News From Congressman Ben Cline
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Sixth District Perspectives
with Congressman Ben Cline

     This week I had the privilege of chatting virtually with Sixth District residents like the Lucas Family of Roanoke to discuss their small business, as well as enjoyed in-person events in the Lynchburg area to cut the ribbon on the Blackwater Creek Trail Expansion and honor the Civil Air Patrol. Further, I was pleased to see Judge Amy Coney Barrett advance favorably out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and was also thankful that the President signed into law two bills aimed at addressing mental health issues of both veterans and civilians. And finally, while there is not yet a consensus on an additional COVID-19 relief package, please know that I will keep you apprised should there be any developments. I have used the October District Work Period to stay in touch with folks here at home, and I look forward to continuing to travel the District discussing the issues that matter most to the citizens. 

Supporting Local Pharmacies:

     I had the opportunity to hear from Kayla Lucas, a pharmacy student, and her parents who own DownHome Pharmacy in Roanoke this week. We discussed Rutledge v. PCMA, a case recently heard by the Supreme Court, as well as other issues affecting their industry. The Lucas family explained that over the years they have seen reimbursements for prescriptions continuously drop, which has put a strain on local pharmacies all over the country. Ensuring transparency and patient access, while also ensuring that pharmacies, especially our local pharmacies, have easier access to the marketplace should be a priority. That is why last year I wrote to Secretary Azar of the Department of Health and Human Services to address this issue by expressing my strong support of provisions in the agency’s proposed rule, Modernizing Part D and Medicare Advantage to Lower Drug Prices and Reduce Out-of-Pocket Expenses, which would reform the use of pharmacy direct and indirect remuneration fees, or pharmacy price concessions, in the Medicare Part D program.    

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Blackwater Creek Trail Expansion:

     It was an honor to be in Lynchburg this week to celebrate the renovation of the Langhorne Road Bridge and the extension of the Blackwater Creek Trail. As one of the most popular trails in the Hill City, this extension adds to the many recreational opportunities that are available to the community and the surrounding region. I am pleased that this project was made possible with federal funding from the transportation alternatives set-aside which is part of the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program. This program allows communities across the country to invest locally in a variety of smaller-scale transportation projects, and I firmly believe that state and local leaders are best equipped to prioritize our Nation’s transportation needs. This event was another shining example of that. Long-term projects like this are only made possible when localities have a clear picture of future funding, which is why I will continue to be a vocal advocate for a bipartisan surface transportation bill that makes improvements to our country’s crumbling infrastructure. 

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Civil Air Patrol:

     World War II was one of our Nation’s bloodiest conflicts, and for nearly four years Americans fought courageously around the world to secure peace and freedom for all. We thank those who served in the Armed Forces, but as President Roosevelt said, civilian efforts at home to support the War through personal sacrifice was as critical to winning the war as the efforts of the soldiers themselves. One such group of civilian unsung heroes were the 200,000 Americans who served in the Civil Air Patrol during the War. The Civil Air Patrol was critical to the defense of our homeland and partook in coastal patrol operations, convoy escorts, emergency transportation of military personnel, search and rescue missions, and nationwide emergency communications. For their efforts during the War, Congress awarded the Civil Air Patrol as a whole the Congressional Gold Medal in 2014, which any member who served during WWII is entitled to receive. And this week, it was my distinct honor to present this Medal to Mr. George “Rusty” Nichols of Madison Heights who volunteered for the Civil Air Patrol in 1944 at the age of 14. We thank him and all who selflessly served during a critical time of need for the Nation.

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Confirming Judge Amy Coney Barrett:

     The Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously approved advancing the nomination of Amy Coney Barrett to the Senate Floor this coming week. I am sorry that Senate Judiciary Democrats chose not to show up to participate in the confirmation vote. Considering her qualifications, her judicial philosophy of being a Constitutionalist, and her earning a “well qualified” rating from the American Bar Association, I am confident that the Senate will confirm this exceptional jurist to the Supreme Court.

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Promoting Mental Health:

     Recently, the President signed into law two pieces of legislation aimed at addressing mental health issues. The first of the two bills is the Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which addresses Veteran suicide by providing essential support to community based organizations, expanding access to new therapies for behavioral health, increasing support for those with other than honorable discharges, and funding additional suicide prevention coordinators. Further, the President signed the National Suicide Hotline Designation Act, which designates 9-8-8 as the universal telephone number of the national suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline system. Mental health advocates say 9-8-8, a simple three-digit number, will be easier for people to remember in the midst of a mental health emergency. Please note that the 9-8-8 number will not be operational until 2022. At this time, please dial 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to reach the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Both pieces of legislation have the potential to save countless lives, and I was proud to support them on the House Floor.   

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COVID-19 Update:

     People are hurting yet Speaker Pelosi chooses big cities and special interests over those most in need. Instead of seeking targeted relief to families and small businesses, the Speaker is trying to run out the clock hoping she can get the full $3.4 trillion passed by the House in the next Congress. While no deal on an additional COVID-19 relief bill was reached this week, the Administration continues its whole of government approach to address the coronavirus pandemic. Below please find just a few of the many examples of how the Federal government has provided direct relief to the Commonwealth of Virginia. For additional examples, view last week’s Sixth District Perspectives here

  • The President approved Virginia’s major disaster declaration on April 2, 2020 and National Guard funding requests on April 7, 2020 providing additional Federal resources to supplement State response efforts.
  • The Federal government has and continues to coordinate the surge of resources to Virginia Medicare & Medicaid certified nursing homes – to supplement private sector supplies, the federal government is coordinating the provision of point-of-care COVID-19 testing to 235 Virginia Medicare & Medicaid certified nursing homes.
  • Coordinated donation of 493 cases (40 vials per case) of Remdesivir, and 365 cases of commercially available Remdesivir, to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Virginia.
  • The Commonwealth of Virginia and eligible local governments received over $3.3 B from the CARES Act’s Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) to help address unforeseen financial needs created by the COVID-19 public health emergency. Tribal governments received over $18.9 M in CRF funding.
  • The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has made over $179.9 M in COVID-19 funding available to Virginia grantees to help America’s low-income families and most vulnerable citizens via CARES Act authorizations.
  • The U.S. Department of Education provided $312.1 M to support postsecondary education students and institutions of higher education in Virginia, authorized $66.8 M for the State from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund, and $238.6 M to ensure learning continues for all elementary and secondary students.
  • The U.S. Department of Transportation allocated more than $456.4 M to help the Virginia public transportation systems and $318.5 M to help Virginia airports.

(B = Billion, M = Million, K = Thousand) 
Data as of October 9, 2020

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     Thank you for the opportunity to serve as your Congressman. If my office can ever be of assistance, please contact my Washington office at (202) 225-5431. 

     For the latest updates from Washington and across the Sixth District, please follow my Facebook and Twitter pages.

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