3rd Congressional District Senator
320 Hart Building
Washington, DC 20510
(202) 224-4843 http://boozman.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/e-mail-me
November 20, 2020
Giving Thanks for Arkansas Adoption Advocates
Danny and Dawn Curtis always wanted a large family. They already had two sons when they saw a photo album of Arkansas children in foster care waiting to be adopted. They fell in love with the picture of a young girl and learned that she had three brothers. After much discussion and prayer, they adopted the sibling group and turned their family of four into a family of eight.
The Curtis family eventually adopted a total of 10 children and became valuable advocates for foster children in Arkansas, through their professional lives and personal example. I was privileged to visit with Dawn recently and congratulate her as she and her late husband were honored by the Congressional Adoption Coalition as 2020 Angels in Adoption.
Fortunately, other families are also demonstrating their commitment to change the lives of children through adoption. Thousands of families make room in their homes and their hearts each year. It is inspiring to see the love and commitment Arkansas families and organizations have to helping children in need. As willing families work with government agencies, courts and non-profit organizations throughout the state, you can see their common purpose to give every child the best life possible.
As a member of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption, I am pleased, once again, to support a U.S. Senate resolution recognizing November as National Adoption Month and November 21, 2020 as National Adoption Day. There are approximately 424,000 children in the foster care system in the U.S. and half of them are waiting for adoption. The average foster child spends 20 months in that system and 65 percent of them are 10 years old or younger. This year, the COVID-19 health crisis has created even more challenges for the foster care system, prospective adoptive parents and the children who are praying for a permanent home.
There has been a lot of discussion in recent years about the high number of Arkansas children in foster care. I am heartened to see the dedicated response to this crisis from organizations like The CALL and Project Zero that help place children in loving homes, to facilities like the Young Children’s Home where they provide a family atmosphere for many children so they are not forced to move far away or be separated from their siblings while in foster care.
We are blessed to have the advocacy in our state that is making a positive impact on the lives of young Arkansans. As we give thanks for our friends and family this year, let us remember to count our blessings and keep children who are seeking the opportunity to be surrounded by loved ones at Thanksgiving in our hearts.
Boozman Awarded for Commitment to Small Business
NFIB State Director Sylvester Smith presented Boozman with the Guardian of Small Business award at McLehaney Equipment Co. LLC in Benton.
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) was awarded the ‘Guardian of Small Business’ award from the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB), the nation’s leading small business association. Boozman received this honor for his outstanding voting record in support of small business owners and employees.
“Small business owners are facing extraordinary challenges as a result of the COVID-19 economic downturn. I’m proud to support policies that will help provide certainty and economic relief so these job creators can survive and continue to employ Arkansans. I appreciate this recognition and remain committed to advocating for the success of our state’s small businesses,” Boozman said.
“This award goes to members of Congress who support small businesses, and Senator Boozman stands up for small business owners and employees in Arkansas and throughout the country,” NFIB Arkansas State Director Sylvester Smith said.
“NFIB’s policy positions are driven by its members, and we report NFIB Key Votes back to our membership,” NFIB Vice President of Federal Government Relations Kevin Kuhlman said.
“We are proud to recognize the elected officials like Senator Boozman who earned this distinction in the 116th Congress by taking pro-small business votes supporting financial assistance programs and tax relief and opposing increased labor costs.”
November 17, 2020
Senators Introduce Resolution Honoring the World Food Program for Receiving Nobel Peace Prize
WASHINGTON–The Senate Hunger Caucus has unveiled an effort to honor the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) for receiving the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize.
The caucus co-chairs—Sens. John Boozman (R-AR), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Bob Casey (D-PA), Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Jerry Moran (R-KS)—have introduced S.Res.774 that congratulates the WFP for being awarded the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize, affirms the organization’s mission and expresses support for the leadership of WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
Additionally, the resolution reiterates the Senate’s commitment to the goal of working with the international community to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition through the work of the WFP.
“Eliminating hunger at home and abroad takes an all-hands-on-deck approach. It requires leaders with visionary solutions and supporting team members who are willing to put in the hard work to bring about meaningful change. David Beasley and his team at the WFP embody these principles. I congratulate them and offer my continued support as we work together toward a world where hunger is no longer an issue,” said Boozman.
“For nearly 60 years, the World Food Program has been on the front lines fighting hunger, preventing famines and responding to humanitarian crises across the world,” said Brown. “The WFP is a worthy recipient of the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize and I congratulate the women and men of the WFP who have worked so hard to make the world a better place. I am honored to join my colleagues on the Senate Hunger Caucus to recognize the outstanding work of the WFP.”
“World Food Program staff and volunteers are on the front lines fighting famine, hunger and malnutrition in the world’s most difficult to reach regions. Awarding WFP with the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize is not only commendation of the incredible work WFP does, but also a recognition that food security is essential to fighting poverty and achieving a more just and equitable world. As the world deals with an unprecedented pandemic, conflict and displacement, we must not forget that hunger is often one of the first effects of unrest. I congratulate WFP for this well-deserved honor and along with my colleagues remain committed to fighting hunger and malnutrition around the world,” said Casey.
“So many in America and across the globe suffer from a shortage of food. The World Food Program has been a steadfast leader in the fight to end world hunger, providing innovative solutions and determination to end this struggle. I’m proud to join members of the bipartisan Senate Hunger Caucus to introduce a resolution that commends the WFP’s Nobel Peace Prize and recognizes the need to continue our efforts in the Senate to end world hunger,” said Durbin.
“As hunger impacts families here in the United States and around the globe, it will take collaboration between producers, Congress and organizations like the World Food Program to eradicate hunger,” said Moran. “Fighting hunger is not only the morally right thing to do; it is also the smart thing to do for our producers, and I applaud the World Food Program and the work they do each day to end hunger.”
“We are deeply grateful for this bipartisan recognition from the leaders of the Senate Hunger Caucus. From the time of the United Nations World Food Program’s creation in 1961, the United States has remained a stalwart and generous donor in support of our lifesaving work in more than 80 countries around the world,” said Barron Segar President & CEO of World Food Program USA. “Being named the 2020 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate is a timely and decisive acknowledgement that ending hunger is a critical first step towards peace. The award is a tribute to the sacrifice and commitment of the U.N. World Food Program’s 18,000 staff, many of whom work on the frontlines of hunger and conflict, delivering food assistance that offers hope to some of the most vulnerable people, living in some of the world’s most remote and insecure locations.”
November 16, 2020
Legislative Win for Conservation
Arkansas is blessed with a wonderful landscape and incredible wildlife that people from all across the country come to our state to enjoy. Preserving and protecting our environment is vital to enabling future generations of Americans to participate in popular outdoor activities. This Congress, we’ve taken significant action to improve federal conservation programs, most recently with the enactment of America’s Conservation Enhancement (ACE) Act.
This bipartisan conservation law advances and expands programs to safeguard wildlife and ecosystems. It will enable us to better implement collaborative strategies to protect and restore wetland habitat by reauthorizing critical programs that have a track record of success like the North American Wetlands Conservation Act (NAWCA). This program has resulted in the restoration of thousands of acres of wildlife habitat in Arkansas and more than 30 million acres nationwide.
Our state has also benefited from the National Fish Habitat Partnership (NFHP), a program Arkansas Game and Fish Commission assistant chief of fisheries, Jason Olive, says has recently helped projects on Lake Poinsett and Lake Ouachita. This law codifies the NFHP and increases federal support for its efforts to improve fish habitat and the jobs and businesses that depend on a healthy and robust fish population.
This law also helps maintain a healthy wildlife population. Arkansas hunters are facing new challenges and emerging threats to the safety of the deer population as a result of chronic wasting disease (CWD). Since it was first detected in the state four years ago, the Arkansas Game and Fish Commission has taken strategic actions to prevent the spread of this degenerative disease in deer, elk and moose by implementing innovative ways to address this problem. The ACE Act establishes a CWD task force within the U.S. Department of the Interior so we can expand federal assistance to better collaborate with state and local officials to fight this disease.
As an avid outdoorsman, I’m proud to advocate and support federal programs that strengthen our nation’s wetlands and bolster waterfowl habitat. That’s why I cosponsored this legislation in the Senate and worked with wildlife conservation groups to help move this through the legislative process. When President Trump signed this bipartisan bill into law last month, there was widespread support among conservationists, hunters and anglers because all of these stakeholders want what’s best for our public lands, and we all want to be able to utilize these national treasures for years to come.
Earlier this year, Congress passed, and the president signed into law, the Great American Outdoors Act which invests in the upkeep of public lands. With both bills signed into law, this Congress has been a “banner year for the conservation community” one wildlife conservation leader said. This underscores how broad the consensus is around the necessity to protect our natural resources.
We’ve made remarkable progress this year, and I’m committed to advocating for and promoting policies that preserve and protect our wildlife and wetlands.
November 10, 2020
Boozman Applauds Release of Senate Appropriations Committee Bills
WASHINGTON- The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, on Tuesday, released each of its Fiscal Year 2021 funding bills including theSenate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) bill authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR).
Boozman’s bill includes full funding of the VA MISSION Act and electronic health record modernization programs. It also supports the newly enacted Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which includes a provision by the senator to create a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) grant program to reduce and prevent veteran suicide.
“Funding the government is the most important responsibility of Congress. I’m proud of the bipartisan collaboration that resulted in the support of veteran programs and national defense facilities. I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to work together with the Senate so we can provide this certainty for Americans,” Boozman said.
Boozman also secured several Arkansas-related priorities in the bills:
- Air Force Training: $8 million to support training at Razorback Range.
- Pine Bluff Arsenal: Over $25 million for munitions manufacturing.
- Department of Defense Research: Funding for collaborative research in which Arkansas companies are engaged, including more than $30 million for silicon carbide research to make smaller components for more sophisticated modern weapons.
- National Center for Toxicological Research: $66.7 million to support the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) research to promote and protect public health conducted at the National Center for Toxicological Research. This facility is located in Jefferson County.
- Rural Broadband: $400 million to help close the digital divide and invest in rural broadband through the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program.
- Rural Development: Expanding business development and job training opportunities in rural areas, including $2.8 million for the Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Access (ATTRA) program which connects Arkansas agricultural producers to information that helps them improve their operations. ATTRA administers the Armed to Farm program that assists veterans in transition to civilian life by training them for a career in farming. ATTRA has a regional headquarters located in Fayetteville.
- High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program (HIDTA): $285 million to support effective and innovative drug control efforts by federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in HIDTA areas. In Arkansas this includes Benton, Jefferson, Pulaski and Washington counties.
- Veterans Treatment Courts: Support for critical components of our judicial system that offer an alternative treatment to jail for individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. Veterans treatment courts received $24 million to help break the cycle of addiction.
- Law Enforcement Grants: $481 million for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program which provides federal, state and local governments the tools to prevent and combat crime and keep their communities safe. In Arkansas, Byrne JAG helps fund multi-jurisdictional programs like Drug Task Forces.
- SRF WIN Funding: $5 million is included to help meet underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs, a program Boozman-authored last Congress to create an innovative approach to modernizing critical water infrastructure.
- Community Health Centers (CHC): In Arkansas, there are more than 130 CHC facilities that help nearly 200,000 people get the medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care services they need. The Senate allocates $1.7 billion for these health facilities.
- Delta Regional Authority (DRA): The DRA works to improve economic opportunity for residents of the Delta region through targeted investments. The proposed Senate bills include more than $30 million for the DRA which supports grants to the region and funding for basic public infrastructure development and transportation improvements.
- Small Business Development: More than $30 million is included for programs that support small business development such as the Federal and State Technology (FAST) Partnership Program, Women’s Business Centers and Regional Innovation Clusters program.
- McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS): The bill includes report language discussing the importance of the MKARNS inland waterway deepening and encourages the Army Corps of Engineers to provide funds for non-structural activities, such as channel deepening, when funding is sufficient to accommodate such projects.
The Senate will now begin negotiations with the House of Representative so a final agreement can be reached to fund the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2021.
November 6, 2020
Improving Veterans Services
On Veterans Day, we pause to honor the selfless sacrifice of the men and women who wore our nation’s uniform and renew our obligation to care for these brave individuals. They’ve given their best to our nation and deserve our best in return. An important part of this mission is providing timely and quality healthcare. It is exciting to see improvements for these services in Arkansas and it is something I continue to focus on in the U.S. Senate.
In late October, veterans and community leaders celebrated the groundbreaking of a much-needed new, expanded and modernized Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) Community-Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) in Fort Smith. At the ceremony, Kelvin Parks, the Director of the Veterans Health Center of the Ozarks called this an “important milestone in our journey to ensure our veterans have access to the world class health care that the VA provides.”
Arkansas is home to 16 CBOCs that make an important difference in giving veterans access to VA health care much closer to home. Throughout the nation, there are 800 of these clinics in the VA system providing every day outpatient services including health and wellness visits. The Fort Smith CBOC had outgrown its space over 20 years. This new facility will allow the VA to better meet the needs of veterans in Sebastian, Crawford and Franklin Counties.
Although local VA clinics make routine health care more accessible to veterans in rural areas, in Arkansas, more advanced care can mean a full-day trip to the nearest VA hospital. Two years ago, Congress provided more flexibility for veterans to access health care and services without extended travel by passing the VA MISSION Act. This reform to community care has enabled veterans to receive quality health services within their own community. This policy has improved how the VA delivers health care and provides more options to better support the needs of veterans, no matter where they live.
Like many programs, there is always room for improvement. As a member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’m working with my colleagues to ensure a successful implementation of the MISSION Act.
We routinely make improvements to policies in order to make the lives of veterans and their families better. With input from Veteran Service Organizations and Arkansas veterans sharing their experiences with VA programs and benefits, we continue to look at new measures and implement innovative programs to resolve existing flaws.
That’s what we’re doing to address one of our greatest challenges, reducing and preventing veteran suicides. We’ve spent a decade making significant investments in suicide prevention programs within the VA system, but that hasn’t changed the number of veterans who take their own life. That’s why I advocated for a new approach and introduced legislation to create a VA grant program to empower veteran-serving non-profits and other community networks to expand their successful programs and reach veterans not using VA resources. Last month, President Trump signed into law the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which includes this new plan.
How we take care of and support veterans is a mark of our nation’s character. We have a responsibility to advocate on their behalf and ensure they have access to the benefits and services they have earned. I’m proud to honor their service and sacrifice by supporting legislation, shaping policies and expanding services that help veterans and their families.
October 30, 2020
Building a Workforce for the Future
When we talk about ways to foster long-term economic growth, ensuring that Arkansans are prepared for well-paying jobs must be among our top concerns. Career and technical schools offer specialized training that prepares students for careers in skilled trades, applied sciences and more. We are blessed to have a number of exceptional programs in Arkansas that put students on the path to future success.
This is important because almost a quarter of our state’s skilled professionals are at or near retirement age. Arkansas’s employers need talented workers who are prepared to fill the surge of expected vacancies, as well as those to step into positions created by the many new employers choosing to call the Natural State home.
One of Arkansas’s leading career and technical colleges, the University of Arkansas – Pulaski Technical College (UA-PTC), recently received a $2.5 million grant from the U.S. Economic Development Administration. The award will be used to the launch the first phase of its Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Park Project on the college’s main campus in North Little Rock.
According to UA-PTC officials, the school’s existing laboratory spaces can no longer serve the rapidly-growing demand for STEM classes, forcing the school to turn away 200-300 students per semester. The STEM Park Project will allow the college to accommodate more students and help them find well-paying jobs after graduation through its partnership with STEM-related industries in Arkansas.
The mission of the STEM Park Project is important as data from the Arkansas Department of Workforce Services shows there is a current demand for nearly 3,300 skilled workers in STEM fields in the state. That need is made more apparent by the fact that the existing workforce in STEM-related positions is already facing a shortfall of over 500 employees.
Along with our career and technical colleges, the Associated Industries of Arkansas Foundation’s “Be Pro, Be Proud” initiative is another ongoing effort to address that shortfall. The goal of the program is to introduce Arkansans to the high-wage, stable careers in order to meet the need of employers requiring specialized training for highly skilled jobs that don’t requires a four-year degree. The variety of career paths highlighted by the “Be Pro, Be Proud” initiative include tool and die making, computer programming, construction, robotics and many more.
Among other things, the “Be Pro, Be Proud” program brings its mobile workshop to cities and towns across the state to offer high schoolers exposure to careers in trade and a hands-on introduction to the technology at use in these professions. I’ve had a chance to see the mobile workshop up close on a couple occasions, most recently this past summer, and can attest to the value it provides in terms of offering a unique insight for students considering alternatives to the traditional four-year university route. This outreach will help young Arkansans realize that you don’t need an undergraduate degree to get ahead in life.
Programs like “Be Pro, Be Proud” and institutions like UA-PTC will help Arkansas industries fill the current—and projected—employment void and attract additional STEM-related jobs to the state. We must continue to support programs that build a pipeline to fill in-demand jobs.
