08.31.20

Connecting Our Communities

Hello, Folks!

It has been another challenging week in our country. Not only are folks continuing to deal with disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, America witnessed the shooting of Jacob Blake and the shooting of three protesters in Wisconsin. 

I’ve had a lot of folks reach out and ask me how I feel about the events of the week.

I feel heartbroken to watch yet another video of a Black American being shot by police. I feel pain – and am horrified – for those kids who were in that car.

I feel determined to see our country make the changes needed. That’s why I sponsored – and voted for – the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act in hopes of addressing police brutality and ensuring justice and accountability. It’s why I continue to push for legislation to address inequities in housing, healthcare, education, economic opportunity, and other matters as well.

I feel supportive of people who are peacefully protesting. Peaceful protest is a critical way in which we make change in this country.

Finally, I feel that the words of my colleague John Lewis are important to remember at this time. Prior to his death, he addressed people protesting in Atlanta and around the country, writing, “I know your pain, your rage, your sense of despair and hopelessness. Justice has, indeed, been denied for far too long. Rioting, looting, and burning is not the way. Organize. Demonstrate. Sit-in. Stand-up. Vote. Be constructive, not destructive. History has proven time and again that non-violent peaceful protest is the way to achieve the justice and equality that we all deserve." 

I hope those are words that all will embrace.

Now, on to the news …

Protecting the U.S. Postal Service

During this pandemic, we know U.S. Postal Service (USPS) employees and mail carriers have stepped up and gone beyond their traditional duties to continue serving their communities. They’ve played a critical role on the front lines, ensuring that people around our region and our country continue to receive essential packages and letters – including medication, food, supplies, ballots, and notes from loved ones.

Unfortunately, recent changes by the Postmaster General have undermined these workers – and threatened not only our democracy and the ability to conduct a free and fair election, but the lives and livelihoods of folks in communities across our region who rely on the Postal Service’s ability to do its job.

Since news first broke of these changes, I’ve heard from folks across our region who have felt the impacts of these changes. I heard from a veteran in Grays Harbor, who relies on USPS for his prescriptions, who is terrified that there might be a lapse in the coming days. I’ve heard from a senior in Silverdale who said she is only seeing her mail delivered to her mailbox every 2-3 days. And I spoke to small business owners, like Bill of Sunrise Coffee in Port Townsend, whose business relies on the USPS – and said that his business has experienced delayed shipments and slowed down delivery. You can watch this video and learn about the impacts this has had on his small business:

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At any time, but especially just a few months away from the 2020 General Election in which more and more Americans will seek to vote by mail to protect their health, these actions by the Postmaster General are unacceptable. We know that the Postal Service will play a critical role in ensuring that all Americans can safely vote by mail. Despite efforts by the President to cast doubt on the legitimacy of vote-by-mail election systems, here in Washington State we know that voting rights and election integrity are not at cross-purposes. In fact, our Secretary of State has said voting by mail is “secure and trustworthy.” It does, however, depend on the ability of the Postal Service to do its job.

That’s why I was in DC earlier this month to vote in favor of the Delivering for America Act, legislation I co-sponsored to halt the Postmaster’s operational changes in their tracks, explicitly reverse any changes already implemented to the operations or policies of the Postal Service that delay mail delivery, and provide critical funding to ensure we can protect the USPS – and our democracy.

I spoke about why I think it was important to pass this legislation and take action. We need Mitch McConnell and the Senate to step-up and follow suit:

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Connecting Our Communities

Bridging the digital divide isn’t about ensuring folks can watch Tiger King or The Great British Bakeoff on Netflix - it’s about ensuring our kids have the opportunity to learn. It’s about giving local employers — in areas urban and rural — a shot. It’s about getting high-risk seniors and veterans – especially during this pandemic – access to quality telemedicine and other critical health services.

For too long, too many communities in our region have been left behind by this divide - because America’s internet infrastructure hasn’t quite reached them. That needs to change.

