who were illegally in the U.S.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) planned to send at least 14 Haitians back to their home country on Tuesday but one of them had been exposed to someone who tested positive for coronavirus.

U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Fla., rounded up more than 15 House Democrats is sending a letter to acting U.S. DHS Sec. Chad Wolf, urging him to keep the Haitians in the U.S. Other Florida Democrats who signed the letter include U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, Val Demings, Ted Deutch, Lois Frankel, Alcee Hastings, Donna Shalala, Darren Soto and Debbie Wasserman Schultz.

“Like many of the countries to which migrants are being repatriated, Haiti lacks the public health infrastructure to prevent the spread of the virus or to treat a large number of infected people. Haiti has struggled to rebuild in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake and other disasters, including a cholera epidemic,” the representatives wrote. “Many citizens still lack access to the most basic medical care, potable water, and soap for handwashing. It is unconscionable to repatriate migrants who may be unwitting carriers of the virus into such an environment.”

“In March, Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that the agency would ‘delay enforcement actions’ and that it’s highest priorities are to promote lifesaving and public safety activities,’” Wilson’s office insisted. “Continuing to deport migrants to Haiti would have implications for the U.S., as well, because Haiti’s health-care system is so drastically compromised, and it does not have the infrastructure in place to care for even a dozen coronavirus patients. If an outbreak occurs in Haiti, the United States may be forced to financially intercede and care for the people of Haiti because a pandemic will be too overwhelming for the island nation to conquer. The Department of Homeland Security is reportedly deporting detainees without first testing them for COVID-19.”

On Tuesday, Wilson said ICE should have the Haitians in the U.S. illegaly shelter in place.

“ICE needs to allow these detainees to shelter in place. That’s what the president promised. It is creating a very dangerous situation for the airports, the Caribbean, and ICE itself. It’s another mechanism to spread the virus across the world,” said Wilson.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

Florida Office of Insurance Regulation Offers Guidelines for Insurers on Workers’ Comp, Telehealth Issues During Pandemic

insurance

This week, the Florida Office of Insurance Regulation offered some guidelines for insurers dealing with workers’ compensation coverage and telehealth matters as the COVID-19 pandemic continues.

State CFO Jimmy Patronis weighed in on the guidelines on Tuesday.

“As we work together to fight COVID-19 in our communities, my office has been working closely with the Office of Insurance Regulation to ensure the insurance industry is stepping up for Floridians,” Patronis said. “Today, insurers were reminded that first responders, health care workers, and others that contract COVID-19 due to work-related exposure are entitled to protections under Florida’s workers’ compensation law. This is vital coverage for these brave men and women risking their health and safety on the front lines of this pandemic.

“Health insurers were also advised to take full advantage of technology and broaden the use of telehealth as we work to maintain important social distancing guidance from health officials while still providing critical health services. I thank Commissioner Altmaier for his hard work and continued guidance to the insurance industry on measures to protect and assist Floridians during these challenging times,” Patronis added.

Insurance Commissioner David Altmaier also talked about the new guidelines.

“First responders, health care workers, and others who contract COVID-19 due to work-related exposure would be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under Florida law. I have directed insurers to comply with all provisions of Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law and will take appropriate action in the event of non-compliance,” Altmaier said.

“My team is committed to developing solutions that provide relief for policyholders at this time, including broadening access to telemedicine to help alleviate hurdles for Floridians attempting to utilize telehealth services. I thank CFO Patronis, Governor DeSantis, and the Florida Cabinet for their response to COVID-19 and will continue to work closely with Florida officials to best serve Floridians,” he added.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

Ashley Moody: Efforts to Crack Down on Coronavirus Price Gouging Resulted in More than $130k in Refunds

ashley-moody

This week, Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody showcased her office’s efforts to crackdown on price gouging during the coronavirus pandemic.

After Gov. Ron DeSantis declared an emergency due to the pandemic, Moody activated the Price Gouging and, according to her office, her “Rapid Response Team has been working diligently and getting results for Floridians concerned about price gouging and COVID-19 related scams.”

