Republican Congresswoman-elect Mariannette Miller-Meeks says a pandemic relief package should have passed congress in October, but if one comes up for a vote in January, she’ll push to extend more federal assistance to small businesses.

“They’re worried that their doors are closing,” Miller-Meeks says. “They cannot continue to hang on in this environment.”

Miller-Meeks says congress also should provide more federal assistance to local public health agencies.

“The best way to do that is through grants that are called Local Public Health grants,” Miller-Meeks says. “Our local public health, just like our hospitals, are just working tremendously long hours. It’s very stressful.”

She says county public health departments in Iowa and around the country handling contact tracing are overwhelmed. Miller-Meeks, a former director of the Iowa Department of Public Health who lives in Ottumwa, says she’s seen it first hand as a volunteer at the Wapello County Public Health department.

“Given that I know HIPAA and privacy, it seemed like a good fit,” Miller-Meeks says, “and I could also use the guidance that they were giving individuals as far as isolation, their family members and when they could go out.”

Miller-Meeks says federal grants to local public health agencies are needed to cover the additional costs of testing supplies and personal protective gear for the staff collecting test samples as well as the expense of hiring more employees to do these pandemic-related tasks.

State officials certified Miller-Meeks as the winner in her race against Democrat Rita Hart by a six vote margin. Hart plans to ask the U.S. House to review the results of their race for Iowa’s second congressional district. Miller-Meeks says she’s been told by House officials to plan to be sworn in as a member of congress on January 3, 2021.

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