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Covid-19 has changed so much about our daily lives in such a short time, and now that change has come to our state government. Shortly, we'll be going into a special session. In this extraordinary moment, it is our duty as public servants to be as responsive as possible to the people.

I am reminded of my first year in state government. It was 2001, another year of crisis, and it was a trial by fire for a first-timer like me. Since then, I've passed bills, led committees, and built deep relationships with legislators of both parties. With nearly two decades of experience under my belt, I am clear-eyed about my duty to work with Governor Hutchinson and my colleagues to pass meaningful legislation to help Arkansas families.

During this crisis, we need to support our first responders. As public servants, it is our duty to enact legislation to support those on the front lines. It seems many of us have a picture in our heads of first responders only as medical personnel or firefighters. This crisis calls upon us to expand our idea of first responders to include hospital staff, supply-chain truckers, grocery store workers, food service workers, teachers, journalists, pharmacists, and so many others who put themselves at risk and work tirelessly to keep us safe and healthy. They're looking out for us. My colleagues and I have a duty as public servants to look out for them.

First responders and their organizations need support with everything from child care to small-business loans. Grocery store workers shouldn't have to choose between leaving their young children home alone and providing food for our communities. Arkansas hospitals shouldn't have to compete with California for critical supplies and funding. We recognize these needs and will be working tirelessly to address them.

We all can recognize that this is a time where everyone cannot pull themselves up by their bootstraps. Times like these are why we have public servants--why we have community leaders to do the right thing. Even those with the best-laid plans are hurting. We will work to strengthen unemployment benefits, establish paid sick leave, and set up immediate financial relief. Hospitals and schools especially are facing a new reality, and we will work to secure resources and break down barriers to their success.

Finally, we have to look out for the state as a whole. We are mandated by our constitution to balance our budget in Arkansas. Our values bind us with a moral mandate to balance the budget with the right priorities. As Dr. King never failed to remind us, a budget is a moral document, and these extraordinary times compel us to find a space in our budget for these emergency programs. We all have a role to play, and we will all have sacrifices to make as we get through this crisis and work toward our more perfect union.

This week, Arkansas legislators will convene in an extraordinary session, and we will all be there to help the state we love. Public service is the answer to this public health crisis, and we will lead by example to persevere through these uncertain times.

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Sen. Joyce Elliott represents District 31 in the state Senate. She is also a candidate for the U.S. House of Representatives in the 2nd District.

Editorial on 03/26/2020

Print Headline: In uncertain times

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