Wall Street Journal: Michigan Lawmaker Uses Road Trip, Virtual Town Halls to Govern Amid Coronavirus

Shortly after her Ford Explorer pulled into her driveway late Saturday night, Rep. Haley Stevens (D., Mich.) posted a short tweet. “Home,” she wrote, adding emojis to reflect her love for the Mitten State.

Ms. Stevens, her boyfriend Rob and their two dogs were returning from a 550-mile daylong journey from Washington to the Detroit suburbs where she represents several communities. It’s an unorthodox but necessary move for a first-term congresswoman accustomed to flying between offices.

The coronavirus pandemic has thrown a curveball to lawmakers working to secure trillions of dollars in stimulus funds in an election year.

Ms. Stevens is involved in these efforts, but it isn’t her only focus. Thousands of companies in her district are coping with economic hardship and need creative solutions, she said. Before lawmaking, she worked for a decade on manufacturing issues, so she knows their plight.

Businesses aren’t the only ones suffering. Southeast Michigan is a Covid-19 hot spot, she said. Voters want guidance.

“I have my eyes wide open about what’s going on back home,” she said Saturday during a phone interview from the Explorer’s passenger seat.

Ms. Stevens had been bracing for fallout well before her road trip. During a Feb. 10 meeting, she had brought up the supply-chain risk the new coronavirus’s rapid spread in China posed for the companies in her district.

Afterward, she began consulting contacts from the “Manufacturing Monday” visits she has been holding during her term. She also solicited stories related to Covid-19 from people she represents, reading them every night.

By mid-March, the weight of the crisis had grown heavy. Shortly after midnight on March 14, Ms. Stevens voted on an initial stimulus package in Washington. She then boarded a flight to Detroit along with others in Michigan’s congressional delegation.

“We could certainly feel the economic storm brewing,” she said. “For most of us, that was the last flight we took.”

Among her companions were Rashida Tlaib and Debbie Dingell, Democratic congresswomen representing other districts in Southeast Michigan.

“Rashida took a video of us,” Ms. Stevens recalled. “Of course, Debbie Dingell is wiping everything down.”

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