06.01.21

An Update on Making Progress for Veterans and Their Families, Celebrating & Standing Up for AAPI Communities, Raising Awareness for Mental Health, and more!

Hello folks –

Yesterday on Memorial Day, our nation paused to remember and honor the brave Americans who gave their lives in service to our country. The day wasn’t about cook-outs or appliance sales - it was about recognizing and honoring the sacrifices of so many Americans. Though this year’s commemorations looked a bit different than many other years, I was grateful to remember and appreciate all those who died in service to our country. Their sacrifices should never be forgotten.

It’s been a busy few weeks… let’s get right into the details.  

Making Progress for Veterans and Their Families

When it comes to serving our veterans, I think the government should follow a few basic truths: if you served our country, the government ought to have your back. You shouldn’t have to fight for the benefits you’ve earned and deserve. And, in the land of the free and the home of the brave, all those who served should have a home.

I’m proud that over the last few weeks, Congress has made some progress on that front to help veterans and their families. The House passed bipartisan legislation to enhance VA accountability and strengthen mental health options for veterans in rural areas. It also passed:

  • The Protecting Moms Who Served Act – which seeks to eliminate maternal mortality, morbidity, and disparities among veterans through maternal care coordination programs at the Department of Veteran’s Affairs.
  • The Homeless Veterans with Children Reintegration Act – which aims to help homeless veterans with children quickly access federal programs designed to help service members reenter the workforce. These programs also help teach homeless veterans the critical occupational skills necessary to find jobs, reach financial stability, and secure permanent housing.
  • The PAWS for Veterans Therapy Act – which will create canine work-therapy programs and give veterans access to service dogs to help them overcome post-traumatic stress.

There’s plenty more to do. For example, a comprehensive bill was recently introduced to address the challenges facing veterans who have been exposed to toxic substances. I’ll keep working to ensure our veterans have the support and care that they deserve.

Celebrating & Standing Up for AAPI Communities

Each May, we proudly celebrate Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month; a time when we recognize and pay tribute to the generations of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders who have enriched our communities here in Washington and across the country.

Unfortunately, we know that too many of our AAPI friends and neighbors have faced a dramatic increase in discrimination, harmful rhetoric, and violence in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, according to a new report issued on May 6, over the last year, more than 6,600 reported hate crimes against Asian Americans have been reported across all 50 states, with many more going unreported.

That’s why last month, Congress passed, and the President signed into law, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act - landmark legislation that aims to strengthen the nation’s defenses against hate crimes committed against AAPI communities. This bipartisan bill speeds up and strengthens the response to hate crimes by requiring the designation of an official at the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an expedited review of all COVID-related hate crimes. The bill also includes important provisions to improve the reporting of hate crimes, authorize grants to states to establish and run hate crime hotlines, support law enforcement agencies as they work to train officers on how to identify hate crimes, and help state and local governments develop a system for collecting hate crime data.

The legislation builds on President Biden’s Day One Executive Order to marshal federal resources to combat racism, xenophobia, and bigotry against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders and his March 30 announcement of additional steps to combat anti-AAPI hate.

In taking time to recognize AAPI heritage month, I had the opportunity to speak to Toshiko Grace Hasegawa, the Executive Director of the Washington State Commission on Asian Pacific American Affairs, about the important work of the Commission, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act, and why it is more important than ever that we work together to recognize, celebrate, and honor AAPI communities. Check out our conversation:

Image

In addition, I got to check in with the incredible team at the Korean Women’s Association. Since the 1970s, this organization has been providing critical social and community services across Western Washington. I was happy to connect with them about their latest efforts to build supportive housing for low-income seniors!

Image

Expanding Access to High-Speed Broadband

Throughout this public health crisis, we’ve seen just how reliant our economy and our livelihoods have become on broadband - as education moved online, critical health appointments moved to video calls, and small businesses sought to sell products without contact. That’s why at the end of 2020, Congress worked to establish the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) program to help give economically vulnerable Americans assistance in affording their monthly internet bill.

The EBB Program, which is now live, will provide struggling families a discount of $50, or $75 on Tribal lands, off the monthly cost of home internet service. It may also be used to receive a discount for the purchase of a laptop, desktop, or tablet computer.

Having more folks online can help our local employers, empower students to keep learning, and help rural communities get in on economic growth. Households interested in learning whether they qualify can visit the FCC’s new enrollment website – https://getemergencybroadband.org/ – and then sign up for the program through their internet service provider!

Raising Awareness for Mental Health

May was Mental Health Awareness Month. So many families have been impacted or touched by mental health issues. This past year alone, the combination of loss, isolation, and stress related to both the pandemic, and the economic challenges caused by it, put a bright light on the need for better mental health care in our country. But we also know that folks in America have faced mental health challenges long before any of us had even heard of COVID-19. 

The failure to address these challenges is evident in so many ways. It’s evident in rising rates of death by suicide. It’s evident in the fact that – in most of the counties in our region – the largest provider of mental health and substance abuse services is the county jail. It’s evident in families that are seeing immense strain. Simply put, we need to do better.

With that in mind, over the years, I’ve been an advocate for having the federal government step up to meet this challenge. Sometimes that’s meant advocating for funding, other times it’s meant supporting legislation. 

In May, the House passed the Family Support Services for Addiction Act, legislation to support nonprofits in their efforts to develop or expand services for people with substance use disorders and their families. The House also passed bills to provide resources to emergency departments to increase access to follow-up psychiatric services for people experiencing acute mental health episodes, to provide grants for school-based mental health services, and to address racial disparities in mental health coverage. I was pleased to support these bills. Now more than ever, it’s vital that we ensure all students struggling with mental health challenges get the support they deserve. 

In addition, last week I spoke to Dr. Casey Ward to talk about Mental Health Awareness Month – so we can raise awareness about mental health, fight some of the stigma that’s out there, and help provide some tips for how to take care of yourselves and your loved ones. Check it out!

Image

Working for You

Supporting Local Communities

Over the last week, I was able to check in with City Councils in Westport, Hoquiam, McCleary, and Aberdeen. I was able to provide an update on what I've been working on to make progress toward solving the flooding, housing, and workforce issues in our region. I appreciated the opportunity to connect with these dedicated public servants!

Image

Standing Up for Military Communities

The Navy League provides a powerful voice to educate the public and Congress on the importance of our sea services to our nation’s defense, well-being, and economic prosperity. I am very grateful for the Navy League of the United States Bremerton-Olympic Peninsula Council for their continued advocacy and partnership.

Image

Don’t forget! All Washingtonians aged 12+ are now eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine at no cost, regardless of health insurance status. Find a vaccine location near you!

  • Search vaccines.gov
  • Text your ZIP code to 438829
  • Call 1-800-232-0233

Image

Ok – that’s it for now folks! As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Sincerely,

Derek