Moody weighed in on these efforts on Tuesday and pointed to the initial results.

“Members of my Rapid Response Team, Consumer Protection Division and Price Gouging Hotline are working with a sense of urgency to address consumer concerns in real time. Since activating the hotline, our office has secured more than $130,000 in refunds for consumers and issued 59 investigative subpoenas. We will not relent in our efforts to protect Floridians from gouging and scams during this unprecedented time of crisis. You can help by reporting outrageous price increases on essential commodities to my office whenever and wherever you encounter them,” Moody said.

According to the state Attorney General’s office, so far, since setting up Florida’s Price Gouging Hotline, Moody’s team has:

Received approximately 2,000 consumer contacts about the price of essential commodities;

Made more than 2,700 referrals and contacts to merchants about allegations of price gouging, refunds and scams;

Secured more than $130,000 in refunds related to travel, leisure and product purchases;

Issued 59 subpoenas to further price gouging investigations; and

Worked with online platforms to deactivate more than 130 posts offering items for outrageous prices.

Moody’s office has also worked to target third party sellers on Amazon who are gouging customers during the pandemic.

 

Reach Kevin Derby at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

Marco Rubio: HHS, CMS Need to Protect Medicare Beneficiaries During COVID-19 Pandemic

Marco Rubio

On Tuesday, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and other members of the U.S. Senate wrote U.S. Health and Human Services (HHS) Sec. Alex Azar and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator Seema Verma encouraging them to develop ways to ensure beneficiaries are able to access necessary medications at home without risking exposure to COVID-19 or overburdening healthcare workers as they continue to battle the pandemic.

More than 25 senators from both sides of the aisle also signed the letter which is below:

Dear Secretary Azar and Administrator Verma:

The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has created, and continues to create, substantial barriers to medically necessary treatment and care for many Americans, with a disproportionately harmful impact on at-risk populations. We appreciate your efforts to address access issues on a number of fronts and engage with our offices as you worked to develop your most recent regulatory actions, which take important steps towards meeting some of the challenges for vulnerable patients that we have raised. As we seek additional options for protecting the lives of those most negatively affected by the pandemic, we are writing to encourage you to continue engaging with our offices and relevant stakeholders to build upon these productive steps through effective implementation, along with additional policy levers, as needed, in order to ensure that Medicare beneficiaries can access physician-administered Part B-covered infused and injectable medicines in the home setting during the COVID-19 public health emergency.

As the CDC and researchers across the world have noted, COVID-19 presents the most severe health risks to older individuals, as well as to those with underlying conditions, making the Medicare-covered population especially vulnerable to this dangerous disease. Unfortunately, Medicare beneficiaries in need of medical care or treatment for issues unrelated to the pandemic too often face a grueling decision, whereby they must choose between forgoing the services and medications they need by staying home or, alternatively, seeking care in a hospital setting or physician’s office. Many of these providers will be unavailable for patients not presenting with COVID-19-related illness, if not closed altogether, and even providers still offering other services may expose beneficiaries to a heightened risk of infection, due to the growing prevalence of COVID-19 patients at such facilities.

In the interim final rule with comment period (IFC) that CMS issued earlier this week, you took a number of steps that will help protect Medicare beneficiaries from unnecessary risks and ensure continuance of care during these challenging times. That said, we recognize that unforeseen hurdles will likely emerge and that some patients will continue to experience severe access challenges. We ask that, as you engage with patient advocates, providers, and other stakeholders, you seek out opportunities to further close remaining gaps and, as much as possible, pursue solutions that provide for continuity and consistency in care. These solutions must ensure beneficiary access to Part B drugs, provide appropriate payment for these drugs, and sufficiently reimburse for administration services rendered when provided in the home setting.

Given the large share of infused and injectable medicines that treat serious and life-threatening conditions, often with few or no viable or accessible treatment alternatives, many patients cannot afford to go without these therapies; access barriers will result in medication non-adherence, triggering deteriorating health outcomes and dire consequences for some of our most vulnerable Americans.

