The coronavirus crisis has called home health care workers and other caregivers to the front lines of the battle to defeat COVID-19. Caregivers are now being universally recognized as essential workers – we always have been and we always will be.

I am so proud of our SEIU membership, who are caring for people all across our state, including in our reservation communities. They're caring for people who typically cannot care for themselves, in youth and adult mental health programs, group homes, in nursing homes and in clients’ homes.

Many of our members can’t afford health care themselves, even while they’re delivering it to others. As it is for so many Montanans, access to quality and affordable health care is a life and death issue for our members and their clients and residents.

Montanans depend on our elected officials to protect our health care, especially during a public health emergency. So when Greg Gianforte neglects his congressional duties, skipping key testimony and blowing off critical votes on health care, Greg Gianforte proves how little he values caregivers and the Montanans for whom we care.

In 2017, Montanans sent Greg Gianforte to Washington D.C. for one reason – to represent the interests of Montanans in Congress. How can Greg Gianforte represent us when he’s missed more votes than 93% of Congress? Simply put, he’s abandoned our state.

Instead of looking out for Montanans, Greg Gianforte spent his time in D.C. looking out for no one except himself. Last year, Congress held a crucial vote to fund the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), our nation’s foremost public health agency upon which all Americans now rely. But Greg Gianforte had other plans – he skipped the vote so he could fly to Montana on Air Force 2 and announce his campaign for governor.

Gianforte’s truant tendencies remained during the pandemic. On February 26 – just one day after the CDC warned of an almost certain COVID-19 outbreak  – Gianforte got up and left an Energy and Commerce Committee hearing about coronavirus after just 20 minutes, right as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar and other top public health officials were set to begin testifying.

Greg Gianforte only sits on one committee in Congress! Did Gianforte have more pressing business than listening to our nation’s top expert testify about the threat posed by COVID-19 to Montanans’ health and economic stability? Montanans deserve to know why Greg Gianforte left such an important hearing just as it was beginning.

Home health care workers and other Caregivers  don’t have the luxury of blowing off work whenever they feel like it, and neither should our elected leaders. “No Show” Greg Gianforte couldn’t be bothered to show up for Montanans when it counted – this November, Montanans will return the favor.

Jacquie Helt is the State Director for SEIU 775.