A recent five-day itinerary for Congressman Pete Stauber’s started with onstituent listening session and ended with a vice presidential campaign visit.
Stauber began the week of Aug. 24 to Aug. 28 in Mille Lacs County, listening to Milaca seniors express concerns and challenges they are facing in dealing with the COVID-19 pandemic.
The first-term U.S. Eighth Congressional District Republican conducted similar sessions in Cambridge and North Branch. Stauber joined Vice President Mike Pence and other leaders during a Duluth campaign event Aug. 28
During his visit Monday, Aug. 24, in Milaca, Stauber talked about a Republican National Convention video that he had recorded. Pence’s Duluth stop was his first campaign event following the close of the Republican National Convention.
“It’s a couple of minutes of video,” Stauber said. “It’s about highlighting northern Minnesota and the district, and what we believe our economic drivers, how we can get the jobs back and open up safely. It’s kind of all encompassing.”
Stauber said seniors have been hit very hard by COVID-19, with nursing homes and long-term care facilities experiencing many tragic deaths from the pandemic.
“We need to protect our seniors in their living facilities, so they can live their golden years in peace. That’s our duty to them,” Stauber said, adding executive order shutdowns issued by Gov. Tim Walz have been devastating in his district.
Stauber said he knows of several people who have been affected by COVID-19.
“One individual didn’t even know she had it until she was tested for the antibodies,” he said. “A friend my age was in the hospital for three weeks.”
“We have to take precautions. That’s why recently in Washington, we pushed for vaccine funding. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi didn’t want anything to do with it,” he added.
Stauber shared a quick story about his mother and father to start the Milaca listening session. “They have 30 grandchildren. It’s hard for them not to see their grandkids. This pandemic has been very tough on my Dad. He’s been struggling. What helped him was having the Minnesota Twins come back and play baseball.”
People in nursing homes and other care facilities have died, passed on without their loved ones by their sides, Stauber said. “There are people in our long-term health care facilities who can’t touch their loved ones. Touch is a need for us.”
Stauber said seniors with underlying conditions represent the highest-risk members of the population who are succumbing to effects of COVID-19.
“Our job is to implement and make sure the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention puts forth the best practices throughout the nation, “Stauber said. “Our governors and legislatures need to add to those safety measures.”
Stauber said the first three COVID-19 assistance packages that were put out by Congress were non-partisan in nature. “We put three packages out at the speed of the private sector. That’s how important they were for all of us.”
According to Stauber, the next package is being held up by divisiveness and partisan politics.
“I wanted to work on the next package, but Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi brought up the vote on the U.S. Postal Service,” Stauber said. “I asked about investment for small business and a vaccine. We needed to stay in Washington to do the people’s work. We could have done more,” he added.
Stauber told the constituents at the Milaca meeting the United States would get through the COVID-19 pandemic as one nation. “This is not a party or political thing,” he said. “We are in this together. When we get through this together, our nation is going to be stronger and more self-reliant than ever before.”
Several constituents mentioned their concern for children and grandchildren who had been affected by the COVID-19 crisis. Stauber replied to that specific concern by recalling a stop he made in Baxter and a visit with several psychologists.
“They mentioned a study of K-12 students,” Stauber said. “Forty percent of those students were going through some sort of mental crisis. That’s why it’s critical we put best practices forward when dealing with this. That’s a staggering number.”
Every segment of society has been affected by COVID-19, Stauber said. “We’ve asked teachers to change in educating our kids. There’s not a right way nor a wrong way.” Stauber mentioned the Milaca School District as an example.
Before meeting with seniors and other constituents last Monday, Stauber toured Milaca High School and met with school staff to hear about precautions they have put in place in order to have a safe reopening this fall. “They are ready,” he said.
Stauber said the COVID-19 health crisis has given added urgency to improving broadband systems in rural Minnesota. Being better connected will keep rural hospitals open, help K-12 students, and assist small businesses, he added.
Several constituents at the Milaca listening session expressed concerns about the accuracy of COVID-19 testing. One even called for a health crisis investigation.
“This issue has been consistent in the listening sessions I’ve conducted,” he said. “The data collected must be authentic and accurate. People have to trust it.”
Congress needs to do better in handling the COVID-19 crisis, Stauber added.
“We listened to businesses nationwide when they asked for personal protection equipment flexibility,” Stauber said. “Politics has to stop entering the picture.”
Regarding delays in the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) funding distribution outstate, Stauber blamed Gov. Tim Walz. “I called the governor and told him it was raining everywhere in Minnesota.”
Stauber said it was important to trust local government officials and their ability to effectively distribute their allocated CARES funding. “Widening the parameters of how that funding could be used is still being discussed,” Stauber added.
The nation has shown great passion in dealing with the COVID-19 health crisis, Stauber said. Businesses competitors have worked together to solve problems.
“I’m seeing that in the stories people have shared with me across the district,” he said. “Six months ago, they were competitors. Now, they are working together. When we get out of this, they will go back to being competitors. That’s good. Getting through this involves federal, state, county, and local governments.”