Throughout the COVID-19 health pandemic, I have been inspired by the strength, dedication and resiliency of Northwest Indiana’s essential workers.
In the midst of tremendous uncertainty and safety challenges, our workers have valiantly protected our communities and provided necessary services for us to get through this challenging time. There remain great challenges before us in the weeks and months ahead, but I believe with the essential workers of Northwest Indiana on our side, we will get to brighter days ahead together.
Innumerable instances of the strength of our workers continue to give me hope and inspiration as I work to secure emergency relief and assistance to support our communities in the U.S. House of Representatives.
I continue to be grateful for all of our emergency heroes, including our resolute health care workers, law enforcement personnel, and all first responders, who selflessly stand on the front line and respond at a moment’s notice to run into harm’s way to keep our communities safe.
I also am reminded of the many grocery workers, including those at Strack & Van Til and all of our grocery stores, who show up early to make sure that we all can access the food and provisions we needed to survive, and the employees at banks, including those at People’s Bank and other community banks, who work with the Small Business Administration to help keep commerce moving and our businesses open.
The men and women of labor, including the United Steelworkers, the Building and Construction Trades, and Longshoremen, have put themselves at great personal risk to keep our factories open, our ports open, and expand and maintain our infrastructure during these trying times.
I remain deeply concerned during this time of economic uncertainty that foreign countries are disrupting the ability of American manufacturers and workers to compete against unfair subsidies and illegal price dumping actions. It is imperative for our national economy and our national defense to have a vibrant and strong domestic steel industry.
As the co-chairman of the Congressional Steel Caucus, I will do everything possible to defend our domestic steel industry and ensure all workers can compete on a level playing field.
As a member of the House Committee on Education and Labor, I would note that more must be done to ensure that teachers and students can safely conduct in-person learning. Earlier in February, I was pleased that one of my first hearings as a member of Congress was the consideration of the American Rescue Plan, which would provide $130 billion to help K-12 schools follow the steps recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so that teachers and students can safely return to the classroom.
This funding aims to assist in updating ventilation systems, purchasing personal protective equipment, and reducing class sizes and implementing other social-distancing guidelines. It also is imperative that students once again have access to the mental health and sexual assault support structures and resources that are available through their schools.
I am pleased that the committee also included important provisions to address child hunger and expand critical food assistance programs. Specifically, the legislation invests $5 billion to maintain and expand the Pandemic-EBT program for families during the school year and summer months, and also includes $800 million for the WIC program that provides nutrition support for mothers and children.
Throughout this past year, I have been inspired by how nonprofit organizations and volunteers have banded together to help those in need during this challenging time. I applaud Victor Garcia and the Food Bank of Northwest Indiana, along with Meals on Wheels and countless other organizations, who have provided life-saving food assistance to those in need. As your member of Congress, I will continue to look for opportunities to support these organizations and this type of assistance at the federal level.
We must act with urgency to provide the resources and support that our communities and essential workers need to get past this health crisis. We must also acknowledge and address how COVID-19 has exposed the inequities in health services provided to underserved and minority communities. Communities of color are experiencing higher rates of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and death rates, and are also getting vaccinated at significantly lower rates than white Americans. This is not right and it is not just, and that is why the American Rescue Plan includes $25 billion to specifically address health disparities and protect vulnerable populations.
When we look at the incredible economic assets of Northwest Indiana, including our Lake Michigan shoreline and the Indiana Dunes National Park, the billion dollar investment beginning this year to improve our South Shore Rail Line, the Port of Indiana - Burns Harbor, the Gary/Chicago International Airport, and our manufacturing industry and institutions of higher education, our fundamental priority remains to protect the public health and general welfare.
This public-health emergency has reminded us that health, safety, and prosperity are inextricably linked and we must remember this lesson as we rebuild a more equitable economy.
I am grateful to each and every worker, all of whom are essential to our nation’s recovery. I look forward to continuing to work with all of my House and Senate colleagues to finalize the American Rescue Plan and provide the comprehensive resources that are desperately needed by our communities. Together, we will surmount the challenges of this health crisis, and we will continue to create opportunity for all workers and an economy that works for all.
The opinions are the writer's.