That’s why I’ve been working to make things better. Last year, I introduced bipartisan legislation called the Broadband for All Act to help bridge this digital divide. The bill will create refundable tax credits for local employers and groups of two or more homeowners who team up to make the investments needed to link to broadband service.

And as a member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’ve been a vocal proponent of enhanced investments by the federal government to help regions like ours. In fact, I was proud to fight for, and help secure, a substantial increase in funding for the expansion of broadband in rural communities in the most recent government funding bill. This funding will make a real difference in improving rural communities’ outcomes for health, education, and economic opportunity.

During this pandemic, with folks staying at home to protect themselves and one another, we’ve learned even more how essential having this connectivity can be. That’s why I’ve been fighting to push for the Senate to pass the HEROES Act – which included vital support. For example, it would help fund the FCC’s E-Rate Program for schools and libraries to help provide internet service to students and teachers, prioritizing those without internet access at home. It would help households in which a member of the family has been laid off or furloughed pay for the price of internet service during the pandemic so folks could continue to receive essential online services. And, it would help provide affordable, discounted phone and broadband support services to low-income customers.

At a time when connectivity to the internet is more important than ever – we need to support the ability for folks to utilize this essential resource. I’m committed to continuing to advocate for additional investments in internet access as we seek to recover and revitalize our economy.

Working for You

Answering Your Questions

This past week I was joined by my good friend, and an absolutely tremendous leader for our region and our state, the Representative for Washington’s 27th Legislative District in Pierce County and the Speaker of the House, Laurie Jinkins. Speaker Jinkins and I held a virtual town hall to talk about the federal and state response to COVID-19, the road ahead, and to answer your questions! One big topic we discussed was the importance of the federal government providing support for state, local, and tribal governments to ensure health care workers, first responders, educational employees, and others don’t lose their jobs because of this pandemic. You can catch the full conversation here:

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Calling for Folks to Respond to the Census!

The 2020 Census is being conducted right now – and it helps determine the allocations of billions of federal funds – your tax dollars – for things like schools, roads and infrastructure, fire departments, health clinics, and community resources like senior services and veterans’ programs, for the NEXT 10 YEARS! In order for our region to get the appropriate funding for the amount of folks that live here we need everyone to respond to the Census! Last week I joined Stacey Abrams & Fair Count for a conversation about the work ahead to make sure everyone is counted in the 2020 Census. With only 68.6% of our district counted, we’ve got work to do! Respond today.

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Pushing for Action on Affordable Housing

Our state had challenges with housing and homelessness before the COVID-19 public health crisis. Those challenges have only increased due to this pandemic. We can’t afford to leave people behind. We need more workforce housing, more senior housing, more homeless housing, and more affordable housing. We need more housing units, period. Last week I held a virtual affordable housing town hall with Diane Yentel, the President & CEO of National Low Income Housing Coalition, and Maureen Fife, the CEO Tacoma/Pierce County Habitat for Humanity, to talk about what we need to do to make sure that the federal government steps-up as a partner to ensure more folks in our region have access to quality, affordable, attainable housing. Check it out!

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Supporting our Teachers

Earlier this month I joined my colleague Congresswoman Kim Schrier, the Washington Education Association, and incredible teachers and educational employees from across our region to talk about the work I’m doing at the federal level to help ensure that school districts have the public health guidance and funding necessary to keep kids safe - and ensure they can continue to learn this fall! You can catch the full conversation here:

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As the son of two schoolteachers – and as the dad of a rising sixth grader and a rising ninth grader, I am incredibly grateful for the teachers, administrators, and staff at districts throughout our region who are going above and beyond! With school about to kick off throughout our region, I know this year is starting out with a good chunk of challenges. I am eager to see the federal government help districts meet the needs of all students. We are all in this together!

OK – that’s it for now folks. Take care of yourselves, and one another.

As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Sincerely,

Derek