Dr. Boozman's Check-up

As I travel around Arkansas it is exciting to see all of the things that are returning to normal this summer. However, if you plan to go outside the continental United States or have a family member who wants to visit from another country, you may find that many of those processes are still anything but normal.

There are many factors causing delays and making certain types of travel difficult. Travelers need to plan ahead further in advance, be prepared to jump through new hoops and understand that some trips still aren’t possible. 

First, it is important to know that passport services are still delayed. Due to COVID-19, the lack of passport processing last year created a backlog and increased demands on the U.S. Passport Service. Travelers should plan for a routine application to take 10 to 12 weeks and an expedited passport to take four to six weeks.

For the last month, my office has been inundated with calls from Arkansans with passport problems. Unfortunately, officials cannot guarantee processing of last-minute requests for tourist and business travel. It has been very difficult to get an appointment with passport officials less than two weeks from a trip. If you plan to travel this fall, now is the time to check the expiration date on your passport or apply for a new one. The latest information can be found at travel.state.gov/passports

The second challenge involves visitors from other parts of the world who need a visitor visa to see friends and family in the U.S. Many of our embassies around the world are still operating at very limited capacity and not processing routine visas. Most are prioritizing life and death emergencies, critical workers and students registered in academic programs which means they are not issuing visas for typical tourism or business travel to the U.S. The best place to check on the status of each embassy is on the State Department’s website.

My staff and I are always happy to inquire with the appropriate agencies to find out what is possible. However, we have had to manage our expectations and let many people know that the visit they hoped for this summer cannot happen until our embassies return to normal.

The third challenge we are seeing is with pre-travel testing for COVID-19, particularly for islands within the United States and its territories. These small, isolated locations are appropriately vigilant about the spread of COVID-19 and often have very specific rules. It is critical that travelers to places like Hawaii and the U.S. Virgin Islands carefully review the requirements before boarding a plane. Unfortunately, Arkansans have tested negative for COVID-19 and been forced to either leave or quarantine because they did not get their test at a preapproved location. 

The bottom line is that we all need to plan ahead and have patience this summer. Employees at these agencies are working hard to help as many Americans as they can, as quickly as possible. Hopefully we will begin to see rapid improvement in these processes and continue our march toward normalcy. As always, if you have any problems involving a federal government agency, please feel free to reach out to my office.

 

A round-up of some of Sen. Boozman's public comments about the new coronavirus (COVID-19), including how he and his colleagues in the Senate are responding to this crisis.

Arkansans have a lot of questions about the Economic Impact Payment (EIP) that Congress approved at the end of 2020. The media often refers to these payments as ‘stimulus checks.' 

The IRS has been issuing these payments. The best place to start in finding the status of a payment is the Get My Payment button on the IRS website. This will show if and when the payment was processed. It is important to note that it is taking approximately three to four weeks from that processing date to receive the payment. Arkansans with a January 6 date on the IRS website have told me they just received their check in the mail this week.

If the IRS website indicates the payment status is “unavailable” you may still be able to get one. The IRS added a line to this year’s tax forms so you can claim an unreceived EIP from both 2020 and 2021. You will have to file a tax return to see if there is any money through the Recovery Rebate Credit.

I understand this impacts many Arkansans who don’t normally file a tax return. If you need help with this to pursue your EIP, check out the file for free resources from the IRS or find the closest Volunteer Income Tax Assistance site

During August, I had the privilege of visiting our great health care workers at several hospitals and clinics across the state.  

These visits gave me an opportunity to hear from frontline health care workers to gain an inside look into the needs of Arkansas’s health care system during the COVID-19 public health emergency. I appreciate their dedication and commitment to providing the highest quality care to Arkansans. Their resilience and bravery have not gone unnoticed and is greatly valued by us all. 

I will continue to do everything in my power to ensure our frontline heroes are fully equipped with every resource necessary to care for COVID-19 patients while keeping themselves safe.  

Here are some of the highlights from my visits as covered by media outlets in Arkansas:

Today marks the centennial anniversary of the formal adoption of the 19th Amendment into the U.S. Constitution. This landmark victory—which granted women the constitutional right to vote— was the culmination of more than 70 years of persistent and determined work by suffragists to ensure women enjoyed the same right as their male counterparts to cast ballots in elections and make their voices heard on questions of representation and public policy. Generations of women fought to achieve this milestone.

The women’s suffrage movement dates back to 1848 when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott organized the first women’s rights convention in Stanton, New York. The fight for constitutional change flourished in the decades following, and women suffragists and advocates alike publicly demonstrated through protests, silent vigils and even hunger strikes to demand change. 

While women’s suffrage saw little progress at the federal level initially, efforts to modify state suffrage requirements progressed. Advancement at the state level is largely attributed to the development of women’s suffrage organizations and the influential work of their members. Two such groups formed in Arkansas: the Arkansas Women Suffrage Association in 1881 and the Political Equality League in 1911. Leaders of these two organizations tirelessly lobbied the Arkansas State Legislature for an equal suffrage law and eventually saw success in 1918 when women won the right to vote in Arkansas primary elections. However, the fight was not over.

In 1919, Congress passed the Susan B. Anthony amendment, which became the 19th amendment, pushing the bill to the states for ratification. In overwhelming support of women’s suffrage, Arkansas became the 12th state to ratify the amendment and other states quickly followed. 

Thirteen years later, Arkansas voters helped break the glass ceiling for women legislators when they elected Hattie Caraway to serve in the U.S. Senate. She became the first woman to win election to the Senate in 1932. Her portrait hangsoutside of the U.S. Senate chamber as a reminder of the trail she blazed for future generations of women.

As we celebrate 100 years of the ratification of the 19th amendment, we recognize the pioneers who championed women’s rights and those who continue to fight for opportunities granted by the American promise. 

Arkansas children struggling with hunger during this public health crisis will be getting additional support now that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved Arkansas’s operational plan for the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) program.

Created by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the program provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price school meals who have been unable to benefit from these programs while closures are in place.