October 27, 2020
Boozman Votes to Confirm Judge Barrett to Serve on the Supreme Court
WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after voting to confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett to serve as Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court:
“Judge Barrett has demonstrated that she is eminently qualified to serve on the Supreme Court. Her resume is impeccable. Her demeanor is calm and unshakeable. Perhaps most importantly, her understanding of the role shows she will be a fair-minded and thoughtful jurist who steers clear of legislating from the bench.
Judge Barrett has earned the trust and confidence of the Senate and the majority of the American people. I congratulate her on this honor and look forward to her tenure on the Supreme Court.”
October 26, 2020
Senators Boozman & Cotton Honor Fallen Pine Bluff Detective
Watch the Senate tribute to Detective Collins
WASHINGTON–Arkansas Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton on Sunday paid tribute to the service and sacrifice of Pine Bluff Police DepartmentDetective Kevin Collins who was killed in the line of duty on October 5, 2020.
Detective Collins took his “heart for service and put his faith into action, taking the initiative to make his community better. We rely on law enforcement officers like Detective Collins to keep communities safe,” Boozman said in remarks on the Senate floor. “His death is a tragic reminder of the risks law enforcement officers face each day.”
“Pine Bluff was blessed to have a guardian in Kevin Collins,” Cotton said on the Senate floor. “Now his watch on Earth is over. He’s looking down on us from above. May he rest in peace.”
October 23, 2020
Additional Small Business Relief Critical to Economic Recovery
In March, Stepping Stone School, a Crawford County non-profit providing services for young children and their families, suspended its in-person lessons in order to comply with health guidelines. However, the school’s instruction and outreach continued virtually thanks in part to help it received from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). It’s one of 41,000 small businesses in Arkansas that received a PPP loan to pay employees, rent and utilities during the pandemic and the associated economic downturn. During a visit to the school last month, the executive director shared with me how important the PPP loan was to continue providing vital services individuals and families depend on. The PPP has been a lifeline for small businesses across our state and throughout the nation that have experienced financial challenges as a result of COVID-19. Congress must continue supporting this program and the small businesses weathering current economic challenges.
Congress unanimously created PPP in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. It provides low-interest loans to small businesses to keep themselves afloat, with a portion of the loan eligible for forgiveness. Arkansas small businesses have received PPP loans worth approximately $3.2 billion.
Like many programs, there is always room for improvement. Funds for the popular program were quickly replenished, and Congress made some minor changes to provide additional flexibility and allow more small businesses to participate. This was accomplished with broad bipartisan support.
Those cooperative efforts continued as Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have cosponsored legislation to streamline and simplify the forgiveness process for the program’s smaller loans. This would minimize the burden of extensive paperwork to allow our small businesses to focus on retaining jobs, rather than working through mountains of red tape. After hearing from stakeholders, the U.S. Small Business Administration modified the loan forgiveness application to provide some relief to program participants. While I appreciate this administrative action, we can do more to make it easier, and I will continue to support a legislative fix.
Many companies and industries continue to experience hardships because they aren’t able to resume normal operations. We ought to use the successful model of PPP to continue helping struggling businesses survive this pandemic. Congress can provide certainty for owners, employees and families by refilling and reopening the PPP that expired this summer.
I recently voted in favor of a boost to the PPP allowing the hardest-hit small businesses to receive an additional round of funding. We can provide more resources, strengthen oversight and create a simpler loan forgiveness process to help keep hardworking Americans employed and businesses in operation.This is something we all agreed is critical to economic recovery earlier this year. Unfortunately, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer blocked the bill from advancing. It’s disappointing that my colleagues across the aisle don’t have the same urgency to advance Senate legislation that would provide much-needed relief to America’s small businesses and their employees.
The PPP has been a game-changer in keeping the doors of small businesses open and saving millions of jobs. It’s imperative that we come together again to strengthen this lifeline.
October 21, 2020
Boozman Meets with Supreme Court Nominee Judge Amy Coney Barrett
WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after meeting with Judge Amy Coney Barrett, President Trump’s nominee to serve as Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court:
“While her legal and academic resume were already well known, the Judiciary Committee’s hearings gave the country an opportunity to see Judge Amy Coney Barrett’s exceptional intellect and calm demeanor on display. The manner in which she handled the intense questioning exceeded my already high expectations and reaffirmed my view that Judge Barrett will respect her Constitutional role, rather than attempt to legislate from the bench. I appreciate that Judge Barrett took the time to discuss her nomination with me and look forward to casting my vote to confirm her to serve on the Supreme Court in the coming days.”
Boozman and Barrett meet in the Mansfield Room of the U.S Capitol to discuss her nomination to the Supreme Court
October 20, 2020
Boozman Celebrates Winslow family as 2020 Angels in Adoption
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized Dawn Curtis and the late Danny Curtis for their commitment to providing a loving home to children in need and making a difference for other families throughout the region. Boozman nominated the couple from Winslow, Arkansas for the 2020 Congressional Angels in Adoption award and talked with Dawn to celebrate this recognition via a Zoom meeting on Tuesday.
The Curtises have 12 children, including 10 they adopted from foster care, and have been advocates for adoption and the needs of children through their careers and personal lives.
“The Curtis family is an amazing example of putting love into action. Their personal commitment changed the lives of the children they brought into their family and serves as an inspiration for others as to the impact of foster care and adoption. I’m proud to recognize Mrs. Curtis and her late husband for their inspiring work on behalf of children and families in Arkansas,” Boozman said.
The couple first became adoptive parents after seeing a photo album of children in foster care at a booth hosted by the Arkansas Department of Human Services at a local Walmart. They fell in love with the picture of a four-year-old girl and learned she had three brothers. The siblings had been in the foster care system for three years and multiple homes when the couple adopted all four of the children.
After their first adoption experience, Dawn decided to follow her passion to work with children in foster care and obtained her master’s degree in social work. She went on to work for the Arkansas Department of Human Services and served in a variety of roles during her career, including as an Adoption Specialist. During these years, the family was approached to consider adopting others in foster care and eventually added six additional children to their home.
Danny worked for many years as a police officer and a bus driver while caring for his growing family. Danny and Dawn also visited Washington, D.C. on several occasions to advocate for adoption and children in foster care. The 12 Curtis children span 20 years of age and are all adults now, but the example and dedication of their parents continues to move everyone around them.
The Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute (CCAI) coordinates the Angels in Adoption program and raises awareness about the tens of thousands of orphans and foster children in the United States, and the millions of orphans around the world in need of permanent homes.
“The Angels in Adoption program gives a platform to the families, advocates, and experts who so often serve quietly behind the scenes yet make a huge impact on behalf of children and families. Together with the Adoption Caucus, we are thrilled to shine a light on the extraordinary work of our Angels,” said CCAI’s Executive Director, Nancy Kay Blackwell.
Boozman annually nominates an Arkansan or Arkansas organization that has made an extraordinary contribution on behalf of children in need of safe and loving homes as an Angel in Adoption.
October 16, 2020
The Spotlight Shines on Efforts to Address World Hunger
The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded to those “who shall have done the most, or the best work, for fraternity between nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.”
This year’s recipient truly embodies those ideals.
The World Food Program (WFP), the largest humanitarian organization focused on global hunger and food security, was awarded the honor for “its efforts to combat hunger, for its contribution to bettering conditions for peace in conflict-affected areas and for acting as a driving force in efforts to prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war and conflict.”
The organization’s executive director, David Beasley, is a good friend of mine. His commitment to serving a higher calling is inspirational. I couldn’t be more pleased that the spotlight is pointed on the work of the WFP under David’s dedicated leadership.
David will be the first to tell you that despite this honor, the WFP’s work is far from complete. After the announcement, he said, “The good news is we’re feeding 80 million people on any given day in 80 countries. The bad news is it’s getting worse out there – the famine, the droughts, the conflicts.”
While that assessment is spot-on, I would add one more factor to the list—the coronavirus pandemic. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, COVID-19 could result in upwards of 132 million more people struggling with hunger. That number already sits at nearly 690 million.
COVID-19 is casting a large shadow over this year’s World Food Day, a date annually recognized by the U.S., the FAO and 130 countries as an occasion to promote global awareness and action for all who suffer from malnutrition, chronic hunger and obesity.
This year’s theme is “Grow, nourish, sustain. Together. Our actions are our future,” which highlights the need to preserve access to safe and nutritious food. This will continue to be an essential part of the response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people face food insecurity in the wake of the food supply disruptions and economic displacement brought on by it.
As co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I am proud to have joined my colleagues in support of a resolution that designated October 16, 2020, as World Food Day. Observing this day raises awareness of America’s important efforts to stamp out hunger worldwide.
Eliminating hunger at home and abroad takes U.S. leadership. That is why the Senate Hunger Caucus not only seeks to find vehicles to bring focus to the plight of those suffering from food insecurity, but solutions that bring upon meaningful change as well. There is a great deal of work to be done, but the theme of this year’s World Food Day serves as a guide as we work to achieve that goal.
World Food Day serves as both a call to action and an opportunity to recognize the many who have stepped up and been a champion on this issue on a global scale and in our individual communities. David Beasley and his team at the WFP are clearly an example of the latter. The organization he runs now has a Nobel Peace Prize to prove it. I have the utmost confidence that the WFP will continue to inspire us all to help work toward a world where hunger is no longer an issue.
September 30, 2020
Boozman Statement on Passage of Bill to Avoid Shutdown
WASHINGTON–U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement after voting to pass a short-term extension to keep the federal government funded through December 11, 2020:
“Governing by short-term extensions is a less than desirable option. Congress should pass individual funding bills each year to avoid the chronic budget uncertainty that makes it difficult to plan for the future. Regular order is the best way to reduce government spending, balance our budget and prioritize the needs of federal agencies.
However, a government shutdown is the last thing we need in the midst of a public health emergency and an economic crisis. Important pandemic response and economic relief programs that the American people are counting on would be stopped or disrupted if not for this bill.
I am pleased that we reached an agreement that included full reimbursement to the Commodity Credit Corporation in this legislation. Our farmers and ranchers have faced more than enough challenges this year – extreme weather events, low commodity prices, market volatility, a global pandemic and the list just goes on and on and on. They don’t need Washington to make things even more difficult.”
September 25, 2020
Boozman Recognizes Military Service of WWII Veteran from Pine Bluff
Click here to watch excerpts of the interview with Fulton Walker
WASHINGTON– U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) recognized the service of World War II veteran Fulton William Walker in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans.
Walker was born in Emerson, Arkansas in 1923. He was raised on the family farm with his 10 brothers and sisters. After graduating high school, Walker was drafted into the Army when he was 19-years-old and began his military service on July 29, 1943.
Walker’s father was visibly shaken by his son’s departure. “I already had three brothers in service, and when I was called it was almost more than my father could bear,” Walker said.
During his training at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, Walker learned how to drive a truck, a skill that would be key to his success overseas.
“I didn’t know how to drive anything. I hadn’t even learned to drive a car,” Walker remarked.
After arriving in England, Walker and other African American soldiers didn’t receive a warm welcome. They were treated poorly simply because the color of their skin. When his mission took him to France and Germany, he recalls being treated well.
Walker was part of the famous Red Ball Express, an operation primarily manned by African American soldiers that convoyed much-needed supplies to Allied forces for 82 days. The Red Ball Express played a vital role in helping bring an end to the war in Europe.
“We just traveled, sometimes [for] days, sometimes under dark, it just depends where we were,” Walked said.
During his assignment with the Red Ball Express, Walker developed a friendship with James Williams, a fellow Arkansan. “We called him ‘royal jester’…because he liked to have a lot of fun,” Walker fondly recalled.
Following the end of the war, he remained in Germany to help rebuild and restore the country. Some of his missions included transporting German POWs back to their hometowns.
“It looked like a tornado had come through it.” He became friends with the locals and was eventually sent off with a memorable farewell filled with gifts and gestures to remember his stay.
When he returned stateside, Walker used the GI Bill to continue his education and enrolled at AM&N College, now the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff, where he studied English and social studies. While in school, Walker married his high school sweetheart. The couple had one daughter, Phyllis Keele Walker.
After college, Walker became an educator, coach and principal in rural Arkansas. In 1965, he was hired by the Pine Bluff School District where he served as a principal for several schools and eventually oversaw all federal programs in the district.
While he had much success in education, he is most proud of being a role model for his family.
“Fulton Walker’s dedication to serving others, whether it be in the military or in his community, is inspiring and a reminder that a single person can make a difference. I am extremely grateful for his service and I am pleased to be able to collect and preserve his stories,” Boozman said.
In February, Boozman presented Walker with the service medals he earned including the Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medals and the World War II Victory Medal.
Boozman will submit Walker’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative by the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.
September 25, 2020
Ensuring Rural Arkansas Receives the Support it Needs
When the House of Representatives unveiled its short-term funding bill, key priorities were inexplicably left out.
I should stress from the outset that governing by short-term extensions is far from a preferable option. Congress should pass individual funding bills each year to avoid the chronic budget uncertainty that makes it difficult to plan ahead. This is the best way to reduce government spending, balance our budget and prioritize the needs of federal agencies.
However, in the event of the last resort, a continuing resolution (CR) should never shortchange vital programs like the initial draft of this one did.
The House’s first offering would have delivered a devastating blow to America’s farm community by leaving out a reimbursement to the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC). The CCC is the funding mechanism for the bulk of our nation’s agricultural and conservation programs. In order for these programs to work as intended, the CCC must be reimbursed by Congress on an annual basis.
For decades, the CCC has been routinely reimbursed without fanfare. Unfortunately, this year, it took an extra lift. When the word spread that CCC reimbursement had not been included in the House bill, over 40 agricultural organizations—representing farmers and ranchers across the country—urged Congress to fix this oversight. Their message was clear: we simply can’t go forward without CCC reimbursement in the bill. My Senate colleagues and I listened to their message, and pressured the House to forge a bipartisan compromise on the CR that included funding for the CCC.
A full CCC reimbursement means that farm and conservation program payments will go out as planned, offering farmers and ranchers a little bit more certainty and predictability to continue growing the food and fiber for this nation. This is welcome news as farmers and ranchers have faced more than enough challenges already this year. Along with unprecedented conditions created by the pandemic, agricultural producers have also been forced to cope with extreme weather events, low commodity prices and market volatility. Through all this adversity, they continue to produce the highest quality, lowest cost and safest food in the world. I am pleased that we came to an agreement as the last thing they needed was for Washington to make conditions even more difficult for rural America.
The compromise CR also fixed another unforced error—the failure to extend the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program.
Created by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the Pandemic EBT Program provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals who have been unable to benefit from these programs while closures are in place. With many school districts still implementing partial or full remote learning, parents continue struggling to ensure their children get healthy meals like those they would normally receive on campus. The compromise CR extends the program through the next fiscal year, which will help children who rely on the program to still benefit while closures remain in place.
It is our duty to ensure that support for the programs we voted for are not unnecessarily delayed due to partisan politics in Washington. The programs funded by the CCC were authorized by the Farm Bill in an overwhelmingly bipartisan manner, and the Pandemic EBT Program was created by a bill that that received near universal support in the Senate. I am pleased that we were able to put our partisan differences aside to fund these priorities.
September 22, 2020
Senators Call for Removal of Trade Program’s Rice Tariff Barriers
WASHINGTON—Members of the U.S. Senate are urging the Trump Administration to reform our largest and oldest trade preference program to level the playing field for American rice producers.
The program in question—the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP)—provides duty-free treatment to goods from developing countries to promote economic growth in those nations. In recent years, highly-subsidized rice growing competitors have taken advantage of this program to increase rice exports to the U.S. at the expense of American producers.
In a letter to U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer—authored by Senator John Boozman (R-AR)—the members shared their support for the USA Rice Federation’s petition to remove all rice tariff lines from the list of commodities eligible for duty-free import under GSP.
“We understand GSP is meant to be a win-win for both the U.S. and our trading partners, but unfortunately in the case of rice, our biggest competitors on the world stage have taken advantage of the program for far too long. Over the past several years, we have seen an annual uptick in rice imports from countries that have GSP eligibility. Coupled with our competitors’ high and rising domestic subsidies, these unfair advantages are having negative implications for our rice farmers, millers, merchants and allied businesses, who are losing domestic market share. As you continue your efforts to promote fair and free trade, we encourage you to remove rice from the GSP eligibility list,” members wrote in the letter.
Along with Boozman, the letter is signed by Sens. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), John Kennedy (R-LA), Bill Cassidy (R-LA) and John Cornyn (R-TX).
Full text of the letter below:
The Honorable Robert Lighthizer
United States Trade Representative
600 17th Street, NW
Washington, DC 20508
Dear Ambassador Lighthizer:
Thank you for your work on behalf of American farmers and ranchers to promote a fair and level playing field for them in the global marketplace.
During a June 2020 Senate Finance Committee hearing, you mentioned the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) “has benefits, but needs changes.” We would like to express our support for the USA Rice Federation’s petition to remove all rice tariff lines from the list of eligible commodities for duty-free access to the U.S. under GSP.
We understand GSP is meant to be a win-win for both the U.S. and our trading partners, but unfortunately in the case of rice, our biggest competitors on the world stage have taken advantage of the program for far too long. Over the past several years, we have seen an annual uptick in rice imports from countries that have GSP eligibility. Coupled with our competitors’ high and rising domestic subsidies, these unfair advantages are having negative implications for our rice farmers, millers, merchants and allied businesses, who are losing domestic market share.
