05.26.20

Honoring Our Heroes

Hello Friends –

Yesterday, on Memorial Day, our nation paused to honor and remember the brave men and women who gave their lives in service to our nation.

To me, Memorial Day is a chance to commemorate and honor those who have given so much to make our nation stronger. Because of the sacrifice and commitment of so many, my late grandmother was able to survive World War II, emigrate to the United States, and become a proud American citizen. Because of that sacrifice and commitment, my daughters, Sophie and Tess, are growing up in a better world. And because of that sacrifice and commitment, you and I are able to enjoy the freedoms we share as Americans.

Though our remembrance events this year looked a bit different than they have in the past, I hope you were able to take time with your loved ones to honor the lives of some of the countless Washingtonians and Americans who have made that sacrifice. I recorded a quick video yesterday to highlight some of the stories I’ve heard over the years that mean so much to me – I hope you’ll watch:

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While we took time to remember those we have lost, I also doubled-down on my commitment to ensure those who have served our nation – our veterans – have the support they need from the federal government during this unprecedented public health crisis.

Over the last few weeks, I voted for the CARES Act – which included nearly $20 billion in funding to ensure the Department of Veterans Affairs gets the equipment, tests, telehealth capabilities and support services necessary to support our veterans; co-sponsored legislation which has now been signed into law to expand protections for student veterans during emergencies like COVID-19, preserving the work-study program and continuing housing benefits; and, fought to ensure that veterans - and all Americans – can access health care services readily and affordably in the event that emergency care is needed. I’ll keep working to ensure our veterans receive the benefits they have earned and deserve.

Providing Further Relief for Small Businesses

Small businesses across our region are making critical decisions about whether to shut down or weather the storm of this pandemic. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), which was established in the CARES Act, has been a critical lifeline - helping our Main Street employers keep folks on payroll and ensuring working families have the support they need.

With 90,000 PPP loans already dispersed to small businesses in Washington – there’s a tremendous need in our communities to ensure this program is a success. I’ve been pushing for the federal government to significantly expand this program and increase access, and as I write this, I’m heading back to DC to do just that. In the coming days, the House is expected to vote on the PPP Flexibility Act, legislation I’m co-sponsoring, to make commonsense improvements to the PPP to ensure local employers have the help they need in the face of this pandemic.

The bill will:

  • allow forgiveness for expenses beyond the 8-week covered period to 24 weeks and extend the rehiring deadline;
  • eliminate restrictions limiting non-payroll expenses to 25% of loan proceeds;
  • extend the program from June 30 to December 31;
  • extend loan terms from two to five years; and
  • ensure full access to payroll tax deferment for businesses that take PPP loans.

The House will also be voting on the bipartisan TRUTH ACT – which will improve transparency in lending by the U.S. Small Businesses Administration (SBA) so we can ensure funds from the federal government are getting to the small businesses that need it the most. This bill will require the SBA to identify any borrowers who have received large loans – above $2 million – and explain the decision-making process in granting that loan. It also calls for the disclosure of assistance to socially and economically disadvantaged small business owners and women- and veteran-owned businesses, so that the federal response can more adequately help those businesses.

As I’ve said before – we should not accept a situation in which bigger businesses with more resources have an advantage at the expense of those with the greatest need during this pandemic. By voting on these bills this week, we’ll take steps to improve the response.

Building Skills for the Future

In addition to being the largest public health crisis of our lifetime, we are now seeing that the COVID-19 pandemic is proving to be the most significant economic challenge since the Great Depression. While many jobs will eventually return as the economy reopens, some economists are now predicting that millions of jobs may not come back. Obviously, this creates a lot of concerns for working people and their families and makes it more important than ever that the federal government has the backs of folks who need help.   

Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve Chair, recently pointed to one such concern, stating, “there’s a real risk that if people are out of work for long periods of time, that their skills atrophy a little bit and they lose contact with the workforce. Longer and deeper recessions tend to leave behind damage to people’s careers. And that weighs on the economy going forward."

In the face of these challenges, it’s vitally important that workers are empowered to navigate the substantial economic changes we’re seeing.

That’s why last week, I introduced legislation – sponsored by Democrats and Republicans – called The Skills Renewal Act, to help unemployed workers gain access to skills training programs during this pandemic.

This new bill will create a flexible skills training credit of up to $4,000 for workers who lost their job as a result of the pandemic so that they can build skills that are expected to be in high demand by employers in the coming months. That means workers could pursue training anywhere along the pipeline—apprenticeships, stackable credentials, certificate programs, and traditional two- and four-year programs – and get assistance to cover the costs of that training. In other words, this can help workers learn new skills, land new jobs, and earn a good living moving forward. You can read more about the bill here.

Working for You

Helping our Local Chambers

Our local chambers of commerce are doing amazing work during the pandemic - helping thousands of small businesses across our region navigate uncharted territory and get the assistance they need. Last week, I spoke with Arlene Alen at the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce about the awesome work they are doing - and the new bipartisan legislation I’m co-sponsoring to ensure that the chambers themselves, and other nonprofits like them, can keep the lights on and keep folks employed in order to continue assisting others as we recover and revitalize the economy. Take a listen:

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Pushing for Testing

Last week, I led a New Democrat Coalition call with Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, on the COVID-19 pandemic and my continued push for an evidence- and science-based National Recovery Strategy. I’m grateful for his insights and for his service to our nation – and I’m hopeful that we’ll continue to make progress on the testing front to ensure that folks can safely go back to work.  

Supporting Military Families

Even in the midst of the coronavirus, the USO is proudly supporting servicemembers and military families. They’re helping transitioning service members, supporting National Guardsmen in 25 states, and have put together virtual activities for military families. I was honored to join the leaders of the USO for a discussion last week regarding how the federal government can support their important work.

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Answering Your Questions

While I’m unable to hold traditional in-person town halls, I have been holding a bunch of town halls online and over the phone so folks can get their questions answered! Last week I held a Facebook Live Town Hall to answer as many questions on COVID-19 as I could get to. If you missed it, make sure to follow me on Facebook and Twitter – and catch last week’s town hall here:

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

Sincerely,

Derek