By Jessica Mathews /

The recent withdrawal from Afghanistan was among a number of topics covered during a virtual town hall event Tuesday evening with Livingston County Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin.

The 8th District Democrat started out by highlighting the COVID-19 pandemic and the importance of vaccination due to the Delta variant but the larger issue weighing on the minds of those who attended the event was the situation in Afghanistan. A veteran from Brighton raised questions about what’s being done to ensure transparency and accountability of the executive branch when comes to actions in Afghanistan. It was one of around 200 questions received from the public about the ongoing situation, which Slotkin addressed.

Slotkin said it’s been hard for everyone to watch and doesn’t think anyone feels good about the videos and coverage of the withdrawal – even people who felt strongly that 20 years was long enough to be active and fighting in Afghanistan. Slotkin said, “I don’t think anyone would wish this type of withdrawal on our country or any other country”. She said the mission has been extremely costly and while they got 100,000-plus people out of the airport, they lost 13 marines who were protecting people as they were fleeing persecution and possible death.

Slotkin said they’ll be working over the next couple of days to try and understand what happened in the pull-out and make sure there’s accountability for that. She stressed her office and others are focused on putting pressure on the administration to get remaining American citizens out as well as Afghans who worked directly with the U.S. and others who were associated with places like Michigan State University.

As kids head back to school, Slotkin said there’s continued uncertainty about what’s happening with COVID-19 and applauded counties and districts that have taken initiative and instituted mask mandates - which she thinks will be front and center in helping to protect children. No mask mandates have been issued anywhere in Livingston County - which currently has a “high” transmission rate.

Slotkin said the rise in cases from the Delta variant is “definitely sobering” and there’s a lot of stress moving into what appears to be the next big and 4th surge. She commented that the vaccine is working and vaccination rates are going up and the CDC is currently discussing authorizing booster shots.

Slotkin noted that a lot of parents have been asking about when children 12 and under will be eligible to get a vaccine and that’s something the CDC is working on now. In the meantime, she says that’s why many school districts and counties have issued mask mandates because young people can’t get vaccinated and there are growing numbers of young people showing up in emergency rooms and hospitals. Slotkin noted while they seem better able to manage the virus, the long-term effects of contracting the virus when young aren’t known.

Other topics covered included a bi-partisan infrastructure package moving through Congress, investing in broadband internet, and the ongoing fight to address the high cost of healthcare and prescription drugs as well as needed access to healthcare.

Slotkin touched on relief for small businesses through the Payroll Protection Program as well as a restaurant relief fund – noting the restaurant industry went through an enormous amount of drama and she’s working to put more money in that account. Slotkin said she’s working to enhance access to the workplace and discussed a need to invest in childcare and accessibility as the price is very high so parents can return to work. Slotkin said she’s also pushing for paid medical and family leave and investing in in-home and direct care workers – which would help people care for loved ones without fear of losing their job.