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"Rural folks need working-class representation."
LIST OF ISSUES
I have two young children that used to love going to the movies, the mall, and other
social outings. However, after watching the news and seeing mass murders almost daily, they no longer want to go anywhere. They have told me they are worried about getting shot and feel safer at home.
This is so different from when I was a child; I played outside freely with no concerns, enjoyed going to the stores with my friends, and looked forward to attending summer camps with my other 4-H club members. I never had to practice safety drills at my schools in case an active shooter attacked us. These are new and horrible things that this generation is learning to live with.
The sad truth is that one in twenty-five kindergartners won’t make it to their 40th birthday due to gun violence. I believe in the right to own guns responsibly, but more legislation needs to be created to protect our children. I think that assault weapons initially designed for military use should be banned and prohibited. I want our children to have a childhood like I did……free from gun violence.
Care for the elderly
Growing up, my grandparents lived in another state, and we only got the opportunity to visit them occasionally. But I was blessed to have the sweetest elderly neighbor that lived next door to me and my sister, and I adopted her as both our “grandmother” and “friend.” I have always had a soft spot in my heart for older adults and am saddened by their daily struggles here in Virginia.
The elderly population comprises 21% of the population 60 years or older, and in rural communities, it is 18% of the population 65 years or older. Of these older adults, 37% live alone and are socially isolated. I want to work on legislation that will provide older adults with the services they need to age in place and provide housing that allows them to be independent. They have worked hard for what they have during their lifetime and deserve to receive support to age in place.
Another issue facing the elderly in Virginia is that one in five Virginians is currently caring for a family member or friend with a health problem or disability. I want to ensure caregivers are provided information for care coordination services to help promote aging at home. Older people are one of the most vulnerable groups in our population. I want to strengthen the adult protective services system to protect their rights and prevent abuse and neglect of our older adults. We forget that we will be older and want this for ourselves one day.
Agriculture & Sustainability
I have a small homesteading farm that my children and I named “County Heart Farm.” My family and I grow our own produce and raise our meat to be as self-sufficient as possible and to be able to sell our surplus to provide a living for ourselves. I am well aware of the difficulties farmers face, such as rising feed and hay prices, livestock medications, and materials to fix fences and barns, to name a few. I know farming is a 365-day, 24-hour-a-day job with no breaks.
The average age of a farmer in Virginia is 58.5. I want to create solutions to get younger farmers interested in farming through training and education. Not everyone wants a college degree; some people like to play in the dirt with animals. I want to be able to support the farmers in southwest Virginia by promoting agrotourism as a possibility for growth and sustainability for their farms.
Climate crises are another challenge facing farmers. It only takes one season of too much rain, too little rain, or freezing temperatures to wipe out all their work. By 2030 crop yield failures will be 4.5% higher, and by 2050 it will shoot up to 25% at the current rate. I want to work on coming up with solutions to reverse or slow down the impact of climate crises on the farming community. It is an issue that impacts every single American.
Women and Family Rights
I am a mother, a sister, and a daughter, and I want to ensure my daughter has all the
opportunities for a successful life. While girls often do well at school, they end up in
employment sectors offering less financial reward. In contrast, higher-paying sectors like banking, finance, and technology are disproportionately male. Young women must be encouraged and supported in the school system to believe in themselves and their abilities.
Women are far more likely to take career breaks to look after the family and to return to work on part-time wages. Employers are reluctant to employ women based on their gender because they know there may be gaps in their employment with them. We need to ensure that women receive paid family and medical leave to receive 12 paid weeks of leave for themselves, loved ones, and the birth of a child. Working women must access affordable, quality childcare regardless of their income.
And most of all, women need to be able to be in charge of their bodies and be able to make their own healthcare choices. Government should not be in the room with women and their doctors while they make health care decisions.
My grandfather, “Big Jim,” was a lifelong military man who took great pride in serving
his country. He passed away in 2021 at 92, and my son received an army hat from Big Jim that he cherishes and wears. I have always greatly respected all the veterans who have sacrificed and given so much for America. In Virginia, 47% of veterans are 60 years or older, 38,000 + are homeless, and many experience substance abuse disorders. Veterans are more likely than civilians to have experienced traumatic events, which can lead to an increased risk of substance abuse and addiction. Also, veterans are more likely to be prescribed opioid pain medications for chronic pain, which can lead to opioid addiction. Statistics show that veterans
are twice as likely as civilians to die from accidental opioid overdoses. And almost one in ten veterans reported misusing prescription drugs in the past year. I want to ensure that veterans continue receiving the services, housing, and support they rightly deserve.
In 2018, it was reported that more than 50% of Southwest Virginians lived in poverty and earned less than the essential cost of living. More and more people and families are being displaced as their rental rates go up, and there are fewer and fewer affordable houses and apartments available.
A report submitted to the state legislature in 2021 estimated that at least 200,000 affordable housing units are needed across Virginia. It only takes one crisis to have a family find themselves homeless and on the streets. They often have to live double up with friends and family to have a roof over their heads. And when they save up enough money to finally be able to move into permanent and affordable housing, it is non-existent. In addition, if they have a flawed rental record of paying late or being evicted, it makes finding affordable, safe housing even more difficult. More legislation needs to be created to allow the people in our community to have more housing options available to them.
There is a continuing issue of substance abuse disorder in Southwest Virginia. Virginia’s Department of Health says opioid overdose became the leading cause of unnatural death in the commonwealth in 2013.
In 2020, the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, four Virginians died from an opioid overdose every day. Opioid use has become even more problematic because drugs are laced with the synthetic Fentanyl, which is lethal at smaller doses. And some people have transitioned from prescription opioids to heroin or amphetamines. Martinsville saw the second-highest opioid prescription rate per capita in the entire country between 2006 and 2012. When you talk to family and friends, they all know someone that struggles with substance abuse disorder. It impacts v each family member. Unfortunately, there are not enough resources in our region for those seeking recovery. There are not enough recovery units, counselors, or transportation for them to seek the help they need. We need to remove the stigma attached to substance abuse disorder and provide them and their families with the resources required to become a part of the community and be successful.
Every home in Southwest Virginia should have affordable, high-speed broadband.
Broadband is essential for individuals that work from home, for students to connect quickly and efficiently, and for businesses to operate to their total capacity. Unfortunately, so many parts of our region still do not have this capability due to a lack of broadband access. Rural communities should not be deprived of the ability to have quality and affordable high-speed broadband. I will fight to ensure that broadband funds come to our region.
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