Guest Columnist

Hinson: Act now to support Iowa veterans during coronavirus

State Rep. Ashley Hinson in the House Chambers of the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2018. (
State Rep. Ashley Hinson in the House Chambers of the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines on Wednesday, Mar. 14, 2018. (Stephen Mally/The Gazette)

Many of us have heard the news about Washington’s historic stimulus package for individuals and businesses affected by the current health crisis. The CARES Act passed in March included over $350 billion in relief to small businesses, direct payments to individuals and over $100 billion in funding for vital resources and lifesaving equipment for our hospitals.

But recent reports have shown that one group has been slow to get the help they need. Our veterans are heroes and we must ensure they are not left behind. Our state’s 203,000 veterans are at substantial risk. As outbreaks continue to plague Iowa’s veteran facilities, we must work together and ensure our VAs and rural hospitals continue to have access to vital resources.

I’m grateful that the stimulus bill provided $60 million for The Department of Veterans Affairs, including critical funds to purchase testing kits, personal protective equipment and to send veterans outside the VA for emergency care.

I commend Sen. Joni Ernst for her leadership in calling on the Senate to ensure publicly-owned hospitals like many rural, county-owned hospitals throughout Iowa, are eligible for relief provided in the Paycheck Protection Program. These hospitals are not only important health care providers who help serve veterans during this time, they are large employers in rural communities throughout Northeast Iowa.

While health care is critically important, we must recognize that veterans’ jobs are also at risk. According to research by the Bob Woodruff Foundation, about one in every seven veterans employed in America today works in an industry currently considered high-risk for layoffs.

Skyrocketing unemployment means veterans are in serious need of financial support, yet we’re now seeing reports that as many as 2 million veterans and their survivors could miss out on the federal stimulus payments. That is because many veterans who rely solely on government benefits, including disability payments from Veterans Affairs, are not typically required to submit a return, and the IRS is requiring eligible households to file a tax return in order to receive their money.

We cannot allow our nations heroes to fall through the cracks of government’s red tape.

That’s why Iowa needs to step up to fund payments to veterans who are financially impacted by COVID-19 and do not receive aid from the federal stimulus package.

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We need a grant that would take care of bills that an Iowa veteran or survivor is unable to pay as a result of unemployment or underemployment caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This includes expenses like utility bills, insurance and rent or mortgage for up to $1,500.

While it’s clear to me the bipartisan stimulus bill was a critical relief package for our communities, the Iowa state house must do its part to support our veterans.

Iowa veterans need additional support. Now more than ever, I remain committed to working with leaders in Washington and Iowa — including members from both parties — to focus on the safety and economic prosperity of our small businesses, rural communities and most vulnerable citizens.

During this trying time, we must work together to ensure that the men and women who risked it all for us will no longer be put at grave risk themselves.

Ashley Hinson represents District 67 in the Iowa House.

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