Across Arkansas and America, the effects of COVID-19 on families and businesses have been dramatic and devastating. This virus that has swept across the globe since January has disproportionately impacted our smaller towns and rural communities. Further, our hospitals and healthcare providers have been whipsawed between shutting down their profit-making operations and preparing for enormous spikes in COVID-19 patients. Both led to huge financial burdens.

I was proud to support four bills – all now laws – to combat the coronavirus and provide much-needed financial resources across our state and nation. I have worked in a bipartisan fashion to help rural communities receive direct funding to local hospitals and public schools through the passage of the CARES Act. The CARES Act also provided $100 million for high-speed Internet expansion in small towns and rural communities to ensure access to educational resources and economic opportunity. We still have gaps in Arkansas. I've spoken to teachers and superintendents about those gaps and how federal resources can be combined with state leadership and funding to prepare our schools for this fall.

Additionally, the CARES Act allocated over $200 million for Arkansas’s support of healthcare providers and patients using telehealth, which is a lifeline for many in Arkansas's rural communities. To help even further, Rep. Cindy Axne (D-IA) and I introduced the emergency COVID-19 Telehealth Response Act to expand telehealth availability for Arkansans needing important therapeutic services during the pandemic. My priority is giving our healthcare providers serving on the front lines of this public health crisis the tools they need of Arkansas healthy and safe and ultimately back to work. I also led a letter seeking fair reimbursements for firefighters, emergency medical service providers (EMS) and other medical first responders who have been called upon much more during the pandemic.

For our small businesses, I ensured that our small businesses could access the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) which was passed as part of the CARES Act. To date, the PPP program has facilitated over 40,000 Arkansas businesses getting nearly $3.4 billion and badly needed funding to get through the first weeks of the economic shutdown. Now, I continue to work with the Federal Reserve and Treasury to enhance our ability to get America's economy back up to full speed.

Congress’ ultimate goal in our pandemic response is to keep American families safe, deliver outstanding public health, and learn to live with the virus until we get quality treatments and ultimately a vaccine all while preparing for the future.

In response to the pandemic, in late March, I introduced the Securing America’s Vaccines for Emergencies (SAVE) Act. The COVID-19 pandemic revealed that the United States is too dependent upon other countries – including China – for the overwhelming portion of medical devices, ingredients for pharmaceuticals, and personal protective equipment – all of which the United States has desperately needed since the start of the year. This bill would amend the Defense Production Act to develop a presidential strategy diversify our supply chain to make the United States less dependent upon foreign manufacturers and bring key production capabilities back home to America.

I am working alongside my colleagues to support Governor Hutchinson and our Arkansas leaders in their response to the virus.