As you continue your efforts to promote fair and free trade, we encourage you to remove rice from the GSP eligibility list.
Thank you for considering our request, and we look forward to your response.
September 18, 2020
Supporting the Mission of Health Care Heroes
Health care workers have long been regarded as some of our nation’s most critical and courageous servants. During this time of challenges and uncertainty, this has never been more accurate. Each day, our health care professionals make tireless sacrifices to serve and protect our country, even when it means risking their lives to care for others.
Congress overwhelmingly supported the men and women of the medical community who are treating COVID-19 patients and working to find a cure to address this public health crisis with the passage of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. This critical relief was a necessary lifeline for hospitals to continue providing services to meet the demands of communities and helping our doctors, nurses and other medical professionals stay safe while providing care and treatment for patients.
Along with continuing to provide crucial resources like personal protective equipment, there is more we can do to support health care providers and ensure patients get reliable care. Listening to the needs of hospitals is incredibly important in the efforts to assist these vital facilities, protect the jobs they create and empower their ability to serve communities across Arkansas.
I recently shared on the Senate floor some of the insights I heard from Arkansas’s health care community that Congress can deliver to directly help their mission.
Telehealth has become vital to providing effective care for patients during this public health emergency. Access to medical providers without leaving home offers convenience and safety against potential exposure to COVID-19. Having the option to access virtual doctor’s visits can be a challenge, particularly for rural areas where broadband connectivity is limited.
This emergency has amplified the need for enhanced broadband connection, but too often providers in rural communities are unable to meet the increased demand for telehealth services.
My colleagues and I have introduced legislation to help health care providers expand telehealth benefits and improve access to broadband. TheHealth Care Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act would bolster funding for providers in rural areas to increase connectivity. This bill would help more patients get the care they need.
We have a unique opportunity to see how the modifications and updates we made to health programs during this public health emergency can be beneficial in the long term.
The CARES Act provided the Department of Health and Human Services with the authority to waive telehealth requirements for Medicare during this emergency. Providers and patients have adapted to this expansion of telehealth opportunities. We can continue to strengthen this access by making these services permanent.
That’s why I joined a bipartisan group of senators urging our nation’s top health agencies to make permanent the changes to telehealth requirements for Medicare authorized in the CARES Act.
Last month, President Trump issued an executive order to improve health care in rural America by expanding telehealth services. The president’s action included a proposal to extend parts of the Medicare’s telehealth coverage. This is a step in the right direction. I look forward to working with the administration to implement a rule that will enhance the delivery of health care to Medicare patients.
These actions will help patients continue to get quality, reliable care and support the men and women who provide it. The work these frontline health professionals and their colleagues do has only become more difficult in light of this public health crisis. We are grateful for all they do and represent.
September 17, 2020
Boozman Supports Strengthening Protections for Servicemembers and their Families
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is pushing for improvements to the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA). Boozman joined his colleagues to introduce two pieces of legislation to amend the law and better serve the needs of the men and women of the military and their families.
On average, military families move every two to three years. For military spouses, frequent relocations disrupt careers and require them to spend thousands of hours and dollars to continue practicing their vocation, despite already being licensed in another state.
Boozman helped introduce the Military Spouse Licensing Relief Act to require states to recognize the occupational licenses of military spouses who move across state lines as a result of a permanent change of station (PCS) order.
“Military spouses make tremendous sacrifices and we have an obligation to support them and their families. This is a meaningful way to help cut the red tape that exists and make it easier for them to continue to their career after relocating as they support their loved one’s service,” Boozman said.
According to a recent study by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Hiring Our Heroes initiative, 67 percent of military spouses had to quit a job because of a move to a different duty station. Additionally, 50 percent of military spouses work in a field that requires licensing.
Boozman also helped introduced the Modernizing Notice of Lease Terminations for Servicemembers Act to allow servicemembers to deliver notice of termination of residential and car leases electronically, including by email.
“We need to focus on ways to make life easier for the men and women of our nation’s Armed Forces. This update to the SCRA will provide greater flexibility and convenience for servicemembers and their families navigating changes to housing and vehicle leases, protecting them from penalties and ensuring they have the ability to comply with orders to deploy or relocate while serving in uniform,” Boozman said.
The ability to electronically deliver notice of termination of a residential or car lease is especially important for servicemembers who may already be serving in another location by the time they are able to seek termination due to a deployment or a PCS. Electronic means of communication are also critical in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, during which physical contact should be limited and traditional mail and delivery services may heighten the risk of exposure.
September 4, 2020
Helping Arkansas Families Fight Hunger Insecurity
As students begin the new school year, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that summer meal program operators can continue serving free meals to all children until the end of the calendar year.
Secretary Perdue’s announcement extends U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waivers for the Summer Food Service Program and Seamless Summer Option through the end of 2020, or until available funding runs out. Specifically, USDA’s actions will allow these programs to serve meals in all areas, at no cost, and without requiring children to dine in group settings or at mandated times. Meal pattern requirements will be waived as necessary, and parents and guardians will be allowed to pick-up meals for their children.
This move is a welcome development. As COVID-19 continues to impact the Natural State, the challenges and anxieties it brings for Arkansas families persist as well. USDA’s decision will provide some relief for parents as their children return to school, or remote learning, by ensuring that students continue to have access to healthy, nutritious meals.
Earlier this summer, I joined with several of my Senate colleagues to call on USDA to provide flexibilities to enable schools and other organizations to continue to offer free meals through the department’s child nutrition programs. We wanted to ensure that parents with children who rely on these programs would have one less worry for the new school year.
Over 300,000 children in Arkansas are eligible for assistance during the academic year. Many of these families were already struggling to make ends meet before the coronavirus crisis. In most cases, they have found themselves facing even more difficult financial hardships as a result of COVID-19’s hit to our economy.
Thankfully there has been help for Arkansas families struggling to put food on the table. On a recent visit to the Arkansas Foodbank in Little Rock, I was updated on the organization’s efforts to combat hunger during the COVID-19 crisis. Employees and volunteers at the Arkansas Foodbank have distributed 17.2 million pounds of food since March—a 39 percent increase from that same time frame last year. They have distributed over 120,000 boxes of food through the organization’s partner schools and agencies during that same time period.
The Arkansas Foodbank’s website has also had a dramatic spike in traffic over the past few months, resulting in a 45 percent increase in visits. A large portion of those views were from Arkansans searching for food, with additional requests coming via social media and text messages at a higher-than-normal volume than the food bank has experienced in the past.
I heard similar stories during a recent visit to the NWA Food Bank. Hunger relief organizations across the state, and across our nation, continue to see significant increases in need. Congress provided billions of dollars for food assistance in the coronavirus relief packages passed into law earlier this year, with much of that funding going directly to help those in need. As co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, I am committed to helping these vital organizations provide healthy, nutritious food to Arkansans in need.
Fighting hunger in normal times takes an all-of-the-above approach across every level of government. That becomes even more important as we face a public health emergency. I am pleased USDA is taking steps to help, and I will continue to work with the administration and my colleagues to ensure that hunger relief programs remain a priority.
August 31, 2020
Boozman Praises USDA for Extending Free School Meals Through End of 2020
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR)—a senior member of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry—praised U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue’s decision to allow summer meal program operators to continue serving free meals to all children through the remainder of the year.
Secretary Perdue’s announcement paves the way for an extension of U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) waivers for the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) and Seamless Summer Option (SSO) through the end of 2020, or until available funding runs out.
“I applaud Secretary Perdue for taking action to ensure students have access to healthy, nutritious meals through USDA’s child nutrition programs this school year. The coronavirus has created many challenges and anxieties for Arkansas families that have not subsided. This action will provide welcome relief for parents as their children return to school,” Boozman said.
Specifically, USDA’s actions will allow:
• SFSP and SSO meals to be served in all areas and at no cost;
• Meals to be served outside of the typically-required group settings and meal times;
• Meal pattern requirements to be waived as necessary; and
• Parents and guardians to pick-up meals for their children.
Boozman and his colleagues urged USDA to continue providing these flexibilities to schools and sponsoring organizations for school meals and child nutrition in a recent letter to Secretary Perdue, led by Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS).
Boozman is currently continuing his August tradition of traveling the state on his annual agriculture tour in an effort to highlight the industry’s importance in Arkansas.
On Thursday, he will make a hunger relief-focused stop at the Arkansas Food Bank in Little Rock to learn about its efforts to combat hunger during the COVID-19 public health crisis.
August 28, 2020
Providing Flexibility for Veteran Disability Exams
When in-person medical care was paused at Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) medical facilities earlier this year due to COVID-19, telehealth technologies allowed veterans to continue accessing health services. Arkansas veterans quickly adapted.
The Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System saw a 1,000 percent increase in VA Video Connect appointments since the beginning of the year. Similarly, the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks in Fayetteville experienced an increase of 4,390 percent in virtual care over that same time. Despite the expanded online services, not all veterans have the ability to connect to the internet. For veterans who scheduled the required medical exam to apply for benefits, the wait time is getting longer, and we need to fix that.
Many veterans are required to complete a compensation and pension (C&P) exam to verify their medical condition and eligibility when applying for VA benefits. The backlog has been growing since last year when Congress expanded benefits eligibility to more veterans, more than tripling since November 2019 and now standing at 203,000 veterans nationwide. In Arkansas, more than 1,500 veterans are waiting for a C&P exam.
During a Senate VA Committee hearing in June, I pressed the VA on its plan to reduce the backlog. While department leaders were hopeful that resuming in-person exams would help decrease the number of veterans awaiting an appointment, they also requested additional flexibility to decrease the backlog.
Veterans shouldn’t have to wait months to file disability claims. We’ve taken great pride in strengthening benefits, so we need to ensure the infrastructure is in place to accommodate the increased number of people who are turning to the VA for help. It’s clear this framework is not meeting the current demand.
That’s why I introduced legislation to allow certain specialty medical professionals to perform C&P exams. By allowing additional health care personnel to conduct these health screenings, we can ensure veterans get the attention they deserve in a timely manner.
There is momentum building in Congress to expand the number of providers who can conduct disability exams. A similar bill was introduced in the House of Representatives. The Chairman of the Senate VA Committee understands the urgency to provide flexibility and expand the VA’s capacity to conduct C&P exams. The chairman incorporated this bill in a comprehensive veterans’ benefits package that I am hopeful the committee will take up soon.
While in-person exams recently resumed at several VA facilities around the country including the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System, we need to take action to help the thousands of veterans waiting for their exam so they can file their disability claims and receive the benefits they have earned.
August 21, 2020
Follow the Advice of Our Public Health Officials
“To protect and improve the health and well-being of all Arkansans.”
This is the mission statement that our state’s new Secretary of Health, Dr. Jose Romero, will strive to meet as he takes the reins at the Arkansas Department of Health.
Running the Department of Health is far from an easy task. My brother held the post in the early 2000’s, and I remember the many challenges he faced during his tenure. Those trials become significantly harder in the midst of a public health emergency.
Dr. Romero is taking the helm following the departure of Dr. Nate Smith, who has accepted a position at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he will continue to use his expertise to advance public health initiatives at the national level. Dr. Smith crafted and implemented the state’s response to COVID-19, worked diligently alongside the governor’s team to provide medical and scientific reasoning for pandemic-related decisions and was a steady hand at the onset of the public health emergency. His expert medical guidance and strong leadership will be deeply missed.
The good news is that Dr. Romero is the ideal person to build on Dr. Smith’s efforts. While announcing his appointment, Governor Asa Hutchinson highlighted Dr. Romero’s long track record of working with Arkansas’s medical community and his “national reputation for his work with infectious diseases.”
I share the governor’s confidence in Dr. Romero’s abilities to lead us through these unprecedented times. That confidence is vital during a crisis as the public needs officials who can speak with authority on the challenges we face and offer guidance they can trust. In the case of COVID-19, that responsibility lands squarely on the shoulders of our public health officials at the federal, state and local level.
One of those top officials at the federal level was recently in Little Rock to discuss Arkansas’s coronavirus efforts with the governor and his team. Dr. Deborah Birx, the White House’s coronavirus response director, noted an improvement in our numbers, saying that progress is the result of Arkansans “following the important, common-sense path forward to get control of this virus.” She highlighted individual actions we can take, like wearing a mask and practicing social distancing, as key parts of that strategy.
Along with Dr. Birx and her colleagues at the federal level, Dr. Romero and our public health officials at the county and city level are the voices we need to be listening to during this crisis. They have been the ones sharing crucial preventative information with the public while coordinating testing and organizing an effective response to outbreaks in our communities.
Our public health experts are very fortunate to have the best and the brightest working on the frontlines to overcome this challenge. The doctors, nurses and other medical personnel in Arkansas’s hospitals and facilities truly have been an inspiration. They have worked long hours, under high-risk conditions, with limited resources to provide care for COVID-19 patients. They are the embodiment of the word ‘hero.’
We can do our part to help them out by following the guidance and recommendations laid out by our public health officials. This includes frequent handwashing, practicing social distancing and wearing a mask when required or when appropriate space cannot be assured in public settings. We will beat this virus in a much quicker manner by listening to medical experts and acting on their advice.
August 21, 2020
Boozman Recognizes Military Service of Late Little Rock Air Force Base Commander
Click here to watch excerpts of the interview with Col. Jim Elmer
WASHINGTON- U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) honored the service and sacrifice of the late Colonel James (Jim) Elmer in ‘Salute to Veterans,’ a series recognizing the military service of Arkansans. Elmer was a Vietnam veteran who also served as commander of the Little Rock Air Force Base during his 30-year career in the U.S. Air Force.
On March 12, 2020, Elmer shared stories of his military experience for the Library of Congress Veterans History Project. Elmer passed away four months after this interview. This is a highlight of the conversation to celebrate and honor a life well-lived.
Elmer was born in Richland Center, Wisconsin, in 1934. He learned the value of hard work at a young age, earning money as a laborer on local farms to help his family.
When describing his early years, Elmer humbly shared, “I got all the breaks there were.” Because he didn’t have money to pay for college, he anticipated going to work after graduating high school. Luckily, his principal knew he was destined for bigger and better things and encouraged Elmer to pursue a degree at the University of Illinois.
“I passed the test and went to school,” Elmer said. “They said you have to take ROTC.”
Elmer kept a busy schedule at the university, particularly with ROTC and FarmHouse fraternity. However, these obligations were put on hold when his mom passed away. “I stayed out of school for half a semester,” Elmer recalled. He considered quitting, but returned to campus and convinced his professors to let him take the final exams, even earning the top score in one of his classes.
Elmer graduated from the University of Illinois with a vocational agriculture bachelor’s degree in secondary education and a commission as a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force.
He had several assignments during his military career, one of which was serving as a navigator on C-130s during the Vietnam War. “Our job was to fly and take off when the sun went down and land when the sun came up,” Elmer said. “We were making this place light up like daylight.” These operations became known as “Blind Bat.” The C-130 crews would drop flares to detect the enemy’s movements so bombers would know where to strike.
“We were shot at, many times, we came back with bullet holes,” Elmer recalled.
The dangers also existed within the plane. “I remember going to the back of the aircraft looking at all these drums, and the liquid was sloshing around,” Elmer said. That liquid was napalm.
After returning stateside, Elmer was assigned to teach ROTC at St. Louis University. “I got ROTC because I volunteered,” he said. “I had so many chances to do things. I ended up volunteering and having a good time, but I put my whole heart into it and I guess that was what made the difference.”
He served another tour overseas in southeast Asia. He continued his career in the Air Force and earned a master’s degree in secondary education from St. Louis University. In 1975, he was assigned to the Little Rock Air Force Base. He served with the 32nd Tactical Airlift Squadron, the 16th Tactical Airlift Squadron, and assumed the role of Deputy Commander of the 314th Combat Support Group before serving as Base Commander from October 1978 until May 1979.
His final Air Force assignment was at Norton Air Force Base in California. During his eight years there, which culminated as Commander of the Aerospace Audiovisual Service, he received his most treasured award, the Order of the Sword. This distinction is given by the enlisted troops to an officer.
Following his military service, he worked at Lockheed Martin and continued his commitment to the community. He was a member of the Military Order of the World Wars and helped establish the Central Arkansas Chapter. He went on to serve one term as National Commander. He also shared his patriotism with Arkansas fifth graders as a teacher of flag education and etiquette. “I’ve taught thousands of kids flag education and I’d do it all over again,” Elmer said.
Elmer was inducted into the Arkansas Military Veterans’ Hall of Fame in 2018.
His wife of 63 years, Ruth, was beside him during every step of his military career. The couple had four children who blessed them with grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
“Colonel Elmer spent his life serving others. He was a dedicated member of the Air Force and continued his commitment to his country even after he retired. His memories of his time in uniform are an important part of our history as much as his own story. I’m pleased we were able to capture his experiences so they can live on for future generations,” Boozman said.
Boozman will submit Elmer’s entire interview to the Veterans History Project, an initiative by the Library of Congress’s American Folklife Center to collect and retain the oral histories of our nation’s veterans.
