Senator Joni Ernst has been busy working the phones during the COVID-19 pandemic. For a while, it seemed Ernst was holding telephone town hall meetings every day – sometimes twice a day.
Ernst has hosted calls for
It’s all a part of the expectation Iowans have of their elected representatives.
“Meeting with and hearing from my fellow Iowans is one, if not the most, important part of being in elected office,” Ernst said. “Our elected officials should always be out there listening to the folks we work for. It’s our job, and it really does make us more effective lawmakers.”
Typically Ernst touches base with constituents during her own 99-county tour, which is an annual occurrence. But for now, those events can’t happen.
Instead, Ernst is finding ways to speak directly with Iowans in order to gather information while also helping to answer questions.
“It’s just as important now for me to be speaking directly with Iowans across our state – our small business owners, our hospital workers, our farmers and ag community, our seniors – you name it,” Ernst said. “So, over the last few weeks, I’ve held eight different telephone townhalls, each with hundreds or even thousands of folks on the line.”
Ernst said they call out directly to thousands of households and take questions live.
“For many of the calls, I’ll also invite a health expert or government official to join and to help answer some of those questions,” she said. “I’ve also held video conferencing meetings and phone calls with all sorts of different groups in Iowa: several local Chambers of Commerce, organizations to support domestic abuse survivors, members of the state’s local TV and radio broadcasting stations, nurses and hospital workers, and many, many more.”
Through these conferences, Ernst said there’s been a consistent pattern.
“Resilience has been a key theme in my conversations with Iowans from across the state over the last few weeks,” she said. “There’s no question we are facing tough times as a state and as a country. But Iowans truly are resilient, and people from every community are pulling together to get through this.
“I often say to folks: ‘stay safe, and stay strong,’ because we will get through this. It’s so important for us all to do our part to help one another – and that’s something I’m seeing and hearing from the folks I talk to every day.”
The calls haven’t just been conversations used to appease Iowans, they’ve initiated action.
In March, Ernst talked with Iowa hospital workers about challenges they were facing and heard about needs they have during the crisis.
“From our conversation, I pushed for additional support for our hospitals, which was ultimately included in the “Phase 3” package,” Ernst said. “And just last week, through the ‘Phase 3.5’ package we passed, we provided another round of support to help health centers across Iowa, including those serving our rural communities.”
After her conversation with the Iowa Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Ernst has pushed for the Senate to prioritize additional support for sexual assault survivor support organizations so survivors and families can get the necessary help.
The Phase 3.5 bill included a provision allowing farmers to access the Economic Injury Disaster Loans program. This was due in part to Ernst’s efforts after constant conversations with Iowa’s ag community.
With packing plants facing shortages and pressure being put on our supply chain, Ernst said she’s working hard to push for more support from the Trump Administration. This is a collaborative effort that includes Sen. Charles Grassley, Gov. Kim Reynolds and Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig.
“Just shortly after our urging, we heard the great news that President Trump would use Defense Production Act authority to keep our packing plants safe and operational,” Ernst said. “This means plants will have access to all the equipment they need to keep workers safe and our farmers will again have an outlet for their hogs.”
Finally, Ernst said she’s extremely proud of the work done to secure additional relief for Iowa’s child care providers.
“As you know, Iowa was facing a child care crisis before the pandemic, and this issue has been a big priority for me,” Ernst said. “Through the bipartisan Phase 3 package, I was able to help secure nearly $32 million for our state’s providers and workers.”