Ernst: Congress has a role to play in helping families get back on their feet during COVID-19

On the Senate floor, the Iowa senator discussed how she is working to support Iowans in the new COVID-19 relief package.

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA) spoke yesterday about her work to support Iowa’s child care providers, working families, essential workers, small businesses, farmers, biofuel producers, and rural health care providers during COVID-19.
 
Ernst discussed the new COVID-19 relief bill, the HEALS Act, that would provide critical support to Iowans, including the state’s most distressed small businesses, who would be able access a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans through the legislation—something she fought for.
 
Also included in the HEALS Act is Ernst’s recently unveiled bill that would provide additional assistance for child care providers in Iowa, and across the country, during COVID-19. The senator’s bill has gained additional support from her colleagues in both the House and Senate.
Click here or on the image above to watch Senator Ernst’s remarks.
 
Senator Ernst’s full remarks are below:
 
“Four years ago Jill Larsen opened Crayons to Pencils Early Learning Center in Norwalk, Iowa.
 
“This state of the art child care center offers full day, before and after school care and preschool only programs for children from six weeks old to school age.
 
“They’ve even expanded to include a learning center and recreation center. It truly is top-notch.
 
“But when COVID-19 hit, Crayons to Pencils’ enrollment dropped from 150 to 32.
 
“And it was only through the Paycheck Protection Program that this child care center was able to stay afloat and keep their workers paid.
 
“The Larsen’s story, it’s not unique. Without the help of the Paycheck Protection Program, so many of our small businesses and child care programs across the country would have gone under.
 
“99% of Iowa’s businesses are small businesses, and the Paycheck Protection Program has been a critical lifeline for so many of them.
 
“I hear it time and time again on my 99 County Tour – most recently on a main street tour in Albia with some outstanding female small business owners.
 
“Nearly 60,000 small businesses in Iowa have received PPP loans, saving hundreds of thousands of jobs.
 
“But folks, there are more funds left in the program, and many of these businesses need additional help. That’s why we should allow our most distressed businesses to receive a second PPP loan, so they can continue to keep workers paid and their doors open. The HEALS Act would make that possible.
 
“Now, while the Paycheck Protection Program helped keep the Crayons to Pencils day care center keep their employees paid, as folks are getting back to work, these critical facilities are facing new challenges…making up for losses from decreased enrollment; trying to expand to accommodate more kiddos due to school closures; or acquiring critical medical supplies or PPE to create a safe and clean environment for these families.
 
“Just recently, I held a telephone town hall and I was joined by Iowa’s director of health and human services Kelly Garcia, where we heard the concerns of Iowa parents and talked about the solutions we’re working on at the state and federal level when it comes to child care access and affordability.
 
“Our working parents are anxious and concerned about what lies ahead...do they have to quit their job to stay home with the kids? How much will child care cost? What happens if child care providers can’t open back up?
 
“This is the reality for so many.
 
“And that’s why I’ve made it a top priority to provide additional resources for our child care programs and our families.
 
“Included in the HEALS Act is my bill to create Back to Work Child Care Grants, which would give providers the resources they need to make it through this crisis.
 
“It would also help them access PPE and other medical supplies—so they can adhere to the safety guidelines and provide a clean, safe environment.
 
“But it doesn’t stop there. I’m also working to assist our lower-income families – those who rely on the Child Care and Development Block Grant program— and those who simply need access to clean diapers.
 
“Just a couple of weeks ago, I was in Davenport, Iowa where I got to take part in a diaper distribution with the Hiney Heroes of the Quad Cities. Yes, Hiney Heroes.
 
“As a result of this visit, the folks over at Huggies and the National Diaper Bank donated 25,000 diapers to this important diaper bank.
 
“We know that during this pandemic the diaper supply has run short, and I’ve teamed up with Democratic Senator Chris Murphy on this effort to include additional assistance for our diaper banks.
 
“COVID-19 has also created challenges for our farmers.
 
“These hardworking folks are facing new challenges while working around the clock to make sure Americans have adequate access to food and fuel.
 
“I was visiting with some farmers at the Bloomfield Livestock Market in Davis County not long ago, and they described these hardships first hand…and I hear the same from our ethanol and biodiesel producers.
 
“That’s why I’ve helped ensure more aid for our farmers and producers, including our ethanol producers and so many other important commodities in Iowa.  
 
“Our rural communities, like Montgomery County where I live, COVID-19 has only amplified existing financial pressures on our health care centers.
 
“Most rural hospitals rely on services such as elective surgery, keeping them financially afloat. But because of the pandemic and the response to it, many hospitals have had to cancel these elective surgeries as protective measures due to the pandemic.
 
“Additionally, the need for PPE and other equipment has significantly increased. Lower revenue combined with higher expenses has made it incredibly difficult for these rural hospitals to stay afloat.
 
“We absolutely can’t leave these folks behind. We need our hospitals to keep their doors open so that quality health care is accessible to all Iowans, whether they live in big cities – like Des Moines or Polk County, or small communities – like Red Oak where I live in Montgomery County.
 
As I’ve toured Iowa over the past few weeks, I have also visited with many of our essential workers.
 
“Our nurses, grocery store clerks, truck drivers, child care providers, and so many more have been working on the front lines of this pandemic, rising to the challenge to care for and protect Iowans.
 
“That’s why I’m pushing hard to allow these essential workers to keep more of their hard-earned dollars by suspending federal income and payroll taxes. These folks deserve a reward for their tireless efforts. 
 
Mr. President, no amount of financial relief will make this virus go away, but Congress has a role to play in helping families get back on their feet.
 
“But it’s also every single one of us doing our part…wearing our masks, washing our hands, and social distancing as much as possible.
 
“And then, together – with the help of every individual and all levels of government – we will get through this.”
 
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