Guest Columnist

While the senate vactions, Iowans wonder where the help is

Sen. Joni Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley watch the action during the Class 2A championship game between North Linn and Os
Sen. Joni Ernst and Sen. Chuck Grassley watch the action during the Class 2A championship game between North Linn and Osage at the IGHSAU girls’ high school state basketball tournament at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines on Saturday, March 7, 2020. (Rebecca F. Miller/The Gazette)

Our nation faces multiple crises due to the failed leadership of Donald Trump. Our public health system is struggling to overcome the worst pandemic in over a century. Our economy has endured more damage than at any time since the Great Depression, and as summer draws to a close, our public schools systems are struggling to safely return to the classroom. Trump refuses to take responsibility for keeping people safe, dismissively remarking recently about the death toll that’s approaching 170,000 souls, “It is what it is.” Trump’s paltry executive actions are little more than an attempt to distract from his failed leadership in the midst of historic crises.

To be clear, Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives have done their job. In May, the House passed the HEROES Act, comprehensive COVID relief legislation which would provide an enhanced federal Medicaid match to bolster state Medicaid programs, and financial assistance to state and local governments to help cover the costs for first responders, medical professionals, teachers and other heroes on the front lines. To offset income lost due to Trump’s failed economy, the HEROES Act would provide direct payments of up to $1,200 per individual.

The bill would also expand paid sick days, family and medical leave, unemployment compensation, nutrition and food assistance, housing assistance and payments to farmers. The House-passed bill would modify and expand the Paycheck Protection Program which provides loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofit, and establish a fund to award grants for employers to provide pandemic premium pay for essential workers. It provides funding and guidance for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing and eliminates cost-sharing for COVID-19 treatments to alleviate any additional burden on patients. And, it extends the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures.

McConnell claimed to have a Republican alternative, but he has refused to present his legislation for a vote, and Sen. Joni Ernst certainly isn’t pushing for it. Maybe it’s because McConell’s bill, which many Republicans don’t even support, did not provide adequate funding for schools, and provided no funding for nutrition or food assistance. Instead of offering support to struggling Americans, the Republican-led Senate continues to give political cover to the President, who has failed to address the pandemic.

Senate Republicans are doing what they do best — making life harder for American families.

For Senate Republicans to leave town without relieving our economic plight, or shoring up our public health system in the midst of a pandemic is more than just irresponsible, it is cruel.

It doesn’t have to be this way. We deserve active, effective leadership from our elected officials, but right now, we’re getting exactly the opposite from Sen. Ernst.

State Sen. Joe Bolkcom is a Democrat from Iowa City and state Rep. Timi Brown-Powers is a Democrat from Waterloo.

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