As reports of current and impending practice closures, capacity shortages, and infections contracted at healthcare facilities continue to circulate, it is vital that we act now to ensure that all Americans, particularly those at highest risk of severe illness from COVID-19, can receive the care and medications that they need in the safest possible setting. For a growing number of beneficiaries, that setting is the home.

Florida DEO Tries to Make Unemployment Assistance Process More User Friendly

On Tuesday, the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO) announced multiple actions taken to improve the ability for Floridians to access the state unemployment assistance program.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, DEO is seeing dramatic increases in Floridians filing for unemployment assistance. Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed an executive order directing DEO and other executive agencies to take all necessary actions to improve the program.

“I want to thank Governor DeSantis for providing my agency with the resources needed to assist Floridians as quickly as possible,” said Ken Lawson, the executive director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity. “It is imperative that my team can provide multiple avenues to Floridians who have lost their jobs and been impacted by COVID-19. We are all hands-on deck throughout the state working with every state agency and resource we have, and we will not rest until the issues are resolved.”

Additional Ways to Apply for Reemployment Assistance

As many Floridians do not have access to a computer at this time, DeSantis has instructed DEO to make paper unemployment assistance applications available for Floridians.

Beginning this week, CareerSource locations across the state will be providing paper applications and assisting Floridians with submitting their applications. Visit www.CareerSourceFlorida.com for information and center locations.

FedEx is offering free printing and mailing of paper applications at over 100 storefronts across the state.

Applications can be downloaded at www.FloridaJobs.org/COVID-19. Once the application is complete, individuals should mail them to:

Florida Department of Economic Opportunity
P.O. Box 5350
Tallahassee, FL 32314-5350

Additionally, to make it easier for Floridians to receive assistance, DeSantis waived:

  • The waiting week, so individuals can claim their very first week of assistance.
  • The work search and work registration requirements so individuals filing for assistance are not required to register in Employ Florida or submit information on a biweekly basis regarding the employers that they contacted each week while the state mitigates the spread of COVID-19.

Technology

DEO has worked with the Department of Management Services to dramatically enhance the capability of the online application system for assistance.

DEO has installed 72 new servers from the state’s back up data center in Winter Haven to increase capacity. The system can now handle up to 120,000 simultaneous connections by individuals filing claims. This allows for greater capacity than the 20,000 simultaneous connections that the system has been experiencing recently.

An additional 10 servers are being installed to assist the CONNECT system this week.

“Governor DeSantis is bringing all resources to the table to respond to an unprecedented volume of need,” said Jonathan Satter, the secretary of the Florida Department of Management Services. “Our DMS team is committed to supporting DEO in getting Floridians the assistance they desperately need at this time. We will continue to allocate the technical and personnel resources necessary to provide Floridians the level of service they expect and deserve.”

Providing Additional Customer Service Support

The governor has supported DEO by making resources available to assist with helping more Floridians as quickly as possible. Last week, DEO had nearly 200 staff working on the claims process for assistance.

Beginning on Tuesday, more than 500 individuals will be providing support for the claims process through contracts with customer call centers, CareerSource center staff and state employees.

By next week, that number will more than double when additional contracted staff, state employees and local workforce development boards are added to the team.

The Florida Department of Revenue has provided DEO with 579 additional employees to begin processing applications. This week, more than 2,300 state employees have volunteered to be available to answer calls, reply to emails and process applications.

“The Department of Revenue is eager to assist the Department of Economic Opportunity in verifying the applications for Reemployment Assistance during this statewide health emergency. DOR has nearly 600 experienced employees who are ready to mobilize for this all-hands-on-deck effort,” said Dr. Jim Zingale from the Florida Department of Revenue.

