Guest Columnist

Our Heroes Deserve More Than Empty Words From Senators Ernst and Grassley

A CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) volunteer checking appointments and directing cars lining up for coronavirus
A CORE (Community Organized Relief Effort) volunteer checking appointments and directing cars lining up for coronavirus testing in the Woodland Hills section of Los Angeles on Saturday, May 2, 2020. The city of Los Angeles will offer free coronavirus testing to all residents regardless of whether they have symptoms. Until now tests were reserved for those with symptoms and frontline employees like health care and grocery store workers. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel)

The U.S. House of Representatives just passed The Heroes Act, a coronavirus response bill that would provide critical aid to state and local governments so they can pay firefighters, police officers and emergency responders, hazard pay to essential workers and expanded paid leave, among other provisions.

Senators Joni Ernst and Chuck Grassley have praised frontline and essential workers during this crisis, and those workers deserve it. But these Senators have the power to offer more than words -- they can make policy that improves workers’ lives. To date, they have failed to take such action, which makes their words feel hollow. With the passage of the Heroes Act, our Senators have a new opportunity to back their talk up and show how much they value the heroes of this crisis.

Sen. Grassley called the bill “DOA in the Senate.” Ernst hasn’t voiced her opinion on the bill, but it’s unlikely she’d deviate from the GOP position. Despite the failure of Senators Ernst, Grassley and their Republican colleagues to act, it has been refreshing to see Democrats in Congress doing meaningful work to address the very real issues facing our communities. We owe our thanks to those who have supported this critical lifeline for Iowans and our economy. Iowans are struggling,and it’s time to set aside the Washington politics and get relief to the people who need it.

Take it from the bipartisan mayors, policy experts and other elected officials who have made it clear that our state and local governments can’t afford to go bankrupt. The House bill includes much-needed funding to keeps our frontline workers like police officers, firefighters and those providing medical care on the job keeping Iowans safe and healthy.

But Senators Ernst and Grassley have refused to take a stand in favor of our communities and instead appear to be following the lead of career politicians like Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. They must reject this idea of pushing hard-hit states and cities to go bankrupt and fend for themselves during this crisis.

McConnell has even gone as far as to suggest that the only way state and local governments will get this aid is if Congress provides legal immunity to corporations whose employees get sick from unsafe workplaces. Are we really going to play politics with peoples’ lives like this?

Iowans should call Senators Ernst (202-224-3254) and Grassley (202-224-3744) and ask them to support funding for state and federal government and access to health care. In addition, we should ask them to stand up for the health and safety of Iowans by standing up to Mitch McConnell’s dangerous ideas.

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There are heroes working every day in Iowa to help us survive this pandemic, and to ensure that we come out of the crisis stronger than ever. They deserve more from Senators Ernst and Grassley than empty praise.

Matt Sinovic is the Executive Director of Progress Iowa.

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