The Senate recently observed a two-week In-State Work Period which I used as an opportunity to meet with Arkansans across the state and discuss issues important to the communities I was visiting.
I’m grateful that so many folks in various communities across 13 different counties – from Mena to Magnolia and Fort Smith to Fayetteville – were willing to participate in events that gave me new insights into the challenges they’re facing and the opportunities we have to help. That is exactly what these pauses in the Senate calendar are designed to facilitate.
At schools in Waldron and Hope, we discussed the needs around student meals and nutrition efforts that I have long been involved with. The people who feed our kids in school lunchrooms were unsung heroes of the pandemic who helped ensure children in need had reliable access to nutritious meals, and they continue to do the same vital work each summer.
Our conversations were more evidence for the need to give greater flexibility to the people on the ground, not the bureaucracy in Washington, when it comes to nutrition standards. It also underscored why my Hunger-Free Summer for Kids Act is necessary to help schools and non-profits reach more children in our communities when school is out. As the lead Republican on the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee, I will incorporate this latest feedback into the work I’m constantly doing on these fronts.
Arkansas’s veteran community has always been one that I regularly seek input from to better understand what Congress can do to ensure our veterans are receiving the benefits and services our country promised them. I’m pleased to have spent more time with Natural State veterans and advocates on this recent swing through parts of the state.
In Texarkana and Northwest Arkansas, I sat down with local veterans and veteran-serving non-profits to hear about what barriers still exist to getting quality care and timely services in addition to ideas that could help serve these heroic, admirable pillars of our communities.
There’s been a great deal done recently to enhance the Department of Veterans Affairs’ (VA) ability to meet the needs of our former servicemembers. In addition to supporting more overall funding, I’ve sponsored legislation to help tackle the suicide crisis among veterans and modernize the VA so it is better suited to provide excellent care to the growing number of women veterans in need of the department’s support and services.
The insights and ideas we gleaned from these events will certainly help me continue to push for policies and oversight that enhances the ongoing mission to take care of those who honorably served and sacrificed for our country.
In Prescott, I heard from local residents and medical providers about the needs surrounding rural health care. What remains clear is that telehealth services are only becoming more popular and essential, so we must ensure broadband is available and workable so patients and doctors can make efficient use of the technology. As a co-chair of the Senate Broadband Caucus, this visit further underscores why access to reliable broadband service in rural communities is such an important priority for me and the people of Arkansas.
I believe the best solutions come from the ground up, which is why I place so much emphasis on hitting the road and listening closely to the updates that local leaders provide me. My goal is to always be responsive, helpful and well-positioned to act. I look forward to logging even more miles and visiting with more Arkansans in the weeks and months ahead.
There’s no greater privilege than getting to serve Arkansans and show up in their communities, because the strength of Arkansas is its people.
John Boozman is a U.S. Senator from Arkansas. He is a Republican.