 

Donna Shalala Talked Up as Joe Biden’s Running Mate by New York Times Columnist

While Florida might not be the most important swing state come November’s presidential election, it is the largest. Simply put, it is near impossible for President Donald Trump to win a second term without Florida though the Democratic candidate, presumably former Vice President Joe Biden, could build an electoral college majority without the Sunshine State.

Politicians from the Sunshine State always garner some buzz as potential vice presidential candidates but, in the 175 years of statehood, no Florida politician has ever been included on a major ticket. Of course, that could change this year since Trump moved from New York to Florida. Regardless, U.S. Rep. Val Demings, D-Fla., and to a much lesser extent state Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried have been mentioned as possible running mates for Biden.

Now another Democrat from the Sunshine State is being mentioned as Biden’s possible understudy: U.S. Rep. Donna Shalala, D-Fla.

Shalala was included in Thomas Friedman’s column in the New York Times over a potential “national unity Cabinet” for Biden. While there are nods to the right–U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, to State–Friedman’s dream team, no surprise, veers sharply to the left. Former Vice President Al Gore to lead the EPA! U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY, to the UN!

“In the last Democratic debate, Joe Biden declared that he would nominate a woman as his vice-presidential running mate. That felt right at the time. But times have changed. Biden needs to go much, much further: At the Democratic convention he needs to name not just his vice president, but his entire cabinet. And it needs to be a totally different kind of cabinet — a national unity cabinet — from Democrats on the Bernie Sanders left to Republicans on the Mitt Romney right. Why?” Friedman wrote.

“Because while most people are playing nice right now managing this virus, the wreckage, pain and anger it will leave behind will require megadoses of solidarity and healing from the top,” he added. “And even if we get to the other side of this crisis by January, there are going to be a set of wrenching debates around who got bailed out and who didn’t and around how much civil liberty we should sacrifice to track and quarantine Covid-19 carriers until there is a vaccine. If handled on a partisan basis, those issues will rip our country apart.

“In short, if this isn’t the time to leave behind the hyperpartisanship that has made it nearly impossible for us to do anything big and hard for two decades, then when?” Friedman asked.

Even with the leftward tilt of his fantasy take on the Biden administration, Friedman’s dream team is the sort of thing that garners more support from editorial boards and historians than actual voters. The “National Unity” banner has been waved before, like when longtime U.S. Rep. John Anderson, R-Ill,, and Gov. Pat Lucey, D-Wis., ran on a third party ticket back in 1980. Even further back, Republican President Abraham Lincoln tossed Vice President Hannibal Hamlin overboard in 1864 to replace him with Andrew Johnson, a War Democrat from Tennessee who refused to resign his U.S. Senate seat when his state joined the Confederacy, on the “National Unity” ticket.

Friedman’s point about national unity needed during the coronavirus pandemic and its aftermath is over the target though his vision for its leadership leaves out plenty of political leanings, namely those on the right. He would have done better to see how presidents brought in political rivals in their administrations during times of crisis: Lincoln’s “team of rivals” in the Cabinet which included old Whigs like William Henry Seward, Know-Nothings like Edward Bates and Jacksonian Democrats like Montgomery Blair and Gideon Welles; Woodrow Wilson turned to Republicans like Herbert Hoover to run the Food Administration and Harry Garfield to lead the Fuel Administration; FDR turning to Republicans Henry Stimson and Frank Knox to run the State and Navy Departments in 1940.

In any case, Friedman’s recommendations to serve as Biden’s running mate include “Gov. Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan, former Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala or Gov. Gina Raimondo of Rhode Island.” Of those three, it’s safe to say Whitmer is the only serious contender for the post.

That’s not to knock Shalala who is certainly qualified for the job. However, having turned 79 in February, Shalala is even older than Biden. She didn’t exactly shine on the campaign trail in 2018 when she flipped a South Florida congressional seat and helped Democrats take over the chamber. While she might help Biden in Florida and Wisconsin, where she served in higher education, she’s not exactly a dynamic political force.

