“The House is now adjourned pending the call of the chair” so said the Speaker of the House as our session ended last Thursday. We had just voted on the COVID-19 response bill with none of the jubilant feelings exhibited just a week before when we had voted on the largest state budget in our history.
When in session, the House follows a daily calendar. The calendar, a schedule that determines the next bill to be debated, resembles a liturgy where there exists a morning hour. A motion made to “recur to the morning hour” is a motion to return the beginning of the daily schedule. As the Speaker’s gavel pronounced his indefinite adjournment, I witnessed a somber response from the House as if none of us knew when the morning hour might occur again.
The COVID-19 response bill transferred $45 million from the state’s contingency relief fund to DHEC. Compared to the thousands of jobs suddenly lost by South Carolinians, the millions of dollars lost in the stock market by our retirees, or the undetermined strain on our health system the $45 million seems now woefully inadequate to fight this or a future public health war on so many fronts. I mention a future public health war because if the COVID-19 outbreak isn’t serious then I dread to see the next contagion that is.
A week has passed since the General Assembly appropriated the $45 million and Congress has just now reached an agreement on a COVID-19 response to the tune of $2 trillion. That works out to around $6,000 per American – $1,200 in cash money and the rest in indirect benefits, hopefully not all paid out to those that our DC politicians are beholding. Meanwhile during that week, we saw cracks form in our healthcare system’s ability to respond to this outbreak.
The COVID-19 outbreak will show Americans the future for our healthcare system. More specifically, it will show us who should control our healthcare system – the physicians or the government/insurance/administration bureaucratic triad. My hope rests on the physicians who are risking their lives, often without proper tests or protective gear promised by the triad, to treat our elderly and our most vulnerable to the virus. They have my heartfelt gratitude.
South Carolinians are a resilient and caring people. I witnessed this fact when I was first elected to the House at the start of the Great Recession. Instead of debating what to do with a $1.8 billion budget surplus as we did two weeks ago, we had to determine where to cut 25% out of our state budget. Our resiliency continued as we rebuilt our economy in the subsequent years. We can draw from that resiliency now as we face an uncertain future.