Democratic congressional candidate J.D. Scholten said investing federal funding into a large, infrastructure project could boost the economy and improve unemployment numbers during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Like the rest of the country, Iowa experienced record-high unemployment levels this year, due to the pandemic. For the week of March 15, which marked the beginning of the state’s closures, a record 41,890 people applied for unemployment, showing just how disruptive the COVID-19 pandemic has been to Iowa’s economy and workforce.
More recently, 4,730 people filed new unemployment claims during the week ending Oct. 3. While that number has recently remained flat, it does not reflect the number of unemployed workers who are no longer searching for work.
Interviews with candidates This is one of a series of interviews with Iowa candidates for Congress. Other recent stories:
Interviews with candidates
This is one of a series of interviews with Iowa candidates for Congress. Other recent stories:
Scholten calls for rural development
Scholten said he wants to invest in projects that benefit rural Iowa, such as sustainability practices for farmers, improving wastewater treatment in small towns and bettering the state’s bridges and roadways.
“When was the last time America built something big and massive? That was our highway system,” Scholten said. “We need a project we all can believe in and can get behind as Americans.”
Scholten also said the COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the vulnerable working conditions meatpacking plant workers face. He proposes enforcing the country’s antitrust laws and modernizing the 1921 Packers and Stockyards Act.
He wants to reinstate the Grain Inspection, Packers and Stockyard Administration to be a “standalone entity” with the power to enforce antitrust laws in the meatpacking business.
The Iowa Department of Public Health reported this summer that more than 1,600 meatpacking workers tested positive for COVID-19 in facilities that had a 10% or higher infection rate.
In Sioux City alone, more than 100 meatpacking workers tested positive at local facilities, including Seaboard Triumph Foods and Perdue Farms. Nearby in Dakota City, Nebraska, 669 workers tested positive for COVID-19 a Tyson meatpacking plant.
Scholten said enforcing antitrust laws will help both Iowa farmers and consumers, as they endure record-high meat prices in grocery stores.
“It will go a long way in empowering the 4th District,” Scholten said.