In a chaotic and confusing time like now, everything seems to be on hold. The COVID-19 pandemic has rattled the nation in ways no one could have ever imagined. Thousands of universities and schools have been closed down nationwide, transitioning to online learning. Both corporate and small businesses deemed “non-essential,” have been closed, leaving millions of people unemployed. These are just a few of the countless changes that have made everyday life much more difficult for Americans. Yet despite this daily hold, government officials must continue to work, advocate for change, and keep people updated on the current situation within the country. In an age of technology, it certainly seems to be coming in handy lately. Could this new form of communication become the new normal for leaders across the globe?
Recently, politicians have made efforts to stay connected to their citizens by setting up “Virtual Town Hall” meetings. One of the politicians in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, Representative Joe Kennedy has scheduled a series of eight Virtual Town Hall meetings to discuss and update civilians on COVID-19. During the meetings that have been hosted thus far, he discusses his many efforts to help the situation in the white house. The people who view these meetings are able to ask questions and discuss through the chat section on the application. I attended one of these virtual meetings last friday, in which he discussed what he is currently doing to help both citizens and businesses affected by COVID-19. Kennedy mentioned that he is fighting to expand funding on things such as testing, swabs, and ventilators in an effort to track and contain the virus. In order to do this, he has created a legislative package to get a response from legislators to collect all the resources needed to attack this pandemic. He has explained his overwhelming support for small businesses in this time where many have been shut down and are aggressively fighting against closing permanently. These meetings have been translated into different languages, granting access to those who may not have had it prior. Yet, Joe Kennedy is not the only politician to make use of technology in order to update civilians during this stressful time. Many other politicians spoke at the Virtual Town Hall meetings to voice their opinions, concerns and future actions.
Massachusetts state Representative Tom Golden was also one of the politicians who took the virtual stand during the meeting. He, like Joe Kennedy, was looking and discussing ways that the government can continue to support small businesses and start-ups in such a struggling time. He also discussed his belief that healthcare is by far the number one priority. Being able to ensure that hospitals, urgent care centers, nursing homes etc have the resources they need to treat and contain such a contagious virus is essential to slowing the curve. Golden also brought attention to the price of the treatment and supplies, predicting that we as a state will need at least three to four billion dollars in order to resolve these issues. Yet, he ensures that communication and interaction between the government and the people is vital to understanding and providing relief during COVID-19.
Lastly, Kim Driscoll the Mayor of Salem, Massachusetts spoke on the topic. She joined the Virtual Town Hall meeting to discuss things such as businesses, housing and unemployment. From a survey conducted, Driscoll made the point that around 46% of businesses were concerned about not making it through the month of May. This brings the same question that the other politicians have asked. How can we support these small businesses and prevent them from running into the ground? The PPP program is designed to help some but not all businesses because they might be too small. So what about the businesses who don’t qualify for PPP? That is up for the discretion of the government officials and hopefully there will be another form of relief in the near future. And lastly, the large jump in unemployment within weeks is concerning to the Mayor, leading her to ask for a solution.
After the mayor was done voicing her concerns, Joe Kennedy then returned the microphone to the audience, in order to hear some of their questions and concerns. Viewers were able to discuss and chat with Kennedy, who reassured them and cleared up any confusion they may have had. Although voice conferences may not be the most efficient way of communicating, it is definitely making an impact on communities throughout the world. Those who may have previously been unable to attend in-person town halls, can now attend with the click of a button, assuming they have access to the internet and a computer or a phone. Not only did I get to voice my personal concerns, but I got to hear the politicians different perspectives on the issues our country is facing. It is extremely important that politicians and leaders are still able to communicate with their citizens to ensure that they are receiving necessary information about their communities, and thankfully technology allows them to do just that.
Overall, the past month has been full of drastic changes both in the United States and world wide. Yet, in such a technologically driven and advanced society, subjects such as politics must be discussed and shared with the public in order to maintain calmness among the people. This new idea of a Virtual Town Hall meeting may become the new norm for Americans across the nation as they are advised to stay indoors.
Excellent article, Nya. Technology has done wonders to expand our immediate access to our representatives, and it’s nice to see them utilizing it to the benefit of their constituency. This type of personal dialogue with the people is what democracy is meant to be. Unfortunately, as a citizen of Georgia, I have not had the same experience with my representatives. Here, we are, at large, ill-informed and poorly represented. I am glad to see that there are local representatives doing their part in this country regardless, wherever they may be. Let’s hope to expand on this type of representation and community outreach in the future.
I think the idea of virtual town meetings is great. I went to a couple of both town council and board of education meetings. It is an easy-ish way to communicate with leaders and citizens. It’s great that so many representatives are informing their citizens and finding ways to help them and businesses. I hope everything that needs to be done can get done virtually so things can go back to as close to normal as they can.