Archives for November 2020

Pelosi’s HR3 is a disaster for Seniors

By Marsha Volkema

As a Medicare beneficiary, I do not support Nancy Pelosi’s H.R.3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act and neither should any of our Senators or Representatives.

H.R. 3 is a partisan solution rammed through by the House Democrats without bipartisan input.  It imposes international price controls that will have devastating effects on future cures and medications.  I have been on Medicare for _ years and while some of those years were better than others, there is always room to improve the program. 

We do need lower drug prices in America, and I want to support a plan that does that, but I cannot support a plan that does more harm than good. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office preliminary analysis indicates that H.R.3 would reduce the number of new medicines coming to market, drastically decrease research and development budgets and impact as much as one-third of drugs currently in the development process. We need our representatives to work together and support a better solution than Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 3.  

Fortunately, there is a better solution.  Senator Crapo has introduced the Lower Costs, More Cures Act.  It is a bi-partisan proposal that lowers the cost of drug prices while also promoting new drug development. It reduces the middlemen who drive up drug prices and ensures that saving flow into the pockets of Seniors.  Unlike Nancy Pelosi’s H.R. 3, the Crapo legislation incorporates bipartisan ideas that are fair to everyone. Senator Crapo’s Lower Costs, More Cures Act is better for seniors and all Americans and we all need to encourage our Senators to support it.


Marsha Volkema is a voter from Congressional District 8

Hold Congress Accountable on COVID-19 Spending

By Lea Márquez Peterson

You and I may have voted for different people in this election, but I bet we’re both hoping for the same outcome—good government led by responsible, trustworthy lawmakers, whatever their politics.

Character counts with voters because we recognize that government can be a breeding ground for fraud, corruption, and abuse of taxpayer funds, especially when powerful interests are involved. When nearly $3 trillion is up for grabs, the potential for waste and misuse is astronomical—but that’s exactly the situation we’re in with COVID-19. 

The U.S has allocated at least $2.9 trillion to save small businesses, help families, and keep the economy going through this pandemic, not to mention treating and finding a cure for the disease. Of that amount, however, some $1.4 trillion has been spent without any accounting to the American people of where, and to whom, it went.

We do know some things. For example, we learned that large corporations like Shake Shack[1] worth $2 billion also received PPP loans meant for struggling small businesses[2].

Small businesses are far less likely to receive low-interest, forgivable loans to help them survive and pay employees. Especially minority-owned ones. While PPP loans worth millions were handed out to companies that didn’t truly need them, only 12 percent of Hispanic and Black applicants in the US got loans they requested, even though over half asked for $20,000 or less.[3] And, in Arizona, where 27.2 billion was spent, only 4.1% went to Black applicants and 31.1% to Hispanic business owners[4].

Other things we know about COVID-19 spending have been compiled by the Project on Government Oversight in a readily searchable format online. Arizonans can use this tool to discover who benefitted from a vast array of pandemic-related government programs.

To be fair, some initial hiccups with COVID-19 relief were understandable. Lawmakers had to rush into action when coronavirus emerged and they lacked the luxury of time to craft the best legislation possible. However, continued obstruction of meaningful oversight and failure to patch trouble spots cannot be excused so easily.

This is not just water under the bridge, either. A still raging pandemic and faltering economic rebound make trillions more in COVID-19 stimulus extremely likely. There is also movement afoot to repurpose $130 billion left in the fraud- and abuse-laden PPP. 

We should not allow Congress to commit such enormous sums without straightforward answers about all coronavirus spending to date. We must also demand stringent safeguards to ensure additional funds are managed more responsibly so that meaningful assistance can reach small businesses and families in need.

Lea Márquez Peterson is the former President of the Tucson Hispanic Chamber and a Commissioner on the Arizona Corporation Commission. 


