The following are condensed from press releases and compiled by Sidney Herald staff:
U.S. Sen. Jon Tester led a group of Senators representing rural America in expressing dismay at Amtrak’s recent announcement it may cut jobs and reduce service. “Rural networks could see trains running three days a week instead of seven, and 20 percent of Amtrak employees could lose their jobs. Putting the brunt of budget shortfalls on rural America and its workers is unacceptable, no matter the circumstances.... If Congress is going to continue funding Amtrak at historic levels, you need to work to ensure this path forward works for places such as Montana, Nevada, and West Virginia alike.” Tester and his Senate colleagues wrote to the CEO of Amtrak.
U.S. Sen. Steve Daines and colleagues sent a bipartisan letter to the president of Amtrak opposing plans to terminate one out of every five employees and reducing the hours of operation of the National Network long-distance trains. “We are deeply concerned by the downsizing plan outlined in your supplemental funding request and believe it to be contrary to public interest. These cuts would not only dramatically reduce the utility of the nation’s passenger rail network, but would also ignore Congressional intent to expedite economic recovery following the pandemic,” the senators wrote.
U.S. Rep. Greg Gianforte supported two bipartisan bills to prevent suicide. Montana has one of the highest rates of suicide of any state in the country. “People are hurting in Montana and across our nation, particularly amid this coronavirus crisis and economic shutdown. Unfortunately, too many Montanans don’t have access to the mental health care they need, particularly folks who live in our rural and frontier communities.... It’s critical we make sure folks in crisis can easily access support to help them, including 9-8-8,” said Gianforte.
U.S. Sen. Tester secured a landmark Fair Care for Vietnam Veterans mandate in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to provide benefits for veterans suffering from diseases associated with exposure to Agent Orange during the Vietnam War. “Justice is long overdue for our aging veterans currently dying from conditions resulting from their exposure to Agent Orange chemicals.... By adding my bill to do that to the Senate’s must-pass annual defense bill, we are living up to the promises made to those who served by ensuring they get the care and benefits they’ve earned,” said Tester.
U.S. Sen. Daines sponsored the Ending Taxpayer Funding of Anarchy Act, which would restrict federal funding to cities and states that allow “anarchist jurisdictions” when local or city governments no longer provide police, fire, or emergency medical services. “We cannot let mob rule dominate our cities and communities. Our tax dollars should go towards restoring public safety, not enabling chaos and destruction,” said Daines.
U.S. Sen. Tester introduced bipartisan legislation to provide $25 billion in emergency assistance to help the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) recoup pandemic-related losses and other operational expenses. Sidney is home to the longest rural postal route in the country, the Senator noted. “Post office closures, price increases or other reductions in service as a result of this pandemic would be devastating for Montanans who need the Postal Service for medicine delivery, distribution of benefits, and other critical services. We cannot allow that to happen,” said Tester.
U.S. Sen. Daines announced the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will direct more than $13-million to healthcare providers in Montana, including those serving rural communities. “This major funding will support our providers that are on the frontlines of this pandemic and serving our rural communities...to ensure Montana’s healthcare providers, including those facing financial devastation caused by the pandemic, receive the assistance they need as we begin safely reopening our economy,” said Daines.
U.S. Sen. Tester introduced the Coronavirus Medicaid Response Act to create a quicker process for supporting state Medicaid programs. “Montanans have access to Medicaid’s health care safety net because our state chose to put the health of its citizens over the profits of the health insurance industry, and now it’s time for Congress to do the same,” said Tester.
U.S. Sen. Daines called for more robust funding for the development and manufacturing of COVID-19 vaccines and drugs in any upcoming coronavirus relief package in Congress. “I...urge your support for robust funding that will help accelerate the development, manufacturing, and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines and treatments. Finding a cure to this virus will help save lives, restore confidence in our communities to safely reopen, and jumpstart our economy to reach the heights it did before the pandemic,” Daines wrote.