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Local

Underwood talks about challenges, health disparities caused by COVID-19

Spoke at rally in St. Charles as election day nears

ST. CHARLES – During Monday's drive-in rally at the Kane County Fairgrounds, U.S. Rep. Lauren Underwood talked about the importance of the upcoming election.

"So many people talk about this election as if we're just electing a new president on Nov. 3," Underwood said. "It is so much bigger than that. And it's so much bigger than me. It's our county boards, our state reps, it's the U.S. Senate. Who represents us at every level of government – that's on the ballot in this election."

Underwood, D-Naperville, is facing a challenge from state Sen. Jim Oberweis, R-Sugar Grove. She first was elected to Congress in November 2018, beating incumbent Randy Hultgren.

The rally was to celebrate the first day of expanded early voting. In addition, the film "Surge," which documents Underwood's 2018 campaign along with the campaigns of two other female congressional candidates, was screened during the rally.

During her remarks, Underwood recounted why she ran for office in the first place – to ensure that her constituents have access to the health care they need. Underwood is a registered nurse.

"I began this journey more than three years ago because of a broken promise," she said. "Our representative made a promise to protect our health care. And then he broke it. And I couldn't accept that. Because I believe that health care is a human right. That's a foundational principle of my nursing career. The pandemic has only underscored the importance of high quality, affordable health care for every family in this community."

Underwood said that everyone that has been infected with the virus needs to have access to treatment.

"Or we're all put at greater risk," she said. "The case for reform has never been clearer. While this pandemic has devastated our small businesses, health insurance companies are enjoying record profits."

She also noted that COVID-19 has further exposed racial health disparities.

"Black Americans are dying of COVID at twice the rate of white Americans, while the coronavirus outbreak in the Navajo Nation led to more deaths per capita than any single state," Underwood said. "This crisis has revealed the absolute necessity of paid family leave, affordable child care and equal pay for women."

Underwood said that one in four American women is considering reducing her work hours or leaving the work force entirely because of the disruptions of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"The truth is, when child care is unavailable or when it's inaccessible, the burden falls on working women," she said. "We are in the middle of a once in a generation crisis that will change our world forever. It's also a once in a generation opportunity to catapult us into an economy and a health care system that works for everyone."

She vowed that America will overcome the challenges the virus has brought.

"We will beat this virus, we will build back from this crisis stronger than we were before, because that, my friends, is what we're capable of," Underwood said. "We can do difficult things. We can overcome any obstacle when we act together."

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