05.05.20

Calling for a National Testing Plan and Supporting Local Employers

Hello Folks –

I hope this finds you well. Together, by staying home and staying safe, we’ve all been making progress in the fight to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Given that that today is my favorite holiday (Star Wars Day), let me start by saying May the 4th be with you! I can’t help but start by sharing this public health suggestion.

Image

In our state and region, we are starting to strategize about how we will continue to keep folks safe while moving toward economic recovery. Let me share some news on that front!

Calling for a National Testing Plan

Our nation’s public health experts agree that testing is the key to reopening the economy and resuming our lives. On February 4, with just eleven confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the U.S. and one in Washington State, Senator Patty Murray and I led a bipartisan, bicameral group of nearly 50 Members of Congress in calling for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ramp up its testing capabilities and start getting more coronavirus tests out to states and localities seeing early cases.  

Yet three months later, the federal government still hasn’t developed and distributed the number of coronavirus tests needed to keep people safe. So last week, I joined Senator Murray, Representative Kim Schrier, and the Washington state Democratic Congressional Delegation in calling for the Trump Administration to devise a plan to significantly increase testing capabilities in Washington state and across the country and develop a strong national testing system. With experts predicting that millions more tests are needed, we need to act fast.

The letter last week followed the passage of the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act – legislation that I voted to support late last month which invested $25 billion in COVID-19 testing.

I’ve also signed on as an original cosponsor of the Immediate COVID Testing Procurement Act to leverage the Defense Production Act to procure all necessary components and supplies to conduct COVID-19 testing nationwide.

It’s past time to ramp up our testing capacity in the United States – and I’ll keep working to ensure the federal government takes the steps needed to make certain that communities have the ability to reduce, contain, and track this virus so we can save lives and safely re-open the economy.

Working to Secure Support for Local Employers

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) established in the CARES Act helps main street employers in our region by providing forgivable loans to pay employees and keep them on the payroll during the pandemic. There were undeniably some bumps in the roll out of this program. espite those bumps, roughly 1.6 million loans were granted to small businesses across the country in the first round of loan distribution, including one million loans to small businesses with under ten employees. Since then, Congress voted to further invest in the program – and built in additional guardrails to improve access to assistance for many small businesses in underserved rural and urban areas. 

Last week, I joined my colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee in a discussion with Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin. We raised concerns about abuse of the PPP. The program was supposed to focus on small businesses – not well-financed, publicly-traded companies. I was pleased to hear him say that loans above $2 million would be audited and those who abused the system could even face criminal penalties. 

That’s not the only good news. Despite some of the challenges with the program’s roll-out, thousands of small employers across our state and region have applied – and received – these PPP grants, including Dr. Niran Al-Agba, a pediatrician in Silverdale, and Tyler Crow, the President and CEO of a timberland and wood products company in Port Angeles. On Friday, I spoke with Tyler about his experience – and heard firsthand about how the federal government can continue to improve the program.

Image

We’ve seen that there is a tremendous need in our communities to ensure PPP is a success. That’s why nearly a month ago, I introduced a bipartisan plan with Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler—which is now supported by over 30 Members of Congress—to inject more funds into the program and ensure that every qualified small business is able to access the critical assistance they need. Last week, we joined the Association of Washington Business and employers from across our state on a Zoom conference call to discuss the plan and hear firsthand about how we can ensure the federal government steps up to be a better partner.  

Image

I’ll keep fighting for main street employers and workers as we work to contain the spread of the coronavirus and rebuild our economy.

Working for You

Answering Your Questions

In the era of social distancing, I’m working to find new ways to interact with folks across the region and to answer your questions in real time – including via teleconferences, Zoom video chats, and Facebook Live Town Halls. This past week, I held a Facebook Live Town Hall with Representative Kim Schrier, the only woman doctor in Congress, to talk about the federal government’s response to the coronavirus and what comes next. We spoke about our ongoing work together to make life better for Washingtonians – and answered a number of questions from constituents. If you missed the conversation, you can watch the full video here.

Image

Working to Get More Resources for Our Kids

Did you know that nearly 30 million American kids get free or reduced priced school meals? During this pandemic, it’s important that kids continue to have access to nutrition and instruction. Thanks to the school superintendents of Grays Harbor County for inviting me to visit with them last week to discuss my efforts to push for additional resources for nutrition, broadband access, and other resources for our kiddos!

Ensuring the Coronavirus Response Leaves No Community Behind

Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is having a disproportionate impact on communities of color. Last week I joined the NAACP Bremerton 1134 to discuss steps to make certain that the federal response adequately ensures that the public health response and the economic recovery doesn’t leave people behind.

Talking to Kiddos About the Coronavirus

If, like me, your newest co-workers are a 10-year-old and a 14-year-old, you’ll know that kids have all sorts of questions about the coronavirus. So last week, I was joined by my daughter Tess to host a KIDS town hall to help answer those questions! We spoke with pediatrician Dr. Katherine Herz about the virus, what kids can do to limit the spread, and answered questions from kiddos across the region. Catch the full kids coronavirus town hall here:

Image

OK – that’s it for now folks. Take care of yourselves – and of one another. As always, I’m honored to represent you.

(And again – may the 4th be with you!)

Sincerely,

Derek Kilmer