Taxpayer dollars at work: What your U.S. senators from Georgia are doing the week ending Aug. 11
This summer, GPB News Democracy intern Ambria Burton is following the activities of U.S. Sens. Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock.
Each week on Fridays, we'll run down a list of activities that follow your dollars back to communities in Georgia.
This week, Ossoff and Warnock were in Georgia and focused on new projects for the Moody Air Force Base; affordable housing for young military families; stopping Senate leadership from cutting federal support to Georgia hospitals; and resources for domestic violence resources.
Moody Air Force Base
Ossoff met with leadership at Moody Air Force Base in Valdosta, Ga., on Monday to discuss plans for new F-35 fighters coming soon.
The visit comes after Ossoff and the U.S. Air Force announced in June that the Department of the Air Force selected Moody AFB for the next active duty F-35A Lightning II mission.
A June 26 press release stated, "The two squadrons of F-35As are projected to begin arriving in FY29, and the number of personnel is expected to remain the same." The Department of the Air Force is also conducting "an environmental impact analysis," expected by fall 2025.
Young military families
On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate passed Ossoff's bipartisan legislation to improve housing affordability for young military families in Georgia.
The Junior Enlisted Housing Affordability Act, named after active-duty service members ranking between specific pay grades, improves how the Department of Defense "calculates housing allowances for junior enlisted service members with dependents to more accurately assess their housing costs," per an Aug. 8 statement.
"When I sit down with junior enlisted personnel and young military families, the cost of housing is a key issue," Ossoff said. "When service members and their families can't afford to live near the installation where they train and where they're stationed, that has an impact on readiness."
The Senate passed the legislation under this year's National Defense Authorization Act, championed by Ossoff.
Warnock visited Gainesville's Northeast Georgia Medical Center, a Hispanic family-run restaurant, and a local market, Carniceria Tapatia.
At the NGMC, Warnock discussed and listened to health care professionals and Georgians on the state's maternal mortality issues. According to an Aug. 10 press release, they also discussed "why Congress must act to invest in better health care outcomes for women in Georgia and across the country."
At his Carniceria Tapatia visit, Warnock announced the new $500,000 grant he secured for the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce to invest in Hispanic small businesses under the Small Business Administration, as Gainesville is at the center of one of Georgia's most booming migrant areas.
"The funds will be used for the salaries of business professionals and consultants, office space, and culturally competent resources, software, and education to increase the accessibility and convenience of Hispanic small business owners," as stated in the press release.
Insulin discussion on 'The Martha Zoller Show'
On WDUN's The Martha Zoller Show, Warnock spoke with the Gainesville radio host to discuss the Affordable Insulin Act of 2023, legislation to cap the universal cost of insulin at $35.
He explained to Zoller and the Founder and CEO of the Community Church of Atlanta, Pastor Roderick Hughey Sr., who has diabetes, his reasons for focusing on affordable insulin. His focus is because the health care system spends little money on those with diabetes.
"Diabetes is one disease, but one dollar out of four dollars in our health care system is spent on people with diabetes," Warnock said. "So, if we can get some control over this, not only will it help people like Pastor Rod and others, I think it will help to impact the overall cost of our health care system. Insulin has been around 100 years, a century! And when it was invented, the patent was sold for $1. There's no reason for insulin to be expensive."
Georgia hospitals federal cuts
Warnock joined a group of 50 bipartisan senators urging Senate leadership to take action in averting the upcoming cuts to the Medicaid Disproportionate Share Hospital program, which balances the cost for hospitals caring for mostly uninsured and underinsured patients.
Per an August 9 press release, "if no action is taken before Oct. 1, 2023, the program faces $8 billion in cuts nationwide, which could threaten access to care across the country."
In the 2023 fiscal year, the DSH program allocated about $336 million to the state of Georgia. Health care-based organizations supporting the senator's efforts to stop DSH program cuts include the Georgia Hospital Association, CHI Memorial Hospital, and the owner of several Georgia community health centers, Trinity Health.
In the letter the senators wrote: "Cuts of this magnitude could undermine the financial viability of hospitals, threatening access to care for the most vulnerable Americans. It is essential that we continue to protect those who have come to rely on the services provided by Medicaid DSH hospitals. We ask you to act as soon as possible to address the Medicaid DSH cuts to ensure our nation's hospitals can continue to care for every community."
Warnock, with Sen. Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), urged the Federal Communications Commission to initiate measures on rulemaking about digital discrimination.
The effort comes after The Markup and the Associated Press looked at thousands of internet offers from internet providers and examined the monthly price versus the base speed offered.
As stated in an Aug. 10 statement, they found that "lower median income neighborhoods were offered the worst deals (price for base speed) than higher median income neighborhoods. Addresses in formerly redlined areas of Atlanta 'were offered the worst deals at least twice as often as areas rated "best" or "desirable.'"
The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law requires that the FCC implements rules within two years that facilitate "equal access to broadband by preventing and eliminating digital discrimination on the basis of 'income level, race, ethnicity, color, religion, or national origin.'"
The letter urging the FCC asks that they take quick action to implement those rules to enable equal access to broadband internet by "adopting a disparate impact analysis."
“Atlanta residents shouldn’t be paying more for their internet just because of their address or ZIP code,” Warnock said. “I’m deeply troubled by internet providers’ practice of offering worse deals to formerly redlined neighborhoods … As people continue to work, learn, and more online, the FCC must act with urgency to end these discriminatory practices.”
Domestic violence resources
Ossoff is delivering $3 million in resources across Georgia to improve domestic violence prevention and support resources to Georgians. The resources will increase support services for victims of domestic violence, stalking, and assault.
The resources will go to "the State of Georgia's Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, which will then accept grant applications from certified domestic violence shelter programs statewide seeking funding," per an Aug.10 statement.