August 14, 2020
Finding New Ways to Help
As Arkansans work to protect the health of their family and friends, juggle school and childcare needs, and face challenging household finances, the list of things to worry about during the COVID-19 public health emergency seems endless. In addition, at a time when we all have a lot of questions, many of the places we normally turn to find answers are different than usual.
This has been one of the greatest challenges for my office since March. My staff and I always prioritize helping Arkansans, and the last few months put those skills to the test as we worked through issues in a very different government landscape. Even when my entire staff was working remotely, we answered office phones and responded to emails so that people could find critical help and information.
Since the beginning of this crisis, we’ve fielded thousands of calls and emails regarding IRS issues, unemployment, federal help for small businesses and travel emergencies for Arkansans who found themselves trapped overseas when most of the world shut down. We were forced to find new ways to contact agencies and figure out who was working and what services were available.
In many ways, the pandemic is so different because of the way it impacts all of us at the same time. When we have a tornado or an ice storm, there are people in neighboring states who send trucks to fix the electric lines or help with emergency needs. The same is usually true for federal agencies. Normally when one location has a problem, work shifts to other places to make sure Americans can still get the services they rely on.
Because of the scope of this crisis, federal agencies are operating in different ways. For example, the National Personnel Records Center in Missouri is the first place to go to find military records. Its work requires searching through physical files and, due to the dangers with close contact working conditions right now, many of the employees are not allowed in the building. The same is true for many of our U.S. Embassies throughout the world. Conditions vary greatly in each country and many are operating in emergency status with little ability to handle routine requests for visas and passports. However, my office continues to talk to officials at these agencies and others to find help with emergencies.
Although some agencies are limited in their ability to respond right now, others were able to pivot quickly for remote work. Social Security Administration field offices remain closed to walk-in visitors, but customers can still request an appointment. Even with the dramatic shift to online operations, the agency did not slow down on providing services, whether initial applications or disability hearings.
Despite the enormous challenges facing these agencies and the dedicated federal employees who work for them, my office continues to inquire and try to find ways to solve problems. I hope Arkansans who run into a dead end with a federal government problem know that we are still here. Over the last few months, we have learned even more about how to get help, especially when it is a little harder to find.
August 12, 2020
Boozman: “One step closer to paving a new path forward in suicide prevention”
WASHINGTON— U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) continues to urge improvements to Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policies in order to prevent veteran suicides and is now calling on the House of Representatives to pass the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act in order to reassure America’s veterans that their best days are ahead of them.
In a speech on the Senate floor applauding the recent Senate passage of landmark veteran mental health and suicide prevention legislation, Boozman said we’re “one step closer to paving a new path forward in suicide prevention and implementing a new strategy that I believe will give hope and purpose to the men and women who live with these invisible injuries.”
The bill includes provisions from the IMPROVE Well-being for Veterans Act, legislation introduced by Boozman and Senator Mark Warner (D-VA) that will create a VA grant program to leverage veteran-serving non-profits and other community networks in order to reduce veteran suicides.
Boozman highlighted efforts of Arkansas community organizations like the Rogers-based Sheep Dog Impact Assistance and the Mountain Home chapter of the Disabled American Veterans (DAV) that have built effective outreach programs and are making a difference in the lives of veterans.
“It makes sense that we harness the ideas and successes of community advocates into sound policy,” Boozman said.
The VA estimates that around 20 veterans commit suicide each day. That number has unfortunately remained roughly unchanged despite the drastic increase in funding. Over the last ten years, Congress more than tripled the VA’s funding for suicide prevention efforts to $222 million.
Only six of those 20 veterans are receiving healthcare services at the VA. That’s why Boozman and Warner are empowering the VA to share information with veteran-serving non-profits and requiring it to develop a tool to monitor progress so that resources can be concentrated on successful programs.
The IMPROVE Well-being for Veterans Act was introduced in June 2019. Earlier this year, provisions of the Boozman-Warner legislation were included in the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which was unanimously approved by the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. President Donald Trump is supportive of the solution outlined in the IMPROVE Well-being for Veterans Actand included the approach in the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) which was rolled out at the White House earlier this summer.
August 7, 2020
Senate VA Committee Advances Bill Championed by Boozman to Support Women Veterans
WASHINGTON—TheSenate Veterans’ Affairs Committee (VA) this week passed legislation championed by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) that would improve VA care and services for women veterans.
The Deborah Sampson Act, bipartisan legislation introduced by Boozman and Sen. Jon Tester (D-MT), would eliminate barriers to care and services that many women veterans face and help ensure the VA can address the needs of women veterans who are more likely to face homelessness, unemployment and go without needed health care.
“More women are answering the call to serve in uniform. The modern makeup of our veteran population requires us to reexamine how we can best serve their needs. Removing the obstacles women face to accessing the care and benefits they earned is necessary to fulfilling our promise to these veterans. We are one step closer to making the VA more accommodating to the unique challenges facing these brave former service members,” Boozman said.
“Women are the fastest growing population of veterans and VA needs to be fully prepared to meet their needs,” said Ranking Member Tester. “The landmark passage of our Deborah Sampson Act sends a very important message—not only to women veterans, but to the American public—that my colleagues and I came together during politically turbulent times to do what’s right. In this case, it means getting one step closer to providing critical support to our sisters, mothers, and daughters who have sacrificed so much on our behalf.”
There are 19,000 women veterans in Arkansas. According to VA data, women comprised nine percent of the nationwide veteran population in 2015. That number is expected to increase to more than 16 percent within the next 25 years.
Watch Boozman’s statement after the Senate VA Committee approved the Deborah Sampson Act.
The Deborah Sampson Act includes the following provisions:
· Empowers women veterans by expanding group counseling for veterans and their family members and call centers for women veterans,
· Improves the quality of care for infant children of women veterans by increasing the number of days of maternity care VA facilities can provide,
· Eliminates barriers to care by increasing the number of gender-specific providers in VA facilities, training clinicians and retrofitting VA facilities to enhance privacy and improve the environment of care for women veterans,
· Improves the collection and analysis of data regarding women veterans, expands outreach by centralizing all information for women veterans in one easily accessible place on the VA website and requires the VA to report on the availability of prosthetics made for women veterans.
The legislation has widespread support, including from Veterans Service Organizations such as Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA) and the Disabled American Veterans (DAV).
July 31, 2020
Using Ingenuity and Technology to Close the Digital Divide
As more Americans are taking precautions to avoid exposure to COVID-19, they are relying more on their at-home broadband connection for work, school and health care. This can be extremely challenging for Arkansans who don’t have access to reliable broadband in their homes.We long ago recognized the need to expand broadband, but this crisis has magnified the urgency to close the digital divide that puts rural areas at a significant disadvantage. More than ever, individuals and families are turning to a trusted resource to access the internet—libraries.
Local libraries are often the only source of free Wi-Fi in rural communities. Many seniors, homeless individuals and students rely solely on libraries to get online. During this public health emergency, libraries across the country have continued offering this critical service. A survey of librarians by the Public Library Association found that over 40 percent of respondents moved their library’s routers outdoors to improve public access to the internet during this crisis. In addition, they are allowing patrons to check out mobile hotspots for at-home use. With libraries facing this increase in demand, it is important we provide them with the tools to remain a community outlet for reliable internet service.
This is why I’m a champion of the HOTSPOTS Act, legislation to increase funding for library broadband hotspots. These internet-connected devices have been a lifeline for many individuals and families.
Malvern, in Hot Springs County, provides a perfect example of the rising demand for mobile hotspots. According to the American Library Association, 35 percent of the city is without any internet access. Residents instead rely on their library for Wi-Fi and hotspots to stay connected. According to Garland County Library leaders, the hotspot devices are the most requested items in its collection, but there are only 10 available to patrons. This leaves an average of 50 people awaiting their turn to check one out.
The HOTSPOTS Act would create a two-year, $160 million hotspot pilot program and provide states at least $1.6 million to purchase and distribute internet-connected devices to libraries in low-income and rural areas.
Hotspot devices have recently been in the news. Governor Hutchinson announced agreements reached by the Arkansas Department of Education to purchase 20,000 Wi-Fi hotspots for students without reliable internet access from mobile phone companies. This will provide additional flexibility for students in the upcoming school year.
This funding was made possible with money provided to Arkansas from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. The ability to get online is an equally crucial resource for students as updated textbooks and adequate school supplies. This program will be a difference maker for many students across the state and allow them to stay connected should virtual instruction become necessary.
As founder and co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, I’ve been working with my colleagues to close the digital divide. We must do so for our rural and underserved communities to thrive in the 21st century economy, especially during this challenging time when access to a quality internet connection has become even more difficult to come by. Providing tools that improve connectivity will help Arkansans adjust to the challenges of doing more work, learning and other necessities remotely.
July 30, 2020
Boozman Introduces Legislation Aimed at Reducing VA’s Medical Exams Backlog
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) introduced legislation to reduce the backlog of pending Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) disability claims by expanding eligibility for health care providers who are allowed to conduct the required medical exam for veterans applying for benefits.
Veterans are required to complete a compensation and pension (C&P) exam to verify their medical condition and eligibility when applying for VA benefits. The backlog has more than tripled since November 2019, growing to 197,000 veterans nationwide. In Arkansas, more than 1,500 veterans are waiting for a C&P exam.
The Boozman bill would allow physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, audiologists or psychologists to perform C&P exams.
“We must make the process of filing disability claims more efficient so our veterans receive the benefits they have earned. While Congress has approved the expansion of benefits, it’s clear the framework to support the additional claims is not meeting the demand. By allowing additional health care personnel to conduct C&P exams, we can ensure veterans get the attention they deserve in a more timely manner,”Boozman said.
The VA paused in-person C&P exams in early April because of the coronavirus. Exams recently resumed at several VA facilities around the country including the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System.
During a Senate VA Committee hearing in early June, Boozman pressed VA officials about their plan to reduce the backlog. Department leaders requested flexibility to allow more medical personnel to conduct the exams.
Companion legislation was introduced last month in the House of Representatives by Congressman Mike Bost (R-IL).
“For many veterans living in rural areas, it can often be difficult to travel to faraway VA facilities or hospitals to get a disability exam, and the COVID-19 pandemic has only made it more complicated,” Bost said. “By expanding the number of providers who can conduct disability exams, we can better ensure that our veterans can get an exam they need close to home and apply for disability benefits even quicker.”
Click here to read the Senate bill.
July 27, 2020
Providing for Our Nation’s Defense
Over the last few weeks, Congress has been working on the annual legislation that helps ensure our men and women in uniform have the tools and resources they need to fulfill their crucial mission to protect and defend the United States, our allies and interests.
One of the key ways the federal government meets its constitutional duty to “provide for the common defense” is through the passage and implementation of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
This bill sets out vital policy initiatives to provide the Department of Defense (DoD) with authorities to carry out the duties involved in maintaining national security. The Senate and the House of Representatives each recently passed versions of the legislation, marking the 60th consecutive year this has occurred.
In a time of intense partisanship and national division, passage of the NDAA is a true testament to the significance of this responsibility. It shows the importance of coming together in support of the United States military even when the spirit of bipartisanship and compromise is elusive in many other areas.
As we are all aware, threats against the U.S., our allies and interests persist. At a time of increasing risks and dangerous global security challenges, America must lead in creating stability through a strong and modernized military.
That’s why it was essential to come together again and advance the NDAA to bolster our own military posture, enact policies that encourage deterrence, project leadership, and deploy innovative strategies to maximize advantages that serve our national security objectives, reassure our allies, and help defend our freedoms and ideals at home and abroad.
The Senate’s Fiscal Year 2021 NDAA does this by strengthening American deterrence through investing in greater capabilities in support of priorities listed in the National Defense Strategy, and ensuring America’s service members are ready so, when challenged, they prevail in any conflict.
Not only does the bill provide a three percent pay raise for our troops and re-emphasize a focus on training to ensure service members can conduct missions safely, it also serves the interests of our military families and supports Arkansas’s national defense personnel, installations and industry.
After meeting with leaders from the 188th Air Wing at Fort Smith, it was clear to me that our service members need more support when it comes to options for child care and assistance. That’s why I submitted an amendment, adopted by the Senate, directing the DoD to research, report and provide recommendations to Congress on how to provide 24-hour child care to military families assigned to around-the-clock, rotational units here at home.
I also secured a provision to authorize a new Arkansas National Guard Readiness Training Center at Fort Chaffee to provide greater support for training exercises and help ensure Arkansas guardsmen continue to be some of the best trained in the country.
Additionally, this NDAA supports the deployment of the Iron Dome protection system – a portion of which is produced in Camden, Arkansas – to U.S. Central Command theater.
These aspects of the Senate bill are just a few of the successful policies that made it worth supporting.
National security is the federal government’s most basic function and responsibility, which is why it was important to get this work done in a bipartisan way and with broad agreement. This Senate-passed NDAA does just that, which makes us and the rest of the world safer.
Now it’s time for Senate and House members to craft a compromise bill and send it to the president’s desk to become law.
July 17, 2020
COVID-19 Shows Importance of Rural Health
This isn’t just a big city problem.
That was the message Dr. Nate Smith, Arkansas’s Secretary of Health, sought to impart when recently answering a reporter’s question about the alarming rise of recent positive COVID-19 diagnoses in rural Arkansas.
When the crisis began, our nation’s largest city was our hotspot. As the situation in New York City quieted down, the attention turned to other large cities struggling with coronavirus outbreaks. Whether it’s Miami, Houston or Los Angeles, the intense media focus on major metropolitan outbreaks fails to tell the whole story. The simple fact is, COVID-19 doesn’t care where you live, which makes the need to have top-notch medical care available in rural America all the more important.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 is putting us in danger of an even larger urban-rural divide in the ability to access quality health care services. Hundreds of rural hospitals across the country could close as a result of the crisis. This means tens of thousands of rural patients could lose access to their nearest emergency room.
There was already a quiet storm brewing prior to the COVID-19 crisis. Nearly half of rural America’s hospitals had been operating at a loss and closure rates were escalating dramatically, hitting a record high last year. Closures in 2020 are on pace to eclipse that number.
These already financially-strapped hospitals now face catastrophic cash shortages as the inability to provide non-emergency care has led to an even larger loss of revenue. Many have furloughed staff, instituted massive cuts or are shuttering their doors.
My colleagues and I are working to address this fragile situation and ensure that the health care needs of rural America are not lost in the rush to tamp down urban hotspots. I recently joined a bipartisan, bicameral effort with over 45 of my colleagues to ask the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to dedicate a larger share of the Provider Relief Fund specifically for rural health providers.
Created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the Provider Relief Fund was allocated $175 billion to distribute to hospitals and healthcare providers on the front lines of the coronavirus response. At the time of our inquiry, only $10 billion of that total amount has been disbursed specifically to rural health care providers.
We asked HHS Secretary Alex Azar to allocate at least 20 percent of the remaining funds to rural hospitals and providers. Priority should be granted to facilities significantly affected by COVID-19 preparation as well as those providing care for a disproportionally high percentage of Medicare and Medicaid patients or populations with above average senior populations or co-morbidities. Likewise, providers in areas with limited access to health infrastructure and high numbers of uninsured patients also deserve this particular consideration.
Earlier in the year, I joined another bipartisan effort asking Secretary Azar to use similar metrics to ensure equitable distribution of funds for rural hospitals from the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.
The well-being of rural Arkansas residents will be at risk without action. So, too, is the future of their communities, as local health care systems are often the first thing that employers inquire about when deciding where to locate their companies. The rapidly increasing spread of COVID-19 in communities that are not large metropolitan areas makes the need to act all that more urgent. I will continue to push to ensure that the needs of Arkansas’s rural hospitals and providers are met.
July 10, 2020
Arkansas Infrastructure Investments Support Job Growth
From the water we use in our homes, to the roads we drive on to work, to the food we buy at the grocery store, our nation’s infrastructure is a fundamental component of everything we do. Our ability to be connected and efficiently move goods across the country is a significant reason why we’ve been so competitive in the global marketplace. Investment in our infrastructure will also be key to helping our economy recover from the crisis created by the coronavirus pandemic.
As a member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works (EPW), I have long been a champion of investing in our infrastructure. In May, the committee unanimously passed water infrastructure packages that will help create jobs and rebuild aging levees, ports and drinking water systems. Coupled with the plan we approved last year to provide the necessary resources and flexibility for states to build safer and more modern highway, rail and bridge systems, we have created a good, bipartisan road to recovery. I am hopeful the full Senate will approve these bills in the coming months.
In the meantime, Arkansas leaders are tapping into additional resources Congress approved to support infrastructure improvements and economic growth.
The U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) recently invested $2 million in the Port of Little Rock to support industrial development. The port features rail, river and interstate highway access, making it a critical component to move goods to and from the region and an attractive location for the expansion of new businesses.
I recently participated in the groundbreaking ceremony at the Port of Little Rock for the new transportation infrastructure improvements support by the EDA grant and state and local funds. The port is the largest industrial hub in central Arkansas with over 40 businesses employing more than 4,000 people. Those numbers are increasing. The day following the celebration, Amazon announced its first fulfillment center in the state is under construction at the Port of Little Rock. The company expects 1,000 people will be employed at the location when it opens in 2021.
