Five Ways You Can Engage Policymakers in Response to COVID-19 Pandemic

Thu June 11, 2020 - National Edition
Wade Balkonis, AEM


Wade Balkonis
Wade Balkonis

As our member companies respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, they've told us their priority is to ensure their workers' safety and health while also obtaining access to the resources available to them to keep production going. After all, equipment manufacturers and our 2.8 million men and women are an essential part of our nation's frontline response to COVID-19.

Knowing how much our industry is doing, and will need to continue to do to help rebuild our economy, it's also important that we all tell our elected officials what is needed to keep our industry safe while maintaining a high level of production.

There's no better time to do that than right now as Congress and President Trump are demonstrating a willingness to work on a bipartisan effort to pass legislation to help working families and American businesses.

For example, the relatively quick passage of the $2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the largest U.S. economic rescue package in history, and a new agreement to replenish funds for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), means legislators are ready and willing to act.

As we respond to the COVID-19 crisis and our industry works to help rebuild our economy, our policymakers need to hear from AEM, its members companies, and the I Make America community. With that in mind, and especially as our nation largely continues to practice social distancing, here are five ways you can engage with your elected officials:

1. Sign a petition.

Petitions can make a big impact by showing a community's support for policy initiatives and communicate that support to decision makers in one collective voice. Technology allows you to sign petition digitally and join a movement from anywhere. https://www.imakeamerica.com/campaign/take-a-stand-for-u-s-manufacturing/ is focused on revitalizing America's manufacturing sector on behalf of the 2.8 million men and women who support it. Behind each signature is a voice and joining together we can make the most noise.

2. Email and phone are tried and true.

Emails and phone calls have always been a tried and true way to communicate a message directly to a lawmakers' office. You can either check your elected leader's website for their phone or email contact or you can visit AEM's 10-year-old national grassroots campaign, I Make America, online.

The I Make America website makes it especially easy for our members to engage with their appropriate elected leaders by automatically connecting supporters with their appropriate Senators or Representatives through ongoing issue campaigns. Supporters' messages always help lawmakers and their staff learn more about their constituents' priorities and take those into account for policymaking.

Phone calls also can be directed to lawmakers' Washington, D.C., or local, in-district offices.

3. Web and video calls

Due to the crisis, and the need to social distance, many lawmakers still want to hear directly from their constituents but aren't able to in person – for their safety and for yours. That's why several Congressional offices have turned to online conference platforms, including Zoom, Skype, Blue Jeans, Google Hangout, or other methods. As a constituent, if you're comfortable with using these types of platforms, then don't be afraid to ask for meeting using any of these options.

4. Social media

These days, social media also is a powerful communication tool for constituents. Looking up your Member of Congress's confirmed handle on Twitter or their official Facebook profile page, and sharing with them a short story or update on how your company is responding to the crisis gives them another way to better understand how they can help. Many elected leaders are highly active on social media, tweeting or posting several times a day.

You also can empower your employees to share their stories directly with their elected leaders since social media is so widely adopted and encourages simple, concise messages as well sharing photos and videos.

5. Write in to your local newspaper.

Your congressional, state, and local elected leaders always pay attention to what their newspapers back home are covering. That includes the opinion and editorial section of their local and state newspapers. It's another one of the best ways they can learn about what's on the minds of their constituents and it catches their eye because they realize other voters in their district or states may be influenced by what you have to say.

Here are a few tips on how to write a letter to the editor or op-ed to your local paper:

  • Personalize your message: Share a story of how an issue is impacting you, your work, your family or community.
  • Focus on a single point: Try to focus on specific issue, instead of a range of issues. By emphasizing issue, it makes it easier for your elected representative to focus on one thing and makes it easier for them to help.
  • Be specific with what you want: Always try to end with a specific call to action. You want your elected official to declare your work "essential" during the COVID-19 crisis, or you want your elected official to make easier for your company to apply to a small business loan. Whatever your ideal outcome, make sure you make it clear, especially in your conclusion.

As a constituent, you have a right to have your voice heard, and we encourage you to continue to engage in advocacy on behalf of your company, your employees, and our industry.

Wade Balkonis is the AEM Grassroots Advocacy Manager