Iowa Republicans fail to uphold promises of Older Americans Act

Mike McCarthy is president of the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans. -promoted by Laura Belin

President Lyndon Johnson signed the Older Americans Act into law on July 14, 1965. It responded to the need for community services, evidence-based health promotion, disease prevention programs, civic engagement, and elder justice for senior citizens. America’s seniors require a similar response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans believes that seniors must have relevant and accurate information about preventing and treating the coronavirus. Seniors and retirees are becoming more desperate looking for security and a cure. We should be able to trust President Donald Trump’s pronouncements. However, he repeatedly shows us that we cannot believe his statements.

In another major issue for seniors, it is especially shocking that Trump would undermine the United States Postal Service. This would lessen seniors’ ability to participate in democracy because due to many seniors decreased mobility, they must be able to vote by mail in the upcoming general election.

The U.S. House of Representatives has included funding for the Postal Service in the HEROES Act, which is being held up by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and fellow Republicans. Iowa’s Senators Joni Ernst and Senator Chuck Grassley have already indicated they will not support the people who make up the Postal Service, despite the fact that more than 97,000 postal workers across the country are veterans.

Governor Kim Reynolds signed legislation that could make it more difficult for Iowans to vote by mail. State legislators like Representative Ashley Hinson, Senator Mariannette Miller-Meeks, and Senator Randy Feenstra all voted to take away the ability of our Secretary of State to send every registered Iowa voter a request for an absentee ballot. And then, Republican lawmakers voted to deny all county auditors the ability to fill in missing information using their own readily available data. Now auditors must contact those voters by phone or email to acquire information they already have. How does this help voters?

As of July 14 there were 757 deaths from coronavirus in Iowa. At least 401 Iowans who died had been living in long-term care facilities. According to the Iowa Department of Public Health, people 61 years of age and older make up 87 percent of our state’s fatalities. In spite of this horrific statistic, McConnell is stalling passage of the HEROES Act. The delay allows long-term care facility owners to postpone making mandated care and service changes that will save lives.

Republicans at both the state and federal level have failed seniors and retirees in implementing the promises of the Older Americans Act. They provide inaccurate health information to people who are terrified of getting sick and who are highly vulnerable to a novel disease. They also make it harder for them to vote and participate in democracy. It seems they are trying to make it impossible to seek justice for negligence and false information. 

We don’t need to make it more dangerous and difficult for seniors to navigate this pandemic. Please remember this as you cast your ballot this November. Our lives are on the line.

Mike McCarthy lives in Des Moines and comes from Washington, Iowa where he was the second oldest of twelve children. In his career he’s worked in local government for the State of Iowa, held leadership posts at AFSCME, was ordained a deacon, and in 2015 joined the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans where he was first elected as vice president before becoming president in 2019. Author photo provided by the Iowa Alliance for Retired Americans and published with permission.

Top image: Cropped from a portrait of President Lyndon Johnson, public domain.

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