President Donald Trump’s historic support for small businesses during the coronavirus pandemic is also a lifeline for healthcare providers and first responders that will ensure America’s doctors and nurses are able to continue providing life-saving services as the nation focuses on the fight against COVID-19.
The novel coronavirus is a dangerous, deadly disease — particularly for older people who already have pre-existing health conditions, such as my wife whose medications alone cost $7,000 each and every month.
As an 83-year-old man, my chances of beating the coronavirus are also significantly slimmer than for younger adults, and most of my neighbors are in a similar situation. Isolation has become our new way of life in the Sunshine State — and we pray that this pandemic comes to an end sooner than expected.
Older Americans, however, also face another risk factor — many of us rely on doctors and nurses for regular care. Our lives literally depend on the family practices, specialists, and other small healthcare providers who help us live with the myriad medical conditions that routinely afflict the elderly. We simply can’t afford for these offices to close because someone on the staff was exposed to coronavirus, which could easily force them to lay off the experienced professionals patients have come to trust.
While small private healthcare providers aren’t necessarily the sort of small businesses that politicians like to mention in speeches, their importance in getting us through this pandemic cannot be overstated — which is why I’m grateful that the White House is working so hard to ensure that America’s healthcare system has the support it needs to overcome the coronavirus outbreak.
In addition to declaring a national emergency, which gave state authorities access to a $42 billion disaster relief fund, the president also directed the Small Business Administration (SBA) to provide $50 billion in low-interest loans for businesses that have been harmed by the ongoing health crisis. In addition, he recently signed legislation implementing paid sick leave for all workers, dramatically reducing the risk that employees will show up to work with symptoms out of fear of losing a paycheck.
The Trump administration is also collaborating with some of America’s biggest retailers to facilitate drive-through coronavirus testing — an approach that helps keep infected individuals out of doctors’ offices and health clinics. I know that millions of Americans have shared my fear that I might become needlessly exposed to COVID-19 simply because a selfish or unthinking person went to the doctor seeking a coronavirus test rather than following the government’s guidelines. Now, those people are far more likely to show up at drive-through testing stations, where healthcare workers are wearing the proper protective gear to prevent coronavirus transmission.
By invoking the Defense Production Act (DPA), moreover, President Trump ensured that the federal government has the authority to mandate domestic production of personal protective equipment — including face masks — for doctors and nurses throughout the country. Thankfully, the administration hasn’t found it necessary to employ the DPA’s sweeping powers because patriotic companies have been stepping up voluntarily to help meet the needs of our nation’s healthcare providers, but it’s reassuring to know that such a powerful tool is available in case it’s ever needed.
Likewise, the president recently met with the leaders of U.S. nurses organizations to collaborate on the administration’s response to the pandemic, pointing out that he’s been able to eliminate regulatory impediments that interfered with efforts to develop tests, treatments, and vaccines for COVID-19.
“My emergency declaration allowed us to waive regulations to give nurses and doctors maximum flexibility to respond to the virus and to protect our frontline professionals,” the president said during the meeting, adding that the White House is actively working with the private sector to further expand coronavirus testing capacity nationwide.
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy, and the administration is sparing no expense to make sure they don’t become casualties of the coronavirus.
A lot of healthcare providers are small businesses, too — and President Trump’s policies are helping them stay open at a time when older Americans need them more than ever.
Lou Holtz was the head football coach at the University of Notre Dame 1986 to 1996. He is a Florida resident.