Restoring Puget Sound
Hello Folks –
Before we dive right into the news – I want to take a moment to remind everyone to continue to observe recommendations by the CDC to social distance and wear a mask! We’re seeing a lot of areas around the nation experience some serious upticks in COVID-19 cases – and that’s true for some parts of Washington state as well. Luckily, everyone can do their part to help slow the spread! Wearing a mask that covers your nose and mouth helps protect others in case you’re infected with COVID-19 but aren’t showing symptoms. Your cloth face mask may protect someone else – and their face mask may protect you. So, let’s keep wearing a mask for one another!
Ok – let’s get into it!
Restoring Puget Sound
Puget Sound is an iconic body of water that is critical to the environmental and economic future of our region. Generations of our friends and neighbors have built their lives and made livelihoods on the Sound. But if future generations are going to have those opportunities, we’ve got to protect and restore the Sound.
That’s why I’m excited to report that this week when the Appropriations Committee passed the Interior and Environment Appropriations bill, I secured a more than 15% increase in the Puget Sound Geographic Program. This program provides critical grant support to state, local, and tribal governments to implement projects to improve water quality, protect shorelines, and enhance fish passage and salmon habitat.
Unfortunately, for the third year in a row, the Trump Administration proposed eliminating this critical program entirely. This is a body of water of national significance and recovering it shouldn’t fall solely on the backs of Washington State taxpayers. With that in mind, I was pleased that, as a Member of the Appropriations Committee, I helped not only reject the Administration’s cuts – but actually help increase this investment. That makes this the second year in a row that we were able to secure double-digit increases.
This program is a big deal for our region. My colleague, Rep. Denny Heck, and I created the Puget Sound Recovery Caucus because investments in recovering the Sound are important to local jobs and to ensuring this natural treasure can be enjoyed by future generations. And, as we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, these restoration projects can also put people to work.
The bill also included a $2 million increase in the National Estuary Program—the Environmental Protection Agency’s nationwide effort to protect and restore the water quality and ecological integrity of estuaries of national significance, including Puget Sound. This funding supports ongoing efforts to monitor the impacts of Harmful Algal Blooms and other water quality challenges which represent a serious threat to jobs and economies across the country.
I spoke about the importance of these investments last week – and I’m excited that the bill is now heading to the House floor for a vote later this month.
Every day, our world becomes more dependent on digital technologies. What’s more, we know that connecting rural communities to high-speed internet helps create more economic opportunities for more people in more places.
Over the last few months during this public health crisis, we’ve seen just how reliant our economy and our livelihoods have become on broadband - as education moved online, critical health appointments moved to video calls, and small businesses sought to sell products without contact.
Unfortunately, according to the Federal Communications Commission, broadband internet is unavailable to roughly 25 million Americans—more than 19 million of which live in rural communities. It is clear that too many communities and too many Americans are being left behind.
So, this week, the House Appropriations Committee took action – passing a new funding bill I helped craft to invest in the expansion of broadband services. This included an important investment in a program from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) called the “ReConnect” program – which provides loans, grants, and loan-grant combinations to ensure the federal government steps-up to partner with the private sector and rural communities to help them build modern broadband infrastructure in areas with insufficient internet service.
Importantly – this bill also included an initiative I led to call on the USDA to take action to increase access to broadband on rural Tribal lands and to work with tribal communities to address the unique infrastructure challenges they face. We need to ensure that tribal communities are not held at a competitive disadvantage when competing for broadband resources.
Additionally, this bill also included an effort I led to urge the USDA to support strategies that utilize telehealth technologies to help improve health care options for seniors, expectant mothers, infants, and others across rural areas.
These efforts to expand broadband are good steps in the right direction – and I am hopeful these strategic investments will lead to new jobs and businesses, empower students by placing new information at their fingertips, and help rural communities get in on the economic growth we’re seeing that’s been largely concentrated in America’s cities for so long.
Working for You
Supporting Local Employers
It was great to join the Poulsbo Chamber of Commerce last week to give an update on the federal response to COVID-19 and talk about how we can work together to support local employers and revitalize the economy. Thanks to the Chamber for being a great resource to so many during this time!
Revitalizing Our Community
I enjoyed the opportunity to catch-up with the Rotary Club of Gig Harbor North last week to talk about the federal response to COVID-19 and how we can work together to revitalize our economy. Thanks for putting service above self and supporting the Gig Harbor community and beyond!
OK – that’s it for now folks. Please continue to take care of yourselves – and one another. As always, I’m honored to represent you.
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