Voices: Chris Coons reflects on Delaware’s “incredible spirit, determination, & resilience”
When the COVID-19 pandemic began to hit the United States with full force in early March, it became immediately clear that this public health crisis, the type of which we haven’t seen in generations, would be devastating. It also didn’t take long to realize that the public health crisis would only be part of the challenge we would face this year – all of us quickly saw that the impacts of this pandemic would create a simultaneous, nationwide economic crisis.
Delaware hasn’t been spared from either crisis, and businesses and nonprofits throughout our state have been hit incredibly hard. Many have closed their doors entirely, have yet to reopen, and face a tenuous, uncertain future.
As I’ve worked day and night to try and help our state through this crisis, one thing has been clear and consistent: the incredible spirit, determination, and resilience of our state, from frontline health workers saving lives to the small business owners and nonprofit leaders who’ve bent over backwards to keep employees on payroll and continue serving the public.
As a Senator, my priority has been to be a direct resource for businesses and nonprofits up and down our state, and I’ve seen some amazing things. I’ve worked with several local manufacturing companies, which, almost overnight, repurposed significant capacity toward repairing desperately needed medical equipment for frontline workers. I’ve been incredibly impressed by Nehemiah Gateway, which has worked with the IRS and my office to find ways to help seniors and low-income communities get tax preparation assistance remotely in this age of social distancing. I’ve also worked with Bethel AME Church to ensure it received a federal Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan to help it remain a pillar of our community and our state.
I can say with certainty that this has been the busiest, most challenging, and most important stretch of my public service career. I have always prided myself on being personally involved with the constituent assistance work my offices does – from helping veterans settle casework claims to working with small businesses to get startup loans and the support they need – but the scale and scope of the challenges we’ve seen presented to Delaware families and businesses this year has been staggering.
I’ve received panicked texts and emails, fielded phone calls from business owners in dire straits, and spoken with industry leaders uncertain how they will be able to keep hundreds – or even thousands – of people on payroll.
The experience has reinforced two specific things for me.
The first is that businesses and nonprofit organizations are much, much more than simple stores or buildings. The businesses and nonprofit organizations throughout the state of Delaware are pillars of our community, the heart and soul of our cities and towns, and the pride of generations of hard work from Delaware families. Seeing many places close their doors for good, lay off employees, or – if they’re fortunate – make significant changes to their day-to-day operations, has reminded me of the incredible personal investment that men and women throughout Delaware put into these institutions.
The second is our capacity – through collective action, community, and government – to help. While some of my most difficult days as a Senator have taken place over these last few months, I’ve also experienced some of my proudest moments when we have been able to help a business stay open, help families continue to pay their bills, and help communities stay whole.
The weeks and months ahead will remain incredibly difficult, and we’ll face challenges we can’t anticipate, but I know that our state has the capacity to persevere, because since mid-March, I’ve seen it every day.
Chris Coons is one of two United States Senators representing Delaware.
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