McConnell Talks Infrastructure, Vaccine Hesitancy In Covington
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said there's a chance funding will come together for the Brent Spence Bridge if the $1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure framework is agreed upon.
The Brent Spence Bridge has been repeatedly brought up by Ohio leaders as a vote on the plan nears. A proposed $2.6 billion plan would repair the existing Brent Spence and build a new bridge beside it to spread out the traffic load.
McConnell was in Covington Thursday to address a luncheon hosted by the Northern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce. He said a group of 20 Republican senators, including Ohio's Rob Portman, have reached an agreement with President Biden on the plan.
"Infrastructure's popular on both sides of the aisle and I hope it all comes together," McConnell said.
During an April discussion, Portman, a Republican, said the plan would "reduce employment" nationwide and that most proposals would "barely" go toward infrastructure.
On Cincinnati Edition earlier this week, Ohio's Democratic Sen. Sherrod Brown said Democrats want to pass a second piece of legislation on top of the infrastructure plan for "human infrastructure," or things like childcare, health care and education. Brown says it's "an opportunity to really invest in this country."
McConnell On Unemployment Benefits
McConnell also continued to urge Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear to stop the $300 federal benefit to unemployed citizens. He believes the aid is making it harder for people to go back to work. McConnell said when states like Ohio and Indiana stopped giving out federal benefits, they saw job applications go up.
"I think it's because, in our extraordinary generosity here, we have confronted people with a not irrational decision that it makes more sense to stay home than to go back to work," McConnell said. "It does, I think, raise larger issues of the whole value of work itself."
According to data from the U.S. Department of Labor, Kentucky saw the second largest decrease in initial unemployment claims the week of June 26.
Still, Northern Kentucky Tri-Ed recently conducted a survey that shows businesses have noted challenges with hiring employees. At least 73% of the survey's respondents are requesting outreach about workforce programs and services. Roughly 16% are creating policies related to employee health and wellbeing. Roughly 90% of businesses in the region said they would look at implementing new remote work policies going forward.
McConnell 'Perplexed' By Vaccine Hesitancy
As the delta variant spreads, less than 50% of Kentucky citizens have received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Data shows urban counties are outpacing rural counties in vaccine rates.
The Delta variant has also become the dominant coronavirus strain in the United States, accounting for more than 51% of COVID-19 cases nationwide. Vaccines appear to be highly effective at protecting against serious disease, hospitalization and death, including the Moderna vaccine.
McConnell said he's "perplexed" by the reluctance people have shown to get vaccinated.
"To use a sports analogy, we're in the red zone, the last 20 yards before the end zone, but we're not in the end zone yet because there is resistance for various reasons that seem to have gotten caught up in politics," McConnell said.
An effort to vaccinate 80% of the Greater Cincinnati region by July 4 came up short this past weekend. While urban counties in Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky have vaccine rates at above 50%, rural counties are shown to be typically behind, some even dipping below 30%.