Sunday, February 28, 2021

Letters to the editor Feb. 20

| February 20, 2021 12:00 AM

Vaccination frustration

I acknowledge that the vaccine distribution process has been challenging for the Flathead County Health Department. However, on the consumer end, it has been extremely frustrating and discouraging waiting for a return call.

Now the evidence is building that people are being contacted out of order. This does not fit the promise of first-come, first-served as advertised by the Health Department. Pat Heirl documented in her Feb. 11 letter that her friend who called Jan. 18 was contacted on Feb. 1 to verify his information. Pat called Jan. 15 but has not been contacted. My husband and another friend also called Jan. 15 but have not been called. We’ve been answering all 406 calls and monitoring email/spam mail.

It’s time to pull back the curtain beyond those smiling people who are already vaccinated and expose the frustration felt by those who have been so patient but appear to have been left behind.

Confidence in the system would also cut back on the perceived need for duplicate calls and online submissions to the Health Department.

I’m calling on the Health Department to shine some light on this process and explain what is happening with these return calls.

­—Luanne Metcalf, Kalispell

Paid family leave

Democrats are rolling out a paid family leave program in the Legislature to help Montana workers take needed time off from work for family related reasons and still be able to pay their bills. This insurance fund is designed for non-exempt employees and employers to pay in small capped amounts in the good times and then have help when needed to keep paychecks going when workers need to care for a new infant, help an ill spouse, take needed time for good medical care, or even respond to their loved one’s deployment. Self-employed workers can also elect to join in to this insurance program.

We all know that when you need to take leave for family emergencies you need money, too. You can’t just toss your paycheck into the wastebasket in order to have the time you need. Without a rainy day program like this, sometimes Montana families have to choose between having food on the table or caring for a loved one in a crisis.

This is fantastic help for Montana’s small businesses, too, which is where most of Montana’s non-exempt workers are employed. As things are now, usually small businesses are not able to be this supportive of their employees without an impossible impact on their bottom line. Montana’s small businesses often lose valuable trained workers who leave because they have no other option in a crisis. This new insurance program helps both employers and employees be flexible. And this bill is well targeted to help the workers and businesses that need this kind of paid leave program the most.

Thank you, Democrats, for getting some great bills going that provide meaningful relief to Montana families and our loved ones. Call your representatives. Urge them to support HB 228.

—Jeremy Runnels, Columbia Falls