Arkansas Department of Transportation (ARDOT) leaders hope to accomplish similar gains along a stretch of U.S. Highway 67. Last month, the department was named a recipient of a $40 million U.S. Department of Transportation grant to reconstruct and enhance two sections of U.S. Highway 67 in Pulaski and Lonoke Counties.
The funding will allow the widening of U.S. Highway 67 from four to six lanes, construction of an overpass, converting frontage roads to one-way operation and reconstructing two interchanges.
This is one of only 20 projects nationwide to be awarded Infrastructure for Rebuilding America (INFRA) discretionary grant program funds. The competitive program leverages federal resources and incentivizes public-private partnerships to help communities invest in high-priority projects.
In recent years, Congress has funded competitive grant programs to support infrastructure improvements. In addition to INFRA grants, ARDOT has also benefitted from the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program for use toward the construction of the Hot Springs bypass extension and the I-49 Bella Vista bypass.
I will continue to support state and local applications for federal funding in order to make infrastructure improvements. As we pursue policies to improve our economy, investing in our roads, bridges and other vital transportation components remains essential.
July 10, 2020
ARDOT Awarded $42.7 Million for COVID-19 Recovery
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—applauded the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) for awarding $42.7 million to the Arkansas Department of Transportation in support of the state’s public transit systems.
The grant—totaling $42,742,893—comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which became law in March with the support of the Arkansas delegation. The funding will be used by ARDOT for state and project administration, including leave for employees due to the reductions in service or the need to quarantine; operating expenses to maintain transit services; and the purchase of personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies.
“The CARES Act is continuing to deliver help to Arkansas. The transportation industry is facing economic challenges as a result of the coronavirus. These funds will help support the changing needs of transit agencies and ensure Arkansans can continue to use the vital services they provide,” members said.
July 6, 2020
Boozman, Colleagues Introduce Legislation to Allow Rural Electric Co-ops, Telecom Providers to Refinance Rural Utility Service Debt
WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined a bipartisan group of senators to introduce the Flexible Financing for Rural America Act, legislation that would allow electric cooperatives and small, rural telecommunications providers to refinance their Rural Utilities Service (RUS) debt at lower interest rates.
By taking advantage of current lower interest rates, rural cooperatives and businesses would gain flexibility in managing their cash flow, allowing them to invest in rural communities and pass savings on to customers. At the same time, the bill would enable a stronger recovery from the economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic. Rural cooperatives and businesses have struggled throughout the pandemic as a result of a decline in electricity consumption from industrial sources and an increase in unpaid bills from customers who have faced financial hardship.
“Connectivity has long been a struggle for Americans who live in rural areas. COVID-19 has only made that challenge even more difficult to overcome. This bill gives rural electricity and broadband providers flexibility to meet customers’ needs in these challenging economic times and ensures that rural America will have these vital services to recover and grow when the pandemic is behind us,” Boozman said.
Under current law, the RUS charges significant penalties when borrowers refinance their loans—an option which is allowed only under narrow circumstances. Rural electric cooperatives currently hold approximately $43 billion in RUS Electric Loans, and small, rural broadband providers hold about $3 billion in RUS Telecom Loans. The savings from the senators’ legislation would amount to approximately $2 million per year for the average rural electric cooperative, helping to sustain the organizations through current economic challenges and empowering greater investment in local communities.
“This has been a challenging time for Arkansas’s electric cooperatives. Our priorities during this COVID-19 crisis have been the safety and well-being of our members and employees, and maintaining the delivery of affordable and reliable power,” said Kirkley Thomas, Vice President of Governmental Affairs at Arkansas Electric Cooperatives, Inc. “The economic devastation caused by this pandemic has resulted in significant financial hardships for our rural members as we have seen jobs lost and businesses cease or curtail operations. We applaud Senator Boozman for leading this legislative effort that will save rural Arkansas co-ops millions of dollars as we strive to provide the best possible service to our members.”
The bill was introduced on Thursday by Senator John Hoeven (R-ND). In addition to Boozman, it is cosponsored by Senators Tina Smith (D-MN) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ). Representatives Vicky Hartzler (R-MO) and Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ) introduced identical legislation in the House of Representatives.
July 2, 2020
Stars and Stripes Serves a Valuable Role and Deserves Funding
For several years now, my office has made a concerted effort to capture and preserve the memories of Arkansas’s war veterans for inclusion in the Library of Congress’s Veteran History Project (VHP). Not only is it a great way to honor their service and commitment to our country, but it is a valuable educational tool for future generations. We can learn a great deal about what life in a war zone is like through the stories collected by the VHP, and those stories can inform the decisions we make for the future.
Here’s a perfect example. My office had the honor of interviewing Lt. Col. (retired) Karen King-Johnson of Hot Springs about her service in Vietnam. As the Command Information Officer for the U.S. Army in Vietnam, her role included making sure that every unit received news material, including a copy of Stars & Stripes.
Stars and Stripes, the newspaper written for America’s servicemembers about the military community in which they serve, dates back to the Civil War. It is a main source of news for the men and women of our Armed Forces who are serving overseas. Throughout its storied history, the newspaper has relayed vital information, provided much-needed morale boosts and offered a connection to home for our deployed servicemembers.
During her VHP interview, Ms. King-Johnson noted just how important the newspaper was to troops serving in Vietnam.
“Stars and Stripes was a big deal over there,” she said. “Our mission was that you’re going to get one free copy of Stars and Stripes for every five soldiers. If there were five soldiers under a tree, it was our job to findwhere those soldiers were to make sure they had Stars and Stripes.”
Unfortunately, the future of Stars and Stripes is uncertain. While editorially independent from the Pentagon, the newspaper is reliant on Department of Defense (DoD) funding. This year’s budget request eliminated financial support for the paper.
The publisher of Stars and Stripes says the paper will not survive past the first quarter of the next fiscal year if funding is not renewed. This financial backing is essential even to a web-only product, but reducing Stars and Stripes to simply an online outlet is not an option. While it delivers news and information through a variety of means, the print product is still vital as internet access is unavailable, or connectivity is too poor, in many places where troops are stationed.
Stars and Stripes serves as a lifeline for troops to stay up-to-date about what is happening where they are deployed, back home and in Washington, D.C., where policies that affect them are crafted. There is no publication that replicates what its reporters have done for decades by living in the areas where troops are stationed, understanding the environment and reporting from a perspective of how the stories affect service members and their families. Morale and readiness are enhanced with a well-informed force that has access to reliable, independent reporting and the confidence that DoD leadership is held accountable for their actions through a free press.
We do need to make difficult decisions in order to rein in spending. Ensuring funding for Stars and Stripes is not one. Protecting this valuable service for our men and women in uniform is the right thing to do.
June 26, 2020
New and Innovative Strategies Needed to Prevent Veteran Suicide
For more than a decade, Congress has improved access to new and existing treatments for veterans at risk of suicide and increased funding for programs to support suicide prevention. Unfortunately, the number of veterans who commit suicide each day has remained roughly unchanged. It’s clear the approach we’re taking isn’t working. It’s time to implement a new strategy.
There are more than 50,000 organizations that provide suicide prevention services for veterans. These non-profits and community organizations play a vital role and have taken the lead to build effective programs. We have some great examples of innovative methods happening in Arkansas.
Retired Sgt. Maj. Lance Nutt was looking for help beyond the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after his 30-year career in the U.S. Marine Corps. He saw a void that needed to be filled and established Sheep Dog Impact Assistance. Since 2010, this Rogers-based organization has been making a difference in the lives of veterans and guiding them to a purpose-driven life of community, camaraderie and service.
The retired Marine continues to see a gap between the services the VA provides and what veterans need, and encourages investing in programs that improve veterans’ outlooks and validate the idea that their best life is still ahead. He recently shared his experiences with me and other policymakers during a virtual veterans mental health town hall that included other leaders from veteran-serving non-profits. Our discussion focused on the need for collaboration, community action and the willingness to try something new.
It makes sense that we harness the ideas and successes of these advocates into sound policy. That’s why I’ve championed a new concept that would allow the VA to tap into this network of non-profits in the community, establish a framework to coordinate these efforts and offer grants to expand outreach to better measure the effectiveness of these programs. This proposal was included in the Senate VA Committee-passed comprehensive bill that expands veterans’ access to mental health services.
This is a critical first step. While there is still work to be done to get this across the finish line and signed into law, there is momentum and support for this collaboration from others, notably VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.
Secretary Wilkie has called this idea “key” to unlocking the veteran suicide crisis. He led the development of the President’s Roadmap to Empower Veterans and End a National Tragedy of Suicide (PREVENTS) and incorporated my initiative in the plan. Unveiled in mid-June, the national strategy aims to strengthen connections and services to ensure veterans get the support they need.
Allowing the VA to leverage veteran-serving nonprofits and other community networks is necessary because 70 percent of the veterans who commit suicide aren’t receiving VA services to begin with. We need to make certain the men and women who are living with invisible injuries know where to go to help them cope with and ease their struggles. By tapping into groups that may already be reaching these individuals, we can improve care and reverse the trend of veteran suicide.
It’s time to authorize and implement new policies that improve the way we support and reach at-risk veterans so we can prevent suicide. I will continue to push for solutions that bring our former service members the mental health care and resources that promote better health, ensuring the best days of a veteran’s life are yet to come.
June 25, 2020
Statement from Arkansas Secretary of State John Thurston on Absentee Ballot Procedures for the 2020 General Election
(LITTLE ROCK, ARK.) — As Secretary of State and Chief Election Officer for the State of Arkansas, I have been receiving many questions and have listened to the many concerns of the citizens of Arkansas as to the upcoming November election. We are fortunate in Arkansas that we have in place the means by which registered voters may request an absentee ballot. According to Ark. Code Ann. §§ 7-5-402 and 7-5-404, a voter may request an absentee ballot due to one of the following reasons:
• You will be unavoidably absent from your polling site on Election Day, OR
• You will be unable to attend your polling site on election day due to illness or physical disability, OR
• You are a member of the Uniformed Services, merchant marines or the spouse or a dependent family member and are away from your polling location due to the member’s active duty status, OR
• A U.S. citizen whose residence is in Arkansas but is temporarily living outside the territorial limits of the United States.
Those provisions, as provided by state law, allow the voters of the state to contact their local County Clerk, and request an absentee ballot for one of the stated reasons. I understand many of our citizens may be assisting loved ones or are fearful of exposing a vulnerable family member to the virus. I understand that many are fearful of contacting or passing along the virus to others in the community. While my office continues to work with county officials to prepare polling locations, we are also anticipating and preparing for an increase in Absentee Ballot requests due to the COVID-19 virus.
It is my opinion and belief, that our current laws are sufficient to allow the registered voters of Arkansas the choice of going to their local polling location or requesting an absentee ballot from their local County Clerk. We are fortunate that our lawmakers had the foresight in crafting our election laws to allow for times of being unavoidably absent whether by natural disaster, war, or global pandemic.
June 17, 2020
Boozman Statement on Introduction of JUSTICE Act
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement on the introduction of the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act
The anger and frustration brought on by the horrific deaths of George Floyd and others at the hands of those charged with protecting the public have pointed a spotlight on the need for reform.
President Trump took the first step by signing an executive order that directs more attention and resources toward best practices in police training, recruiting and community engagement. The introduction of the JUSTICE Act builds on that idea.
I appreciate the exhaustive effort my colleague Tim Scott put into crafting this bill. Senator Scott has personally experienced instances of abuse, but he also emphasizes the important role of law enforcement in our society and rejects the false choice between supporting police officers or supporting communities of color. He is well suited to lead the Senate’s attempt to propose meaningful reforms.
His work has produced a bill that focuses on training and tactics that lead to the de-escalation of force, accountability for instances of officer misconduct and greater public transparency within the criminal justice system.
With the exception of those parroting extreme ‘abolish the police’ talking points, members of both parties, in each chamber, are closer than most realize on these issues. There is a consensus that reforms that promote transparency, accountability and procedures that lead to safer interactions between officers and the community are the key to real reform.
The vast majority of officers are good, honest individuals who provide a valuable service. We can help foster better relationships between law enforcement and the communities they serve through proper reform. That is why I am a cosponsor of this legislation.
I am optimistic my colleagues across the aisle will vote to move this bill to the floor for debate. I expect and welcome a thorough and honest discussion during floor consideration. The American people deserve that much.”
June 16, 2020
Boozman Presses FCC Chairman on Collaboration with Federal Agencies to Expand Rural Broadband
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) continued his commitment to strengthening rural broadband and helping expand telehealth and distance learning opportunities.
In a hearing before the Senate Committee on Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, Boozman questioned Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai on the level of collaboration among federal agencies as it relates to information about high-speed internet access and efforts to bring the service to more Americans
As more Americans are taking precautions to avoid exposure to COVID-19, they are relying more on at-home broadband to connect to health providers and teachers, as well as for teleworking.
“Is there a formal working group that’s talking about how to share information?” Boozman asked.
While Chairman Pai said collaboration has been occurring, Boozman urged the FCC to create a formal way to share information in a reliable and timely manner given how quickly the work environment has changed this year.
Boozman is a founder and co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus. He is a cosponsor of critical legislation to expand broadband to rural areas that includes the Home-Based Telemental Health Care Act of 2020 and the Health Care Broadband ExpansionDuring COVID-19 Act.
June 12, 2020
Protecting America’s National Treasures
Public lands in Arkansas provide an abundance of opportunities for people to enjoy the great outdoors. The time-honored traditions of hunting and fishing have helped grow the state’s tourism industry into a key sector of our economy while simultaneously supporting the preservation and protection of wildlife habitat. We call the Natural State home. This moniker gives Arkansans an especially strong connection to nature and a vested interest in maintaining our outdoor resources.
For decades, hunters have been attracted to duck hunting in Arkansas because its wetlands are ideal habitats for migrating waterfowl. Federal conservation programs continue to ensure this popular pastime thrives.
As a member of the Migratory Bird Conservation Commission, I’m honored to be a voice for Arkansas wetlands and champion investments that protect the wildlife habitat in Arkansas. The commission recently approved expanding waterfowl habitat at the Felsenthal National Wildlife Refuge in Ashley and Union Counties by more than 9,000 acres.
National Wildlife Refuges help preserve wildlife habitats and support the recreation activities of duck hunters, anglers and other outdoor enthusiasts. Felsenthal is one of 568 National Wildlife Refuges in the country. Millions of acres of public lands—including these wetlands, our treasured national parks and rivers—are a source of American pride.
We can be proud of the conservation efforts and the foresight that led to establishing and preserving these iconic American public lands. The Senate is taking another step to protect these national treasures for future generations by bringing The Great American Outdoors Act up for debate on the floor.
I look forward to approving this historic legislation that would create the National Park and Public Lands Legacy Restoration Fund to support maintenance and upkeep at our national parks, national forests and public lands overseen by various federal management agencies. This would help decrease the National Park Service maintenance backlog that exists across the country including the $28.2 million worth of improvements to Arkansas sites like the Buffalo National River and Hot Springs National Park.
It would also permanently fund the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) at $900 million annually so we can expand access to public lands for outdoor recreation. The LWCF has been used to improve public access and protect Arkansas federal recreation areas like the Ouachita and Ozark-St. Francis National Forests, and the Cache River National Wildlife Refuge. The LWCF also provides grants to states to develop parks and other recreation areas. The Department of the Interior reports that funding has been provided to every county in the country since the program was established in 1965.
This investment in public lands would help reignite local economies and create jobs, helping small businesses get back on their feet. It would provide urgently needed stimulus to the outdoor recreation industry that generates 96,000 jobs and $9.7 billion in consumer spending in Arkansas alone.
The outdoors is part of the identity of the Natural State. It brings people together to enjoy their favorite pastimes. We can be proud of the resources in our backyard that bond us to nature, attract visitors from around the world and support economic growth.
June 11, 2020
Arkansas Delegation Supports Governor’s Request for Major Disaster Declaration
WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—wrote to President Donald Trump urging him to support Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson’s request for a federal disaster declaration for Arkansas, Bradley, Cleveland, Dallas, Desha, Drew, Grant, Jefferson, Lincoln, Ouachita and Phillips Counties due to extensive damage as a result of severe storms on April 12, 2020.
“We believe the severe magnitude of these weather events warrant supplementary Federal assistance. The state of Arkansas has already been dealing with financial hardships due to extensive damages from previous extreme weather events hurting local businesses and agricultural enterprises. This, coupled with the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, have put the state of Arkansas in a dire situation,” members wrote.
The letter can be found here and below:
Dear Mr. President:
On behalf of the State of Arkansas, we are writing to support Governor Asa Hutchinson’s request to declare a major disaster, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief Act, as a result of severe storms and tornados which took place on April 12, 2020.
Based on Preliminary Damage Assessments (PDAs), conducted by FEMA, at least 59 homes were destroyed with an additional 109 homes sustaining major damage. In total, over 531 homes were affected by the storms, of which an estimated 50% of the affected homes are uninsured. In total, eleven Arkansas counties sustained significant storm damage, leaving thousands without power for up to two weeks. Unfortunately, the eleven counties who sustained major storm damages have a total of 22.3% living below the poverty line.