[1] https://www.nbcnews.com/business/business-news/which-companies-are-returning-their-ppp-loan-here-s-list-n1194566

[2] https://www.12news.com/article/money/ppp-loans-released/75-cf905bec-53ee-4f13-a306-f157856d3ef4

[3] https://www.cbsnews.com/news/paycheck-protection-program-black-hispanic-business-owners-shut-out-survey/

[4] https://beta.covidtracker.pogo.org/

Prioritizing Transparency and Accountability in the Next Stimulus Package

By Jonathan Lines 

I feel immensely disappointed in the ways the federal government has failed to fully bolster the American people and the economy throughout the COVID-19 crisis. Too busy playing politics, they’ve delayed voting on additional stimulus packages and reauthorizing the Paycheck Protection Program, which could be worth as much as $257 billion. This money would not only aid individuals and families in dire need of financial support through this prolonged crisis, but also small- and medium- sized businesses who have long struggled to stay afloat, including my own. For the past 34 years, I have owned and operated a roofing business in Arizona. We benefitted greatly from the PPP loan we received earlier this year but remain concerned about our outlook as we continue to endure financial stress and uncertainty. 

However, I’d argue that we are some of the luckier ones. Regardless of the pandemic, people still need their roofs repaired and insulation installed. Small businesses—hallmarks of Main Streets throughout our country—will not emerge from this crisis unscathed, as I anticipate we will. The assistance they ought to have received from earlier PPP payments may have helped, but much more is needed to reinvigorate our economy and the businesses that are the backbone of our local communities. 

Though the stimulus packages and the PPP have provided valuable lifelines to individuals and the business community at large, any reauthorization must be accompanied with reforms to increase transparency and accountability in government spending. Without these critical reforms, larger companies and corporations will continue to take advantage of funds intended to support smaller- and medium- sized businesses, specifically those who are not equipped to endure the financial hardships brought upon by a crisis of this severity. 

The initial PPP loan program put $349B on the line. Effectively delineating that amount of money was no easy task – and unfortunately, it wasn’t seal proof, either. The prospect of what was essentially free money, intended to bolster businesses suffering most throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, didn’t go unnoticed by larger companies, corporations and chains. Additionally, a number of foreign entities benefitted as well – the Project On Government Oversight, along with the Anti-Corruption Data Collective, found that millions of dollars from the PPP went to Chinese state-owned companies

This negligence worked directly to the detriment of smaller and independent businesses just like mine, many of which found it difficult to navigate the process created to secure a loan in the first place. Because of this, hundreds of thousands of small businesses across the country have had to shutter their doors, unlikely to open them ever again. Alongside these closed doors comes crushed hopes and dreams and a distrust in the government entities who are supposed to support good, contributory American citizens in times of crisis. 

If— when—the Paycheck Protection Program is reauthorized, it must be accompanied by reforms that increase transparency and reduce fraud, abuse, and waste of its funds. These reforms are paramount to the survival of America’s small- and medium-sized businesses and all taxpayers should demand them.

Jonathan Lines is a Yuma County Supervisor-elect and the vice president and general manager of Lines and Lundgreen Roofing and Insulation. 

Time for a Bipartisanship Approach to Lowering Drug Costs

By: Lalani Hunsaker

Last year, Nancy Pelosi and the House Democrats passed H.R.3, the Lower Drug Costs Now Act, which imposed international reference pricing on some Medicare perscriptions. I am worried that introducing foreign price controls will have a negative impact on the production and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines as well as other drugs already in testing and production.

The preliminary Congressional Budget Office analysis indicates that H.R.3 would reduce the number of new medicines coming to market and could drastically decrease research and development budgets. Granted, the analysis does say that in the near-term drug costs will be reduced, however, it does not account for the additional costs that would burden families due to the unavailability of lifesaving and cost-reducing new medicines. Furthermore, the Council of Economic Advisers found that HR3’s price controls would impact as much as one-third of the drugs under development and the California Life Sciences Association believes this will cause a workforce reduction of 80,000 jobs just in their state. I am worried that the bill does more harm than good.

On the other hand, the bi-partisan Lower Costs, More Cures Act also lowers the cost of drug prices while also encouraging new cures and treatments. It incorporates dozens of vetted, bipartisan ideas to update our federal policies and programs so that Americans get better prescription drugs prices. The changes in this legislation would also cap Part-D plans and allow enrollees who reach their out-of-pocket maximum to pay it in monthly installments. Under the modernized Part D program, enrollees would have Part D plan options that pass more of the discounts on to them, have peace of mind that insulin would only cost up to $50 per month, and would not face an Obamacare cliff scheduled to add an extra $1,200 to drug bills.

The Lower Costs, More Cures Act is better for seniors and we should encourage our Senators to support it.  

Lalani Hunsaker is the founder and President of the East Valley Women’s Coalition.