03.22.21

Providing Economic Relief to Washingtonians - and Don’t Miss My Telephone Town Hall

Hello Folks –

I hope this finds you safe and healthy. It’s been a busy couple of weeks in DC and Congress has been making progress on a number of important issues that impact the lives of folks in our region. Let’s get right into the details!

Providing Economic Relief

Over the last year, I’ve spoken with folks across our region who have lost their jobs, lost their small businesses, and lost loved ones due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I’ve heard a lot of pain. People in our region need help. And that’s been evident in some of the alarming statistics that have come to light in recent weeks in our state:

  • Since February 2020, more than 208,000 fewer Washingtonians are employed.
  • An estimated 1.4 million adults or 26% of all adults statewide report having difficulty covering normal household expenses.
  • 413,000 adults – 8% of all adults in our state – report not having enough food to eat. This includes 219,000 adults living with children, or 11% of all adults living with children, who report that the children in their household do not have enough to eat.
  • An estimated 228,000 renters or 12% of renters are not caught up on rent.
  • The unemployment rate is 6.3%, up from 4.1% before the pandemic.

Economists across the spectrum, from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen to former President Trump’s chief economic advisor Kevin Hassett, agree that additional assistance is needed – both for struggling families and for the American economy.

So earlier this month, Congress passed and President Joe Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan—an emergency legislative package to fund vaccinations, provide immediate and direct relief to families bearing the weight of the COVID-19 crisis, get kids safely back to school, and support affected communities. The American Rescue Plan delivers robust resources for every Washingtonian who needs a hand.

Provides Essential Support to Ramp-Up COVID-19 Vaccinations and Contain the Virus

The American Rescue Plan provides $20 billion to mount a national vaccination program that includes setting up community vaccination sites nationwide. It will also take complementary measures to combat the virus, including scaling up testing and tracing, addressing shortages of personal protective equipment and other critical supplies, investing in high-quality treatments, and addressing health care disparities. 

Invests in Schools to Put Children Safely Back in School 

The American Rescue Plan will make a nearly $130 billion investment in school re-opening and making up for lost time in the classroom. These funds can be used for such things as reducing class sizes, modifying spaces so that students and teachers can socially distance, improving ventilation, implementing more mitigation measures, providing personal protective equipment, and providing summer school or other support for students that help make up lost learning time this year. The plan also provides resources for higher education, Head Start, and child care facilities. In addition, the bill provides funding to expand internet connectivity to students and rural communities to help bridge the digital divide.

Provides Direct Support for Working Families

The plan provides direct assistance to households across America with checks of $1,400 per person, following the $600 down payment enacted in December. I will continue to work with the Biden Administration to ensure that direct payment levels adequately meet the unique needs of this moment for countless families and workers. For many, this is quite simply about economic survival. The plan will also provide direct housing assistance and will expand access to safe and reliable child care and affordable health care (with provisions to cover more people and to limit premiums). In addition, this new law extends and expands Unemployment Insurance so that 19 million American workers can pay their bills. Furthermore, it supports 27 million children with an expanded Child Tax Credit and 15 million low-wage workers through the Earned Income Tax Credit. Additionally, the plan provides nutrition assistance for 40 million Americans by making substantial investments in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) Program, the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program, and other critical programs. 

Supports Small Businesses & Workers

The American Rescue Plan will also provide crucial support for the hardest-hit small businesses by increasing funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and expanding eligibility to ensure it reaches nonprofits of all sizes and types. The plan also provides additional funding for emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program, provides funding for a new program at the Small Business Administration to offer grant-based assistance to small restaurants, and helps increase awareness of, and participation in, COVID-19 relief programs for business owners currently experiencing barriers to access.

Supports Communities Struggling with the Economic Fallout

The American Rescue Plan would get much needed resources to state, local, and Tribal governments that have been at the front lines of our pandemic response. In light of revenue losses for state and local governments and added costs they have faced, federal support ensures they can meet the needs of impacted families and workers during this time. Such funding is also vitally important to prevent public sector job losses and to avoid prolonging this recession. The bill provides crucial resources to protect the jobs of first responders, frontline public health workers, teachers, transit workers, and other essential workers that all Americans depend on.