Simply put, we believe the severe magnitude of these weather events warrant supplementary Federal assistance. The state of Arkansas has already been dealing with financial hardships due to extensive damages from previous extreme weather events, hurting local businesses and agricultural enterprises. This, coupled with the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have put the state of Arkansas in a dire situation.
Arkansas is still recovering from historic flooding events that took place last year, and is currently dealing with the increasing economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Unfortunately, Arkansas was in the midst of recovering from multiple disasters before COVID-19. Since January 2018 the state of Arkansans has had 13 Gubernatorial Declared disasters and numerous federally declared disasters.
Recent Presidential Major Disaster Declarations for Arkansas
- Arkansas Severe Storms, Tornadoes, Straight-line winds (DR 4544) May 8, 2020
- Arkansas COVID-19 (DR 4518) April 3, 2020
- Arkansas COVID-19 (EM 3461) March 13, 2020
- Arkansas Severe Storms, Straight-line winds, Tornadoes, and Flooding (DR 4460) Sept. 13, 2019
- Arkansas Severe Storms and flooding (DR 4441) May 29, 2019
- Record breaking flooding along the Arkansas River that included EM 3414
- Arkansas Severe Storms, Tornadoes, Straight-line winds, and Flooding (DR 4318) April 26, 2017
- Arkansas Severe Storms, Tornadoes, Straight-line winds, and Flooding (DR 4270) March 08, 2016
- Arkansas Severe Storms, Tornadoes, Straight-line winds, and Flooding (DR 4254) Dec. 23, 2015
- Arkansas Severe Storms, Tornadoes, Straight-line winds, and Flooding (DR 4226) May 8, 2015
- Arkansas Severe Storms, Tornadoes, and Flooding (DR 4174) April 27, 2014
- Arkansas Severe Winter Storm (DR 4160) December 5, 2013
- Arkansas Severe Storms and Flooding (DR 4143) August 8, 2013
- Arkansas Severe Storms, Tornadoes, and Flooding (DR 4124) May 30, 2013
- Arkansas Severe Winter Storm (DR 4100) December 25, 2012
- Arkansas Severe Storms, Tornadoes, and Flooding (DR 4000) May 24, 2011
- Arkansas Severe Storms, Tornadoes, and Flooding (DR 1975) April 14, 2011
Without the assistance of the Federal government, we fear the burden will be too much for the state of Arkansas to bear alone. As losses mount, the people of our great state hope the federal government will join in restoration efforts. Federal government resources are critical in the aftermath of these devastating events, and coordination between the federal government and state and local officials is crucial to begin the process of recovery and rebuilding.
We are eager to assist in any way possible to ensure expedited evaluation of this request. Please do not hesitate to contact our offices with any questions. We thank you for the support you have already offered, and respectfully ask for your continued attention and assistance in providing the resources necessary to ensure the safety of Arkansans.
June 9, 2020
Boozman Statement on the Passing of Dr. Ray Hull
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) released the following statement on the passing of Dr. Ray Hull:
“I am very saddened by the news of Dr. Ray Hull’s passing.
A leading figure in northwest Arkansas’s medical community, Ray began practicing medicine in northwest Arkansas when only a handful of physicians were in the area. He was extremely kind to my brother Fay and I as we began our practice in Rogers, and became a dear friend to so many of us in the medical community.
Not only was he an excellent doctor, but he was also a great example of a life dedicated to love of family, community and the Lord. He touched countless people in so many ways, both professionally and personally.
Not only will my family and I miss Ray, the entire region will as well. We lost someone who we should all strive to be more like.”
June 5, 2020
HHS Awards Arkansas $2.5 Million to Help Health Care Systems Respond to COVID-19
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—applauded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for awarding $2.5 million to Arkansas to expand its testing capacity for COVID-19.
In this latest round of funding, HHS distributed a total of $2,553,240 to hospitals and other health care entities in the state to train workforces, procure supplies and equipment, and expand telemedicine in response to COVID-19. It comes from legislation Congress passed, with the Arkansas delegation’s support, to address the coronavirus crisis.
“The risk for additional coronavirus outbreaks in Arkansas continues to be a high concern. These funds will help increase provider preparedness, safeguard those on the front line and ensure our medical community can continue to provide high-quality care during this public health emergency,” members said.
June 5, 2020
Choosing Unity, Empathy and the Better Way
We’ve witnessed a lot of frightening and discouraging scenes over the last few weeks. Already in the midst of a pandemic, our nation has been further gripped by turmoil and grief in the aftermath of the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and others whose lives were cut short under tragic circumstances.
The result has not just been private lamenting or muted pleas for change. Instead, we’ve seen protests, vigils and other actions in public settings that have caused many Americans to reflect on these lost lives and what that means for our society.
Right now, it would be easy to make this another moment of political polarization that sadly seems to mark much of our public discourse these days.
Retreating into our ideological corners and further entrenching ourselves in the persuasiveness of our own arguments won’t help honor these men and women. Neither will it help bridge the divide between us. Nor will violence, anarchy and lawlessness, which we’ve seen play out in cities across the country.
America faces a choice at this moment in our history, just as it has many times before. We can choose the path of unity and empathy, or go down a road that leads to further discord and division. It is here, at this crossroads, that we will learn to what extent we really believe in our founding principles.
I believe we are able to meet this moment with the compassion and respect that, deep down, each of us knows is the only meaningful way forward.
My faith teaches me that we are all children of God, created in His image, and that we are capable of coming together despite whatever differences might exist between us. This is what we need more of in our communities, our nation and the world.
I have been encouraged to see that in Arkansas, we have already provided striking examples of how to listen to one another and acknowledge our shared desire for understanding, dialogue and progress.
From an iconic photo of a Conway Police Officer bumping the fist of a passing peaceful protestor, to the Fayetteville Police Department showing solidarity with a crowd of citizens practicing their First Amendment rights on the square, or the Fort Smith Police Chief’s encouraging message about community policing and the responsibility of law enforcement officers to make peace –– we can take great pride in the fact that our communities are rejecting divisiveness and embracing a better way forward.
Peaceful protests, which have always been part of our nation’s history, are the lawful and constitutionally-protected way to make your voice heard. At the same time, our society entrusts law enforcement officers with the duty to uphold and enforce the rule of law, which includes keeping the peace and restoring order when necessary.
The death of George Floyd is shocking, disturbing, and has resulted in a massive failure of the sacred trust placed by the public in those sworn to protect and serve. The anger and frustration this tragedy, and others like it, have brought to light is justifiable and needs to lead to reforms.
Violence, however, is never the answer. It has been heartening to see that destructive, violent behavior has not been widespread in Arkansas, but rather, appropriate displays of unity and empathy have prevailed.
I pray the nation follows this example, and that it will lead us to become the best versions of ourselves. There is much work to do as we constantly strive to form a more perfect union.
June 4, 2020
Boozman Boosts Loan Flexibility for Small Businesses Impacted by COVID-19
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) supported adding flexibility to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to make it more accessible for Arkansas small businesses in need of assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Senate-passed Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act updates the PPP, a program that provides low-interest loans to small businesses to use for payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utilities, with a portion of the loan eligible for forgiveness.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers the PPP. According to the SBA, it has approved more 40,591 loans worth more than $3.2 billion to Arkansas small businesses.
“The Paycheck Protection Program has been critical to helping Arkansas small businesses weather this pandemic. This legislation builds on its success and strengthens the PPP, so we can support the changing needs of small businesses as they continue to face challenges through the phases of reopening. Providing flexibility is a commonsense step to ensuring small businesses can utilize these loans to stay afloat and keep their workers employed,” Boozman said.
The Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act:
- Increases the covered period of a loan from eight weeks to 24 weeks and extends the rehiring deadline;
- Increases the current limitation on nonpayroll expenses for loan forgiveness from 25 percent to 40 percent;
- Extends the deadline to apply for a PPP loan to December 31, 2020;
- Extends loan terms from two to five years; and
- Ensures full access to payroll tax deferment for businesses that accept PPP loans.
The House of Representatives passed this legislation last week. It’s headed to the president’s desk to be signed into law.
At the end of May, the SBA reported approximately $140 billion remained available for PPP loans. Small business owners can find local SBA-approved lenders here.
May 29, 2020
Pandemic Child Hunger Relief Efforts Can Be Replicated in the Summer
Arkansas children struggling with hunger during this public health crisis will be getting additional support now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the state’s operational plan for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program.
Created by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the program provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals who have been unable to benefit from these programs while closures are in place.
Over 300,000 children in Arkansas are eligible for assistance during the academic year. With schools closed, the pressure on parents to provide their children healthy meals has intensified. Many of these families were already struggling to make ends meet before COVID-19 appeared. They now find themselves facing even more difficult financial hardships as a result.
The Pandemic EBT program will help relieve some of that stress by providing qualifying families with assistance to account for meals that their children would have received at school.
Unfortunately, food insecurity issues facing Arkansas children won’t disappear once the coronavirus crisis is behind us. The challenge arises every summer. When the school year ends, it takes with it the reliable prospect for a healthy breakfast and lunch for children who participate in the program.
I am leading the charge to make federal child nutrition programs more efficient, flexible and better equipped to reach those in need—like the one in four Arkansas children struggling with hunger—during the summer.
The Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act of 2019—bipartisan legislation I introduced with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT)—will add flexibility to the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP), which provides access to healthy lunch and snacks for children from low-income families when school is out.
The SFSP is hamstrung by rules that date back to the 1960s and dictate a one-size-fits-all approach to the problem. Currently, children must travel to a central location and eat their meals together. In rural areas, it can be difficult for children to reach a site, if one even exists. In suburban and urban areas, inclement weather or violence can keep children from these locations and cause them to miss a meal. Because of the rigidity of the program, only 17 percent of eligible students actually receive summer meals.
The Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act of 2019 would allow for meals to be consumed off-site through innovative means like mobile feeding and backpack meal programs. It also would authorize an EBT program for summer.
Our bill pre-dates the current public health emergency, but the efforts underway now mirror the reforms we’ve outlined for the summer meals program.
To reduce exposure risks for COVID-19, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act authorized nationwide waivers allowing off-site meal distribution to a parent or guardian to take home to their children. Our bill would create a similar option during summer, since requiring children to receive meals at a central location while school is out is often impractical for logistical and safety reasons.
Additionally, the Pandemic EBT program is essentially the same approach we proposed for families to use during the summer. In USDA pilot programs, summer EBT was shown to reduce child hunger by over 30 percent.
The federal government has rightfully taken steps to help children overcome food insecurity during these difficult times. We shouldn’t forget about these struggles after the crisis brought on by COVID-19 has passed. Efforts to fight hunger, particularly for our children, must remain a priority in order to ensure their health and wellbeing.
May 22, 2020
Helping Arkansas’s Reopening Succeed
We are all eager for a return to normalcy after strict measures were implemented in Arkansas and across the country to slow the spread of the coronavirus and prevent hospitals from becoming overwhelmed with patients infected by the disease. We have made significant progress, but what’s equally important now is safely resuming business and allowing Americans to return to work. At the same time, we must remain vigilant and continue to practice effective behaviors like social distancing as commerce restarts.
As a member of President Trump’s Opening Up America Again Congressional Group, I’ve joined discussions about how we can reopen our country in a safe way that protects the health of citizens and supports our businesses. This requires striking the right balance in order to revive the economy while prioritizing public safety and health. Fortunately, Arkansas is leading the way in getting back to business responsibly.
The phased approach to reopening businesses in the Natural State is essential. Governor Asa Hutchinson, along with Arkansas Department of Health Director Dr. Nate Smith and the guidance of his team of public health experts, are leading the way for our state’s return to business by establishing protocols to keep us all safe as doors reopen to customers.
Over the last several weeks, hospitals and clinics resumed elective procedures, churches welcomed parishioners, gyms opened their doors and dine-in services at restaurants across the state returned in limited capacity. In the coming days public pools will reopen to swimmers for the summer.
This measured reopening allows us to minimize health risks while increasing customer capacity at locations we frequented before the pandemic forced us to change our habits. While businesses are required to follow industry-specific guidance, some are also taking additional steps including installing plexiglass shields to separate workspaces in order to reduce the potential for transmission of the coronavirus.
One way we’re working to decrease the spread of the virus and safely reopen American is by expanding COVID-19 testing. Funding authorized by the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act and the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act has provided more than $80 million to Arkansas to increase testing capacity. This support will help achieve the governor’s goal of conducting 60,000 coronavirus tests in the state during May.
Widespread testing is critical to reopening businesses and giving citizens the confidence they need to resume contact with loved ones and interact with the businesses and services they rely on in their daily lives. We all want to resume normal activities. It will be a slow process, but I am confident that by continuing to practice social distancing and following the guidelines of medical experts, we can safely and successfully recover.
Boozman Joins Bipartisan Bill to Expand Telehealth in Rural Communities
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) joined a bipartisan group of colleagues to introduce the Health Care Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act that would bolster funding for health care providers in rural areas for the expansion of broadband and telehealth services.
“Telehealth provides a critical avenue for Arkansans to access medical providers without an unnecessary trip to the doctor’s office. The COVID-19 pandemic has amplified the need for this connection to health services. This legislation will ensure more health care facilities are equipped with reliable, high-speed internet to better serve their patients,” Boozman said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically increased the demand for telehealth services, allowing providers to treat patients safely without putting themselves or their patients at risk. However, many providers – especially in rural and hard-to-reach communities – do not have adequate resources to handle this surge in demand. This bill would ensure that these providers have the resources they need to improve connectivity and increase telehealth capacity.
The Health Care Broadband Expansion During COVID-19 Act will:
- Provide $2 billion in additional support for the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program for the coronavirus response.
- Increase the subsidy rate for RHC Health Care Connect Fund participants during the pandemic, which they can put toward additional telehealth resources.
- Enable mobile and non-rural health care facilities to engage in telehealth during the pandemic under the RHC Program.
- Eliminate red tape and streamline the program’s distribution of funding so that health care providers can quickly implement telehealth applications and treat patients faster.
- Delay for one year the implementation of FCC rules that would severely impact support for some of the program’s most rural health care providers.
Boozman is joined in this bipartisan effort by U.S. Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Angus King (I-ME), Gary Peters (D-MI), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Kevin Cramer (R-ND) and Ed Markey (D-MA).
“Senators Schatz, Murkowski, Boozman, King, Peters, Sullivan, Cramer and Markey are right to focus on ways Congress can invest now to increase connectivity-based health care solutions during this emergency,” said Jonathan Spalter, President and CEO of the United States Telecom Association. “Investing in broadband powered telehealth can transform and expand access to vital health care services. Like the companion legislation introduced by Reps. Eshoo and Young in the House, this plan recognizes that all of our country’s hospital systems and health care providers – no matters their zip code – should have cutting edge broadband and digital technology to diagnose and treat patients.”
Companion legislation was introduced in the House of Representatives last month and has been endorsed by the United States Telecom Association, NCTA – The Internet & Television Association, America’s Communications Association, the Schools, Health & Libraries Broadband Coalition, the National League of Cities and the Fiber Broadband Association.
Last week Boozman, Schatz, Murkowski and King, sent a letter to congressional leadership urging inclusion of $2 billion in new funding for the RHC Program in the next coronavirus response legislation.
Boozman, a co-founder of the Senate Broadband Caucus, is a leader in fighting for increased access to high-speed internet in rural communities.
Delegation Applauds HHS for Awarding Over $72 Million in Coronavirus Relief to Nursing Homes in Arkansas
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—applauded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for awarding over $72 million in additional relief funds to skilled nursing facilities (SNFs) in Arkansas to help them combat the devastating effects of COVID-19.
The investment—totaling $72,410,000—will be distributed directly to SNFs in Arkansas. It is part of the nearly $4.9 billion allocated by HHS to impacted SNFs across the country and may be used to address critical needs such as labor, testing capacity, personal protective equipment and a range of other expenses directly linked to COVID-19.
“These are particularly trying times for residents in nursing homes, their loved ones and those who work in these facilities. As concerns regarding additional outbreaks remain high, this investment will help protect the most vulnerable among us and help keep those who care for them safe,” members said.
This funding, which supplements previously announced awards, will be used to support nursing homes suffering from significant expenses or lost revenue attributable to COVID-19. It comes from legislation Congress passed, with the Arkansas delegation’s support, to address the coronavirus pandemic.
Distribution of the funds will be based on both a fixed basis and variable basis. Each SNF will receive a fixed distribution of $50,000, plus a distribution of $2,500 per bed. All certified SNFs with six or more certified beds are eligible for this targeted distribution.
May 19, 2020
HHS Awards Arkansas $78 Million for Expanded Coronavirus Testing
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—applauded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for awarding $78 million to Arkansas to expand its testing capacity for COVID-19.
The funding is part of $11 billion from HHS to support nationwide testing for COVID-19 and the reopening of America. The investment will be used to develop, purchase, administer, process and analyze COVID-19 tests as well as contact tracing.
“Expanding our testing capability is necessary to combating the spread of COVID-19 and safely getting Arkansans back to work. These funds will be used to respond to this public health emergency and ensure individuals who have been in contact with infected patients are aware of their risk,” members said.
