During this coronavirus outbreak, our rural communities face unique challenges and require a different response than urban and suburban centers around the country. Unfortunately, these needs are not often understood in Washington. Whether it’s providing immediate and targeted relief for our farmers and ranchers, increasing funding for rural hospitals and health clinics fighting on the frontlines, or expanding zero to low-interest loans for local businesses, I have made it clear to Congress and the White House that my number one priority is rural Missouri. I have sent dozens of proposals to Congressional Leadership and the Trump Administration. Fortunately, President Trump shares my concern for rural America, and I’m pleased that, many of my proposals are already being used to help the people of southern Missouri during this national emergency.
A number of my suggestions to help rural hospitals—including delaying costly cuts in Medicare funding—made it into the most recent legislative package, and the Trump Administration has also started implementing some of my proposals through executive action as well. Recently, President Trump signed an executive order going after individuals intentionally manipulating the supply of vital medical materials and equipment—such as masks and ventilators—in order to turn a profit. The President’s actions essentially implemented my bill, the Preventing Pandemic Profiting Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation I introduced at the start of the coronavirus outbreak to protect Missouri consumers.
Additionally, on March 30, the Trump Administration announced they were updating guidance on their telehealth policies. They will now permit health care providers to evaluate seniors over the telephone instead of in person or through a video conference, a policy change I have been pressing the administration on since the beginning of the outbreak. This is an issue that was specifically brought to my attention when I spoke with 50 of our area’s doctors and medical providers the other week about what they need to treat patients during this crisis. Previously, government telehealth requirements mandated video conferencing, which placed an unfair burden on our seniors and disproportionally impacted our area due to its continued struggles with broadband access. Now, thanks to President Trump and his administration’s commitment to helping our rural communities, we will be able to greatly expand care to our seniors. I want to ensure that the federal government is being responsive to our challenges and our needs and I will continue to share with the President and his team the concerns of southern Missouri.
Throughout this national emergency, I have been reminded on a daily basis of the importance of faith and maintaining a commitment to God. This will be especially true this week, as we approach Good Friday and Easter Sunday. As the son of a preacher, I learned the important lessons of Easter from an early age. During this holy week, we celebrate Jesus’ life, death, and most importantly, His resurrection; we celebrate a story of incredible hope. When Jesus died, it was easy to become consumed with despair and think that everything was over. However, three days later Jesus rose from the dead before descending into heaven. In these dark times when we feel like there is no hope, and suffering seems permanent and forever, we are reminded of His resurrection. Though it may seem like this coronavirus outbreak will never end, this too shall pass. We are going to get through this, and we will be stronger and more united as a country and community. We just have to keep our faith.
U.S. Rep. Jason Smith is the area’s state representative for the 8th Congressional District.