05.11.20

Telephone Town Hall Tonight

Hello Folks -

I hope everyone was able to take a few moments yesterday to celebrate Mother’s Day. While the Kilmer family usually goes out for brunch to celebrate Jen – this year, we stuck closer to home. (We had a great Mexican dinner and watched the Tom Hanks “Mr. Rogers” movie! Not a bad night!)

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I hope all the moms out there had a terrific day. And to my mom – thanks for being a great mom!

OK - on to the news!

Welcoming You to Tonight’s Telephone Town Hall

I work for you – and even though we can’t meet in person right now, it’s important for me to connect with you and hear from you. I hope folks will be able to join my telephone town hall TONIGHT at 6:00pm where I’ll provide an update on the federal government’s response to the coronavirus and answer questions from all of you.

In addition to a discussion on the legislation passed by Congress to support workers and families, I’ll be joined by Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman who will provide an update on the public health emergency and discuss the state’s plans to keep folks safe while moving toward economic recovery.

To join us at 6:00pm tonight, Monday May 11, just dial 877-229-8493 and use PIN = 111435 or you can listen online here. If you can’t make it, I’ll be posting the full recording of the town hall on my website in the coming days!

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Working on Behalf of the Folks I Represent

It’s expected that the House will likely be in session later this week to vote on a new bill to respond to the public health and economic challenges posed by this pandemic. While the House of Representatives has only returned to the Capitol sporadically in the past couple of months (to vote on the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act and on the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act), I’m continuing to work on behalf of the folks I represent.

Although my office is often my dining room table these days, I’ve remained hard at work for the folks that I represent. Whether it’s video-conferencing with small business owners, local leaders, and people who have recently fallen on hard times, or working with my policy team to develop and advance legislative proposals that address the needs of the folks I represent, or holding virtual townhalls and events to keep my constituents informed – I have not treated the time Congress is not in D.C. as a vacation.

Early in this crisis, I sent a letter to House leadership (along with some of my colleagues) calling on the House to continue to conduct the work required. In it, I wrote, “we respectfully request that, to the greatest extent practicable, Leadership and Committee Chairs return to regular order despite the challenges of our current remote work. Committees should seek to carry out an inclusive, bipartisan process as we craft the next round of responses, utilizing the technology solutions identified by the House Committee on Administration to hold virtual legislative hearings and meetings as soon as possible."

Frankly, I’m not waiting on others though.

As the Chair of the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress, I have pushed for my committee to continue to have regular meetings. In fact, at the beginning of May, our committee conducted a virtual discussion (via video conference) on how Congress can continue committee operations, drawing on lessons from legislative bodies in states and other countries. You can read more about that here

In addition, as a member of the Appropriations Committee, I have participated in oversight discussions in the past month with the Veterans Administration, the Treasury Department, the Defense Department, the Small Business Administration, the Indian Health Service, and the Bureau of Indian Affairs. While those discussions have occurred by telephone or by videoconference, they have been important in the effort to ensure accountability and efficiency in the federal response to this pandemic.  

Since the stay-at-home orders have been instituted, I have been busy: leading a letter to the Trump Administration requesting the development of a strong national testing system, introducing legislation to support small businesses through a first-ever small business rebate check, leading a bipartisan letter to the Department of Defense (DOD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency to utilize the full potential of the DOD’s manufacturing base to provide much needed PPE and other critical equipment, and introducing bipartisan legislation to expand the Paycheck Protection Program to help employers retain their workforce and keep the lights on.

The public health crisis at hand—which has turned things upside down for families, students, frontline workers, and small businesses alike—is simply too big of a challenge to wait for action. Like so many businesses across our country, Congress is adapting to the new safety measures dictated by this crisis. Please know that I remain committed to continuing the critical work of serving our region during this time – even from my dining room table!

Ensuring the Federal Response is Efficient and Effective

During this unprecedented public health crisis, it is without question that Congress should step up to conduct oversight to ensure the federal response is both efficient and effective.

So far, Congress has passed four major bills designed to respond to an unprecedented global crisis. Economists from across the political spectrum have agreed that these investments – while exacerbating our debt concerns – have been necessary to save lives in the midst of a global pandemic and to deal with the carnage of the most significant economic disruption since the Great Depression.

Like many of you, I believe that our country needs balanced, fiscally responsible budgets that protect our values and our economic security. Well before this pandemic, I have been an advocate for addressing our nation’s long-term fiscal challenges. 

So, what should happen now?

First and foremost, we must make sure that the funds dedicated to this battle are spent efficiently and effectively. That’s why I voiced concerns to the Secretary of the Treasury, Steve Mnuchin, when it was revealed that funds targeted to support small businesses were instead going to well-financed, publicly-traded companies.