I supported the passage of the American Rescue Plan, and was pleased that President Biden signed it. It’s a step forward for ensuring that help is on the way. I’m committed to working to ensure that people who need help can get the help that they need.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 23 at 5:10pm, I’ll be hosting a telephone town hall to talk about the core components of the American Rescue Plan and answer your questions about the impacts of the new law for folks in our region. I’ll also be joined on the call by Washington Secretary of Health Umair A. Shah, MD, MPH – who will provide an update and answer questions about Washington’s COVID-19 vaccination effort, and discuss the ongoing efforts by the state to safely reopen schools and businesses. I hope you can join us!

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Advancing Safety & Dignity for Women

No woman should ever be forced to feel unsafe or insecure in her own home and no woman should ever suffer in silence in the face of domestic violence. Back in 1994, President Bill Clinton signed into law the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) – providing critical funding toward the investigation and prosecution of crimes against women.

The funding provided by VAWA grants helps local communities find the most appropriate methods for dealing with their challenges. That’s been a high priority for me as a member of the House Appropriations Committee. All women and girls deserve to be safe.

That’s why, last week, I voted to reauthorize VAWA in order to build upon the progress forged over the two-and-a-half decades since this legislation was first passed. Since then, the rate of domestic violence in America has fallen by more than 60 percent. But more protections are needed, especially as 1 in 3 women still experience domestic violence and in light of the fact that the coronavirus crisis has forced many women to quarantine in unsafe domestic situations.

It’s vital that we continue to protect victims of domestic violence. I'll keep pushing to get this bill over the finish line.

Protecting Dreamers

Last week, I was proud to vote in favor of the Dream and Promise Act of 2021, a bill that passed the House with bipartisan support to give U.S.-raised immigrant youth, known as “Dreamers,” as well as Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) beneficiaries, the ability to earn lawful permanent residence and American citizenship.

Over the years, I have met young Dreamers from our community who are Americans in every way except on paper. I remember one young woman in Tacoma who told me that she came to the United States as a two-year-old through no choice of her own and no fault of her own. She grew up here, went to school her, and pledged allegiance to our flag. She said, “I don’t know anyone anywhere else. If my government were to deport me, I don’t know where I’d go. This is the only home I’ve ever known.” 

She’s not alone. Dreamers and TPS holders are valuable members of our community and contributors to the U.S. economy. They are our fellow neighbors, students, and friends, and they strengthen our communities as frontline workers, teachers, first responders, and members of our military. These folks deserve a pathway towards citizenship – and a life free of fear.

It’s past time to act to change the course for young people who have lived in the United States for years and who deserve real protections under the law and a path forward toward legal citizenship. I’m proud that the House took the first step last week with this bipartisan bill. I hope the Senate quickly follows suit.

Working for You

Providing Resources for Our Local Employers

The American Rescue Plan includes critical new resources to assist our small businesses and restaurants. That’s why, last week, I hosted a town hall discussion with advisors from the Washington Small Business Development Center to talk about what’s in the bill, to discuss resources for local employers, and to answer your questions. Check out our conversation here:

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Stepping Up for Pivotal Community Organizations

Throughout this pandemic, YMCAs across our region have been providing incredible services – like child care for first responders, meals for kids, senior health outreach, housing for young adults, and more! It was great to connect with leaders from the teams at YMCAs in Pierce, Kitsap, and Grays Harbor Counties, and on the Olympic Peninsula, to say THANK YOU and to learn more about steps needed to ensure the federal government remains a strong partner.

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Promoting the Arts

Finally … calling all high school students! The annual art competition for high school students across our region is back. For a second year in a row, we're taking it virtual. This nationwide competition allows students from across the country to showcase their artistic ability – with winning artwork from our region and across the country displayed at the U.S. Capitol! If you know a student artist, please let them know about this terrific opportunity. Submissions are due by April 5. Get all the details on how to apply 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