Funding was made available with the support of the Arkansas Congressional Delegation’s approval of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act that was signed into law last month.
May 15, 2020
Mental Health is More Important Than Ever
We are only five months into 2020, but it is safe to say the coronavirus crisis has made this year unlike any other in our lifetimes.
A virus the world had never seen before has taken thousands of American lives. Millions more have lost their jobs as a result of the economic shutdown. Our daily routines and opportunities to gather with friends and family were drastically constrained by social distancing orders.
The dramatic lifestyle changes brought on by the coronavirus caused or exacerbated mental and emotional hardships for nearly every American. Fear, anger, nervousness—all understandable reactions to an unknown enemy—began to seep into daily thoughts. For many, physical distancing and economic uncertainty generated increased feelings of isolation, disconnection and confinement, in addition to raising questions about their value. This anxiety, coupled with concerns for our own safety and that of our loved ones, certainly caused harm to the mental wellbeing of numerous Americans.
As Arkansas cautiously begins to reopen, many of these emotions linger—but for some, grappling with mental health struggles has been, and will be, a lifelong battle.
As he has in previous years, President Trump has declared the month of May to be National Mental Health Awareness Month. As the president noted in his proclamation, this year’s designation “coincides with one of the most complex and challenging periods in our nation’s recent history.” Given the gravity of the situation, Congress included $425 million for substance use treatment and mental health services in theCoronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.
Additional language within the CARES Act directs resources to vulnerable populations, including veterans, who are at higher risk of suffering from mental health issues. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) is using these resources to expand its telehealth capabilities. This technology ensures continuity of care for veterans during a time when non-emergency visits are not an option. The VA also unveiled a new campaign called “Now is the Time” to highlight mental health resources available to veterans and their families.
My colleagues and I continue to pursue additional treatment options for veterans. The Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act of 2019—a comprehensive bill to expand veterans’ access to services received unanimous approval from the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. It is my hope that we can get this bill—which includes language I authored with Sen. Mark Warner (D-VA) to increase veteran-serving non-profits’ participation in efforts to reduce veteran suicides—through the full Senate in a similarly quick manner.
I also recently joined colleagues to introduce legislation to improve services for another vulnerable, and often overlooked, group—children in foster care. The trauma and challenges that children face before entering the foster care system, and throughout their time in it, put them at high risk of mental health struggles. Our bill, the Timely Mental Health for Foster Youth Act, will help identify the unique needs of the 400,000-plus children in foster care and put them on a path that improves their lives and mental wellbeing.
We are living in an unprecedented time. These past few months have been a stark reminder that we need to look out for one another. Let’s use National Mental Health Month to recommit to our own mental wellness and that of our families, friends and neighbors.
May 14, 2020
Delegation Announces Additional Coronavirus Relief for Low-Income Arkansans
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) awarded Arkansas over $8 million in coronavirus relief to assist low-income families with energy costs.
The Arkansas Department of Energy and Environment will receive $8,206,119 from HHS’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).Congress appropriated these funds under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which became law with the support of the Arkansas delegation. The CARES Act provided $900 million in supplemental LIHEAP funding to help “prevent, prepare for, or respond to” home energy needs surrounding the national emergency created by the coronavirus.
“The CARES Act takes a comprehensive approach to help Arkansans struggling from the economic toll of this crisis. This funding will help keep families safe and healthy by assisting with energy costs during their time of need,” members said.
May 11, 2020
Boozman Joins Call for Additional Funding to Expand Telehealth Services During Pandemic
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is among a group of lawmakers urging Congressional leaders to include $2 billion in the next coronavirus relief package to help health care providers expand telehealth services by improving their access to broadband.
Telehealth allows health care providers to treat patients safely without putting themselves or their patients at risk of contracting COVID-19 and has been recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. However, many providers – especially in rural and hard-to-reach communities – lack the resources to handle this increase in demand for telehealth services.
In a letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), Boozman and his colleagues call for $2 billion in additional funding to the Rural Health Care (RHC) Program.
“The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically increased the need to expand telehealth. It is imperative that Congress act to ensure our front-line responders have the tools they need to combat this deadly virus,” the senators wrote.
The RHC program is the only federal program that supports broadband deployment at urban and rural health care provider locations. These new funds would expand the RHC Program to support non-rural and mobile health care providers, eliminate administrative red tape slowing down the process of obtaining broadband connectivity and provide more resources to help providers increase their broadband capacity.
Boozman is a co-founder of the Senate Broadband Caucus and is a champion for additional investment to expand broadband in rural areas.
The letter was led by Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI). Along with Boozman, it was signed by Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Angus King (I-ME).
The full text of the letter can be found below.
Dear Leader McConnell, Speaker Pelosi, Leader Schumer, and Leader McCarthy:
We write to express our support for dedicated funding for broadband for health care providers in any future coronavirus relief package Congress considers. The coronavirus pandemic has dramatically increased the need to expand telehealth so that health care providers can treat patients safely, without putting themselves or their patients at risk. As a result, many health care providers are facing connectivity challenges in meeting this new demand for telehealth. It is imperative that Congress act to ensure our front-line responders have the tools they need to combat this deadly virus.
The Rural Health Care (RHC) Program is the only federal program that supports broadband deployment at urban and rural health care provider locations to improve patient care and reduce health care costs. The program is comprised of two parts, the Telecommunications Program, which subsidizes the difference between urban and rural rates for telecommunications services, and the Health Care Connect Fund, which provides health care providers a 65% discount on their telecommunications and broadband costs.
Unfortunately, demand for the RHC Program has outpaced available funding over the last several years, and the COVID-19 pandemic impact will likely exacerbate this issue. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that health care providers use telehealth to direct patients to the right level of care for their health care needs, to conduct initial screenings of patients who may be infected with COVID-19, and to ensure that patients have access to necessary care without potentially exposing themselves by entering a hospital or physician’s office. Congress’s actions to waive restrictions on the use of telehealth in Medicare during the coronavirus outbreak in the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act will also likely increase demands for telehealth and requests for support through the RHC Program.
Congress must do more for our health care providers so that they can meet telehealth needs during the COVID-19 pandemic. That is why we are writing you to request that Congress provide $2 billion in additional support for the RHC Program in any future coronavirus response. This additional support would expand the reach of the RHC Program to enable health care providers at non-rural and mobile health care facilities to engage in telehealth, eliminate administrative red tape that slows down the ability of front-line providers to obtain broadband connectivity, and provide more resources to current health care providers in the RHC Program so they can increase their broadband capacity to effectively treat their patients.
The RHC Program has been a key aspect of increasing telehealth in the United States. In this time of crisis, it is imperative we do our part to ensure the safety and security of our health care providers and patients. We urge you to include support in coronavirus legislation to ensure that Americans can access vital care when they need it in a way that protects their health and the health of those around them. Thank you for your attention to this important matter.
May 8, 2020
The coronavirus quickly forced us to change our daily lives, most notably by introducing us to the concept of social distancing. Since we first learned of this method to safeguard ourselves and protect others against the disease, medical experts have also switched the terminology to physical distancing, because preserving our social connection is essential to our sense of belonging and community, especially during this crisis. I’m encouraged by the communication methods Arkansans are using to conduct and maintain their regular operations, support friends and celebrate milestones while complying with the rules of local leaders and guidelines of medical experts.
Teachers adapted their lessons and moved classes online, employers shifted employees to telework and city leaders moved public meetings to online teleconferences. Instead of gathering on the weekends at restaurants, friends are meeting on online platforms, children are celebrating birthdays with drive-by parades and families are meeting new additions through hospital windows.
The pandemic has changed the venue where my team works, but that hasn’t slowed us down. We are using phone and video conferences more than ever to stay in contact with Arkansans. We’ve been communicating with county judges, business leaders, entrepreneurs and constituents about the challenges they are facing and how the federal government can help overcome them. I’ve shared information with Arkansas media about legislation Congress has passed to provide relief and we’re keeping everyone informed on social media platforms.
Arkansans of all ages are doing more remotely and adapting to this new normal. This way of communicating and conducting business has quickly become common and is transforming the way we will operate in the future.
This is particularly true of telemedicine. Medical providers are making it convenient, safe and efficient for patients to visit their physician without leaving home. Virtual visits are becoming more common as health care providers find alternative methods to ensure patients have access to care.
Telehealth has been an increasingly important component of medical services for veterans. The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) has expanded its capacity and now more veterans are connecting with their medical teams using this technology.
The good news is the ability to communicate and get assistance is available, the challenge is we don’t all have the capability.
We already recognized the importance of expanding broadband, but this crisis has magnified the need to close the digital divide that exists in rural areas. As founder and co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, we’ve been working with federal agencies and urging them to support broadband investment in rural America. Just recently there have been important steps taken and increased funding to reach rural households.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—emergency legislation to support hospitals and health care workers, small businesses and families during this pandemic —also provided $100 million for the United States Department of Agriculture’s ReConnect Program for grants to expand broadband service.
More resources are needed to get affordable, reliable internet to underserved households, which is why I continue highlighting this necessity and advocating for policies and means to make it a reality.
It’s inspiring to see the innovative practices Arkansans are utilizing to stay connected. That must continue as we follow the recommendations of medical experts in order to stay safe and help ensure we all can be together again in the future.
Boozman Urges Coronavirus Relief for Charitable Nonprofits
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) is among a group of lawmakers urging Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to include nonprofits, charities and houses of worship in the fourth-phase relief proposal for the coronavirus pandemic.
In a bipartisan letter led by Senators James Lankford (R-OK) and Angus King (I-ME), Boozman and his colleagues ask Senate leadership to expand nonprofit organizations’ access to relief and support, increase unemployment insurance reimbursement for employees and strengthen incentives to encourage more charitable giving.
“Charitable nonprofits are significant employers ready to serve. The 12 million people working for America’s charities are the backbone of our communities: the food banks, shelters, domestic violence services, houses of worship, early care and education centers, after-school facilities, and more that are being called on to feed, house and care for people whose lives have been disrupted by sickness, closures, and job loss,” the senators wrote. “We will continue to rely on the experience, expertise and ingenuity of the sector during future recovery efforts. As we work to build on the CARES Act in the next relief package, we cannot overlook the needs of these community-based institutions and must ensure that charitable nonprofits are fully supported in their service on the front lines of responding to the COVID-19 crisis.”
Along with Boozman, the letter was signed by Sens. Thom Tillis (R-NC), Martha McSally (R-AZ), John Hoeven (R-ND), Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Kelly Loeffler (R-GA), Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Tim Scott (R-SC), Mike Rounds (R-SD), Richard Burr (R-NC), Jerry Moran (R-KS), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), Steve Daines (R-MT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Gary Peters (D-MI), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Tina Smith (D-MN), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Tom Udall (D-NM), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Jon Tester (D-MT).
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, American Red Cross, Catholic Charities USA, Covenant House International, Ducks Unlimited, Girl Scouts of the USA, Girls Inc., Goodwill Industries International, Inc., Habitat for Humanity International, National Council of Nonprofits, United Way Worldwide, World Wildlife Fund, YMCA of the USA, Youth Advocate Program, YWCA USA and Boys and Girls Club of America are among the organizations that have offered support for this effort.
The full text of the letter can be found below.
Dear Leader McConnell and Leader Schumer:
Charitable nonprofits are significant employers ready to serve. The 12 million people working for America’s charities are the backbone of our communities: the food banks, shelters, domestic violence services, houses of worship, early care and education centers, after-school facilities, and more that are being called on to feed, house and care for people whose lives have been disrupted by sickness, closures, and job loss. Cities and states are relying on nonprofits to help mitigate the impact of the pandemic. We will continue to rely on the experience, expertise and ingenuity of the sector during future recovery efforts. As we work to build on the CARES Act in the next relief package, we cannot overlook the needs of these community-based institutions and must ensure that charitable nonprofits are fully supported in their service on the front lines of responding to the COVID-19 crisis.
Specifically, we urge you to include the following clarifications and provisions in the next relief package:
- Expand Nonprofit Access to Relief and Support: Expand the eligibility for nonprofits to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program by modifying the current 500-employee cap or by other means. Adjust Economic Stabilization Fund or other mechanisms to implement programs to support nonprofit employers with between 500 and 10,000 employees. Provide clear guidance and maximum flexibility to private lenders to prioritize processing the applications of charitable nonprofits.
- Increase Unemployment Insurance Reimbursement: Treat self-funded nonprofits fairly by increasing the federal unemployment insurance reimbursement for self-funded nonprofits to 100% of costs. As currently written Section 2103 of the CARES Act will subject nonprofits throughout the country to crippling payments to their state unemployment systems later this year, while other employers will likely experience little or no additional costs resulting from mass COVID-19-related layoffs. The impacts will be real. States will be greatly challenged to distinguish among employers in an already overburdened system due to the unprecedented surge in new applicants. Many nonprofits will be hit with a bill for reimbursement to states at a time when they will be in the highest demand for providing services. This could actually inhibit nonprofits’ ability to perform.
- Strengthen Charitable Giving Incentives: Encourage donations to the work of charitable organizations in their communities by enabling taxpayers making donations on and after March 13 (date of national emergency declaration) and before July 16 to claim the deductions on their 2019 tax filings. This retroactive application should apply to itemized and above-the-line deductions during this critical period to encourage an influx of donations when these nonprofits need them most. Also, enhance the Above-the-Line Deduction in the CARES Act by increasing the $300/person cap and extending the effective date of the incentive.
On behalf of the nonprofit charities in each of our districts providing critical services to our constituents, we appreciate your attention to this request and believe that the inclusion of these provisions will directly help charitable nonprofits respond to the fallout from this pandemic and will continue to serve our communities in the aftermath. We appreciate your consideration and attention to this request.
May 8, 2020
HHS Awards Arkansas $4.7 Million for Expanded Coronavirus Testing
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—applauded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for awarding federal funds to Arkansas health centers for expanded coronavirus testing.
The grants—totaling $4,766,433—were awarded by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to 12 HRSA-funded health care centers in Arkansas. The investment will be used to expand testing and allow for the purchase of personal protective equipment; training for staff; outreach, procurement and administration of tests; and laboratory services. This funding will also support notification of contacts of patients who test positive and the expansion of walk-up or drive-up testing capabilities.
“These health centers play a critical role in keeping Arkansans healthy. Providing additional resources to expand testing is key to identifying patients infected with this disease and preventing its spread in the community. These funds will help achieve the governor’s goal of conducting 60,000 coronavirus tests in the state during May,” members said.
This funding builds on a $10.5 million investment in Arkansas HRSA-funded facilities.
The following Arkansas health centers received funding from HRSA:
|1st Choice Healthcare, Inc.||Corning||$387,229|
|Mid-Delta Health Systems Inc.||Clarendon||$135,739|
|Cabun Rural Health Service, Inc.||Hampton||$234,829|
|Lee County Cooperative Clinic||Marianna||$144,619|
|Boston Mountain Rural Health Center, Inc.||Marshall||$393,919|
|Healthy Connections Inc.||Mena||$292,819|
|Jefferson Comprehensive Care System Inc.||Pine Bluff||$230,089|
|Mainline Health Systems Inc.||Portland||$339,499|
|River Valley Primary Care Services||Ratcliff||$391,654|
|St. Francis House NWA, Inc.||Springdale||$693,199|
|East Arkansas Family Health Center, Inc.||West Memphis||$377,179|
May 1, 2020
Congressional Delegation Announces Additional Coronavirus Relief for Arkansas HBCUs and Colleges and Universities Serving Low-Income Students
WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—announced an additional round of coronavirus relief funding for Arkansas’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and institutions serving low-income students to help ensure learning continues during the coronavirus crisis.
The funds—totaling $14,573,384—come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which became law with the support of the Arkansas congressional delegation. It is part of nearly $1.4 billion in additional funding the Department of Education has directed to Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) nationwide, which is provided on top of the money previously allocated in the first round.
Institutions may use this funding to cover the cost of technology associated with a transition to distance education, grants to cover the costs of attendance for eligible students and training for faculty and staff. Additionally, funds may be used to cover operational costs, such as lost revenue, reimbursements for prior expenses and payroll.
“The Department of Education quickly awarded CARES Act funding to higher education institutions across the state to aid students impacted during this crisis. This additional funding recognizes the unique challenges facing HBCUs and institutions serving low-income students. These institutions play a vital role in transforming lives and make Arkansas’s communities stronger,” the delegation said.
