Last week could have been Senator Joni Ernst’s time to shine for Iowans as we face the greatest public health crisis of my lifetime; but she let the opportunity pass her by, and in the process failed Iowans.
Last Wednesday Senator Ernst voted against giving hundreds of thousands of Iowans the universal paid sick leave needed to get through this national crisis. First, Senator Ernst voted against an amendment to a Coronavirus stimulus package that would have provided universal paid sick and family leave, and then she voted for the amendment that would have eliminated paid sick leave provisions in the whole bill. She voted for the final bill, and was happy to mention her support for paid sick leave in her communication Wednesday evening. However, her two previous votes fall more in line with her voting record — one that strips crucial protections from struggling Americans.
The final bill only provides paid sick leave for those working for companies with less than 500 employees. What about Iowans working for large corporations like Wells Fargo, a major Des Moines area employer? No company, regardless of size, should be allowed to penalize Iowans affected by this virus.
Iowa Voices has spoken with Iowans across the state for the past several months, many of whom have pre-existing conditions that put them at higher risk for the virus. Their worries range from not knowing whether their pre-existing conditions will be covered if the Affordable Care Act is overturned, to making difficult financial decisions so they can afford their prescription medications. They have needed leadership from Senator Ernst for years, but her decisions leave them wanting.
Her votes to deny paid sick leave to all working Iowans are simply two new examples of Senator Ernst favoring large corporations over the health and wellbeing of every day Iowans. While accepting money from the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, Senator Ernst voted against protections for people with pre-existing conditions multiple times and has failed to support legislation that would dramatically lower the cost of prescription drugs.
The toll COVID-19 will have on Iowans remains to be seen. As Iowans hunker down and brace for the impact of the virus, our senators must take each and every opportunity to put Iowans first. Now is not the time for partisanship — it is the time for leadership. Iowans are calling on their elected leaders to do what’s best for our state, not special interests.
Photo by Gage Skidmore. Used under a CC BY-SA 2.0 license.