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As Sara Gideon Rises to the Challenge of COVID-19 in Maine, Susan Collins Fails Critical Tests to Her Leadership

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Monday, April 6, 2020
CONTACT: Planned Parenthood Votes Media Office; 212-261-4433; [email protected]
Planned Parenthood Votes Pressroom

Washington, DC — As the Trump administration fatally mismanages their response to the COVID-19 pandemic, state-level officials like House Speaker Sara Gideon in the Maine State Legislature are rising to the challenge of the moment. Earlier this month, Gideon acted quickly to champion relief legislation to help Maine tackle the COVID-19 crisis, passing an emergency unemployment bill that would "temporarily extend eligibility to unemployment to workers that have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak" and working with her colleagues to push through a supplemental budget of $73 million for coronavirus response. This weekend, Gideon called for “strong and sweeping action from the federal government to bolster our nation’s medical community” in the Portland Press Herald, including “continu[ing] to increase funding for community health centers to allow them to serve more patients,” particularly in Maine’s rural communities.

On the other hand, last week Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) praised Trump for doing "a lot that was right in the beginning," despite broad consensus that Trump knew about the pandemic early, but refused to act and repeatedly downplayed the threat of coronavirus. Collins also shrugged off the fact that her state of Maine isn't getting the personal protective equipment that it requested when Florida got 100% of its requests filled, saying: "The fact is that Maine requested far more masks than Florida did."

Last week again made clear that Sara Gideon continues to show what real leadership looks like while Collins continues to try and defend Trump’s inadequate actions. Mainers can count on Sara Gideon to always fight to protect their health care, every day. We’ll see if this week brings more of Collins doing more to stand up for Trump than the Mainers she represents.

Read some of the contrasting press coverage below:

News Center Maine: Legislature passes budget, emergency steps to fight coronavirus
By Gabrielle Mannino
March 17, 2020

  • "Tuesday was the final session for Maine lawmakers and adjourned three weeks ahead of schedule so that members could follow guidelines of avoiding large public gatherings. They passed a compromise supplemental budget of $73 million by a nearly unanimous vote, and most other bills, including emergency measures aimed at fighting the coronavirus, also passed unanimously or close to it."
  • “Among other things, lawmakers approved more money for the Maine CDC and several proposals from the Governor to give towns and state government flexibility to deal with the COVID 19 crisis. It includes an emergency unemployment bill that would temporarily extend eligibility to unemployment to workers that have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. House Speaker Sara Gideon and Senate President Troy Jackson co-sponsored the bill."
  • "Gideon released a statement Tuesday night following the passage of the bills, saying Maine 'moved swiftly' across party lines to contain the spread, keep the public safe, and help workers and small businesses through their economic hardships."

Portland Press Herald: Maine scrounges for medical supplies, but little more is expected from feds
By Colin Woodard
April 2, 2020

  • "As Maine prepares for a surge of coronavirus cases, hospitals and first responders are scrounging for medical supplies and authorities have learned the state will likely receive little of what it sought from a largely exhausted federal emergency stockpile."
  • "Maine has already received most of the masks, respirators, gowns, gloves and other gear essential to protect medical workers from infection that it will get from the stockpile, state officials have learned. The state is being asked for more information about its request for more ventilators, which are needed to keep acutely affected patients alive."
  • "Maine asked for 410,000 N95 masks and 400 ventilators, Shah has said, but has received only 85,000 masks, about 21 percent what it requested. Florida, by contrast, received more than it asked for, leading to confusion among state authorities about how the limited stockpile was divvied up."

Bangor Daily News: Susan Collins on coronavirus, Trump and what Congress might do next
By Jessica Piper
April 2, 2020

  • "U.S. Sen. Susan Collins of Maine on Thursday largely praised President Donald Trump’s recent response to the coronavirus ..."
  • "[Collins said,] 'There has been a widely quoted statistic that Maine got only 5 percent of its requests and Florida got 100 percent of its requests. The fact is that Maine requested far more masks than Florida did.'" 
  • "BDN: 'I know you said that the president’s briefings have been better, and he’s been listening to the experts more, but what about before, when he wasn’t listening to the experts, do you think that that caused lasting harm to the country’s response?' Collins: It may have given some people a false sense of security, but the president did a lot that was right in the beginning.'"

Portland Press Herald: Sara Gideon: Maine’s health care workers need protective equipment, federal action now
Sara Gideon Op-ed
April 5, 2020

  • The Washington Post reported that Maine had only received 5% of the N95 masks requested from the federal government, and Dr. Shah suggested that there might not be additional shipments any time soon. The Trump Administration is leaving states like Maine to fend for themselves, bidding against each other for scarce supplies and increasing the risk that a smaller state like Maine loses out when competing against states like New York and California.
  • We cannot defeat this virus without strong and sweeping action from the federal government to bolster our nation’s medical community. The Trump Administration should not limit its use of the Defense Production Act to ventilators — it should immediately use its authority to begin producing PPE for health care workers across the country. Maine Senator Angus King and Representative Chellie Pingree have cosponsored the Medical Supply Chain Emergency Act, which would require President Trump use the Defense Production Act to secure and coordinate manufacturing of key supplies, and if I were in the Senate, I would join them in supporting the bill so that our health care workers get the equipment they need.
  • Maine is one of the most rural states in the country, and while COVID-19 has not hit some of our rural communities yet, we need to prepare now. The federal government should continue to increase funding for community health centers to allow them to serve more patients. And for Mainers who cannot easily get to a hospital, the federal government should also continue to expand access to mobile testing centers and clinics and fund telehealth services through programs that connect rural communities with health care providers via telemedicine.
  • Here in Maine, we’re doing what we can to address this critical shortage. In the State Legislature, we passed coronavirus response measures that expanded unemployment benefits, increased access to lifesaving health care through expanded telehealth services and access to more medical professionals, provided millions of dollars to help the state respond, and public health officials are working tirelessly to secure more resources.


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