Thompson connects to district from home 'office'
Sitting at his dining room table at home in Centre County, U.S. Rep. Glenn Thompson is working all the electronic tools at his disposal to stay connected to public figures, businesses and individuals.
"My office is my table here where I'm constantly on the phone or Zoom, using all the technology available," said the 60-year-old Republican whose 15th District encompasses 14 counties including Venango, Clarion and Forest. "...That is one of the many transformational parts of all this - we are all doing a better job of technology."
The coronavirus pandemic has upended how many people are doing their jobs and that development includes elected officials who, while perhaps having one or two staffers either on site or via online, are working from their homes.
Admitting his home quarters allow him not to wear his customary suit and tie, Thompson also noted, "I've worn shorts. And jeans and nice shirt to work, here in my dining room."
'I'm in contact'
As the U.S. House is in what Thompson described as "a pro-forma session in the event we need to reconvene quickly," matters relating to constituents' services continue at his district offices as well as at home.
"I am in contact with my constituents and I have had a lot of telecommuting meetings with people," said Thompson. "This week, I probably reached 60,000 people by providing information on phone messages, talking directly with them, holding (online) Zoom meetings, doing conference calls."
The topics have included sharing information as to when relief checks will go out, the loan process for businesses, waivers for businesses seeking to be declared essential businesses, Farm Bureau concerns, federal response programs and more.
"I've talked to county commissioners in my district as well as many of our employers," said Thompson. "We are doing our best to reach out and using every social media platform we can. We're trying to push out this information in as many ways as possible."
Some conversations are simple.
"A question about health concerns and I told them to do what our mothers told us to do - wash your hands and the like - to prevent spreading the virus," said the congressman.
The range of subjects is vast, said Thompson.
"We will be talking with representatives of food banks and my staff is working on putting those calls together. And we will do that with our Chambers of Commerce to provide information to small businesses and we're putting other ones together for nonprofits and faith-based organizations," he said. "We are initiating and reaching out."
Laughing, Thompson said the constant telephone exercise is similar to his old days as a school wrestler in terms of "I know I am going to get a cauliflower ear."
Working with the governor
Thompson said he is also in frequent contact with Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf on the pandemic crisis.
"I'm working well with him. I was hoping he would issue a very strict shelter in place directive because we have so many people moving into our state, like hunters and others and people relocating here from New York City or someplace with a high incidence of coronavirus," said Thompson. "The governor has the bully pulpit for that. We have a good relationship. He has been responsive and I have been able to weigh in on certain industries, like helping our truckers out by working to get the truck stops back open and helping with waivers for some businesses."
Thompson, who pre-Congress career was in the health care management field, is communicating with the dozen hospitals in his congressional district.
"We have been working with them about staff, supplies, surge capacity and assessing what they need," he said. "There is a demand for personal protective equipment and even though the (infection) incidence is low compared to metro areas, it could spread so quickly and there is the need for equipment for first responders, our EMTs, convalescent homes, prisons. We will continue to work with all of them."
The ongoing cooperation with the state overrides any political differences that Thompson, a Republican, may have with Wolf, a Democrat.
"This absolutely not a time for politics," said the congressman, a candidate for re-election to the House this year. "You work hard, do the right thing, and communicate because we can't afford to have this crisis be used for partisan politics. We have to stand together for the safety and health of the American people."
Staff members are on hand to answer calls and share information with constituents at Thompson's district offices, including one in downtown Oil City. Constituents with questions are encouraged to contact the offices, he said.
"Call those offices and we will answer and make sure the questions get to the appropriate staff member. We understand these are brand new things happening and there are a lot of questions," said Thompson. "My staff is working so hard, seven days a week, problem-solving with people. It starts early in the morning and goes late into the evening. I'm very proud of their hard work and dedication."
Despite the preponderance of virus-associated duties, Thompson found time last week to handle something he considers personal and special.
"I taught 12 Scouts from Indiana County on the citizenship badge by way of Zoom. It was kind of cool. I put my Scout uniform shirt on - I'm a Scout leader - and did it. It felt so normal," said Thompson.