On Sept. 2, Amy McGrath, the Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate who is running against Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, made a campaign stop in Perry County during her “Mission: Rebuilding Kentucky” tour. During the stop, McGrath spoke with voters about health care and issues surrounding the USPS, such as getting their prescription drugs delivered through the mail — an ongoing issue for several individuals around the state, especially in rural areas. After that discussion, McGrath held an open discussion with the public where she explained her five-step plan she hopes to accomplish if elected.
“In the middle of a pandemic, you know our country is in peril, you know Kentucky is in peril and you know we need change. You know we need leaders,” said McGrath. “Kentucky has a lot of problems, we have a lot of problems right here.
“In Kentucky, we have the highest cancer rates, highest rates of diabetes, highest rates of heart disease. Some of the lowest wages in the country. Our signature industries in Kentucky have been in decline,” she said. “40 percent of renters here in Kentucky are facing eviction. 300,000 Kentuckians don't have healthcare. A million Kentuckians have filed for unemployment some time in the last three or four months.”
Her plan, she said, could solve many of these issues.
“My mission is to do better for Kentucky,” said McGrath. “I have a plan. It's called 'Rebuilding Kentucky.' It's got five points. It's based on public health and science, and the things that we need to do. And not only the things we've got to do to tackle the coronavirus, but the things we need to do to rebuild Kentucky and make it better.”
The five steps of McGrath's plan include immediately addressing economic pain so that Kentucky families can keep a roof overhead and food on the table; making sure that every Kentuckian has access to affordable health care and prescription drugs, regardless of employment status or income level; ensuring that good-paying jobs are available across a variety of sectors around the commonwealth; combating intergenerational poverty, addressing racial and economic inequities and providing adequate educational opportunities; and fixing the corruption in Washington and reforming it so that the federal government actually works for everyday Kentuckians and not special interests and big corporations.
“The first pillar is to make sure we have immediate aid so that we can save our economy,” said McGrath. “Immediate aid to people, not just corporations, not just the wealthiest one percent,” she said.
To make sure our families and economy are strong, she said, we need to guarantee that every Kentuckian has health care coverage, provide relief to families through continued access to an unemployment insurance bonuses, offer financial support for state and local governments, ensure schools have the funding, testing and equipment needed to re-open, support small businesses through continued access to PPP loans and help the restaurant industry and its workers.
“We need to extend unemployment insurance, we need help for state and local governments,” said McGrath.
The second pillar in McGrath's plan is healthcare.
“Anybody who thinks the current system that we have that ties healthcare to your employment in the middle of the pandemic is a good way to go, you've got to have your head examined. It's crazy,” said McGrath. “We've got to be able to fix healthcare,” she said, stating that the Affordable Care Act was never a perfect piece of legislation, but it did a lot of good and has good points.
“Let's keep the good things and fix the things we don't like,” she said.
In this step, McGrath said she hopes to make sure every Kentuckian has access to affordable health care and prescription drugs, regardless of employment status or income level by creating a public option and lowering the Medicare buy-in age to 55, lowering prescription drug prices and limiting the power of “big pharma,” closing the racial health gap through investment in various areas and addressing the opioid crisis head on through increased funds for community-led efforts to prevent overdoses.
The third step in the plan is to create more good paying jobs, said McGrath.
“Come here in Hazard, in Perry County, and what I hear when I talk to the mayor, when I talk to leaders, (is) we need to have industry, we need to have jobs. We've got a workforce, we've got people who are hardworking. Where are the jobs? Where are the good paying jobs?,” she said.
McGrath said that to accomplish this task, we will have to invest in ourselves and our community by rebuilding infrastructure, upgrading broadband and invest in ways to help workers, among other things.
“We have to invest in ourselves,” said McGrath. “If we don't do it, we will be left behind. No business is going to want to come to a county that cannot talk to the modern world,” said McGrath, adding that 27 percent of residents here in this county do not have access to the internet.
“We also need to tackle the opioid crisis, which is so important and has ravaged so many people and families here,” she said.
The fourth pillar of McGrath's plan, she said, is to combat inter-generational poverty, address racial and economic inequities, and provide adequate educational opportunities so that our young people have the fair shot they deserve.
“We have to tackle the massive inequality that we've been seeing in this country, and the massive racial injustice that we've been seeing for far too long,” said McGrath.
This step, she said, calls for a guaranteed universal Pre-K program, providing federal grants to schools, closing the gap between wages, making colleges more affordable and expanding apprenticeship opportunities for students.
“Wages in Ketucky haven't increased in 20 years, meanwhile the cost of healthcare is going up, the cost of prescription drugs is going up, the price of housing has gone up. Everything has gone up, wages haven't,” said McGrath. This step, she said, makes sure not to undermine unions, helps to invest in education, helps discuss the option to find a way to allow more people to go to college and not have a huge debt following them without doing it through handouts and focuses on communities that have been marginalized and discriminated against.
The fifth piece in McGrath's plan is to tackle the corruption in Washington, she said. To do this, she said, they will need to implement term limits, expand voting rights, get “dark money” out of political campaign funding and hold politicians accountable.
“If you don't take that on, all of these other issues, we're not going to be able to do anything (else),” said McGrath.