Press Release: At Height of Virus, Jaime Harrison Offers Vision on School Reopening, Slowing Spread in S.C.

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Harrison criticizes Graham for playing political games during crisis and crusading to cut unemployment relief: “Lindsey Graham has changed — and South Carolina is paying the price.”

Columbia, S.C. — Jaime Harrison, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, today in a speech offered his vision on how leaders should reopen schools, help small businesses and limit the spread of the coronavirus. The speech outlined how Sen. Lindsey Graham has failed his state by focusing on political games throughout this crisis and fighting to cut unemployment relief for South Carolinians. Harrison also criticized the senator’s refusal to fix the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which has left South Carolina 50th in PPP funds received per worker.

“We’ve approached the grim milestone of over 1,000 COVID related deaths,” Harrison said. “…We’re breaking new case records here on a near-daily basis. And Black communities have been particularly hit hard, revealing the inequities in our healthcare system…The virus might have taken a while to kick into gear in South Carolina. But it’s here to stay — unless we do something about it now.”

Harrison called for a mask mandate for public areas in South Carolina, saying:

“Everyone from Vice President Biden to President Trump agree that masks are a vital way to combat this virus. That’s why today I’m calling on Governor McMaster to follow in the footsteps of Republican and Democratic governors across the nation, and make masks mandatory in public spaces. Wearing a mask is a sign of how much you care about your neighbors. Wearing a mask is the first step in reopening our economy and our schools.” 

On the reopening of schools, Harrison said:

“If schools re-open in the fall, the question is, how can we re-open to keep our kids, our teachers and our families safe? That’s why I believe every single school in South Carolina can only reopen under the guidelines health professionals recommend. Whether local school districts go with a mix of in-person and online, or if some school districts are completely online, that must be our North Star. We must have the funding necessary to keep our students safe. Public schools are in desperate need of the federal resources intended for them in the CARES Act.”

Harrison also highlights Senator Graham’s efforts to cut unemployment relief for families struggling due to the virus:

“Since the beginning of this crisis, he has led a crusade to cut unemployment relief from the CARES Act. He said that ‘over our dead bodies’ would Congress extend this relief — relief which has been helping South Carolina families keep their heads above water. He’s even gone after nurses, accusing them of taking the extra cash and quitting their jobs, instead of helping their patients. It gives you a real idea about what he thinks of hardworking people.”

A full video of the speech can be found here, and the full transcript is available below, as prepared for delivery: 

“Thank you all for being here. 

“I wish I could be talking with you in person, but these aren’t normal times.

“We are facing a health crisis, here in South Carolina and across the country.

“Just last weekend, I personally lost my grandaunt, Gladys due to the coronavirus. We’ve seen too much tragedy. We’ve approached the grim milestone of over 1,000 COVID related deaths. To me, just one death is too many. This virus is impacting all of us. 

“We’re breaking new case records here on a near-daily basis. We have gone from 13 percent positive a month ago to 21 percent positive today. Some county hospitals say they’re already using 80 or 90 percent of their beds.

“And Black communities have been particularly hit hard, revealing the inequities in our healthcare system. African Americans are 27 percent of the population in South Carolina but account for 44 percent of coronavirus deaths. 

“The virus might have taken a while to kick into gear in South Carolina. But it’s here to stay — unless we do something about it now.

“South Carolinians need to step up to the plate and accept the enormous, personal responsibility of this pandemic. We didn’t ask for this responsibility. We didn’t seek it out. This fight came to us. But now it is on each and every one of us to do the right thing. Socially distance. Wash our hands. Wear a mask. Keep our friends and loved ones safe.

“As everyday South Carolinians do their part, South Carolina needs leadership that steps up to the plate, too. Leadership that is bold, courageous, and empathetic. Leadership that puts people first.

“Instead, we have leaders who are unreliable, weak, feckless and out of touch. 

“What we have is Senator Lindsey Graham. Folks, Lindsey Graham has changed — and as a result South Carolina is paying the price.

“These days, Lindsey Graham will say anything — but he does nothing for South Carolina.

“In his effort to avoid criticizing those in power, Lindsey has moved the goalposts not once, but four times, on what he considers to be a successful federal response. In April, he said 50,000 fatalities would be a success. Then he said 100,000 deaths, and then 120,000. And just two weeks ago, he said that a successful response keeps the number under 180,000. Think about that: 180,000 Americans dead.

