WASHINGTON (NEXSTAR) — Members of Congress receive calls every day from constituents about the work they’re doing in Washington. But few give out their personal number, and even fewer answer their phone at all hours of the night.
“I just felt like I needed to do something, and it just came to me. I said, ‘Well, I’ll just give my dadgum cell phone out,’” Rep. Tim Burchett (R-TN) said. “I suspect [lawmakers’] spouses are saying, ‘That idiot, Tim Burchett. Don’t you dare give your phone number out.’ But everything I’ve got is because of the people I work for so I’m more than happy to share it with them.”
Burchett tweeted out his personal number a week ago to help people feeling overwhelmed by the coronavirus crisis.
“If you wanna just talk about what’s going on around you, I don’t need to know your name,” Burchett said in the Twitter video. “You don’t even have to live in my congressional district.”
Since then, the former Knoxville mayor’s phone has received thousands of calls, voicemails and texts from people not only in his district but across the country and around the world. Burchett said many are worried about losing their homes or businesses, while others wanted to know how to donate masks and other resources.
“Mostly, folks just want to hear a voice,” he said.
Beyond the physical effects, the global pandemic is also impacting people’s mental health. Burchett said nine people in his community recently died by suicide.
The congressman has referred constituents to available resources and even called the police for wellness checks.
“Everybody knows me pretty much,” Burchett said. “I’ve lived here my whole life.”
Burchett said answering the calls and texts takes about 12 hours a day, but he isn’t about to stop.
“It’s just good therapy for them,” he said. “And honestly, it’s good therapy for me.”
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