The following Arkansas colleges and universities will receive funding from this second round of grants:
|Arkansas Baptist CollegeArkansas State University Mid-SouthArkansas State University-BeebeArkansas State University-Main CampusArkansas State University-Mountain HomeArkansas State University-NewportArkansas Tech UniversityBaptist Health College Little RockBlack River Technical CollegeCentral Baptist CollegeCollege of the OuachitasCossatot Community College of the University of ArkansasCrowley’s Ridge CollegeEcclesia CollegeHenderson State UniversityJefferson Regional Medical Center School of NursingLyon CollegeNational Park CollegeNorth Arkansas CollegeNorthwest Arkansas Community CollegeOzarka CollegePhilander Smith CollegeShorter CollegeSouth Arkansas Community CollegeSoutheast Arkansas CollegeSouthern Arkansas University Main CampusSouthern Arkansas University TechUniversity of Arkansas at Little RockUniversity of Arkansas at MonticelloUniversity of Arkansas at Pine BluffUniversity of Arkansas Community College Rich MountainUniversity of Arkansas Community College-BatesvilleUniversity of Arkansas Community College-HopeUniversity of Arkansas Community College-MorriltonUniversity of Arkansas-Fort SmithUniversity of Arkansas-Pulaski Technical CollegeUniversity of Central ArkansasUniversity of the OzarksWilliams Baptist University||$1,032,491$58,470$105,358$453,949$51,525$62,669$347,304$42,634$79,483$39,980$32,853$48,991$12,859$7,225$183,000$6,902$33,170$110,925$70,212$154,367$38,678$2,383,058$1,211,947$52,217$74,688$196,019$38,543$293,078$156,801$5,863,687$26,516$50,042$56,215$90,375$268,669$293,123$470,493$49,113$25,755|
Arkansas colleges and universities received over $100 million in the first round of emergency grants to support postsecondary students and institutes of higher education impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. In total, the CARES Act provides nearly $14 billion to support postsecondary students and institutions nationwide.
Telemedicine is Safeguarding Arkansas Veterans’ Access to Care
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) administers the largest integrated health system in the country. There are over nine million veterans enrolled in the VA health care program, and it is vital to meet their needs in the midst of a pandemic.
Arkansas is home to over 222,000 veterans, many of whom rely on the state’s two VA Medical Centers and its network of community-based outpatient clinics for their health care needs. That number grows even higher when factoring in Arkansans who visit VA facilities in neighboring states.
Arkansas veterans who depend on the VA for their care are facing changes brought on by the coronavirus crisis. Urgent and emergency procedures are continuing as scheduled, but the VA has shifted some outpatient care to telehealth, and some elective and non-emergency procedures have been postponed. These measures enable veterans to receive care through minimal contact with staff, which frees up personnel and resources—including personal protective equipment (PPE)—for critical use.
As the chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the VA’s funding, I am committed to ensuring the department has all it needs to provide care for coronavirus patients, while minimizing disruption of medical services unrelated to the crisis. We included billions of additional funds to support increased demand for health care services at VA facilities—including the purchase of medical equipment and supplies, testing kits and PPE—in the initial coronavirus response packages.
This infusion of funds has already resulted in benefits in Arkansas. So far, the Central Arkansas Veterans Healthcare System (CAHVS) has made employment offers to 27 additional nurses and acquired critical protection supplies including large quantities of hand sanitizer and more than 10,000 N95 masks.
The relief packages also included billions of funds for telehealth to enable the VA to boost its technology infrastructure—including enhanced system bandwidth and support—to manage increased capabilities to deliver healthcare services directly related to coronavirus patients and mitigate the risk of virus transmission.
The VA’s technology infrastructure is crucial to the department’s ability to provide consistent care to veterans during the crisis. Telehealth gives veterans a reliable option to visit with primary care physicians, specialty care teams and mental health professionals from the safety and comfort of their own homes.
Both CAVHS and the Veterans Health Care System of the Ozarks (VHSO) have expanded telehealth options to ensure continuity of care for veterans during this time when non-emergency visits are unavailable. The data shows an uptick in usage during these challenging times. CAVHS has seen a six percent increase in overall telehealth since February. VHSO had over 450 more completed visits through VA Video Connect over the past month.
Telehealth can even be used to monitor patients diagnosed with coronavirus and those exposed to it. CAVHS is currently utilizing it for these purposes, providing daily monitoring for veterans that fall in these categories. CAVHS is the first in its network to initiate these services and this effort has garnered the interest of officials who oversee the VA’s home telehealth program.
I am pleased the VA is showing it can deftly adapt in a quick manner to provide continuity of services to Arkansas veterans. Our veterans deserve all the benefits they have earned, including the best care in the world.
The sacrifices made by our veterans produced victories for us on the battlefield. We must ensure the VA has all it needs to win this fight for them on the home front.
April 28, 2020
Delegation Applauds HHS For Awarding Over $45 Million in Additional Coronavirus Assistance to Arkansas Health Care Providers
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—applauded the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for awarding additional federal funds to hospitals and health care providers across Arkansas to help facilitate the coronavirus response in our communities.
The grants—totaling $45,092,991—come from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which became law with the support of the Arkansas delegation. The money was awarded to providers in Arkansas to support health care-related expenses or lost revenue attributable to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We are pleased that HHS has continued to quickly provide much-needed aid to medical providers in Arkansas. Every provider has been impacted by this crisis and the effort to ensure that no one misses out on relief is greatly appreciated,” the delegation said.
This is the second wave of funding awarded to health care providers from the $100 billion appropriated by the CARES Act. It was distributed based on total revenue to ensure providers with a relatively small share of revenue coming from Medicare fee-for-service, such as children’s hospitals, received assistance as well.
Arkansas received $326,536,043 in the first wave of funding announced earlier this month. That money was awarded directly to health care providers in the state proportionate to providers’ share of Medicare fee-for-service reimbursements in 2019. This method was used to expedite money to providers in coronavirus hotspot areas and those struggling to keep their doors open due to cancelled elective services.
April 24, 2020
Getting Coronavirus Relief to More Small Businesses in Arkansas
An important program to help Arkansas small businesses remain operational during the coronavirus pandemic and viable in the future just received additional funding. Congress passed, and the president signed into law, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, which allocates an additional $320 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The immediate infusion of money into the program will allow the SBA to reach even more small business owners in need of assistance in these trying times.
Created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, the PPP provides low-interest loans to small businesses to use for payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utilities, with a portion of the loan eligible for forgiveness. The PPP was designed to give small business owners the ability to maintain payroll and operational costs, so they can pay employees and avoid closure as a result of declining, or worse, complete loss, of revenue.
Recognizing the critical need to help small businesses survive the financial hardships caused by the coronavirus, Congress provided significant funding for the program when it was established.
Unfortunately, the need for relief vastly outpaced the $349 billion it was originally allocated. Based on the popularity of the program, Congress recognized the need for additional funding. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), which administers the PPP, 14 years’ worth of loans were approved in 14 days. That amounts to 1.6 million loans totaling more than $340 billion.
The SBA had already approved more than 21,000 loans worth more than $2.7 billion to Arkansas small businesses before the program was replenished. PPP loans were approved for a variety of establishments across the state. Family owned businesses—from sporting goods sales to auto repair shops—were among the initial recipients, as were local restaurants, construction companies and non-profit agencies.
One of those non-profits, Stepping Stone School for Exceptional Students, is a comprehensive service provider to people with developmental disabilities and their families. Stepping Stone’s therapeutic preschool is the only full-time one of its kind in Crawford County. Toni Wilson, the Executive Director of Stepping Stone, said the PPP funding gives her “the means to continue paying agency staff through the pandemic.”
This lifeline is vital for Arkansas’s economy, given that over 99 percent of the state’s businesses are small businesses. When the initial funds for PPP ran out, many small business owners were left in limbo, adding to the already high level of anxiety they have faced since the onset of this crisis. The approval of additional funds will allow more small business owners to benefit from the program. It will help them keep the doors of their business open and ensure their employees, who they clearly value and respect, are paid. I encourage small business owners who have not applied for a PPP loan to visit https://www.sba.gov/paycheckprotection/find to locate local SBA-approved lenders.
Small business is our nation’s economic backbone. If we want to have a resurgent economy when we reopen, then we cannot leave entrepreneurs and owners hung out to dry during this crisis. I am pleased Congress found a path forward to help more small businesses in Arkansas and across the country weather the storm.
April 23, 2020
Congressional Delegation Delivers Federal Funds to Fight Coronavirus in Arkansas
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—applaud the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) for awarding $10.6 million in federal funds to support rural communities and further develop testing and prevention capabilities to combat the coronavirus crisis in Arkansas.
“Communities and medical providers across the state will benefit from these resources as we continue to fight the coronavirus and look toward a future of resuming daily activities,” members said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will provide $6,894,830 to Arkansas that will allow expanded testing, enhanced contact tracing and implementation of containment measures so citizens can soon participate in increased economic activities.
The Arkansas Department of Health will receive $2,866,778 to support rural communities in their fight against the coronavirus. The funding provides rural hospitals the ability to respond to the unique needs of the community while boosting testing and laboratory services and the availability of personal protective equipment to minimize exposure to the disease.
The University of Arkansas System is the recipient of $828,571 to support its Telehealth Resource Center (TRC). The resource center provides telehealth interaction with patients and health providers to rural and underserved communities in the state.
The crucial funding for these programs comes from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which became law last month with the support of the Arkansas delegation.
April 23, 2020
Delegation Applauds Department of Education for Awarding Over $128 Million in Coronavirus Assistance for Arkansas K-12 Students
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressmen Rick Crawford, French Hill, Steve Womack and Bruce Westerman—applauded the U.S. Department of Education for awarding emergency relief funds to support continued learning for K-12 students in Arkansas whose educations have been disrupted by the coronavirus crisis.
The funding—totaling $128,758,638—will be released to the Arkansas Department of Education.
It is part of a nationwide disbursement of more than $13.2 billion in emergency funds allocated by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which recently became law with the support of the Arkansas delegation.
In total, the CARES Act allocates nearly $31 billion to the Department to Education to distribute to students, K-12 schools and higher education institutions.
Education leaders will have the flexibility to use this money for immediate needs, such as tools and resources for distance education, ensuring student health and safety, and developing and implementing plans for the next school year.
“The closure of all public schools in Arkansas for the remainder of the school year is one of the biggest disruptions to everyday life the coronavirus crisis has brought upon families in our state. This funding from the CARES Act will help the state overcome some of the challenges our educators, students and parents are facing as a result,” the delegation said.
April 21, 2020
Boozman Supports Additional Relief for Arkansas Small Businesses
WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR) supported the Senate’s approval of $320 billion in additional funding for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to assist Arkansas small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
“The Paycheck Protection Program is an important tool to help Arkansas small businesses remain operational during the coronavirus pandemic and viable in the future. The restoration of funding to this program will support workers and small businesses in the Natural State and all across America. I urge the House of Representatives to quickly approve this funding so we can provide immediate relief to small businesses facing financial hardships,” Boozman said.
The Small Business Administration (SBA) administers the PPP. According to the SBA, it has approved more than 21,000 loans worth more than $2.7 billion to Arkansas small businesses.
A recent survey of Arkansas Bankers Association members found that applications in limbo due to the program’s depleted funding total more than $1.1 billion.
The PPP was created by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which Boozman supported. It provides low-interest loans to small businesses to use for payroll, mortgage interest, rent and utilities, with a portion of the loan eligible for forgiveness.
Small business owners can find local SBA-approved lenders here.
April 17, 2020
Protecting the Supply Chain During a Crisis
I was grateful when President Trump recently called me to discuss the agriculture community’s concerns related to the coronavirus crisis, particularly the need to assure the public that our food supply chain remains strong in the midst of this pandemic.
Later that day, the president shared that message in his remarks from the White House press room and encouraged the nation to thank and pray for “the incredible food supply workers who are feeding our nation.” We may personally know some of these dedicated individuals, but they are often complete strangers, who are sacrificing and working extra hours, under extreme pressure, to ensure we have food to put on our tables.
Our nation is rightfully thanking first responders and the medical community standing tall on the frontlines of this fight. We pray for their safety as they provide critical care to those in need. While we continue to keep them in our thoughts and prayers, we must also lift up those responsible for ensuring the resiliency of our food supply chain.
Americans depend on our nation’s farmers to grow the food, fuel and fiber we need. This dependence becomes much more pronounced in times of crisis, which creates additional strain on those who provide the goods and supplies necessary for everyday life.
Our agriculture community, trucking industry and grocers are doing incredible work to ensure that food and critical supplies remain in stock. This moment is presenting an enormous challenge, but they are rising to the occasion.
No one is immune to this virus. We are beginning to see an uptick in the number of employees at processing plants, grocery stores and other key points in the supply chain who have tested positive. Fortunately, these critical industries have contingency plans in place and are following Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to protect the health and safety of essential workers, while keeping critical functions operating throughout the outbreak.
While the industry is doing its part, the federal government must take responsible steps to ensure the continuity of our country’s food supply and support rural areas during the coronavirus pandemic. That’s why I joined a bipartisan group of my colleagues to urge U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue to consider enacting emergency measures that provide relief to our farmers and ranchers—such as deadline extensions, loan payment deferrals, payment forbearance and a full suspension of all current and pending foreclosure actions—for the duration of the pandemic and subsequent economic recovery.
While consumers may encounter some empty shelves and challenges finding variety during shopping trips, the ebb and flow of a store’s stock is not an indication of a national shortage or a reason to panic. There is no need to buy more groceries than is necessary for a week or two. These are anxious times, but the supply chain is resilient, our producers are agile and our food is safe and abundant. You will be able to get food and supplies on your next visit, without depleting the options for others in need now.
We have to remember we are all in this together. While most of us are following social distancing guidelines, those critical to ensuring the supply chain holds through this crisis are working harder than ever. We can each do our part to help ease the stress they are under, which in turn, ensures that our family, friends and neighbors can also get the products they need.
Boozman, Cotton & Womack Honor Arkansas Sailor Who Died of COVID-19
WASHINGTON— U.S. Senators John Boozman and Tom Cotton—along with Congressman Steve Womack—honored the service and life of Fort Smith, Arkansas native Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, Jr. who died as a result of coronavirus related complications after serving aboard the USS Theodore Roosevelt.
“Chief Petty Officer Charles Thacker, Jr. honorably served our country in uniform. His dedication to our nation was perhaps only surpassed by the tremendous love he had for his dear family. Petty Officer Thacker’s appreciation for the special things in life – particularly his loved ones and passions – reminds us how precious time really is and how this virus poses a threat to all of us, even the warriors dedicated to defending America. My thoughts and prayers are with the Thacker family and all who counted Petty Officer Thacker as a friend or loved one. We honor his life and service in uniform, and pledge to keep this proud son of Arkansas’s legacy alive in the years to come,” Boozman said.
“I’m saddened to hear of the passing of Chief Petty Officer Charles Thacker, Jr. His service to the country has earned my utmost gratitude, and my deepest condolences go to his family, friends, and crewmates,” Cotton said.
Womack said, “Today, Fort Smith and the State of Arkansas mourn the passing of a brave patriot and sailor. Chief Petty Officer Charles Robert Thacker, Jr. defended our nation and upheld his duty to serve and protect freedom. This is a great loss against an unprecedented enemy, and we must continue to amplify resources on all levels to defeat this virus and safeguard personnel. My deepest condolences go out to the Thacker family, his loved ones, and fellow service members. Though no words can heal the pain, our community sends prayers of comfort and strength during this time.”
April 10, 2020
Warning: Coronavirus-Related Scams on the Rise
A knock at the door of the home of one Arkansan recently turned into a nightmare for the elderly resident. The homeowner unsuspectingly gave individuals, who falsely identified themselves as employees from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), her banking information and other personal details in exchange for a COVID-19 test. What she didn’t realize is these were thieves cashing in on coronavirus fears.
This incident was reported on by the media in mid-March. Since then, more people have had money or personal information stolen. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported an increase in complaints of fraud and nationwide losses of more than $4.77 million to consumers who fell victim to coronavirus-related hoaxes. The agency has received more than 7,800 complaints from individuals across the country.
Last month, the Department of Justice launched an initiative to detect, prevent and punish any fraudulent or malicious coronavirus-centered activity. Just days after its launch, the department announced it was taking action against a website selling what it claimed were World Health Organization (WHO) vaccine kits. At this time, there is no known vaccine for the coronavirus.
Many Arkansans can anticipate receiving a recovery check from the federal government in the coming weeks. While the IRS is in the process of issuing this money, offenders have begun targeting these payments. There is no sign-up required to collect the funds and anyone who calls claiming they have an ability to get the money immediately is a thief.
The IRS warns Americans to be on the lookout for hoaxes in all forms of communication from calls, emails, text messages, websites and social media. Scammers may use the words “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment”, but the official term used by the agency is “economic impact payment.”
Unfortunately, these evolving schemes often put senior citizens in the crosshairs. Some Social Security beneficiaries have received fraudulent letters that threaten suspension of their assistance due to coronavirus and related office closures. While offices are closed for in-person meetings, this does not impact benefits.
It’s important to remember that government agencies won’t call to offer coronavirus related-grants or a faster distribution of the economic impact payment in exchange for personal information. The best thing to do if a caller is offering these false promises is to hang up, block the caller and report it to the FTC or the Arkansas Attorney General’s office.
We can be grateful for the ongoing efforts in Arkansas by Dr. Nitin Agarwal, professor of information sciences at UA Little Rock, and his team of researchers who are working to identify the schemes thieves employ so we can stop these fraudulent activities, hold offenders accountable and prevent Arkansans from being fooled by bogus claims.
Scammers and con artists are preying on fears Arkansans have related to the coronavirus, and are using this crisis as an opportunity to steal money and personal information. The methods criminals use to scam individuals has become increasingly complex and may sound or look official. By remaining vigilant, and understanding how thieves are operating, you can protect yourself and your family from falling victim to their ploys.