Weekly Column: Idaho Pulling Together
Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo
Even in these uncertain times, as the pandemic has torn across our world taking lives and livelihoods, Idahoans are moving forward. I have been proud to work closely with Governor Brad Little and fellow members of Idaho’s Congressional Delegation, Senator Jim Risch and Representatives Mike Simpson and Russ Fulcher, to support Idahoans throughout the state's response to the pandemic.
From the beginning, the Idaho Congressional Delegation worked with the Governor’s office to assist with testing capabilities for our state and cut through federal red tape to obtain needed medical supplies, such as masks and personal protective equipment (PPE). We navigated conflicting federal guidelines to help get a shipment of KN-95 masks into the country for St. Luke’s Health System. We partnered to obtain White House Coronavirus Task Force recognition of the serious need for certain testing in rural areas, such as those in Idaho. Elevating this to the attention of the Task Force, led by Vice President Mike Pence, was important to ensure tests were directed to rural areas more in need of critical testing than larger, more populous states with bigger hospital systems and more testing capacity.
To help ensure agricultural producers in Idaho and across the country had the necessary workforce to grow our nation’s food supply, we urged the timely and legal processing of H-2A visa requests, the nation’s temporary agriculture worker program, while implementing protocols to protect public health.
Together, we have worked to help bring home dozens of Idahoans. Our initial repatriation efforts began with individuals stranded on the Grand Princess Cruise Ship off the coast of California in mid-March. We communicated with those in quarantine at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar to ensure access to novel coronavirus (COVID-19) tests and other resources to facilitate a safe return.
When pandemic concerns heightened globally in March, our offices worked quickly to help get Idahoans abroad safely home. For example, a mother from eastern Idaho contacted me about her son, who was in Morocco when the pandemic hit. We helped ensure her son made it home. His mother wrote, “It was very comforting to know I had people working towards a solution.” Similarly, Idahoans with travel plans gone awry amid the pandemic have also been assisted with travel vouchers or refunds for canceled travel.
We have also been working quickly with Idahoans to help navigate the various elements of emergency federal assistance enacted during the pandemic. This includes addressing questions about whether individuals, including veterans and social security beneficiaries, qualify for individual payments, how a small business owner or agriculture producer can qualify and apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan, where to get information about health care, and many other subjects. Each win for Idahoans, and there are many more than mentioned here, has been encouraging as we pull together to overcome this pandemic.
There is no doubt recovery will take considerable time and ongoing effort and resources. We face significant challenges in the months ahead. Our work will continue as the Idaho Congressional Delegation are in daily contact with each other and Governor Little. My website, www.crapo.senate.gov, has contact details and updated information to help answer questions people may have, and we will continue to post information as we get it. We are here to help Idahoans with anything we can regarding this pandemic, so please reach out if you need help.
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