Over the past week, the severity of risk posed to our country by the coronavirus outbreak came into sharp focus. President Trump has held daily briefings from the White House with Vice President Pence and a slew of leading experts from around the federal government to keep the American people constantly informed. In a sign of just how serious the President is taking the threat we face; he said this week that we are at “war” with an “invisible enemy.” It’s true. The White House has gone into overdrive, along with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to provide guidance to all Americans on how to respond to this threat. These guidelines include social distancing, keeping six feet away from other people, and limiting the size of gatherings to less than ten people. While these measures may seem like an overstep, it is the grave reality we find ourselves in as a country. In the end, we may never know if we overreacted to this situation, but it will be painfully obvious to us all if we failed to do enough. Social distancing will mean the difference between life and death for many of our parents and grandparents. The extreme measures we take today will save the lives of the greatest generation.
President Trump and Congress have been pushing an aggressive response to combat this virus and ensure healthcare providers, American families, farmers, and small businesses have the resources they need to get through this crisis. Almost two weeks ago, I voted to provide $8 billion in assistance to the nurses and doctors working on the frontlines dealing with this pandemic, including expanding our country’s testing capabilities. Additionally, on Friday, March 13, the President declared a national emergency, mobilizing the full resources of the federal government and making over $50 billion in existing funding available to the states and local governments. It’s important to get this funding to the local level because this is where the best decisions are made.
That is why over this past week, I have held a series of phone calls with people across southern Missouri to hear how they’re being impacted and what can be done to help them during this national emergency. I held a conference call with 50 of our health care providers, doctors, and first responders to hear about what resources they need. They are our warriors fighting on the frontlines and I thanked them for their continued service. I also spoke with over 40 farmers and agri-businesses to hear how we can most effectively get relief to America’s farmers right now. On another call, I spoke with over 80 small and family-owned businesses to hear what kind of immediate relief would be most helpful. Additionally, I spoke with 30 of our area’s veterans, to make sure our nation’s heroes are still able to receive the care they’ve earned in service to our country. I received incredible feedback from these conversations and included many of the ideas in a Rural Relief package I sent to Congressional leaders and the White House this week. The package contains dozens of proposals to ensure the needs of southern Missourians are being heard, and I’ve raised these points directly with President Trump and his Administration, urging them to include these proposals in upcoming relief packages. Whether it is expanding Small Business Administration (SBA) loans for local businesses, providing immediate and targeted relief for our farmers and ranchers, increasing funding for rural hospitals and health clinics fighting on the frontlines, or imposing federal penalties on criminals looking to turn a profit during an emergency, I have made it clear to Congress and the White House that my number one priority is rural Missouri. I want to ensure that the federal government is being responsive to our challenges and our needs.
While a large federal response is helpful, Americans do not require a strong centralized government to control their lives in order to survive this pandemic. We need to solve this problem the American Way. For starters, that means that we shouldn’t be locking people in their homes—we aren’t China. Americans, by our nature, are good and decent people, and we understand the seriousness of the threat we are facing. We are going to get through this by coming together at the community and local levels; by holding each other accountable and holding each other up during these challenging times. If we do that, there is no doubt in my mind that our country will come out stronger and more united than ever before. We have already started to see examples of this in our local communities. The Wayne County Sheriff’s Department has started providing meal services to those in need and the Scott City R-1 School District had teachers and staff load up six buses with nutritious foods and drinks, delivering them to their students on Wednesday. These are just a few examples of how our local communities have already responded during this crisis.
I want to leave you all with a brief story I heard this week. In 1962, while touring NASA’s space center, President Kennedy noticed a janitor carrying a broom. He stopped the tour, walked over to the man, introduced himself and asked him what he was doing. “Well, Mr. President,” the janitor responded, “I’m helping put a man on the moon.”
Just like that janitor, we are all in this together now.
God Bless and Stay Safe.