Guest Columnist

Finkenauer: Iowans will overcome coronavirus, and we'll do it together

There are many Iowans can't work right now, many of whom were struggling to make ends meet even before this crisis.

Rep. Abby Finkenauer in Cedar Rapids on Monday, July 8, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)
Rep. Abby Finkenauer in Cedar Rapids on Monday, July 8, 2019. (Liz Martin/The Gazette)

We can see it in the grim statistics coming from our public health authorities and unemployment offices: The coronavirus pandemic and the social distancing required to minimize its spread represent an unprecedented challenge to our health and economy.

Our communities are hurting right now — from our main streets to our farms — and the path back to normalcy will be long. But Iowans are scrappy and resilient, and we’re devoted to our friends and neighbors. That’s why I’m proud to be your Congresswoman, and it’s how I know we’ll get through this no matter how tough it gets.

Like many Iowans, I’m working from home these days after traveling to Washington late last month to cast my vote for the CARES Act, Congress’ latest measure to combat coronavirus and lessen the economic impacts. Sadly, there are many Iowans can’t work right now, many of whom were struggling to make ends meet even before this crisis.

To offset some of the painful disruption caused by the pandemic, the CARES Act contains numerous new aid programs for individuals and Iowa’s small businesses, including direct payments of up to $1,200 for adults and $500 for children. Most families in Iowa will receive the full payment.

The bill also suspends federal student loan payments, offers a range of other financial assistance to small businesses and farmers, and expands unemployment benefits to more folks who need them to pay rent and keep food on the table.

Like any large new program, this bill and its implementation won’t be perfect. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the Paycheck Protection Program for one, which provides $350 billion in forgivable loans to help businesses and nonprofits keep up with payroll and expenses.

This program is intended to provide critical relief to the small businesses that power our local economies, but concerns have already arisen over whether aid will actually reach the Main Street businesses that need it, and whether the Small Business Administration is ready to meet the demand. This is too important to get wrong, and my office will exercise its oversight power to ensure Iowans get the help they need.

The package also includes aid to hospitals and health care providers responding to the pandemic, increases access to personal protective equipment (PPE), medical supplies, and ensures coronavirus testing and vaccines are fully covered by health insurance. The CARES Act is a far-reaching step to address this health crisis and preserve some level of financial security. But we already know more will be needed because this situation is taking such a toll on families and small businesses across our state.

In the last week, we’ve spoken with hospital, agriculture, economic development, workforce and other critical service providers from across our Congressional District — hearing, for example, the challenges facing farmers as demand for their products drops amid the economic slowdown.

My offices remain open to hear from you and help navigate the available aid and services. I’m committed to making your voices heard in Washington, D.C.

As Congress begins work on a new coronavirus response package — our fourth — we need Iowans’ help and input more than ever. Please visit finkenauer.house.gov/coronavirus, where we’ve created a way for me to hear from you about how you’ve been affected by the pandemic and what kinds of policy would make the biggest — and most immediate — impact in your lives.

It was input from Iowans that led me to fight for direct payments, enhanced coronavirus testing capacity, small-business assistance and unemployment benefits for short-term employees and emergency aid for service industry and hourly workers — all measures that were ultimately included in the CARES Act.

Please help me make the next aid package as targeted and common-sense as possible. This is too important to not get right. I’ve always said, I’ll work with anyone who is willing to help Iowa and stand up to anyone who will hurt us. This is a time we need to put aside partisan differences and come together as a country to get through this.

These are challenging times. But whether it’s floods or tornadoes, recessions or farm crises, Iowans have faced adversity before. We’ve always overcome by sticking together and helping our neighbors.

Social distancing may have canceled our coffee meetings and turned our hugs and handshakes into smiles and waves. But our Iowa values of looking out for our friends and neighbors haven’t changed a bit. And that’s how we’ll get through this.

Abby Finkenauer is the congresswoman for Iowa’s 1st Congressional District.

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