Guest Columnist

Federal aid is good first step, but Iowa needs more to manage coronavirus

The U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
The U.S. Capitol in Washington, Thursday, March 12, 2020. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

When the first big snow storm hit after my first husband died, I was a 24-year-old single mom with two little boys. I didn’t know what to do. In the morning, I woke up to union members shoveling my walk. I couldn’t have gotten through the winter without them, because no one gets through tough times alone.

It’s a lesson I’ll never forget as I’m running for U.S. Senate, and one we can all learn from - especially during this public health crisis.

As the threat of the coronavirus grows, it’s imperative our leaders remember we are neighbors first, set aside differences and take action. I’m frustrated our government wasn’t prepared for this challenge, but this isn’t the time to point fingers. The aid package Congress passed this week is an important first step, and they should keep the focus on public health and safety. We need our leaders in Washington to do the right thing and put hardworking Iowans first.

That should start by dramatically ramping up manufacturing and distribution of free testing kits, ventilators and medical supplies like face masks, gloves and gowns. We should also coordinate with the military to increase hospital beds in hard hit and rural areas. Here in Iowa, folks are already being denied the testing they need, officials aren’t releasing enough data, and health care providers are sounding the alarm that they may not have the capacity to treat the growing number of sick people.

There’s also no excuse to not pass expanded paid sick leave protections immediately. Washington should have acted years ago, and no one should ever have to choose between going broke and staying home when they’re sick.

Additionally, I strongly support urgent economic relief that goes directly into the pockets of Iowans. Instead of an expensive bailout that only helps big corporations, we must prioritize help for those who need it - hourly workers who have been laid off or seen their hours cut back, and working families who are making sacrifices. We can give small businesses a hand up with no-interest bridge loans and disaster relief payments, among other economic measures.

Looking out for one another means each of us doing our part to prevent community spread. While I’d love to be criss-crossing the state on my “Hear it from the Heartland” tour, my campaign is listening to public health officials and postponing in-person events while we reach folks online and by phone. We’re working to keep people out of harm’s way, and I hope all who can will join us in practicing social distancing.

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I’ve run a small business, been a single mom working for $8 an hour - and I certainly wouldn’t be in this fight today if I hadn’t been able to turn to Social Security survivor benefits as a young widow.

When this uncertain moment comes to an end - and it will, because Iowans know how to get through tough times - I’ll never stop working to ensure every Iowan has the dignity of providing for their family and getting ahead. To achieve that, there’s still more to be done.

In the Senate, I’ll fight to expand access to affordable health care, keep rural hospitals open and sustain vital earned benefits like Social Security and Medicare. Let’s also create more economic opportunity in every part of Iowa by investing in childcare, making major infrastructure improvements, growing skills training, and expanding access to capital for small businesses.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned listening to Iowans around our state, it’s that we’d all be better off if Washington worked more like our small towns, where working together is how we get through tough times. That’s the kind of leadership we should demand from Washington because hardworking Iowans can’t afford anything less.

Theresa Greenfield is a businesswoman and candidate for U.S. Senate in Iowa.

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