Rest In Power John Lewis & COVID19 Updates
“History will not be kind to us. So you have a moral obligation, a mission and a mandate, to speak up, speak out and get in good trouble. You can do it. You must do it. Not just for yourselves but for generations yet unborn.” — John Lewis
By now you’ve heard the news that civil rights activist and Congressman John Lewis has passed away. We mourn the loss of a truly great man, a humble public servant, inspiring force, and courageous leader who was never afraid to speak up.
Following the Pulse nightclub shooting in 2016 it was Congressman John Lewis who staged a sit-in on the floor of Congress against gun violence, and it was his sit-in that inspired our own here in Central Florida at Senator Marco Rubio’s Office.
We honor those who are no longer with us through action, and remain committed to peace, justice, and equality for all.
Please scroll through this email to see our latest COVID19 and 2020 election updates. You can also click here to see our updated COVID19 Guide. We have been really busy, and have a lot to share. Please feel free to contact me directly if I can be of service to you. Just reply to this email and I’ll be there.
Representative Anna V. Eskamani
ORANGE COUNTY PUBLIC SCHOOLS
After hours of public testimony and debate, the Orange County School Board on Friday afternoon passed a preliminary plan for reopening our schools that asks the state for a waiver to retract it if the local coronavirus pandemic situation makes returning to brick-and-mortar classrooms unsafe. The plan includes an option for students to study from home called the LaunchEd@Home model.
We sent our own letter to the School Board before this decision was made asking at the very least, for a delay in opening, one that teachers would be compensated for. Tomorrow we plan to send a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis and Commissioner Richard Corcoran requesting that they approve Orange County’s waiver. You can contact Governor DeSantis here and Commissioner Corcoran here.
FLORIDA’S BROKEN UNEMPLOYMENT SYSTEM
An issue that continues to be a main focus for our team is Florida’s broken unemployment system. So far we’ve escalated more than 15,000 individual claims to the Department of Economic Opportunity and have been working late nights and early mornings to help Floridians get paid. I’ve also used my state salary as a form of immediate relief for Floridians in need. Our efforts were noted by Orlando Sentinel columnist Scott Maxwell last week.
In addition to fighting for all Floridians to get paid their full benefits, we also wrote to Florida’s Congressional Delegation asking that they work to extend the $600 Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program for Americans across this country.
Set to expire at the end of this month, FPUC has saved lives and prevented millions of people from facing eviction and homelessness. Capped at $275 per week, Florida has one of the lowest Weekly Benefit Amounts for unemployment insurance in the nation. We cannot expect Floridians to survive any day — let alone a pandemic — with this type of weak safety net. Congress is expected to negotiate another COVID19 relief package this week.
During the pandemic, we have hosted multiple virtual events, including a Weekly Live Facebook and Instagram Q&A Session. You can watch this past Friday’s live session by clicking here.
Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC), after considering widespread pleas to continue a moratorium on disconnections, is now beginning to cut off services to those with late payments. The utility DID agreed not to disconnect a customer who fills out an application for financial assistance and you can click here to learn more.
Other municipal utilities have resumed disconnection, including KUA of Kissimmee and Winter Park’s utility. Disconnections have not been resumed by the region’s largest power provider, Duke Energy, or by the state’s largest electric utility, Florida Power & Light Co.
We have been proactive during this entire pandemic in preventing utility disconnections, rent increases, evictions, foreclosures, and hunger. If we can be of service to you, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
COVID19 TESTING OPTIONS
As of this morning 350,047 people, including 345,612 Floridians, have tested positive within the state. The death toll among the residents rose to 4,982, and two of the 89 newly reported deaths came from out-of-state visitors, raising the death toll among non-residents to 109. We are in constant communication with our local hospital systems who have stated to us thus far that they, “still have capacity to serve the needs of the community.”
We are encouraging everyone to get tested, and also wanted to share an update on testing options for those younger than 18.
Clicking here will bring you to Orange County’s Testing Sites webpage. Click Orlando also has a website that breakdowns both community and provider testing locations which can be sorted by county and municipality. Please note the website works best when utilizing Google Chrome and families are encouraged to call ahead of time to make an appointment. Click here for that website.
