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Paid political letter: Bennett failed working families

I’m dismayed by Rep. Peggy Bennett’s comments in the Q and A article in last Sunday’s paper. She stated that “many people on unemployment (are) making more money at home than if working — and who wouldn’t stay home if that was the case.” She is insinuating that people receiving unemployment benefits are lazy and should be forced by hardship to go back to work. This comment is not only heartless, it demonstrates that she has no understanding of what local families are going through. When the pandemic hit last winter, many people were thrown out of work through no fault of their own. Many lost their work-based health insurance.  Parents have been struggling to pay the rent or mortgage and to keep food on the table. Some are facing electric and gas shut-offs. In the meantime, child care centers have closed and many grandparents can’t help out. Parents don’t know if their children will continue distance learning. People are not confident that their workplaces are safe. Yet Ms. Bennett has no qualms about taking pot shots at people receiving unemployment benefits, suggesting they are taking advantage of the situation.   

Ms. Bennett should know that many economists say unemployment benefits have not only helped families to escape eviction and hunger, they have stimulated the economy. There is nearly universal agreement among economists from the award-winning Lee Shafer of the Minneapolis Tribune to Deborah Lucas at MIT that continuing the unemployment benefits at present levels is essential if the economy has any hope of rebounding and escape falling into a depression.

Ms. Bennett has failed working families in other ways. Just weeks ago, Ms. Bennett voted against HF4556 to increase funding to Second Harvest, which provides food to food pantries by buying goods from Minnesota farmers. She voted against covering COVID testing with MA funds so all people could afford to get tested. The bill passed the House 103-31 with many Republicans voting for it. It passed the Republican Senate by a 64-3 vote.

I’m afraid Ms. Bennett has long forgotten her roots as an elementary teacher. She does not seem to realize that while some of us are eligible for pensions, Social Security, Medicare and maybe even a salary, some of the citizens of this district are working families just trying to make ends meet, and who sometimes need a little help. Like during a pandemic.

A good leader works for the citizens of a district and does not succumb to the forces of partisan politics. A good leader knows when to compromise to work for the common good. Ms. Bennett has done neither. I think it is time for a new voice and new direction.  Thomas Martinez is a family man, married and raising four small children. He understands the problems working families face and will represent our interests. It’s time for a new perspective. 

Mary Hinnenkamp

Albert Lea