Still, Shalala should play a major role in the federal response to the coronavirus crisis. Having served all eight years during Bill Clinton’s presidency, Shalala is the longest-tenured secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) in American history. She also served as chancellor of the University of Wisconsin and as president of both Hunter College and the University of Miami.

To her credit, in recent weeks, Shalala mostly avoided the political games which both Republicans and Democrats have engaged in over coronavirus. At the end of February, Politico reported that Shalala joined several Republicans in storming out of a closed-door meeting with Trump administration officials after U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., came out swinging at White House for how it handled coronavirus.

“No one wanted to hear that, either the Democrats or Republican. We just wanted to hear the substance,” Shalala told Politico.

That’s a welcome change of pace as hyperpartisanship has shaped the way Americans respond to the greatest public health crisis in more than a century.

Shalala continued on that theme in a piece published in the New York Times at the start of March in which she called for both parties to put politics aside for the moment.

“The threat of a coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak isn’t a point-in-time political exigency; it’s one of what we know will be a series of episodic public health challenges. Responding to these challenges will take more than ad hoc political messaging and emergency funding. It will take professional competence and a continuing commitment of financial resources toward public health,” Shalala wrote.

“We need to treat recurring public health challenges, like this particular coronavirus, with the same forethought and permanent preparation as we do natural disasters,” she added. “The good news is that we have world-class professionals available to us. Our political leaders should let them do their jobs.”

While she took aim at the Trump administration on the matter, Shalala also called out some of her fellow Democrats.

“The Trump administration stumbled out of the blocks responding to this threat. In a public health emergency, fear and misinformation can spread just as quickly as a virus. The president confused the public with his statements minimizing the threat of coronavirus and his contradictions of the experts. He also submitted a budget proposal just weeks ago that would cut $30 million from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s funds for public health preparedness and $3 billion more from the National Institutes of Health. If passed into law, these cuts would significantly compound this crisis. The White House should never have suggested such an inadequate budget in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak,” Shalala wrote.

“President Trump also politicized this issue at a campaign rally, although he is not the only one to do so. Some of my fellow Democrats have done the same by pouncing on Mr. Trump’s remarks to win political points rather than treating this situation with the gravity and unity it deserves,” she continued. “Now is not the time for political gamesmanship. The American people want politicians in Washington to stop bickering, tone down the talk, and pull together to save lives. We might have different opinions on the effectiveness of the coronavirus response so far, but ultimately, our views are not the ones that matter. The public health experts who are leading this response are the voices we need in this crisis.”

While she is not exactly vice presidential material, Shalala is well suited, both with her experience and her tone, to play a major role in helping the federal government with the coronavirus. Both Trump and Biden would be well advised to reach out to her–but the Democrats should leave her off the ticket.

 

Kevin Derby wrote this analysis. He can be reached at kevin.derby@floridadaily.com.

Enterprise Florida Suspends Initial Fees Through its Microfinance Guarantee Program to Support Small Businesses

small business

This week, Enterprise Florida, Inc. (EFI) announced that it will suspend initial fees for its Microfinance Guarantee Program to support Florida’s small business community impacted by COVID-19.

EFI manages the Microfinance Guarantee Program designed to stimulate access to credit for entrepreneurs and small businesses in this state by providing targeted loan guarantees to lenders made to such entrepreneurs and small businesses. This program provides guarantees up to 50 percent on loans of $250,000 or less.

Governor DeSantis is focused on helping Florida businesses as they respond to the impacts of COVID-19,” said Florida Commerce Sec. Jamal Sowell, the president and CEO of EFI. “EFI is committed to assisting businesses across the state as they recover and will support Florida as it recovers from this crisis.”

The Microfinance Guarantee Program has the following requirements:

  • Entrepreneur or small business located in Florida;
  • Employs 25 or fewer people;
  • Generates average annual gross revenues of $1.5 million or less per year for the last 2 years.

Interested businesses must apply through a local lender. For further information please contact your lender or visit Enterprise Florida’s website: https://www.enterpriseflorida.com/small-business/microfinance-guarantee-program