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COVID-19 Emergency Response
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic presents a far-reaching and evolving challenge for the state of Florida, our nation, and the world. While there is much we do not know and cannot plan for, one thing is certain: now and in the coming months, we need a strong voice to protect our health, stand up for consumers, and ensure the safety and legitimacy of upcoming elections.
Drawing on over 30 years of experience, the Florida Consumer Action Network Foundation (FCAN Foundation), a 501(c)(3) organization, provides that strong, independent voice for consumers and good government. Together with the Florida Consumer Action Network, our 501(c)(4) sister organization, and U.S. PIRG Education Fund, our national partner organization, we are jointly resolved to do all we can to safeguard American and Florida lives from the threats posed by COVID-19.
FCAN Foundation’s work to educate the public and build support for solutions to pressing public health, consumer, and election-related challenges is so urgent and important that we are focusing all our attention on responding to the novel coronavirus right now. Thanks to a top-notch central operation; infrastructure and experience online, in Tallahassee, and in Washington, DC; and our time-tested mix of hard-hitting research, tough-minded advocacy, and campaigning know-how, we are prepared to make a substantial, positive impact as this public health emergency evolves.
Johns Hopkins All Children's Pediatrician
FCAN Foundation President Ray Seaman
Listen to a pediatrician talk about COVID-19
Reverend Charles McKenzie talks about
Our Coronavirus Rapid Response program includes the following:
Containing a pandemic without knowing who is and isn’t sick is like trying to put out a fire without knowing where it’s located. Neither Florida nor the federal government are moving quickly enough to ensure that everyone gets a COVID-19 test who needs to be tested. In fact, There is simply no substitute for this critical step so, in fact, Florida does not know how many are infected, although an editorial in the Orlando Sentinel suggested the state might be undercounting cases. According to Scott Maxwell, “That suggests the only reason Florida hasn’t posted sky-high COVID counts is that we aren’t running enough tests … which keeps our tally artificially low.”
Everyone who needs a test must get a test
That’s why FCAN Foundation is calling on Florida Governor Ron DeSantis and the Trump administration's new head of the COVID-19 testing response, Assistant Secretary for Health Admiral Brett Giroir, to implement a plan for expanded, expedited testing, along with improvements to testing data management and communication with the public and health professionals. People need to know.
In Florida, it’s especially important that tests are distributed equitably to those who most need them. Florida has one of the largest populations of elderly residents and people in nursing homes who are the most vulnerable to COVID-19. In addition, 14 percent of Floridians live in poverty according to census data. More than two million families, with nearly four million children, are low income as measured by the National Center for Children in Poverty, based on income at 200 percent of the federal poverty level. Unfortunately, without Medicaid Expansion, many of these families have no insurance and are reluctant or will not seek tests or care until they have no choice. They want to keep working so they don’t burden their families. They need access to free, easy to obtain testing.
We’re advocating for expanding testing access by granting universities and private institutions the ability to test, using drive-through testing, and getting Department of Defense medics to staff mobile testing units. Tests must be free for low-income patients and must be administered based on medical necessity, not the ability to pay, for everyone’s safety.
To make sure everyone who needs a test gets a test, we are partnering with the U.S. PIRG Education Fund on a digital petition drive with a goal of getting Admiral Giroir to ramp up testing as soon as possible. We aim to get 2,000 people to send a message to Admiral Giroir but we need additional funding to hit our goal.
To protect public health, FCAN is calling on the federal government to mobilize America’s manufacturing capacity to produce needed medical gear and supplies. Hospitals should have the right to repair their ventilators and other critical equipment, so FCAN Foundation is putting media pressure on medical device manufacturers to release repair documentation and software immediately. And our 501(c)(4) sister organization FCAN is asking Congress to send Americans emergency cash to stay at home, beyond the $1,200 already sent, so that no one has to choose between working to pay for their family’s needs and practicing social distancing to stop the spread of COVID-19. The programs passed so far have gaps that leave too many people out.
Fix Florida’s Unemployment Insurance Program
For years, Floridians have complained about flawed programs and Scrooge-worthy benefits when they apply for unemployment. Workers contribute to unemployment through their employer's unemployment tax which the workers help the employers earn. The Legislature put this system in place with the approval of then Gov. Scott, the wealthiest person in Congress, known for making millions from Medicare scams and opposing even the meanest help for workers and their families. They hired a computer consultant to remake the system and, from all appearances, building in flaws and problems that obstructed citizens attempting to claim the meager benefits. Gov. DeSantis was warned of the problems last year but did nothing.
Now that thousands are applying for benefits, thrown out of work by the virus, the problem is magnified many times over. The federal legislation offered benefits to the new “gig economy” workers now in trouble. They too will fall victim to the state’s inept failure. All these people will have to wait many extra weeks for any benefits.
FCAN Foundation is demanding the state step up its efforts and fix the problem immediately. This is not an insurmountable issue. We don’t need AI. The state has been paying unemployment benefits for decades. They know how to do it, but they are dragging their feet, meaning people will suffer.
Stop price gouging, give consumers guidanceOverpriced essential goods, struggles to secure travel-related refunds, COVID-19 phishing scams and more are adding to the financial and personal burdens Americans are carrying. These price gouging tactics can also put people’s health at risk by putting items like hand sanitizer or other cleaning products out of reach for most consumers. FCAN Foundation Price Gouging Page
FCAN Foundation always fights scams and fraud and we are working with Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Consumer Services Nikki Fried on finding and shutting down crooks. We are also partnering with the U.S. PIRG Education Fund to do even more.
U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s exposé detailing price gouging on Amazon garnered coverage in USA Today and The Wall Street Journal. FCAN Foundation joined in this campaign and is providing U.S. PIRG Education Fund’s online series of COVID-19 consumer guides, including “Do’s and Don’ts for Coronavirus Protection” and “What to Buy for the COVID-19 Pandemic,” help consumers nationwide to navigate a changing marketplace while avoiding abuses. To keep up with new threats emerging daily and cut through the noise to get consumers information they need, we need more resources for our vital rapid response work of uncovering and publicizing threats to consumers.
Consumer guides and tips can be found on our website, Facebook page, and YouTube channel.
While Florida has planned for hurricanes, we have not planned for pandemics. As a result, the fall election, starting with primaries in late August, is in doubt but must occur. This is a most important election, and we feel it is essential that people feel not only safe but confident about voting. First, let’s make absentee voting easier for the folks that choose that method. Currently, stamps are needed to mail in the ballot, which sometimes stops people. Many people no longer keep stamps at home, preferring to take care of matters via the internet rather than by mail. This could discourage voters and is entirely unnecessary. Simply print the ballots as postage paid, and election officials can pay for each ballot returned.
Make sure our democracy keeps working
However, we do not advocate universal absentee voting simply because many people do not like and will not use that method. Many people prefer the polls, which must be made safe from the virus. We will urge election supervisors to sanitize voting machines and polling places so residents can exercise their rights without concern.
We will also reach out to low-propensity voters, especially new voters, who might be discouraged this year, or may have questions about the process. We want to do everything we can to make sure those most often left out, seniors, minorities, disabled, low income, and others get the voting information they need, encouragement from the community, and support from civic organizations. Their voices must be heard.
If people are unable to get to polling places safely due to COVID-19, then states must change their elections to accommodate voters because a functional democracy depends on participation.
In past elections, FCAN Foundation helped to register thousands of new voters, provided voter education, and helped people get to the polls or mail in their ballots. We found new young voters were easily discouraged and appreciated a helping hand. Our experience and name recognition will help position us to again motivate and encourage voters to engage. We’re ready to step up again.