By Robert Pittenger
One of my most important jobs is making sure your tax dollars are spent wisely. We must restore fiscal sanity in Washington, forcing bureaucrats to live within a budget and focus on priorities just like you do with your personal finances.
This week, every member of Congress submitted official requests to the Appropriations Committee listing priorities for federal spending in their home districts. This lays the groundwork for building a responsible budget. Here in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District, supporting access to rural health care is a priority.
Why? Six out of eight counties are eligible for rural health grants (Anson, Richmond, Scotland, Robeson, Cumberland, and Bladen). Four of those counties recently ranked in the bottom 10 in North Carolina for quality of health.
In much of our district, access to quality health-care services can be difficult for patients. Funds for rural health-care programs play a critical role in solidifying the fragile health-care infrastructure in these communities.
One of my priority requests is the Rural Hospital Flexibility Program, which provides Critical Access Hospitals with crucial funding for updating equipment, delivery models and care. Bladen County Hospital would benefit from this program.
Another request is for the State Offices of Rural Health, which in 2016 provided assistance to HealthQuest of Union County, Scotland Community Health Clinic, Southeastern Regional Medical Center, Cape Fear Valley Medical Foundation and many other providers.
The State Offices of Rural Health helps rural communities, including technical assistance, recruitment of health-care professionals to come serve in rural communities and coordinating rural health needs statewide.
Technology is also improving how we provide health care to rural areas. “Telehealth services” allows patients to be diagnosed and monitored in their homes instead of requiring them to drive long distances to see their doctor. This not only increases access, but reduces costs since care doesn’t always have to take place in an expensive setting, or involve expensive transportation.
To make telehealth services more widely available, I have requested support for the Office for the Advancement of Telehealth, which develops partnerships between the federal government, state agencies, and the private sector to create telehealth projects. These grants help reduce the isolation of rural health providers.
Some of my other priority projects include Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants, which is a big long name for a program to help rebuild transportation infrastructure. Specifically, I’m working to support a request by the Town of Pembroke and UNC Pembroke. To support economic development in Lumberton, I’ve also requested flexibility with the population requirements of a USDA grant program which has previously provided vital assistance in Robeson County.
As a fiscal conservative, I will fight to ensure your tax dollars are spent wisely, including ongoing efforts to reduce wasteful spending and eliminate outdated programs. As your Congressman, I will also fight on your behalf for appropriate, useful programs which deliver real results for our communities.
If you need assistance with federal issues, or if you have thoughts or questions on priorities for our district, please don’t hesitate to call my Washington office at 202-225-1976, my Charlotte office at 704-362-1060, my Fayetteville office at 910-303-0669, or my Monroe office at 704-917-9573. My team and I are honored to serve you.
Serving constituents through better radar
Our neighbors near Charlotte and Monroe live in what meteorologists describe as a “radar gap,” where the distance to the nearest National Weather Service Doppler radar and the curvature of the earth mean meteorologists don’t have consistently reliable data about storms.
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously approved the Weather Research and Forecasting Innovation Act (H.R. 353), which includes my legislation requiring the Commerce Department to study and quickly develop a solution to the radar gap. Last week, the U.S. Senate also gave unanimous approval to this legislation with support from Senator Burr.
Without local, reliable data, the National Weather Service has actually missed at least two tornados and issued warnings for the wrong neighborhood, among other problems. This legislative solution now heads to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.
Congressman Robert Pittenger (NC-09) is chairman of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare and vice chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism and Illicit Finance. He serves on the House Financial Services Committee, with a special focus on supporting small businesses, community banks and credit unions.