Improving Rural Broadband Access
This week was largely spent in the Show Me State meeting with organizations and constituents, but also contained numerous virtual hearings in both the House Armed Services and Agriculture Committees as Committee Week was upon us in Washington.
University of Missouri freshman Shawn Berrios who received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy.
Here in Missouri, I was proud to speak with Waynesville High School grad Shawn Berrios and congratulate him on his appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy! Should he accept his appointment, the University of Missouri freshman will join the military academy’s class of 2025. Congrats!
Please see below for the full scope of my activities this week.
Touring Ozarks Food Harvest
Congresswoman Vicky Hartzler speaks with volunteers at Ozarks Food Harvest.
Food insecurity has been a challenge for many children in our district. I had the opportunity to tour Ozarks Food Harvest in Springfield, MO which serves over 40 percent of our district by providing food to families in need. Last year during the pandemic, they provided almost $37 million in food to southwest Missouri families, working with 270 different organizations to distribute $2.5 million worth of meals each month.
Ozarks Food Harvest also developed the Weekend Backpack Program in 2003 which sends out almost 60,000 food bags annually to 61 schools, helping more than 1,600 children. Many low-income students also lack food resources at home, and the After-School Food Program provides over 50,000 meals and snacks annually to more than 400,000 children through local non-profits.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, Ozarks Food Harvest has provided more than five million meals and $8 million in food to families in need throughout our district. One of the biggest challenges of meeting the needs of these families is connecting them with resources. Ozarks Food Harvest has done a wonderful job by hosting 147 mobile food pantries throughout Barton, Cedar, Dade, Dallas, Hickory, Laclede, Pulaski, St. Clair, Vernon, and Webster counties and have provided 68,000 people with 1.2 million meals. Ozarks Food Harvest has also worked hard to develop the infrastructure in our district that will help ensure a higher volume of food distribution. They secured $200,000 in grants to provide large walk-in freezers to the following partner organizations: Good Samaritan in Lamar, the Hope Center in El Dorado Springs, and the St. Clair Food Pantry in Osceola.
I’m so proud of CEO Bart Brown, his team, and all the volunteers and donors who are helping to meet the needs of children and families in our district.
Improving Rural Broadband for Missourians
In our ever-growing connected society, the need to expand rural broadband in Missouri and across America continues to be one of my top priorities in Congress. Nearly 30 percent of rural Missourians still lack vital access to highspeed internet. That’s why I’m proud to join my congressional colleagues in introducing the bipartisan Flexible Financing for Rural America Act.
This legislation will jumpstart these communities, allowing them the same essential telecommunications resources urban areas routinely enjoy in our digital age. More specifically, this bill allows member-owned cooperatives and small broadband and voice providers the ability to refinance specific Rural Utilities Service (RUS) loans and waive all associated fees, resulting in saving providers millions per year in debt payments that can be passed on directly to consumers, invested in quality rural broadband networks, or used to upgrade aging electric infrastructure.
I am glad to see strong support for our legislation and its potential benefits for Fourth District families, schools, farms, healthcare providers, and businesses.
Securing Our Border
What is happening at our border is no joking matter — it’s a true crisis. And it’s clear that it has been caused in large part due to the policy reversals by President Biden and his administration, including halting border wall construction, eliminating the “Remain in Mexico” policy, and cancelling asylum co-op agreements with nations in Central America. These actions encouraged the overwhelming numbers we are seeing today.
Last month, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) encountered the highest number of migrants for a February in seven years. This was a 173% increase from February 2020. Even worse, we are on pace for an expected 117,000 unaccompanied children to illegally cross this year — a 250% increase from last year.
It is heartbreaking to see this situation get worse and worse without meaningful actions taken to alleviate this tragedy. As long as I’m in Congress, I will do everything I can to make sure America has a secure border.
Protecting America’s Children
Protecting the wellbeing of our nation’s children should always be at the forefront of every legislator’s priorities. Last week, the bipartisan Stronger Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) came to the House Floor for a vote -- and I cast our district’s vote in support.
This legislation fought to ensure proper, effective, and reasonable child abuse standards for families. It also strengthened much-needed protections for our children and prevented them from being removed from their family solely due to economic hardship.
I am proud to stand up for America’s children and be a voice for their safety here in Congress.