BOULDER, CO – Dec. 23, 2019: Colorado State Rep. Jonathan Singer speaks about Ingrid Encalada LaTorre during a press conference after she received a Full and Unconditional Pardon from Gov. Jared Polis on Monday at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Boulder. (Photo by Jeremy Papasso/Staff Photographer)

By Jonathan Singer

The Trump administration is failing to respond adequately to the COVID-19 crisis, which means states, counties and cities must pick up the slack in protecting lives and our public health. No matter which presidential candidate wins this fall, many of the recovery efforts are also likely to be implemented locally.

How Boulder County responds to this pandemic will fundamentally define who we are for decades. We will need strategies and practices that reflect our values to prioritize ordinary families, our environment and making sure the most vulnerable in our community don’t get left behind.

This extremely contagious virus has led to the largest single public health emergency we have faced in our lifetimes. As of late May, Colorado has nearly 25,000 confirmed cases, we’re closing in on 1,400 deaths, and we have projected state budget shortfalls in the billions of dollars.

COVID-19 is also at the root of a looming potential economic catastrophe. Experts are predicting a recession worse than 2008, in which thousands lost their jobs, many lost their homes, and we saw huge increases in demand for numerous types of assistance. This included critical needs for help with food, housing and people’s ability to support their families when bills didn’t stop coming in, but income did.

With record numbers of Coloradans in 2020 applying for unemployment each week, a longer-term economic downturn, unfortunately, seems more and more likely. And COVID-19 does not seem like a short-term problem. We don’t yet have proven effective treatments, and we probably won’t have an approved vaccine in the near-term future.

Boulder County departments including, but certainly not limited to, Public Health and Housing and Human Services, have already taken significant actions to help protect or assist residents during this public health emergency. Our community is only as healthy as our sickest neighbor. We must continue to implement and follow the best practices at the local level, and here are a few thoughts on what should be top-level, urgent priorities.

We must make sure everyone can receive COVID-19 health care and testing, free of charge. We must get personal protective equipment for essential workers, especially nursing home staff. I’m lobbying my State House and Senate colleagues to enact a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures and evictions for those who lose their jobs. We must work with nonprofits to make sure everyone in our community, including undocumented immigrants, can get health care. We need to sustain our overwhelmed food banks and keep local farmers in business. We can use the workforce development system within Workforce Boulder County to create a Green New Deal-style jobs program to help people get back to work.

I am very concerned about the tough months ahead, but I’m also hopeful. In 2013, Boulder County united together after a historic flood erased homes, businesses and human lives. Our community took action to help local homeowners and businesses get back on their feet. As a state legislator, I got a law passed that allowed county assessors to stop levying taxes on a home they can’t find because it was wiped out in a natural disaster.

I also recently got a bill passed to create the permanent Colorado Resiliency Office, which is a central hub that collaborates with all public and private stakeholders involved with recovery and resiliency efforts. Coordination is vitally important because no single public agency or private business can handle a widespread, massive emergency by itself. The Resiliency Office will be crucial to the COVID-19 recovery.

But please remember, the actions or inactions of every Boulder County resident also matter during this public health emergency. I feel good about this because the progressive local values we hold dear will drive our behavior, not only regarding COVID-19 but also our longer-term resiliency. Whether we are fighting against climate change, for universal health care or for creating a more equitable society, all of these goals are still attainable and will help determine our quality of life once we get beyond the worst of today’s pandemic.

I’m no stranger to crises. But I’m also no stranger to solutions. If we work together, we can make Boulder County a place where everyone can thrive. I know we are a community that cares about each other and wants to help those in need. With COVID-19, we must come together once again, and I have every confidence this is exactly what we’ll do.

Jonathan Singer is the State House District 11 representative in northern Boulder County is a candidate for Boulder County Commissioner District 2.

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