As Indianapolis hosts the NCAA Tournament, it helps to remember what our community and our world were facing just one year ago.
Last March, the only madness to be found was in the frantic scramble to protect ourselves and our families from a little-known virus that was spreading out of control.
Indianapolis shut down most non-essential activity, large gatherings were banned, and Hoosiers turned inward. Even in those terrifying early days, we could not fully anticipate the devastation of the months to come.
As we reflect on a year of COVID-19, we mourn the more than half a million Americans we have lost, including more than 12,000 Hoosiers.
We also assess the devastation on our economy. It’s unfathomable.
Building back requires a historic response from our government. That’s why I’m incredibly pleased that we passed the American Rescue Plan Act, which will help us defeat the virus, strengthen our economy, provide direct payments to middle-class Americans, and more.
Similarly, the NCAA Tournament is another boost to our local economy and to our morale. Indiana and basketball are a classic combination, and seeing our city host this tournament helps remind us what makes our state so special. As we recover from this pandemic, it seems fitting that Indy’s first big public event puts this iconic Hoosier pastime front and center.
The NCAA Tournament will also help our local businesses. They have struggled this past year without the revenue traditionally generated from sporting events, conventions and other big events that have long boosted our economy.
Last year’s infusion of federal funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, created through the CARES Act, helped many of these businesses stay afloat, but an event like the NCAA Tournament can help them thrive.
As a lifelong Hoosier who has spent years enjoying college basketball, I am extremely happy that our city is hosting this tournament. It may be the economic shot in the arm needed to lift our community out of this slump.
However, we cannot forget what put our city, and the entire world, into these dire straits in the first place—a deadly pandemic that is not over yet.
Even as more Hoosiers get vaccinated, most still have not. That means the vast majority of people in our city are still very vulnerable to COVID-19.
If we are not careful, this tournament could set back our progress in defeating the virus. That’s why I am urging all Hoosiers and all visitors to our city to stay as safe as possible and follow the public health guidelines—wear a mask and practice social distancing.
It’s my hope that the NCAA Tournament will spark an economic revival in Indianapolis and across America. Thanks to vaccines and the efforts of our frontline heroes, I believe better days are ahead. However, it will still take a great deal of time to fully recover from this past year.
We need to keep doing all we can to help Americans recover from the financial strain of this pandemic. That’s why I will keep fighting to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.
We should also do much more to help students, teachers and schools, to ensure that the many months of challenging virtual learning don’t cause our kids to fall permanently behind. I’ll keep working with a variety of stakeholders to put all Hoosier students back on track to academic success.
Additionally, I’ll continue my efforts to boldly address and close the gaps Black and brown communities face in receiving quality health care.
If last year was about surviving, we must focus this year on building back better. I’m pleased that the NCAA Tournament can help us advance that effort. Let’s all keep working together to create a much better 2021. •
Carson, a Democrat, is the U.S representative for the 7th District.