“These are the lengths Lindsey Graham will go to play political games in Washington.

“These are not the actions of the old Lindsey Graham- a man who we used to respect. Today, we don’t recognize this new Lindsey.

“This new Lindsey is so busy fighting for himself. He doesn’t have time to fight for us.

“I’ve always been told that times of crisis reveal character. If this has proven anything, it’s that after 25 years in Washington, the Lindsey of the past is no more. Gone is the statesman, principled Lindsey, and we now have a senator more worried about television appearances and tee times than what’s going on in his state. Lindsey Graham has changed — and South Carolina is paying the price.

“South Carolina needs a Senator who actually cares about South Carolina, who fights for you, who understands and feels your pain, and will work with you to address it. 

“That’s the kind of Senator I will be. That’s my promise to you: that I’ll fight for you as hard as I would for my family. Because that’s what we are, a South Carolina family. We need to be there for each other. As your Senator, I will always be in your corner.

“Let me get specific. Here’s what I think that looks like.

“We need to rush more aid to small businesses. The barber shops, restaurants and hardware stores that dot our city centers employ 45 percent of our state’s workforce. They are the backbone of our economy.

“That’s why it was so important for Congress to provide them with enough funding to keep people employed in April. But too much of the money got into the wrong hands, like hedge funds and publicly traded corporations, who already had access to capital. 

“This hung mom-and-pop shops here out to dry. And South Carolina came in last place. South Carolina is 50th out of 50 states in receiving PPP funds per worker. 

“Meanwhile, South Carolina has the highest unemployment rate in our state’s history. Small businesses are closing their doors for good.

“Lindsey Graham? Since the beginning of this crisis, he has led a crusade to cut unemployment relief from the Cares Act. He said that ‘over our dead bodies’ would Congress extend this relief — relief which has been helping South Carolina families keep their heads above water. He’s even gone after nurses, accusing them of taking the extra cash and quitting their jobs, instead of helping their patients.

“It gives you a real idea about what he thinks of hardworking people. Lindsey Graham has changed — and South Carolina is paying the price.

“You know, there are more ways to help people. Wearing a mask is easy, and it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to cut down on transmission. Everyone from Vice President Biden to President Trump agree that masks are a vital way to combat this virus. 

“That’s why today I’m calling on Governor McMaster to follow in the footsteps of Republican and Democratic governors across the nation, and make masks mandatory in public spaces.

“Wearing a mask is a sign of how much you care about your neighbors. Wearing a mask is the first step in reopening our economy and our schools. It’s our responsibility. It’s on every one of us. And we all need to understand that.

“We also understand that protecting our kids is a sacred obligation.

“If schools  re-open in the fall, the question is, how can we re-open to keep our kids, our teachers and our families safe?

“That’s why I believe every single school in South Carolina can only reopen under the guidelines health professionals recommend.  

“Whether local school districts go with a mix of in-person and online, or if some school districts are completely online, that must be our North Star. We must have the funding necessary to keep our students safe. Public schools are in desperate need of the federal resources intended for them in the CARES Act.  

“Social distancing, smaller classrooms, masks, online learning — all of these are good ideas. But they mean nothing without the funding that turns good ideas into action. And action now, will saves lives tomorrow.

“It’s time for all of us to take responsibility. People and businesses need certainty right now, more than ever. The moves I’m recommending will help businesses reopen for the long haul, and make workers feel safe. We can’t have a healthy economy without a healthy population. 

“We all have a role to play here. On the Fourth of July, there were too many large crowds on our beaches. We need to be more responsible. 

“This is on all of us. We can only defeat the coronavirus together.

“Folks, that is why even in a time as dark as this, there is so much to be hopeful about. There are countless stories of friends helping friends. Neighbors helping neighbors. People giving to food banks, donating plasma, or just being responsible. 

“My campaign right now is partnering with community organizations across South Carolina to feed our first responders, provide hygiene kits and food to the needy, while supporting COVID relief efforts by providing grants to community organizations across the state. 

“But we don’t see that type of leadership from Lindsey Graham. We’ve paid him almost $4 million in taxpayer dollars, while his donors have paid for him to stay in luxury hotels all over the world. He has voted three times to increase his own pay and against extending unemployment relief for folks right here in South Carolina.

“It is time for change. That is why I am running for the U.S. Senate, because when times get tough, South Carolinians band together, and we come out the other side stronger. 

“Thank you.”

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