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Fareway manager James Riley shows Representative Ashley Hinson around Fareway, pointing out their current remodeling project.

Representative Ashley Hinson visited Fareway Meat & Grocery in Manchester as part of her Delaware County tour. She stopped to see how pandemic policies have impacted Fareway’s business operation regarding job opportunities and labor shortages.

“Fareway is a great community partner,” said Hinson, “opening up new stores in smaller Iowa communities to give people access to fresh food and groceries. I think that’s absolutely great, especially when you talk about Iowa being a state that relies on so much rural. We want to keep our rural communities alive, so I think it’s great to see a community partner like that continue to invest in our rural communities.”

After the tour, Hinson discussed current events and their effect on the workforce.

“There are challenges facing this industry right now,” she said. “We heard about some of those today with supply chains, and specifically with labor and workforce. That is a common theme I’m hearing in every business I’m talking to. It’s ‘Where are people and how can we get them back to work?’. That’s a challenge we’re ready to figure out if there’s a policy solution and what we can do to encourage more people to go back to work. Again, that’s where I think, moving out of this pandemic, I’m continuing to tell the story that we have to get back to work, back to health and back to normal. To do that, I think vaccination is important, which is why I’ve chosen to be vaccinated.”

While Hinson herself is vaccinated and advocates for it as a safe and reasonable way to lead Iowa back to a normal and productive state, she said getting the vaccine is a personal choice that should not be forced on any individuals by the government.

“I can tell you there are a lot of questions about these mandates. I don’t believe we should be forcing people to get this shot. I’ve been very public that I’m vaccinated and I believe they are safe and effective, but I want that to remain your choice. I’ve been very clear about that. I think the mandate last week went too far. We were making great progress towards getting more people vaccinated and I think this sends the wrong message. It will be challenged in the courts and that should absolutely play out because people need to make sure their rights aren’t being disrespected in that regard. My office and I have received more feedback on that, from last Thursday when it was announced, than almost any other issue in the nine months I’ve been in congress.”

Regarding the recovery of local and state economies, Hinson said a key starting point is for the government to stop incentivizing people to remain unemployed through benefits.

“We should stop paying people to stay home, number one. I didn’t vote to extend the unemployment benefits, but I know Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a representative from New York, is introducing legislation to extend those benefits. That is not the right direction to get people back to work. What I’ve heard is that people are comfortable starting to resume their activities, the vaccine is readily available and employers are hiring and paying more. They’re doing everything they can to be competitive, but we need to stop paying people to stay home. There’s been this influx in cash and I think people have changed their lifestyles as a result of that.”

Hinson also believes education and providing aid to childcare by removing red tape are key to addressing the labor shortage.

“Number one on the policy side we need to be actively and urgently addressing is making sure access to childcare exists. That’s why I’ve introduced legislation to actually gather data on over-regulation of child centers, for example. How can we make it so they don’t have as many pieces of red tape they have to jump through to stay open, hindering their expansion and growth? Those are some of the policy theories we’ve started working on. I’m on the jobs and economy task force and I’m chairing the 21st Century Job Initiative, so we’re talking about how education components may play into re-skilling people looking for a different opportunity now coming out of the pandemic.”