10.13.20

Supporting Our Local Heroes and Assisting Our Federal Workers

Hello Folks –

As frequent readers of this newsletter know, for months now I’ve been pushing for the federal government to provide additional relief for families and for small business during this pandemic – and to deliver the resources needed on the frontlines to crush this virus.

That’s why, back in May - nearly 5 months ago - I proudly supported, and the House passed, the HEROES Act. This bill was a comprehensive coronavirus relief package to deliver more relief and new resources.

But since that time, Majority Leader Mitch Connell and the Republican Senate have failed to pass any COVID-19 relief bill - let alone one that would adequately meet the needs of so many folks in our neck of the woods. I don’t say that in a partisan way - it’s just a sad fact.

In response, the House took action yet again a couple of weeks ago by passing an updated version of the HEROES Act – a proposed compromise, but one that will still deliver support to our frontline workers, provide additional direct assistance to families and small businesses, support critical operations for community governments, and invest in our nation’s testing capacity so we can crush this virus. Now is not the time for partisan bickering; it’s time for progress on behalf of people who need help.

Earlier this month, I was honored stand up and speak up for the folks I have the honor of representing in the Weekly Democratic Address. I wanted to talk about why it’s so important that the federal government pass a relief package, and I decided to share some of the stories I’ve heard listening to folks in our neck of the woods. These are families who are struggling, small business owners who are hanging on for dear life, and first responders who are on the front lines of the pandemic. Every conversation that I’ve had, and letter that I have responded to, has only further confirmed for me that our communities simply can’t - and shouldn’t - have to wait any longer.

Check it out:

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Being There for Our Veterans

I believe that if you serve our country, we should have your back. That goes not just for active duty military families, but for our veterans, too.

Starting in March, the COVID-19 pandemic caused many Veterans Affairs (VA) health care facilities to cancel or delay non-emergency in-person appointments for our veterans, including a significant number of elective or non-essential medical procedures.

Now, as VA facilities begin to work through a backlog of nearly six months of cancelled or re-scheduled appointments, I’ve heard from a number of disabled veterans in our region who are at risk of not being able to fully utilize their benefits, due to previous rules limiting disabled veteran leave.

I believe that our veterans should receive the benefits they have earned and deserve – even amid a pandemic. That’s why, last week, I worked with Democrats and Republicans to introduce the Disabled Veteran Leave Extension/Restoration Act – new legislation that will extend the ability of veterans to use their disabled veteran leave and restore leave that has already been lost for some.

It’s important to me that all of our veterans have access to quality and affordable care – that’s why I’m proud that this bill would help ensure that our disabled veterans are able to fully utilize the benefits they have earned, even amid disruptions in veterans’ health care during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Honoring One of Our Own

Our region is filled with the stories of so many incredible and brave folks who served our country – including John Henry Turpin, a distinguished U.S. Navy sailor who was a lifelong resident of Bremerton.

John Henry Turpin’s thirty-year career in the Navy included service during the Spanish-American War, the Boxer Rebellion, and World War I. Not only is he believed to be the first Black American to qualify as a Master Diver, but he was one of the first Black Americans to achieve the rank of Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy. His outstanding legacy of service to our country is made even more significant by the era of prejudice and discrimination during which he served.

I’m proud that late last month, the House unanimously passed the bipartisan bill I introduced to designate the U.S. Postal Service facility on Pacific Avenue in Bremerton as the John Henry Turpin Post Office Building, in recognition of his achievements and service.

It’s fitting that Democrats and Republicans stood together in the halls of Congress to honor his life-long and selfless commitment to the defense of America and American values, and passed my bill to ensure that his accomplishments are permanently remembered in the City of Bremerton.

Check-out this “Western Washington Gets Real” segment from KIRO-TV about John Henry Turpin’s life. It features some of the amazing local leaders in our region who have worked so hard to make this recognition a reality:

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Supporting Our Federal Workers

Federal workers here in our region at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard have been working tirelessly throughout this pandemic to maintain the Navy’s readiness to respond to national security threats.

Because of COVID-19, many of these workers have avoided unnecessary travel to minimize health risks and limit exposure to this virus - helping to ensure this important work continues uninterrupted. However, existing regulations surrounding the earned paid leave benefits for these workers mean they are now at risk of losing the benefits they have earned by no fault of their own.

I don’t think federal workers should have to sacrifice the paid leave benefits they’ve earned because they chose to prioritize national service. That’s why, last week, I joined Senator Mazie Hirono in introducing the Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act to ensure federal workers at the Shipyard – and elsewhere within the federal government – are able to keep the unused paid time off that they have earned while also maintaining continuity of operations.

This bill will enable workers at the Shipyard, and other federal workers like U.S. Postal Service employees, Social Security Administration workers, and National Institutes of Health researchers, to carry over the leave they have accrued into next year. I think it’s a simple, common-sense fix that will help a lot of working families. I’ll keep pushing to get it passed by Congress.

Working for You

Raising Awareness for Mental Illnesses

Saturday was World Mental Health Day – an important time to talk about the challenges facing folks across our region during these unprecedented times – and the resources out there where folks can get help. I had the opportunity to connect with Lauren Simonds, Executive Director at National Alliance on Mental Illness of Washington, to talk through some of the great resources her organization provides for folks in our region - and to discuss what I've been working on back in D.C. to ensure our friends and neighbors in need get the relief and services they deserve.

Be sure to check out NAMIwa.org for more resources or utilize the 24/7 Crisis Line if you need help by texting NAMI to 741741. Check out our conversation:

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Pushing for Nutrition Support for Families

A Washington State Food Security Survey this summer found that food insecurity was experienced in 30% of households in Washington. Nearly 60% of those households had children. It is simply undeniable that families are hurting right now because of this pandemic - and they need a hand. I joined two incredible leaders from our region, Christina Wong, the Director of Public Policy & Advocacy for Northwest Harvest, and Claire Lane, the Director of the Anti-Hunger & Nutrition Coalition, to talk about what is happening in our communities and why I’m pushing so hard for further federal relief for working families when it comes to nutrition. Hear what they had to say here:

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Ensuring the COVID-19 Doesn’t Leave Our Tribes Behind

The federal government's response to COVID-19 cannot afford to leave our Tribal communities behind. At a hearing for the House Appropriations Committee earlier this month, I spoke to the leaders of the National Congress of American Indians and National Indian Health Board about the additional steps the federal government needs to take to support public health in Indian Country and honor the federal government’s sacred trust and treaty obligations. We'll keep at it.

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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 Kilmer