Supporting Our Communities
Hello Folks –
Over the last week, we’ve seen intense wildfires rage up and down the west coast, including in our own home state, leading to poor air quality and the destruction of hundreds of thousands of acres of forest. Tragically, we’ve witnessed both the loss of homes and the loss of life as a result of this crisis. I know that these past few weeks have brought on new challenges on the heels of an already unprecedented year. I hope that you and your loved ones have been staying safe during this time. (Learn more about the impact of wildfire smoke in our region here - including information about how to protect your health from the hazards posed by wildfire smoke.)
As someone who was born and raised on the Olympic Peninsula, I understand how vital our forests are to our economy and to who we are. As a community, we have a strong ethic of being stewards of these forests. We should all be concerned by the real and growing threat that these catastrophic wildfires have created.
The increased scale and intensity of these fires are a clear indication that the climate crisis is not a distant threat or a mere theoretical conversation. The impacts of climate change are tangible and real, and they are happening right now. We need to take action to combat the climate crisis – and that’s why I’m proud that several initiatives I led have been included in the comprehensive plan put forth by the Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, which would put the country on a path to net-zero carbon pollution, grow the economy and put Americans back to work in clean energy jobs, protect the health of all families, ensure communities and farmers can withstand the impacts of climate change, protect America’s lands and waters for future generations, and address the legacy of environmental injustice disproportionately harming America’s low-income communities and communities of color.
In addition, as a Member of the House Appropriations Committee, I’ve strongly supported federal efforts to sustainably enhance the health of our forests and better equip our state with the resources needed to responsibly manage forests. It’s not only important that we effectively respond to wildfires – we also need to prevent them. This approach is vital to protecting the health of our forests and our local economies.
We’ve got a lot of work to do to combat this crisis. If we are smart about it, we can significantly reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires happening here in the first place. Please know that I intend to continue to play an active role in pushing for these actions to combat the climate crisis.
Supporting Our Communities
The COVID-19 pandemic has undeniably impacted our economy and led to financial uncertainty for countless folks in our region and communities across the country. In recent weeks, I’ve spoken with so many folks in our area who are really hurting. People who have lost their jobs through no fault of their own. Renters who are living in fear of eviction. Small business owners who are at risk of losing livelihoods they’d spent decades building. Educators who are concerned about having the resources they need to teach our kids. And parents who are struggling to find childcare.
These conversations are heartbreaking, and urgent motivations to get the federal government to take action. Not only does Congress need to step up and do something, it needs to ensure that what’s done actually helps the families and workers who have been hurt by this public health crisis. There’s a lot at stake. Economists across the political spectrum - including the Chairman of the Federal Reserve - agree that, in the absence of further federal action, America faces the real risk of a full-scale depression.
That’s why, almost FOUR months ago, the House passed a fifth coronavirus relief measure known as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. It was a comprehensive bill that addresses the scope and scale of the problems created by this pandemic.
Sadly, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the U.S. Senate took a different approach. I don’t say this in a partisan way – it’s just a statement of fact. For nearly four months, the Senate leadership chose to do nothing, saying that Congress should “pause.” During that pause, in the months since the House passed the HEROES Act, five million more Americans have become infected with the virus. Nearly 105,000 more people have died from it. Tens of millions more Americans are out of work and families are facing financial catastrophe. And we’ve seen over one million layoffs in state and local governments as they see crushing budget shortfalls. In short, the damage from this pandemic did not take a “pause” like the Senate did.
Finally, last week, the Senate chose to vote on a COVID-19 response bill for the first time in months. Sadly, even with all of this time, they put together a bill that doesn’t come close to addressing the problems created by this pandemic – and consequently it did not have the votes to pass the Senate. The bill the Senate voted on was inadequate for what’s needed not only to combat and defeat the virus, but to support working families and begin to get revitalize the economy.
I share this because I want you to be clear on the importance of seeing real solutions in the weeks ahead. Let me walk through some of the main priorities that these bills ought to address.
The federal government needs to raise its game so that we can defeat this virus. The best way to safely get our economy back on its feet and to safely reopen schools is to crush this virus.
Scientists and public health professionals have pointed out that testing is a key piece in the puzzle to getting the pandemic under control. We need to find out who is sick, isolate the sick so they aren’t infecting more people, contract trace, and ideally quarantine folks who came in contact with the sick. That’s the strategy that has worked in countries that have gotten a handle on this virus.
