Dear Sen. McConnell,
We, the people of Eastern Kentucky, don’t need to tell you what’s obvious at this time — we’re seeing a culmination of factors unlike any our nation has ever faced.
This year has already brought us a global pandemic, of which the U.S. has borne the brunt, global and local economic crashes and a presidential election that is a flashpoint in the greatest division our nation has seen since the Civil War, and that’s just on the surface.
Then, Friday, we learned of the death of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a strong liberal voice on the court. We know how important this moment is in the eyes of both liberals and conservatives in Washington. We, again, don’t need to tell you that an appointment by President Donald Trump, which would most likely be a conservative, could install a “conservative” court that would be in place for a generation. In fact, this could fundamentally reshape the nation.
At nearly the same time we learned of Ginsburg’s death, we also received a statement from you that, in essence, indicated that her replacement would be appointed sometime prior to the November general election, just a bit more than 40 days away.
We get the importance of that and we understand what a massive political moment this is for both you and the Republican Party.
And, while we understand all that, we would ask that you consider something else in the coming days. Your decision to push through an appointment, whether right or wrong, has a far-reaching impact. We’re not asking you to abandon that, but we’re asking you to also consider what’s going on back home in Kentucky.
COVID-19 has had impacts globally, but if you look at Kentucky, and particularly Eastern Kentucky, it’s unsurprising that the pandemic, and its response, have had perhaps the most impact here.
Since January, both due to pandemic-related factors and others, our signature industry — the coal industry — has suffered an immeasurable impact. According to some statistics, as many as 2,000 jobs had been lost at one point in the year in the state’s mining and logging industries.
Small businesses are closing, people are out of work, the healthcare industry is hurting, as is the health of the individuals they serve, as people elect to not take care of their health. Our counties and cities, already suffering from the loss of tax revenue in previous years, have watched as those taxes, particularly coal severance, began plummeting with a renewed vigor.
While we’re maintaining a positive outlook for our state and our region, even we have to admit we’re facing a tall mountain to climb, one that keeps getting taller with each passing day.
Back in April, as we faced the new uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis, you and the other leaders in Washington were able to do something almost unheard of these days — come together to pass a historic measure intended to help the American people. That stimulus has made the difference, in many ways, and we applaud all involved for getting it passed. However, the fuel in the tank’s running low, and the hope of finding another fill-up anytime soon is rapidly fading.
A second stimulus package, much needed, has been dead for weeks, despite pledges from many officials to work across the aisle to come to a resolution and officials, such as Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin telling you and others that it is vital a second stimulus be approved so that the economy won’t crash.
We understand how important the Supreme Court issue is and we wish you and your colleagues luck in coming to a successful resolution on it. At the same time, with so many of us facing personal challenges that those in Washington haven’t necessarily shared, we believe it may be necessary to remind you, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and others of the simple fact that these big ideological victories or losses seldom see their full fruition on Main Street.
There, on Main Street, however, the continuing impacts of COVID-19 and the response continue to be felt. The coal company bankruptcies that have ripple effects throughout the economy, the loss of income, the inability of people to pay their bills, the schools being shut down or on extremely limited schedules, the loss of lives, the loss of tax revenues for local governments — all these things are currently real impacts on Main Street, and Main Street is hurting right now.
Again, we’re not necessarily asking you to put off the Supreme Court decision, but we know what a fight that will bring, and ask that you and your colleagues on both sides of the aisle at least have divided focuses in the coming weeks.
A compromise, a solution, on a second stimulus package is far past due.
Again, we’re asking you to not only remember the ideological battle, but the battle that each of us is currently facing in putting food on our tables, keeping our businesses open and surviving day-to-day in a “new normal” that we can only hope will pass soon.
We recognize your efforts, senator, and are thankful for all the aid that has already come our way, especially in the areas of healthcare and housing support, but we ultimately ask that both parties come together to reach a solution on a second stimulus measure.
Don’t let us get lost in the battle.
The people on Main Street, the people of Kentucky