On Friday, the Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) announced that four state-supported drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites will begin offering separate, observed self-swab lanes to symptomatic individuals to reduce wait time at testing sites and to expedite their test results. This is a pilot program, and the Orange County Convention Center is one of these four locations.
Observed self-swab tests will be offered to those 5 and older with symptoms of COVID-19. Results from the self-swab test will be sent to a separate lab and will be available within 72 hours via e-mail. If the pilot program is successful, FDEM will expand this program to more state-run testing sites.
Testing options for children in Orange County remains limited and in most cases requires a doctor’s note. Please visit the below links to learn more about testing options for children.
TRUE HEALTH: At this time, True Health has limited test kit supplies. Tests are available on a first come, first serve basis. Learn more here.
Community Health Centers (CHC): Due to the limited number of tests, patients must meet one of three criteria to be tested — Be high risk, have known exposure to COVID; or have symptoms. Scheduling is required. Learn more here.
Nemours Children’s Health Systems: Nemours is offering COVID testing for children aged 0–18 at three urgent care locations (Waterford Lakes, Lake Nona, and Kissimmee) and at Nemours Children’s Hospital. The testing is intended for Nemours physicians to refer current Nemours patients. Learn more here.
AdventHealth: Any patient can be tested with a provider visit at all Florida Centra Care locations. Centra Care Kids locations can test patients aged 18 and under. Learn more here.
WEARING A MASK
In an effort to curb the spread of COVID-19 and save lives, we joined fellow lawmakers in sending a letter to Governor Ron DeSantis on July 3rd requesting that he immediately implement a statewide mask mandate, similar to what other states have already implemented.
At this point we are still waiting for a response, but have continued to put pressure on our Governor to do the right thing, and help us stop the spread of COVID-19.
SUPPORTING OUR SMALL BUSINESSES
Our small businesses have continued to struggle all throughout COVID-19. Many are now open and some have received CARES Act support with a handful benefiting from the state’s Emergency Bridge Loan Program but it has not been enough. Meanwhile, the state’s largest corporations received a $543 million tax refund in April, and many have exercised political influence to re-open despite public health concerns.
For many small businesses, customers are not what they used to be, common sources of revenue (like live performances) are no longer existent, staff are part-time or furloughed, and for our bars/breweries/pubs they have been forced to cease on-site alcohol sales.
We have been in communication with the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and with municipal leaders attempting to identify relief options for our small businesses. Right now Orange County’s business assistance program is still open and can be found here.
Beyond that, we stress the importance of shopping local, ordering beverages to-go, and supporting small businesses through this pandemic. Click here for a review of House District 47 breweries, too.
PROTECTING OUR INTERNATIONAL STUDENTS
Two weeks ago the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced that international students would not be allowed to stay in the United States should they take only online classes, or, if their school closes for in-person instruction. This new ruling would have impacted M-1 and F-1 international student visas.
We penned a letter to all twelve state university presidents expressing concern for this federal rule and asking universities to come up with solutions to support our international students. Fortunately shortly after sending our letter ICE rescinded their position via a lawsuit filed by both Harvard and MIT.
UPCOMING ESKA-SESSION WORKSHOPS
Amid the COVID19 pandemic and ongoing unemployment crisis, our team continues to remain a resource to all Floridians and many people have since approached us wanting to know more about the inner workings of the Florida House of Representatives and government.
To meet this need, we’ll be hosting two virtual Eska-Sessions to help teach our community the basics of the Florida Legislature, and Public Budgeting!
REP. ESKAMANI IS UCF’s 2020 DISTINGUISHED ALUMNUS
I am honored and humbled to be recognized by three institutions that have had such a meaningful impact both in my life and in the greater community. This includes the University of Central Florida’s Distinguished Alumnus Award, the Run for Something Virtual Vanguard Award, and a nomination as one of six national candidates for EMILY’s List’s Gabrielle Giffords Rising Star Award.
As an alumna and current PhD candidate of UCF, I could not be prouder to receive this praise. Thank you UCF for this recognition, and for embracing a happy warrior.