AAOPAC Represented at Virtual Meetings with U.S. Senators to Discuss COVID-19 Relief, Future Legislation

The AAOPAC continues to host virtual events with members of Congress to continue our advocacy and provide an opportunity for AAO members to have personal, virtual meetings with members of Congress to keep them abreast of the views of the orthodontic specialty. Over the past 25 years, the AAOPAC has supported congressional candidates who support the orthodontic profession, whether it is easing the burden of student debt or supporting small businesses.

AAO members have represented the AAOPAC in four virtual meetings with Senators over the past few weeks to discuss future legislation focused on COVID-19 response, particularly as it relates to health care providers and small business owners.

In June, Dr. Michal Kleinlerer, Northeastern Society of Orthodontists Immediate Past President, represented the AAO in a virtual video meeting with Senator Susan Collins (ME). Senator Collins discussed the PPP loan, which she feels has been the most successful economic program related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Three-quarters of small businesses in Maine received this loan, most reporting that it was a lifeline during these uncertain times. She is currently working with Sen. Marco Rubio to allow businesses to apply for forgiveness prior to the extended 24-week loan period and for the inclusion of 501c(6) organizations as an eligible group for to apply for PPP funding. Senator Tim Scott (SC) also joined the call and discussed working to simplify the forgiveness process as the current application for forgiveness is long, cumbersome, and difficult to navigate.

The AAOPAC Treasurer, Gianna Hartwig, participated in a virtual video meeting with Senator Cory Gardner (CO) and Senator John Cornyn (TX). Sen. Gardner emphasized that he and his colleagues in the Senate would like to see to continued improvements to the PPP and efforts to build the supply chain for PPE so that all healthcare providers, including dentists, have the PPE that they need now and in the future. Senator Cornyn introduced the Safeguarding America’s Frontline Employees To Offer Work Opportunities Required to Kickstart the Economy (SAFE TO WORK) Act, which would temporarily limit liability for COVID-19 exposure claims for frontline workers as long as they are following public health guidelines and are not grossly negligent.

In July, Virginia AAO member Dr. Ali Ghatri attended a virtual event with Senator Mark Warner (VA). Senator Warner discussed what he believes should be the priorities in the next COVID-19 relief package, specifically additional money allocated to small banks for PPP applications, increased funding for testing, and serious conversations about employer liability protections. The Senator also would like to see a tax credit for small businesses for PPE use and support for state and local governments that allocates funding for specific purposes.

Most recently, Dr. Donald Balhoff, who has served as the Louisiana AAOPAC Captain since 2014, represented the AAO in a virtual video meeting with Senator Bill Cassidy, M.D (LA). Senator Cassidy was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2008 and elected to the U.S. Senate in 2014. While teaching at Louisiana State University medical school, he co-founded the Greater Baton Rouge Community Clinic, a clinic providing free dental and health care to the working uninsured.

Senator Cassidy discussed the upcoming COVID-19 relief package and the importance of focusing on public health, the economy, and education. The Senator explained that he feels there is a health crisis, opportunity crisis, and student loan crisis happening simultaneously and future legislation needs to address these crises. When asked what Congress is doing for businesses to keep the cost of PPE down while also making sure there is enough PPE available, Senator Cassidy emphasized that importance of the U.S. increasing its supply chain for PPE and preventing counterfeit PPE, while at the same time driving down the number of COVID-19 cases. Additionally, the Senator noted the importance of patient privacy and safety as the use of telehealth increases.

The AAO federal advocacy efforts are made possible thanks to the generosity and support from members who contribute to the AAO Political Action Committee (AAOPAC). To contribute to the AAOPAC, you can click here.  If you are interested in participating in a future AAOPAC virtual meeting opportunity, please contact AAOPAC Treasurer, Gianna Hartwig, at ghartwig@aaortho.org.