06.23.20

Keeping Connected

Hello Folks –

I hope all the dads out there had a great Father’s Day yesterday. I felt lucky to have gotten a great gift - a little time with Sophie and Tess!

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We made some pizzas together (they were … mostly edible!) and had a family movie night. We watched one of my all-time favorites – The Princess Bride. I couldn’t help but get a chuckle when Wesley said this line:

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I hope you’re all staying safe, keeping well, and – if you’re going out in public and being in close proximity to people – wearing a terribly comfortable mask.

People often ask me, “Why on earth would you want to be in Congress when things seem so messed up and you have two young kids?” My response is always the same: “It’s because things seem messed up! And I’ve got two young kids!” I want to get things on the right track – for them and for everybody!

Later this week, I’ll be heading to Washington, D.C. to vote on the Justice in Policing Act and some other bills. In the meantime, let me give you a sense of what I’ve been up to….

Just like many of you, my everyday life has changed quite a bit over the last few months. Usually when I’m back home in our region, I’m travelling from pillar to post, meeting with folks to learn how I can better advocate for our communities back in the other Washington.

But in the era of social distancing, my “office” is now my dining room table. I’ve been constantly on my cell phone, on Skype, on Zoom, on email, and texting – to make sure I’m communicating directly with folks on the front lines of this public health emergency and all those being impacted by it, and to ensure that the federal response meets the needs of our region.

That includes speaking with and hearing from local leaders and experts about the unique challenges COVID-19 is causing – and bringing that information right into your inbox and on your social media pages.

Among a number of virtual meetings last week, I held a Facebook Live Town Hall with Doug Shadel, the State Director of AARP Washington state, about the challenges facing seniors. Doug and I took a number of questions from folks across the region about what resources are out there to help folks in need. We focused on how seniors can protect themselves and keep their loved ones safe from potential scams. We also talked about the importance of critical programs like Social Security and Medicare to ensure seniors get the benefits they have earned and deserve. You may remember from last week’s newsletter that I’m a cosponsor of the Social Security 2100 Act to ensure we keep Social Security going strong past the year 2100. I’ve also sponsored legislation to expand Medicare so that it covers hearing, dental, and vision.

Doug and I also identified helpful resources for folks (two of the best: check out AARP’s “15 ways to prevent identity theft and protect your personal data” or reach out to the Fraud Watch Network Helpline if you think you have been targeted or have fallen victim to a scam). You can watch our full conversation here:

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Speaking of town halls … this week, I’ll be holding a Facebook Live Town Hall with Washington State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal to talk about the challenges facing our education system, my ongoing work to provide support to our educators and our kids, and the state’s new guidance on reopening schools. Superintendent Reykdal will also be taking time to answer a number of questions from folks about what summer programs will be available and what the fall might look like in our schools. I know that Sophie and Tess will be tuning in because they want to know what to expect! I hope you will too! 

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But that’s not all! I’ll also be hosting Washington State Senator Emily Randall for a Facebook Live Town Hall to talk about the response to COVID-19 at all levels of government, our work to address the inequities facing Black Americans in our region and across the country, and to answer your questions about how we move forward.  

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If you can’t make it live to these events – rest assured – these videos and resources will continue to live on my Facebook page! Right now, you can head there and check out videos from the past few weeks, including: a town hall conversation on addressing the affordable housing crisis in our region with Tacoma Housing Authority Executive Director Michael Mirra, a video on how my casework team is helping folks who need assistance with federal agencies (like Nick Sund, a resident of Tacoma who was stuck abroad when the pandemic began), a town hall regarding the importance of defending our democracy and protecting our elections during COVID-19 with End Citizens United and Let America Vote Executive Director Tiffany Muller, a conversation with Joe Roszak, the CEO of Kitsap Mental Health Services, about how to care for yourself amid a tumultuous few months, and more! Check them out at Facebook.com/Derek.Kilmer

Being There

Last Friday marked Juneteenth - a day to celebrate Black communities and commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. T’wina Nobles, President and CEO of the Tacoma Urban League, joined me for a great discussion on the history of this day and continued efforts to address the many inequities facing Black Americans in our country.

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In the evening, I joined hundreds of people in Kitsap County to commemorate this day. We heard from some amazing, inspiring, passionate young people who are demanding an end to injustice in this country. I’m with them! We also stood in silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds in honor of George Floyd and the need to put an end to the killing of Black Americans. Thanks to Karen Vargas and the Juneteenth Freedom Festival Planning Committee for organizing this event - and thanks to every person who is committed to making the change that is so needed.

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Working for You

Supporting the Great Outdoors

I’m proud to sponsor the bipartisan Great American Outdoors Act. This important bill, which just passed the Senate last week and is headed to the House, will provide permanent mandatory funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund to preserve, develop, and ensure access to local outdoor recreation areas and facilities across the region --- AND provide new dedicated funding to address the significant maintenance backlog facing Olympic National Park and our nation’s other public lands. I sat down with National Parks Conservation Association Northwest Regional Director Rob Smith last week to talk about how getting this bill signed into law will protect our public lands and waters for generations to come, and promote access to the outdoors to boost local economies.

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Celebrating the Outstanding Work of Community Organizations

I was grateful to join the awesome team at the Grays Harbor Community Foundation last week to hear more about the incredible work they’ve been doing to support outstanding college and vocational students from Grays Harbor County. They have also been doing important work to support local small businesses in the region by providing grants to help them keep the lights on during the COVID-19 shutdown. Thanks for the great work team - and count me a partner!

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Thanking Those that Work to Create a Better Future

My thanks to the good folks at the Kiwanis Club of Tacoma for having me as a guest and for sharing your thoughts with me. I am grateful to the members of this club for their continued efforts to serve our community. Thanks for having me and can’t wait to see you all again in person as soon as we’re able.

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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.