By Jessica Mathews/ and Jon King/

Livingston County’s congresswoman convened a needs assessment conference call Friday with 8th District government leaders and first responders to brief them on congressional action to provide assistance for COVID-19 efforts, and to conduct a “needs assessment” of local requirements as the crisis unfolds.

The House has approved legislation to provide direct relief to Americans suffering physically, financially and emotionally from the coronavirus pandemic. The action comes after President Donald Trump declared the outbreak a national emergency, freeing up money and resources to fight it, then threw his support behind the congressional package.

Congresswoman Elissa Slotkin said she convened the conference call because it’s incredibly important for public health and for recovery that leaders in Washington hear what’s happening in local communities – adding action at the federal level has to be informed by what those on the front lines. The Holly Democrat says the call included over 70 local leaders, including mayors, township supervisors, police chiefs, and firefighters in the 8th District, briefing them on the assistance likely to be available to local communities after the President’s emergency declaration Friday. Slotkin also discussed assistance available from an earlier, $8.2 billion public health response bill passed into law last week, including how Michigan businesses can take advantage of Small Business Administration loan guarantees.

Slotkin also briefed local officials on her efforts to ensure that emergency public health funding is made available to local public health officials; on nutrition assistance to students who depend on school lunch programs; and on efforts to make more testing and protective equipment available to first responders and medical providers on the front lines of crisis response in Michigan. Speaking on MSNBC Friday night, she said what she heard back as a top priority was, "Testing, testing, testing, particularly for our health care workers and first responders. They want to know they will be able to be tested if they need a test. They also are public servants and don't want to be infecting people by mistake just because they can't get a hold of a test."

Slotkin added she’s also grateful to Governor Whitmer, who has repeatedly reached out to members of the Michigan delegation to keep lines of communication open because, "that’s how everyone is going to get through this crisis - all levels of government working together." As for how government leaders at all levels need to act, she said “Be clear, be consistent, take action, and have compassion.”

Slotkin commented further that this is a fast-moving crisis and families across Michigan are looking for answers on how they should respond. She says it’s essential for local officials to have the latest information for the people and institutions they serve, and for her to know what they’re hearing and seeing so she can best represent their communities in Washington.

To communicate broadly with 8th District constituents, Slotkin will hold a tele-town hall at 5pm on Tuesday. A link for constituents to sign up to participate is provided.