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Murphy answers questions, offers encouragement

U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) urged Connecticut residents to “stay home — it’s the only way to stop the spread” of COVID-19. Murphy held a telephone town hall on his Senate website on Friday evening, March 20.

Murphy opened with some general remarks and then took questions by phone. The entire broadcast took about 45 minutes.

Murphy said the Democrats in the Senate are looking at an emergency bill that provides direct cash payments of $2,000 per individual (including children). He said he does not think similar proposals from the Trump administration and the Republican majority in the Senate go far enough.

“We have to go big.”

He also advocated for emergency grants to small businesses hit hard by widespread shutdowns. “We’ve got to do this fast.”

Murphy warned that criminals are already calling people pretending to be federal officials and asking for personal financial information in order to process relief payments.

“Nobody from the federal government is going to call you,” said Murphy. He asked people to be wary and to report any such calls to his office (call 860-549-8463 or go online to www.murphy.senate.gov).

Of the pandemic in general, he said, “We will get through this, but it’s going to be hard.”

The first phoned-in question was about testing asymptomatic people between the ages of 20 and 30.

Murphy said there aren’t enough tests available at the moment to test people with symptoms, let alone testing everyone.

“We’re not even close,” he said. “That’s why we’ve aggressively isolated individuals.”

Murphy stayed away from politics for the most part, but he did criticize the Trump administration for moving too slowly on testing and obtaining medical supplies.

A person asked about freezing rents and mortgages. Murphy said he agrees with the idea, and would include student loan payments and credit reporting.

He was cautious about such measures, though. “We’ve got to right-size some of these interventions,” he said.

Asked about getting the necessary masks and other supplies for medical personnel, Murphy said for starters that all elective surgeries should be postponed.

He urged that the federal government “commandeer” American manufacturing capability to produce personal protective equipment (PPE). “This should have been done a month ago.”

And he said the federal government should use its purchasing power to get those supplies and then distribute them. He said if purchasing is left to the states, “they will hoard,” especially those states that do not have significant manufacturing capability.

Asked about people who have no health insurance, Murphy said one of the emergency bills passed and signed by the president includes extra Medicaid money for states to provide testing for the uninsured and forbids insurers from charging for COVID-19 testing.

Asked about restrictions on who may receive direct financial aid from the federal government, Murphy said there would likely be an income cap, something like $100,000 for individuals and close to $200,000 for a family.

He said one of the emergency bills has added funds for expanding nutrition programs such as SNAP and school meals.

Murphy had to end the call so he could participate in a conference call hosted by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). He wrapped it up on an upbeat note.

“It won’t be easy, but we have the capability and capacity to do it.”

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