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Sen. Joni Ernst: Coronavirus -- Our essential workers are our heroes. It's time we pay them back

Lia Basemann is a 25-year-old registered nurse at UnityPoint Health-St. Luke’s Hospital in Cedar Rapids. Early on in her career, and in the middle of planning a wedding for the fall, Lia typically serves in the cardiology department.

But, like all Iowans, the COVID-19 pandemic forced her to make some changes. And, like so many others, Lia is choosing to make a difference in these tough times. Now she’s voluntarily working long days on the COVID-19 floor at St. Luke’s. Her work is essential to the Iowans she’s caring for every single day.

And it’s not just our health care professionals who are stepping up during this pandemic. Jeff Hoker, owner of Hoker Trucking in Dixon, Iowa – who no doubt has been working long hours these days – gives us a picture of what his truck drivers are doing during this global pandemic.

"These guys are hard workers,” Jeff said of his drivers. “I’ll tell you right now, these guys are busting their butt every day of the week."

Our truck and delivery drivers play an essential role during this crisis. They are working around-the-clock to deliver food and supplies to folks across the country.

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, essential workers in the United States have continued in their daily jobs – to care for and protect Americans, to produce and deliver food and essential goods, and to uphold our nation’s critical infrastructure. They are on the front lines of a battle, a fight, against an invisible enemy.

The invisible enemy we fight today is far different than when I served in Iraq, but the critical logistics operations, supply workers, medical professionals, and the many others who are on the front lines responding to coronavirus could not be more important to our victory.

Many of these hardworking men and women face added challenges and personal risks in their work during this pandemic, such as health concerns, reduced access to childcare, transportation interruptions, as well as an emotional toll on themselves and their loved ones.

These are nurses, truck drivers, and grocery store workers, and so many more who are all keeping life going right now.

These men and women – our moms and dads, brothers and sisters – are putting the livelihoods of their fellow Americans ahead of their own. Each and every morning, despite the pandemic, they wake up and go to work.

I believe these essential, front line workers deserve tax relief. That’s why I’m proposing we provide a federal tax suspension for essential workers during this pandemic. I also believe we should suspend federal payroll taxes for these workers.

Our nation cannot weather this pandemic without our essential workforce, who are upholding our most critical infrastructure and industries– ensuring Americans are fed and providing care for our loved ones. They deserve a reward for their selfless service. That’s why I’m proposing we give these heroes a break.

Whether it’s Lia working extra hours to save lives at St. Luke’s, or Jeff’s drivers out of Dixon, Iowa who are on the roads every day to keep our shelves stocked, these folks are the heroes who will help America beat this pandemic.

Thank you all for what you do. It’s time America pays you back.

To read Senator Ernst’s op-ed on, click here.