Back in 2010, after putting in 80 hour weeks for over 30 years as a trucker, an accident forced me to retire, leaving disability benefits as my only income. Back before the accident, I worked so hard to earn enough money to provide for my family and my two daughters. I hauled just about everything just about everywhere, covering all the lower 48 states and carrying anything from construction supplies to natural disaster relief.

I saw firsthand this country’s crumbling roads and bridges. And felt how hard it was to have to work the equivalent of two full-time jobs just to scrape by while supporting a family.

As someone who became a Republican because I believe in jobs, opportunity, and supporting the middle class, I’m disappointed that my Republican Members of Congress Bill Johnson has apparently forgotten about the working class, first voting against the infrastructure deal that received bipartisan support from Ohio’s Senators, and now is refusing to support a budget bill that would invest in working people across the state.

After my injury, I “retired” from trucking and moved to Vinton to take care of my parents. That work was just as hard as trucking. I was one of over 40 million unpaid caregivers in the United States, and anyone in a similar situation could tell you that taking care of an elderly loved one can be a full-time job. I barely had time to keep up with my own health, and my COPD and high blood pressure worsened.

Even before the pandemic upended life as we know it, outrageous health costs left me choosing between heating my home or refilling my inhaler prescription. I pay around $200/month for prescriptions now, but during the pandemic I tried to switch insurance plans to save money, and it ended up costing me even more. One month, I paid $900 just for my life-saving medications. Adding on my mortgage, truck loan, and rising prices of groceries and gas, I couldn’t afford all my needs with just $2400/month in disability benefits. Any savings I had before the pandemic evaporated within months.

I’ve known that everyday people have needed a break ever since I was a working class parent some 20 years ago. I can’t even imagine what it’s like now for new parents like my daughter, who have to deal with rising childcare costs on top of the pandemic. That’s why I’m hopeful that after what seems like an eternity of inaction, Congress is finally moving towards relief for working families: but the fight is not over.

Things like expanded access to affordable prescriptions and health care, and lower energy prices will be a game changer for me, just as the Child Tax Credit and subsidized childcare will be for my daughter, but we still need to do more in this country to support the elderly and working families.

I left the Democratic Party many years ago to become a Republican, and supported the leadership of President Donald Trump. But when I look at Congress now, I see no Republicans voting for this investment in American families, and it feels like they’re failing to help people like me.

My Representative Bill Johnson says he supports the older people like myself who spent decades in the workforce, but he refuses to engage even the slightest bit on making health care more accessible and affordable or helping Americans who care for elderly relatives. It stinks of politics as usual to me.

I’m not looking for a handout — I would work if I could. I can barely stand up for 10 minutes straight without my back flaring up, but that doesn’t mean I should just get left behind in America after working so hard for so many years.

Our forefathers said, united we stand and divided we fall. We are standing up together and speaking out for what we need. If they want my vote in the midterms, my Republican representatives in Congress better stop ignoring the voices of people like me.

Mark Neal, Vinton

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