“We are focusing on the health and safety of our families as we try and get on the right footing for a full recovery.”

By on September 17, 2020 in Featured News, News

Wagner Outlines Legislative Agenda to Help Suburban Families Amid COVID-19

WASHINGTON, DC —  For the millions of Americans living in suburbs across the country, the coronavirus pandemic has presented a new set of challenges. Helping lead the effort to address these challenges is U.S. Rep Ann Wagner (MO-2).  

Wagner serves as Chair of the House Suburban Caucus, where she has become a leading voice on Capitol Hill. The Missouri lawmaker spoke about this role and her efforts in this regard before a virtual meeting of The Ripon Society on Tuesday.

“More people are moving to suburban areas for quality of life issues,” Wagner stated. “Interestingly, the demographics show that millennials are skeptical about some of the inconveniences and expenses of urban life, especially when they decide to embark upon raising a family.

“There is a lot of desire to move out of overcrowded areas now more than ever during the coronavirus pandemic, as so many of us now have gone to remote working. You see residential home purchases absolutely blossoming and expanding all throughout our country. Even before the pandemic, studies showed that most of the population growth in our top 50 metropolitan areas comes directly from the growth in our suburbs – and these suburbs are very diverse racially and ethnically.”

According to Wagner, she helped revive the Caucus in 2018 after ten years of dormancy because, after the last election cycle, she felt it was essential to do more to lift up and recognize the policy issues that matter to those living in suburban areas.

“We have about 32 to 35 members that are active and have created five issue-based task forces. Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (WA-5) works on work life balance, Rep. French Hill (AR-2) works in the area of preparing our families for the future, Rep. Jackie Walorski (IN-2) is dealing with safety and stability, Rep. Rob Wittman (VA-1) is working on things that deal with better infrastructure and housing and such for our future, and Rep. Steve Stivers (OH-15) is batting cleanup with a Promises Made, Commitments Earned agenda.

“In December, the Suburban Caucus introduced a set of 12 bills to begin shaping our legislative platform. There were things like making the child tax credit permanent, increasing the amount that anyone can save in their tax free health savings accounts, lowering the cost of prescription drugs, making sure that we protect pre-existing conditions, addressing affordable housing, and expanding career and technical education.”

Just a few months later, COVID-19 had spread across the globe and reached the United States. Wagner said that the Caucus worked together to expand their platform and brought forward suburban solutions for the COVID-19 era.

“This summer we introduced an additional 10 bills many of which would help address the challenges that people are facing this year – especially in the suburbs and during the coronavirus outbreak. We are focusing on the health and safety of our families as we try and get on the right footing for a full recovery.”

Three of those bills were introduced by Wagner herself, and are:

• Emergency Support for Nursing Homes and Elder Justice Reform Act – Protects older Americans from abuse, neglect, and illness; helps nursing homes facing outbreaks; and expands tele-visitation so elderly Americans can communicate safely with their families.

• Telehealth Act – Permanently expands access to telehealth services so people can communicate with their doctors without leaving the safety of their homes, making telehealth more affordable for those on high-deductible health plans, expanding telehealth for veterans, addressing restrictions that deter doctors from providing telehealth services, and waiving originating site and geographical restrictions for Medicare.

• Fly Together Act – Requires airlines to seat young children with an older relative on flights to help families travel safely.

Wagner explained how implementation of telehealth services in particular has taken off during COVID-19 and why she believes it is here to stay.

“If there was any silver lining in this horrific health and economic disaster that we’ve seen, telehealth has really come to the forefront. It’s something that we want to see last beyond the pandemic.”

The other bills introduced by her Suburban Caucus colleagues include:

• Premium assistance for laid off workers so they do not lose their health insurance nor have to pay more to keep their coverage.

• Create protections for elementary, secondary, and higher education schools and universities to help them safely educate America’s students during COVID-19.

• Expand 529 Savings Plans so parents can spend tax-free on expenses related to home learning, public, private, and religious schools to help families navigate the 2020- 2021 school year.

• Modernize America’s roads, bridges, transit, and other infrastructure.

• Provide funding to child care providers across the country to stabilize the industry and ensure child care facilities can open and welcome children safely.

• Protect families who have been unable to use their 2020 Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) funds due to stay-at-home orders, allowing them to rollover balances, withdraw without penalty, change election amounts, and continue using funds if they lose their jobs.

• Give tax deductions for private school scholarship donations, helping all families more affordably access their desired schools.

Wagner wrapped up her opening remarks by outlining why it is important for the Republican Party to pay attention to suburban America and make the case for why the GOP is the best equipped to address their needs in Washington.

“We cannot just become a Conference or a Party that solely relies on our friends and supporters in rural America. They are very important too, but if we don’t fight to win back some of these House seats in the suburbs, if we don’t fight to recognize and step up to some of the challenges and opportunities that are facing our suburbs, if we don’t communicate to those communities in the suburbs that we have something to offer them as a Republican party, I don’t know how we’ll be the majority party going forward.

“The suburbs are growing, especially now as people begin to change the way they approach their work and their lifestyle – at least for the foreseeable future and perhaps the long-term. It’s our job to make sure they know that we’ve got policies and concerns and issues and that we’re willing to help them make their lives a little better.”

Following her remarks, Wagner was asked about suburban mothers and whether they believe the government has done enough to help them through the pandemic.

“What do suburban moms care most about? It’s the health, safety and security of their families, of their communities, and certainly of their economic security.”

Wagner further elaborated.

“Operational Warp Speed has been remarkable. Think about how long it usually takes to bring a vaccine or a cure to market and yet we’re on the cusp and are on phase three of multiple possible treatments. Even in my suburbs of St. Louis, Pfizer is working with other pharmaceutical companies such as Moderna and AstraZeneca. Let me make it clear to everyone: no one is cutting corners. The science is being followed. We’re going to make sure that any vaccine, any therapeutic, that is used is safe and the science is data driven. I believe in that very, very much and so do the moms in my suburbs.”

The Ripon Society is a public policy organization that was founded in 1962 and takes its name from the town where the Republican Party was born in 1854 – Ripon, Wisconsin.  One of the main goals of The Ripon Society is to promote the ideas and principles that have made America great and contributed to the GOP’s success.  These ideas include keeping our nation secure, keeping taxes low and having a federal government that is smaller, smarter and more accountable to the people.  

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