With that in mind, the HEROES Act included the funding recommended by scientists and public health professionals to get this done right. In contrast, the Senate proposed just one-fifth of the funding needed. That’s simply not good enough if we want to crush this virus. None of us want to see our country continue to chase its tail.
Families shouldn’t have to worry about paying their bills or putting food on the table as a consequence of circumstances beyond their control. That’s why I think it is critical that we fortify our social safety net to ensure that families and workers aren’t getting left behind.
In addition to enhanced unemployment assistance, I support providing additional recovery rebates to people who need support. The HEROES Act provided additional direct support and fixed a shortcoming from the CARES Act that had inadvertently left out adult dependents from receiving direct payments. Sadly, the proposal taken up in the Senate did nothing on this front.
At a time when we are seeing an enormous strain on our food banks, it’s critically important that people have the help they need. Recent reports have found that, as a consequence of this pandemic, 14 million kids in our country do not have enough to eat. That’s why the HEROES Act included $67 billion for food, water, and utility assistance. Sadly, the proposal taken up by the Senate proposed zero dollars on this front. Nothing.
Families are currently stuck watching their rent bills pile higher and higher, and many simply do not have a means to pay them because this pandemic has pulled the rug out from under them. That’s why the HEROES Act included funding for emergency rental assistance. The best way to deal with homelessness is to keep people from becoming homeless in the first place. And yet the proposal in the Senate does nothing to provide rental assistance. Zero.
I believe states, tribes, and local governments shouldn’t have to weather this crisis without help from the federal government.
Budget shortfalls are expected all across the state and country. That’s particularly concerning because the individuals on the front lines of this crisis who are keeping us safe – the health care workers, fire, EMS, educators, transit drivers, and other vital workers – are at risk of losing their jobs.
We know that Governor Inslee has already warned of a potentially $8-9 billion revenue shortfall over the next three years for the state of Washington. We also know that several school districts have begun to do layoffs and many county and municipal governments are undertaking significant cutbacks.
We know that educators and students have had their lives turned upside down - and they need more resources to ensure kids can learn. That’s why the HEROES Act provided funding will help maintain or restore state and local fiscal support for elementary, secondary, and public higher education to meet a wide range of urgent needs, including after-school programs, distance learning, emergency financial aid for college students, and coordination with public health departments to mitigate the spread of disease. Last week, I hosted a day of action on my social media pages to hear from community leaders, parents, and teachers, about the resources we need for our schools to reopen safely – like Martha Patterson in Kitsap County who celebrated her 1st day of school as an educator for the 35th time - and spoke to why action right now at the federal level is necessary:
That’s why I was pleased to see that the HEROES Act included assistance to state, local, and tribal governments to address the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency. Support for state and local governments is essential – not just because of the crucial services they provide each day. Rather, the federal government has called for a coronavirus response executed at the state and local level. That means they need to have the resources needed to carry out the response to this public health crisis.
Sadly, the proposal from the Senate fails to provide robust support for state, local, and tribal governments. Indeed, Leader McConnell has said that states should simply go bankrupt.
I could go on. On issue after issue – including ones I wrote about in my last newsletter like protecting election security during this pandemic and ensuring the U.S. Postal Service can continue doing this job – the Senate has simply rejected any offers of compromise, moving further and further away from what is needed.
The House has made clear it would be willing to meet in the middle and forge a compromise to help people in need. But, as the saying goes, “it takes two to tango."
In the days and weeks ahead, please know that I will continue to push for an agreement. I go to bed every night thinking about the people I’d spoke with that day that are hurting. And I wake up every morning committed to getting the federal government to stop with political games and just solve some problems to help them.
Working for You
Supporting Economic Development
The Port of Grays Harbor continues to drive economic development in Grays Harbor and across the region - and I’m always eager to check in with their Director, Gary Nelson, and his awesome team! I appreciate the important work they do – and their partnership!
Working for the Small Business Community
As someone who worked in economic development for the better part of a decade, there’s something I think elected officials should be saying more to our region’s small businesses: “Thank you.” In the face of an unprecedented and ongoing global pandemic, you have adapted in new ways to continue supporting the livelihoods of your workers – and you all will be instrumental in leading our economic recovery! Thanks to EDC Team Jefferson for convening a roundtable with small businesses from around Jefferson County. Count me on the home team!
OK – that’s it for now folks. Take care of yourselves – and one another. As always, I’m honored to represent you.