Senator Joni Ernst: We need to pull together

Posted March 24, 2020 at 9:18 pm

by Dodie Hook

In a phone press conference March 18 with members of the Iowa media, Iowa Senator Joni Ernst stressed the need for Iowa to pull together. She stressed that everyone will be impacted by the coronavirus (COVID-19). The Akron Hometowner was a part of that conference call.

“In the last few days the coronavirus pandemic has caused us all to make major changes in our lives. While there is no question that our nation and our state faces a serious challenge, I am fully confident that together we will overcome it. That’s why we are taking an all-hands-on-deck approach to confronting this,” said Sen. Ernst. “Leaders at all levels of government from President Trump in the White House to Gov. Reynolds in Des Moines, and those in the private sector, and in our business community are all working together to help keep our families safe and healthy.”

Sen. Ernst talked about how the Senate is moving quickly on major legislation to help Iowa families, workers, small businesses, and Americans as they tackle the crisis.

“It’s critical we address this virus properly and help mitigate its spread. That, as we’ve seen, means we must take significant steps that undoubtedly are impacting our workers, employers, and our economy as a whole,” said Sen. Ernst.

“Folks we need to move swiftly to help Iowa’s families and employees through this. And, that’s why I’ve urged my colleagues to do so. That’s why I called for cancelling recesses and staying here to do our job. This is a time for Congress to show leadership and to work together as one body on behalf of the people we were elected to represent. Maybe it’s the military in me but I believe it is our duty to the American people, so to that end, all ideas are on the table right now,” said Sen. Ernst.

Sen. Ernst discussed the three phases the Senate is working on.

Phase One is a bipartisan package to provide additional resources to federal, state, and local authorities. This provided over $8 billion for resources to combat the COVID-19 pandemic. This phase has been passed in the Senate.

Phase Two focuses on families and workers in times of crisis. It provides sick leave for certain workers, free COVID-19 diagnostic testing for Americans, including uninsured and who a doctor says needs testing, and increased support for nutrition for seniors and children. Phase Two passed March 18.

During the conference call, Sen. Ernst said in Phase Three she is focusing on two key areas that hit close to home for Iowans: small businesses and working families. According to her, 99 percent of Iowa’s businesses are small businesses.

Sen. Ernst pointed out that she sits on the small business committee and has a voice for Iowans.

“We are working on providing relief to these small businesses in the most effective and efficient way,” said Sen. Ernst. “I have heard from a number of small business owners who are concerned about the immediate and future impacts this virus could have on them and the countless Iowans they employ.”

The Akron Hometowner explained to Sen. Ernst that most of the businesses in Akron are small, family-owned businesses, and are struggling. The question asked was, “What help will be made available for small business — will it be loans, grants, tax credits, and when might something be implemented?”

Sen. Ernst replied, “I’m praying that we can move through the amendments and Phase Two package today (March 18) and move in an expeditious manner because that will take place immediately. Phase Three package will focus more on those small business loans. We will not leave Washington D.C. until we have Phase Three done. And, I hope that’s by the end of the week.”

According to Sen. Ernst, in Phase Three about $300 billion is the initial proposal from the Administration for small business loans and there could be grant opportunities as well.

“It’s heartbreaking to see so many of our small businesses shutting their doors and we’re going to try and get through this as best we can,” said Sen. Ernst.

Other questions concerned the airline industry, ag groups, national debt, recession, and non-profit groups.

Sen. Ernst recommended we give to organizations and non-profit groups as if we were going to an event or fundraiser. You don’t need to be at an event to be a good giver, she said. These groups are also struggling to survive.

Of course, Sen. Ernst is concerned about the impact on our national debt. However, she said, “We are in unprecedented times and uncharted territories and our focus has to be on our families and small businesses. American workers and families come first. Am I concerned about spending – yes, but will gladly move forward any package I know will provide relief.”

“We all play an important role in mitigating the spread of COVID-19. All Iowans need to continue to take this seriously, to follow the guidelines from the CDC, and to help keep others healthy,” said Sen. Ernst. “We each will need to do our part to look out for one another, especially our seniors and those most at risk. But like every other challenge America has faced, we will get through this together.”

Editor’s Note: As of press time Monday, March 23, Phase Three had been voted on March 22 and failed to pass in the Senate. The Senate was reportedly going to visit this again March 23. Iowa had reportedly confirmed 105 cases of COVID-19 and South Dakota had 28.

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