'We'll make it, but our life is different': CIT Transportation owners share COVID struggles at Ernst's Ames visit
U.S. Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, made an Ames stop on her northwest and north-central Iowa tour, her first tour since voting to acquit President Donald Trump during his second impeachment trial.
In line with her previous comments, Ernst said during her Ames visit Wednesday the impeachment was unconstitutional, as Trump was out of office. Fellow Iowa Republican U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley also voted to acquit the former president.
Ernst said if the trial took place before Trump's term ended, her vote may have been different — though she previously doubted the January breach at the Capitol rose to the legal definition of an insurrection.
"It was not Constitutional. President Trump was no longer a sitting president and the entire point of impeachment is to remove a sitting president who may be a threat to the United States," Ernst said to the Tribune. "Others have asked if it had happened months ago would that have made a difference? Yeah, it would have."
The Senate voted 57-43, 10 votes shy of the necessary two-thirds to convict, leading to Trump's acquittal.
Ernst's visit Wednesday to CIT Signature Transportation, where Story County conducts COVID-19 testing, brought the pandemic's impact on the transportation industry and health officials' COVID-19 response needs to the forefront of her visit.
Ernst met with the test center workers adorned in PPE, Story County health officials and CIT owners John and Kim Grzywacz, who relayed the needs of yet another industry hurting from COVID-19.
John Grzywacz said CIT sees 10% of its typical ridership, and Kim Grzywacz said they at one point thought all the money would be gone by Valentine's Day.
"It is an industry that's not at the forefront of people's minds," Ernst said. "They are one of the hardest-hit industries because people are not moving around. We have to remember, transportation is a necessity."
John Grzywacz said their business is "going to make it," but other transportation services likely won't and their lives and future retirement are permanently impacted. They can no longer afford their son's Catholic school tuition and their personal savings have diminished.
"We'll make it, but our life is different," Grzywacz said. "Now there's an upside to everything. My boys who want this business, they can afford to buy it now 'cause it ain't worth a lot. I don't get to retire. I gotta work for them, but they can afford it."
While industries like transportation and small businesses struggle, health officials push that COVID mitigation should not let up.
"I'm very supportive of small businesses," Mary Greeley Chief Financial Officer Gary Botine said to the Tribune Wednesday. "We can't let off the foot pedal right now in terms of the virus ... We're encouraging people to do all the precautionary measures."
Story County Public Health director Les White said Wednesday, after an unpredictable dose supply during a vaccine shortage, the county receives about 1,075 vaccine doses per week. The county has administered 14,600 total doses as of Wednesday evening.
"We're probably not going to be out of tier one until the end of March," White said. "But at least now we know exactly how much we're going to get per week, so we can plan better."
All COVID legislation should make vaccination a focus, Ernst said — though Iowa was ranked 47th in the nation in per capita vaccinations. Ernst said she and Grassley approached leaders at Operation Warp Speed, a public-private partnership to accelerate the U.S. vaccine rollout, to collect data and understand their methods for allocation.
"They're saying, 'Oh no, we're giving you enough,'" Ernst said. "But when we look at states around us, it makes us wonder. Be transparent so we know we're getting our fair share of vaccinations."