That’s also why I voted for the creation of a new House Select Committee on the Coronavirus Crisis that was designed to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent wisely and efficiently. This committee is modeled after the Truman Committee that was established in the beginning days of World War II. As Truman said, “I knew that after the First World War there’d been a hundred and sixteen investigating committees after the fact, and I felt that one committee before the fact would prevent a lot of waste and maybe even save some lives, and that’s the way it worked out."

The Truman Committee cost less than $1 million but prevented more than $15 billion in waste, fraud, and abuse. I’m hopeful that this new committee will have similar success.

Ensuring Folks Get Connected

For too long, too many rural communities have been left behind in our economy because America’s broadband infrastructure doesn’t reach them. We know that connecting communities to high-speed internet leads to new jobs and businesses, empowers students by placing new information at their fingertips, and helps rural communities get in on the economic growth we’re seeing that’s been largely concentrated in America’s cities. In other words, this isn’t about whether folks can watch Tiger King on Netflix. This is about whether people have educational opportunity and economic opportunity.

That’s why – even before this pandemic – I had sponsored bipartisan legislation to bridge the digital divide.

But, during this public health crisis, these inequities been on full display. For example, as education curriculum have shifted online, many students are being left behind. That’s why this week, I joined over 20 Members of Congress in calling on the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to do everything in its power to ensure students have adequate access to broadband connectivity - while protecting consumers from unnecessary data caps, overage fees, and unexpected bills. The FCC should use its authority to ensure that telecommunications providers are serving all students, regardless of where they live or their income level, to ensure they have adequate access to broadband and can continue to learn.

We’ve also seen this digital divide affecting our tribal communities. That’s why this week, I helped introduce new legislation to ensure Native American communities across our region have equal access to telehealth, education opportunities, and economic relief during the pandemic. The COVID-19 DISASTER in Indian Country Act will direct the FCC to grant tribes emergency special temporary authority of available spectrum on tribal lands so they can immediately deploy broadband networks on tribal lands during this pandemic. The bill has more than 200 endorsements from across the country, including more than 100 Tribal and Native Hawaiian communities.

Providing Rental Assistance During the COVID-19 Crisis

Even before COVID-19, too many people in our region have struggled to keep up with the cost of housing. Now, ongoing efforts to combat and contain COVID-19 are making it difficult for folks to keep up economically – including on rent. That’s why last week, I joined my friend and colleague Representative Denny Heck in introducing a new bill to support folks struggling to pay rent - without placing the burden on landlords—many of whom are relying on payments from renters to pay their own mortgages.

The new bill, which is co-sponsored by over 130 Members of Congress, would establish an Emergency Rental Assistance Program to provide $100 billion to help Americans pay their rent and stay in their homes during the COVID-19 crisis. This program is based on the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) program, an existing program that supports emergency short-term rental assistance, by using the existing ESG program’s infrastructure to facilitate the efficient and effective distribution of support to renters. By supporting tenants struggling to pay rent, this legislation also supports rental property owners of all sizes, and economic recovery as Americans withstand the COVID-19 crisis.

Working for You

Helping our Small Businesses

Lissa Monberg and the team at Hama Hama Oysters are some of my favorite proprietors of deliciousness. The 5th generation family oyster and tree farm on Hood Canal is facing challenges because of the pandemic - but they’ve successfully received a new Paycheck Protection Program loan to help keep folks on payroll. Check out their story in the video!

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There is tremendous need in our communities to ensure this program is a success. That’s why I introduced a bipartisan plan to provide more help to our small businesses, to increase access, and to ensure the program is adequately funded for the future.

Ensuring Home Health Care Workers Have Support

Home health care workers do vitally important work to ensure people can live with dignity. They need personal protective equipment to protect their health and they need Congress to step up and provide state governments with resources to avoid massive cuts in care. Thanks to the folks from SEIU for chatting with me last week and sharing their concerns and ideas.

Answering Your Questions

As Congress works to craft the next coronavirus relief package, I’m working to ensure the federal government steps up and provides immediate and direct support for those on the frontlines of this crisis – including the health care workers, police, fire, transportation, EMS, teachers and other vital workers who keep us safe – that work for our state, local, county and tribal governments. On Friday, I joined Gig Harbor Mayor Kit Kuhn for a Live Facebook Q&A to talk with folks about the federal and local response to the coronavirus and to answer your questions. If you missed it, you can catch the full conversation here.

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OK – that’s it for now folks. I’m looking forward to speaking with you tonight on the telephone town hall! Be safe and stay well!

As always, I’m honored to represent you. 

Sincerely,

Derek