06.01.20

Pursuing Justice & Accountability

Good Evening -

There is a lot of pain and anger in communities across our region, our state, and our nation.

On top of a public health crisis that has led to the death of over 100,000 Americans, which has disproportionately affected minority communities, last week we saw a Black American murdered in Minneapolis, Minnesota, by a uniformed police officer. It was a horrific act – it was heartbreaking – and it was not acceptable.

George Floyd’s murder was a violation of the social contract that we agree to uphold as members of this society – to trust that those hired to keep us safe will do just that. His death simply should not have happened in America.

And yet, the murder of George Floyd has not been the only murder of a Black American for which there has not yet been justice. Indeed, too many innocent Black Americans are being killed in communities around our country. Their families deserve justice and accountability. 

There is clearly a need to reform police practices to ensure just treatment and accountability throughout our country. For too long, too many places have simply failed in that regard. In fact, I spoke with a local law enforcement leader today who described what he saw in Minnesota as “sickening” and “indefensible.” But we know that beyond policing, there are other systemic injustices that have been built into other aspects of life in our country that disadvantage Black Americans. There are inequities in housing, in education, in health care, in criminal justice, to name a few, that require our attention and our action.

I’ve been spending time over the last few days really trying to do a lot of listening and hear from Black leaders and constituents that I have the honor of serving. I’ve touched base with faith leaders, and with leaders of the Urban League and the NAACP, among others.

This past Saturday, I joined many of them in Tacoma in prayer and solidarity. I was grateful for the good words of these community leaders, and for the opportunity to participate.

Here was my prayer:

God, perhaps more than any other time in our lives we ask for help. In a time when we see painful examples of bigotry and heartbreaking tragedy, help our country do the hard work of self-examination so we can do better, be better, and find justice.

Help our country be more equal and more compassionate. In times where we see injustice and inaction, let us find solutions, accountability, and change.

In these times of illness, help us find healing. In these times of economic struggle, help us find restoration and recovery.

In these times of division, help us find unity. God, the psalms tell us that you are “a stronghold in times of trouble,” so we ask that you be that for our community, for our country, and for each of us.

With this prayer, I also know that we need action. I support those who have demonstrated peacefully, demanding change and progress. 

In additional to further conversations with faith and civic leaders from our region, today I joined a Democratic Caucus call to hear firsthand from leaders of the Congressional Black Caucus about policy ideas that the House may soon consider to address the challenges we are facing. Some of those reforms will likely build on the work of the Obama Administration’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing. Some will likely be targeted at other inequities facing our nation.

In the coming days, I will continue to listen, to learn, to stand in solidarity, and to take action to address these inequities.  

Working for You

Helping Small Businesses

The Paycheck Protection Program is a critical lifeline - helping our Main Street employers keep folks on payroll and ensuring working families have the support they need. Last week I was in Washington, DC and voted to support the PPP Flexibility Act - bipartisan legislation I co-sponsored to expand access to this program and make commonsense improvements. It will create more flexibility for small businesses by:

  • Extending the expense forgiveness period from eight weeks to twenty-four weeks;
  • Reducing the 75 percent payroll ratio requirement;
  • Eliminating 2-year loan repayment restrictions for future borrowers;
  • Allowing payroll tax deferment for PPP recipients; and,
  • Extending the June 30 rehiring deadline.

You can read more about the bill here.

Celebrating Asian Pacific American Heritage Month

Each May, we proudly celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and now more than ever I think we have to stand up - and stand united - with our Asian American and Pacific Islander communities in the face of some of the hate and intolerance we are seeing toward them during this pandemic.

Last week I joined the one-and-only Lua Pritchard of the Asia Pacific Cultural Center in Tacoma to talk about the amazing work APCC does in our community to give more people a better shot at living the American Dream - and how we can work together to recognize, celebrate, and honor our Asian Americans and Pacific Islander communities.

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Bridging the Digital Divide

Bridging the digital divide isn’t about ensuring folks can watch “Tiger King” 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. Last week I joined leaders of the Internet Access Crisis Team to talk about how we can continue to work together during the COVID-19 pandemic to get internet access to as many folks as possible - now and in the future.

In response to the pandemic, the Washington State Broadband Office established Drive-In WiFi Hotspots to provide free temporary, emergency internet access for Washingtonians who do not have broadband service to their homes. You can find the closest Hotspot here.

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

As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Sincerely,

Derek Kilmer