Why do you want to continue to represent Minnesota as a Senator?
During my time in the Senate, I’ve worked hard, across party lines, to build more opportunity for all Minnesotans, and I’ve gotten results. My bipartisan legislation to help lower the cost of insulin, expand vocational training, and improve access to mental health services have all been signed into law.
This year has been especially challenging. The coronavirus pandemic has shaken our our economic health and well being, and the murder of George Floyd have shown us the work we need to do build back better and to address the systemic racism in our society.
How will you address wage gap disparities in Minnesota?
Minnesota has some of the worst disparities in wages and income of any state in America, so we have much work to do. As Lieutenant Governor, I worked hard to raise our minimum wage and close the gender pay gap. Still, too many people, especially women of color, don’t get equal pay.
In Washington, I’m fighting to pass federal legislation to help close the income gap for women and the Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC) community. The bill would strengthen rules against discriminatory pay practices and make it easier for workers to challenge pay discrimination.
We must address economic disparities and create more opportunity by passing universal paid medical and family leave to allow parents to take time off work, with pay, to care for a new child or a sick family member. We should create better access to capital for small businesses, especially minority-owned businesses. And we must protect the right to organize, because when people are able to join together to fight for livable wages, a safe work environment, and quality benefits for their families, we all do better.
Many Hmong business owners have been forced to close due to the pandemic. How will you, as Senator, help those who have lost their business?
In the Senate, I helped pass the bipartisan CARES Act, which provided a lifeline to small businesses and Minnesota families. But there is much more work to do, and not enough of these resources got to small and minority-owned businesses.
I recently visited Hmong Village in St. Paul to meet with small business owners hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic. I listened to community ideas for how to improve the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) so that it works for minority-owned businesses, and I’m working now to make those changes, and to pass a new round of PPP funding for hardest-hit small businesses and nonprofits.
Especially in light of the disproportionate impact COVID-19 has had on the Hmong community, it’s essential that direct assistance to individual Americans, businesses, and state and local governments is targeted to the communities most in need.
The pandemic has disrupted the education of millions of students throughout the state. What needs to be done to make sure every student has quality education?
During this pandemic, we may all be weathering the same storm, but — from students struggling with housing insecurity and mental health issues, to students with disabilities and special needs, English learners, and families who have to share devices for e-learning like computers or tablets – we are not all in the same boat. The federal government must be there for states and local school districts to ensure they have the resources to provide a quality education to every student.
That’s why I support legislation to provide almost $430 billion in funding for K-12, special education, childcare, broadband programs, and the Governor’s emergency education relief efforts.
Thousands of Minnesotans have been hospitalized due to coronavirus, and this coupled with mass job losses means people will be paying thousands of dollars out of pocket for hospital costs. What can be done to improve healthcare in Minnesota?
Everyone should have access to health care, no matter who you are or where you live. I have been working to lower the cost of health care since my first day in the Senate, including passing into law my plan to make generic drugs, like generic insulin, more readily available.
In the face of this unprecedented public health crisis, I wrote the law to make sure your COVID test is free, regardless of whether you have insurance or not. Now I’m fighting to hold insurance companies accountable if they try to charge you for your test, and to pass my bill to ensure a COVID vaccine is free for everyone. Cost should never be a barrier to accessing health care. I also helped write legislation to provide the federal coordination needed to combat racial and ethnic disparities in the federal response to COVID-19.
Finally, I support expanding access to affordable health care by improving on the Affordable Care Act and by addressing the underlying issues that drive health care costs, such as the exorbitant prices of prescription drugs.
Paid for by Tina Smith for Minnesota