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caption: Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., center, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, as she heads to a closed, all-senators briefing on the coronavirus.
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Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., center, talks to reporters on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, as she heads to a closed, all-senators briefing on the coronavirus.
Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Sen. Patty Murray on what's gotten us out of crises before, and will again

This afternoon, the U.S. House passed a $484 billion relief package that would provide money to small businesses, as well as hospitals.

It also provides $25 billion for coronavirus testing. The U.S. Senate approved the package earlier this week.

Kim Malcolm interviewed Washington Senator Patty Murray about the spending package.

This interview has been edited for clarity.

How are you going to make sure that Washington state benefits from that money are set aside for testing?

It will be administered at the federal level. Do we know if it's enough yet? Absolutely not. I don't think it will be, particularly as we move forward.

In the coming months, if we see a second surge, which is highly likely, we'll be able to handle this better in the future and contain it without shutting down everything.

I want to touch on small businesses. What guarantees are there that this new money is actually going to make it to small businesses in Washington state who need it?

When we pass federal dollars on to this administration, we tell them what we expect, but they administer it. So how do we make sure? It's called accountability and oversight, and making sure that we are demanding from them what we expect of them. That's going to have to continue because their track record is not good at this point.

Half a million people here in Washington state have lost their jobs. Some folks are going out to protest, asking for the state to open back up. Do you have anything to say to those people who are really feeling the pain right now?

It is heartbreaking. Everyone wants us back to what we were six months ago. But it isn't going to happen overnight. It particularly won't happen if we take the wrong steps right now.

I know that our public health experts are doing their best to give us the best information they have with a virus that doesn't have a lot of good answers yet. And we have to rely on that.

Governor Inslee is saying science and data are going to inform the decisions on what and when to reopen. President Trump is encouraging people in other states to protest the lawful stay at home orders. From your perspective, what kinds of consequences are there from these two different messages?

Our nation is pretty divided. People listen to their own news and believe the other person isn't telling them the truth. That has put us at a precarious point at a time when people's lives are literally at stake with an unknown virus that we do not have a lot of answers about.

I just really urge people to listen to medical experts who are telling us that this is an aggressive virus, and that the only way to contain it is for us to take control of it by not spreading it.

What we should be looking at right now, aggressively, is how do we live with this virus out there? I don't have all the answers, but man, we should be doing a lot of planning right now.

How do we open Main Street again, and do it safe? What requirements are in place? What do we do policy-wise to make sure that we can ease some of these restrictions? That's what smart people need to be focused on right now.

How optimistic are you that we'll be able to navigate our way through this?

I take my optimism from some of the toughest calls I’m having right now. I spent the morning talking to a lot of folks who are running our food banks. They're on the line in very difficult situations, talking to families who've never had to ask for food before, who don't even know how to get through the process, who have tears in their eyes.

They are on those front lines and telling me stories of these amazing people who are giving toilet paper back to them because they want to have somebody else have it.

I mean, small, but you know what, that's what our nation is when we really get down to the core of it. That's what has gotten us out before, and I believe it will get us out again.

Listen to the interview by clicking the play button above.