J.D. Scholten: Investing in infrastructure is key during COVID-19

Democratic challenger J.D. Scholten is interviewed by a panel of journalists on Oct. 2, 2020. (Screenshot of Iowa PBS livestream.)

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.

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.

Linh Ta
Reporter Linh Ta comes to Iowa Capital Dispatch from the Des Moines Register, where she covered trending news, public safety and the suburbs. Most recently, she has covered retail business and followed both national and local trends to provide insight about the issues that matter the most to Iowans. Beyond traditional journalism, Ta has worked as a speech coach with the Des Moines Storytellers Project with the goal of sharing the diverse perspectives of Iowans from all walks of life. She is the 2019 winner of the Young Iowa Journalist Award and the winner of an Iowa Broadcast News Award. Email her at [email protected] or follow her on Twitter @linhmaita.