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WGLT's reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, which began in McLean County in March 2020.

Davis, LaHood: Congress Should Focus On Stimulus, Not Postal Service

Ryan Whitehouse speaks at news conference
Eric Stock
Connect Transit Board chair Ryan Whitehouse speaks at a news conference as U.S. Reps. Darin LaHood, left, and Rodney Davis watch.

Two central Illinois congressmen headed to Washington, D.C. this weekend for a special session said it’s not the reason they think they should be going.
U.S. House lawmakers will consider providing $25 billion in emergency funding for the U.S. Postal Service and banning the post officefrom making any more service cuts.

Democrats have accused the postmaster general, a donor to President Trump, of trying to sabotage an election that will rely heavily on mail-in balloting because of the pandemic. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has since said he would suspend operational changes until after the election.

U.S. Rep. Darin LaHood, a Republican from Peoria, said he wants to read the bill first before deciding if the post office should get more money.

“Does the post office need new money? Sure,” LaHood said. “Let’s also remember it’s lost $87 billion in the last 15 years. Like anything in government, figure out a way to make it more efficient, more effective, more accountable.”

U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, a Republican from Taylorville, said he supports more funding for the postal service, but called this a "fake crisis" led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats.

“We are going to fly out on a Saturday morning, fly back on Saturday afternoon and she is going to call that a work week,” Davis said. “That is not what Congress should be doing. We should be in Washington, D.C. right now talking about how we fund our schools, how we fund our local and state government.”

Davis said Americans can trust mail-in balloting, but he acknowledged the postal service could get overrun with ballots near Election Day, causing delays.

“It’s good policy for the post office to warn states that would might want to tell your voters to get it in before the deadline so that we make sure that vote gets back through the postal service in first-class mail and to our local election officials,” Davis said.

Davis and LaHood both said Congress should be working on more COVID stimulus funding.

“I just think it’s a bit ridiculous that we are going back to D.C. to vote on a postal bill when we ought to be voting on a stimulus bill,” LaHood said.

He added it's more important Congress find money for business liability protection, expanded COVID testing and local governments hit hard by the pandemic. He said $1 trillion may be needed.

Connect Transit funding 

Davis and LaHood visited Connect Transit offices in Normal on Thursday to discuss the $8 million grant the Federal Transit Administration recently approved for a new transfer center in downtown Bloomington.

Transit officials said they will likely need another $3 million to $4 million before breaking ground on a new facility.

Artist rendering of transportation center
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT
Connect Transit displayed designs for a proposed transfer center in Bloomington.

Transit board chairman Ryan Whitehouse said Connect Transit also has $3 million in state funding set aside for the project. He said the transit agency is looking for more state and federal dollars and may need to use cash reserves to pay for the rest.

“Exactly where it’s going to come from, I don’t have that answer because I don’t know where it’s going to come from. I’m just trying to be optimistic that when you are almost there, I think with help from our partners and our election delegations and agencies, that we can get to that finish line,’ Whitehouse said.

Whitehouse said the cost will depend on the site chosen and amenities.

Group posing for picture in front of bus
Credit Eric Stock / WGLT
Connect Transit presented outgoing general manager Isaac Thorne with an old bus fare collector as a going away gift. Thorne is leaving to become the Transit Director for Knoxville, Tennessee.

“I think in today’s world,these are essential things,” he said. “We need heating and cooling, we need indoors, we need restrooms, we need wi-fi access, we need safety. The current transportation station does not have any of that.”

The transit agency plans to select a site this fall. Whitehouse said he hopes Connect Transit to break ground within the next year and open it in two years. 

GOP convention

LaHood said Republicans will have to find creative ways to energize the party faithful next week since its presidential convention will be mostly virtual because of the pandemic.

“It’s different, there’s no doubt,” LaHood said. “It’s been challenging, it’s been disruptive with COVID and doing it virtually will definitely be a different atmosphere.”

LaHood co-chairs Trump's re-election campaign in Illinois. When asked if he liked anything he saw this week at the first virtual Democratic convention, LaHood said he has a different memory of the Obama presidency than the Democrats portrayed.

“This glowing rendition of how things were when Obama left, I’m not sure I’ve seen the evidence of that,” he said.

LaHood also called it “ironic” that the Democrats didn't talk during their convention about what he calls the "lawlessness and looting" that's been going on in Chicago and other cities.

We’re living in unprecedented times when information changes by the minute. WGLT will continue to be here for you, keeping you up-to-date with the live, local and trusted news you need. Help ensure WGLT can continue with its in-depth and comprehensive COVID-19 coverage as the situation evolves by making a contribution.

Eric Stock is the News Director at WGLT. You can contact Eric at ejstoc1@ilstu.edu.