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I hear from Arkansans every day about issues impacting their lives. During meetings around the state and in the nation’s capital, as well as through phone calls, emails and letters to my offices, the people of Arkansas voice their opinions and questions about federal policy to my staff and me regularly. This engagement is necessary to best represent The Natural State and advance the priorities we share. Recent outreach we’ve received represents just some of the issues on your minds.
“Due to the recent inflation of not only everything, but more specifically gas prices, I have struggled to make car payments and still afford to put gas in the tank and use my car. Please help the people of Arkansas and the rest of the United States to overcome these issues and resolve them in Congress.”
This is one of the top concerns I hear about. Too often we have to make difficult decisions around our budget as a result of rising costs. In recent days, we learned inflation increased this September by 8.2 percent compared to last year. In Arkansas, that amounts to each household paying an additional $569.
We can’t continue to spend our way out of inflation. Unfortunately, this is the approach of the Biden administration. Within months of taking office, President Biden approved $7 trillion in new federal spending. This legislation had no input from Republicans and flooded our recovering economy with trillions of dollars. Now we’re all experiencing the consequences of this reckless spending spree.
One of the reasons we’re paying more for fuel is because our country relies on other nations to supply our energy needs. We need to change our policies and tap our vast domestic energy sources. That’s why I’ve called on the Biden administration to restore American energy independence. We need to open up our nation’s oil and gas deposits and speed up the permitting approval process.
I’m also supporting the American Energy Independence from Russia Act that would authorize the construction of Keystone XL, increase liquefied natural gas exports by removing regulatory hurdles, prohibit bans or pauses on new energy leases and spur other action to support U.S. energy production.
“Students need school lunches. If it takes menu changes to get the nutrition quality better so kids look forward to school a bit more, so be it!”
Like all other sectors of our economy, school lunch programs have been impacted by inflation as well as supply chain disruptions and staffing shortages. As the Ranking Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, I engaged with Arkansans involved with student nutrition during the school year, as well as during summer, to ensure young people have access to healthy meals. The information these professionals shared was important in ensuring these programs can adapt and continue.
In June, the president signed into law the Keep Kids Fed Act, legislation I introduced to deliver important funding and flexibility for communities to serve schools and daycares and provide students in the highest need of nutritious meals the ability to access this food.
“Suicide impacts far too many families in Arkansas. Suicide prevention needs to be a national priority at all levels of government. You need to do all you can to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide.”
Investments in mental health care are more important than ever. With my support, Congress passed the bipartisan National Suicide Hotline Designation Act in 2020 to establish a quick and convenient way to get individuals the help they need. This new 988 Suicide Crisis Lifeline number launched in July to connect callers to trained counselors for free and confidential care. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, in the first full month in operation, the crisis lifeline experienced a 45 percent increase in calls from the previous year.
As a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee, I’ve worked to improve the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) policies to address the suicide crisis among the men and women who served in uniform.
Congress also approved the IMPROVE Well-being for Veterans Act, legislation I introduced to create a VA grant program to leverage the positive outcomes nonprofit organizations have produced and build on their successes. The VA recently awarded its inaugural funding to support this effort.
Answering these questions and more is part of my role representing our state. As long as I have that privilege, Arkansans can continue to offer their thoughts and requests with the expectation that my staff and I are always ready to listen.