WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) joined the Dayton Development Coalition’s virtual fly-in. The annual fly-in was conducted virtually this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In his remarks, Brown spoke about his work to keep Ohioans healthy and safe during the Coronavirus pandemic, his work to support the fight for racial justice and his ongoing efforts to keep Ohioans safe from gun violence.

“I want to hear from you this morning, but I also want to urge you to be in touch with all of your elected officials at the federal level, just like you have the opportunity to do today. Everyone in Congress needs to feel the pressure to pass legislation in Washington that gets you the help you need. And that’s what the DDC does best – engage with policymakers, advocate for the Miami Valley, deliver results,” said Brown.

Last month, Brown released a plan to keep Ohioans safe, protect workers and reopen the economy safely. Brown wrote to President Trump calling on the Administration to increase testing capacity, facilitate intensive contact tracing, enact enforceable worker safety protections, and support effective isolation and quarantine methods in advance of any attempts to relax social distancing guidelines or reopen the economy.

Brown also recently announced a plan to provide local governments with direct federal relief that can be used to pay for essential services and offset lost revenues and increased costs from the COVID-19 emergency. This local assistance would be a complement to critical relief that states also require in this crisis.

Earlier this month, Brown helped introduce the Justice in Policing Act this week, a comprehensive package that puts important policing reforms into place, helps ends racial profiling in the criminal justice system and works to improve police-community relations.

Brown also continues pushing for commonsense gun safety reform. Last September, Brown and Dayton Mayor Nan Whaley stood together in Washington to call on Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to allow a vote on the Universal Background Checks bill that the House passed. In August, Brown joined Whaley in a press conference after receiving a briefing with local law enforcement officials and visiting the site of the Dayton shooting, where the shooter killed nine people and injured at least 26.  Brown has repeatedly called on Mitch McConnell to vote on universal background checks legislation.

Brown’s remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:

I’m honored to start off this special version of the DDC’s annual fly-in. The fly-in is one of the longest-running events I do every spring – you have all heard me say that the DDC is a model for the state, and I would expect nothing less than for you to not miss a beat moving this event online.

Before we get started talking about how we address the impact of the pandemic in the Miami Valley and your priorities for 2021, I want to acknowledge the pain, and anger, and calls for justice Americans are expressing in the protests around the country and around Ohio right now. 

This pandemic and systemic racism are not separate problems – they’re intimately connected. The virus has been the “great revealer” of racial disparities in our society.

Every day since May 29, large numbers of Ohioans have gathered together to March for racial equality and justice. We have to listen. 

These protests have been mostly peaceful. It has been heartening to watch Ohioans join together to protest peacefully, sometimes even with local law enforcement joining in—as we saw with police officers in Beavercreek, who kneeled with protesters, and joined them in saying “Black Lives Matter.” 

It’s this kind of unity that should give us all hope that we can work together on the long road ahead.

I also want to acknowledge the particular pain people in Dayton have endured over the past year.

You’re facing the legacy of systemic racism and coping with a global pandemic, all on top of the grief from last August’s shooting, and last year’s tornadoes, and the hate-filled KKK rally.

It seems like every month or two the words “Dayton Strong” are given new meaning.

I wish I could tell you that we have made progress since August 4th. I wish I could tell you we broke through the gridlock, the president and Leader McConnell finally stopped doing the bidding of the gun lobby, and we finally passed commonsense gun violence reform.

Unfortunately we know that’s not the case. But I will never stop fighting, in honor of the nine Ohioans taken from us last summer, and the millions of other lives lost to gun violence.

I also wish I could tell you that we were making incredible progress coming out of this pandemic.

Governor DeWine and Dr. Acton did the right thing early on, and they undoubtedly saved lives. I give the governor a lot of credit for listening to the public health experts, for being transparent and holding his daily press conferences.

In the beginning, Ohio was leading the country on this.

Unfortunately, the president has failed the governor, he’s failed Ohio, and he’s failed the American people.

The governor is left choosing between a bunch of bad options, because we still don’t have adequate testing, we still don’t have readily available PPE for all workers, we still don’t have the contact tracing and effective means of isolation and quarantine we need, and we still don’t have strong, enforceable protections for workers.

And the president isn’t even trying.

120,000 Americans have lost their lives – we have a third of the world’s deaths. That’s not because we don’t have talented scientists and doctors and workers. It’s because of leadership.

I want to hear from you on this morning, but I also want to urge you to be in touch with all of your elected officials at the federal level, just like you have the opportunity to do today. 

Everyone in Congress needs to feel the pressure to pass legislation in Washington that gets you the help you need. And that’s what the DDC does best – engage with policymakers, advocate for the Miami Valley, deliver results.

The relief package – the CARES Act – we passed at the end of March was a good start, but we know more is needed, and we know there have been some problems in getting resources to the people and communities who need them most.

I pushed the Treasury Department to allow more flexibility in how local governments can use their CARES Act dollars – so now, at least, they can use it to pay health and safety officers’ salaries. But more resources and more flexibility are still needed.

Congress needs to get to work on more help – the House passed the HEROES Act nearly a month ago, and now we need to act in the Senate. But Mitch McConnell says he doesn’t “think we have yet felt the urgency.”

Ohio communities feel the urgency. You all know what is happening to local tax revenue.

Our communities shouldn’t have to choose between tax hikes and laying off teachers and firefighters. You need dedicated, flexible state and local funding, and you need it now to prevent layoffs.

I know you all recognize that we aren’t going to have a strong private sector if the public sector is hemorrhaging jobs. I appreciated the letter from Mayor Whaley and the Dayton Chamber urging us to pass additional state and local dollars, and I know you sent the same letter to Senator Portman.

The House has done its part, now in the Senate we need to do ours.

The House bill also makes the SBA’s Payroll Protection Program more accessible.  501(c)6 organizations – like Chambers of Commerce – were excluded from the program, but would be eligible for PPP under the House plan.

This pandemic is also yet another painful reminder of just how vulnerable millions of workers are to a single setback – whether it is losing your job, a broken-down car, or just being late on rent.

We need to put money in people’s pockets so they can keep paying their bills, stay in their homes, and keep spending in the economy.  That means:

  • More stimulus checks
  • UI
  • Rental and Homeowner Assistance

We could also seize this moment to actually invest in infrastructure, including in military construction at Wright-Patt.

Now it is time for Congress to step up. I will keep working with my Republican colleagues Senator Portman, Congressmen Turner and Davidson on priorities for Wright-Patt.

But funding in NDAA isn’t going to be enough when we are facing the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression.

I’ve worked on various issues.

We cannot get the Miami Valley the comprehensive investment you need if the president and Mitch McConnell keep sitting on their hands.

Weigh in however you can – we need them to understand that this isn’t a partisan issue.  Communities of all sizes, all over the country need help.

Now I want to hear from you.