Schools and borders are closing, kids are asking questions about coronavirus and parents are asking questions about the gaps in America's health care system and whether a country can be protected from a pandemic when it doesn't protect every citizen's health.
That's why this week's guest on The Motherly Podcast is public health and international relations expert (and former first daughter) Chelsea Clinton, whose organization Too Small to Fail (an initiative of the Clinton Foundation) is helping families get through the pandemic.
On the second episode of season three, Clinton tells Motherly co-founder Liz Tenety Clinton that her interest in public health stemmed from an interest in the inequalities in our society and how they make all of us vulnerable. Clinton believes "we are living in a moment where we see kind of the consequences" of how inequality impacts public health.
"Perhaps not surprisingly, I have been distraught at the multiple failures of leadership out of this administration," she tells Tenety, speaking specifically from a public health perspective. "China really, you know, bought the world time, effectively, and some countries used that time," she said, highlighting efforts in Singapore, South Korea and Japan, "and some countries didn't, as we're seeing here in the United States."
Clinton says there's still several actions she would like to see come from America's leadership, including paid sick leave, laws to stop evictions and ICE raids, basic income supports and "ensuring that everyone in our prisons has access to soap and hand sanitizer and also like good ventilation and good food, things that also should be happening otherwise."
There is movement on this front. Over the weekend the House passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act to address the coronavirus pandemic. Spearheaded by Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, the bipartisan legislative package expands funding for Medicaid and offers paid emergency leave for many (but as critics have pointed out, not all) workers. An additional legislative package is now in progress, and progress on this front is good news for Clinton.
"We need a much more comprehensive approach to protect public health than we have Liz. And we also need to be doing everything we can to support the families...and paid sick leave and kind of guaranteed income in this moment, is part of that. And the President has said he wants to cut the payroll tax, and if he wants to do that, that's also great, but that is not sufficient for people who then do not have a paycheck to receive it tax cut from."
Those are the kind of changes that need to come from the top or from voters in November, but Clinton reminds us that there are small things those of means can do right now to help people during the pandemic that is interrupting daily life and people's ability to earn an income.
"Like in Seattle, we saw people stopped paying their dog walkers. Like, keep paying your dog walkers, keep ordering your groceries, even if you've stocked up, you know as much as you can. Continue. For those of us who have discretionary income, continue to kind of spend money where you can so that you are helping to support the people around you, because there is a real responsibility for all of us to protect each other right now," she tells Tenety.
Clinton continues: "But this is really why we need government because even if everyone in Seattle is paying their dog walkers, that is no substitute for the government providing paid sick leave and income support."
The mission of Too Small to Fail is to promote the importance of early childhood development and the organization does that by meeting parents where they are—in laundromats, pediatricians offices and other public spaces—and now that parents are avoiding public spaces it is hooking parents up with a staycation toolkit because we can engage little brains during this pandemic.
For more from Clinton and Tenety's conversation listen to The Motherly Podcast for the full interview.