08.03.20

We Can't Let Up the Fight for Unemployment Assistance

Hello Folks –

I can’t believe we’ve already hit August. It’s been a really busy (and muggy) summer in Washington, D.C. Since late June, the House passed:

  • The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act to bring coverage to millions, lower costs, and end discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions;
  • The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act, which represents a significant and comprehensive first step to address the systemic injustices in law enforcement and policing;
  • The Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act to protect renters and homeowners from eviction;
  • The Moving Forward Act to make significant investments in transportation and infrastructure;
  • The NO BAN Act and Access to Counsel Act to protect civil liberties and the rights of immigrants in court;
  • The National Defense Authorization Act to provide a pay raise for our service members;
  • The Great American Outdoors Act to fund our national parks and support conservation;
  • Ten out of the 12 annual spending bills to fund 96% of the federal government (with a big increase for rural broadband and Puget Sound recovery);
  • The Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act to help address disparities facing Black Americans; and
  • Two bills to improve access to childcare during this pandemic (which I’ll discuss below).

It’s been a flurry of activity... and there’s plenty more to do – particularly to address the economic downturn and significant impact to families and workers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As the challenges from COVID-19 have continued to change, and cases have started to re-emerge, I know folks have a lot of continued questions about where we go from here. This evening at 5:00pm, I’m hosting a COVID-19 Facebook Live Town Hall with retired Vice Admiral Dr. Raquel Bono, the director of Washington’s COVID-19 Pandemic Health Response, to help answer those questions and talk about the road ahead. Join the conversation here – and if you can’t make it live, the full conversation will be saved on my Facebook page!

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Now, on to the news!

Pushing to Help Folks Who Are Struggling

Nearly 11 weeks ago, the House passed its fifth coronavirus relief package, the HEROES Act, to deliver support to our frontline workers, provide additional direct assistance to families, expand assistance for nutrition and housing, invest in our nation’s testing capacity, and support critical operations for state, county, local, and tribal governments.

In addition to providing critical support for public education, strengthening help for small businesses, and providing assistance for frontline workers in our communities, a key component of that bill was the extension of federal unemployment assistance through the end of the year. This measure would help ensure that the more than 30 million unemployed Americans across our country could continue to put food on the table, pay their bills, and support their families during this unprecedented public health emergency.

But for 11 weeks, the Senate leadership did nothing. In fact, Mitch McConnell called for a “pause.” Now, amid news last week of the country’s worst quarterly economic contraction in history, and unemployment claims once-again rising across the nation, the Senate left town and those unemployment benefits expired. Frankly, what we saw is unacceptable and irresponsible. 

Just this weekend, I talked to a constituent in Kitsap County who had lost his job when the pandemic struck. He’s a dad with three daughters, and he said he was worried about making ends meet. He said that they were depleting their savings rapidly. And sadly, he’s not alone. Many families are wondering how they will make rent or pay the bills.

I’ve been sounding the alarm about this possibility for weeks now – and I even introduced legislation with the Vice Chair of Congress’ Joint Economic Committee that would automatically continue enhanced emergency unemployment benefits for the duration of the public health emergency until conditions return closer to pre-crisis levels.

The folks I represent need the White House and Mitch McConnell to stop pretending that negotiations for further relief for Americans is a political game – and to come to the table with serious policy proposals that will actually help people. I’m hopeful in the coming days, Congress can find a solution – and I’ll keep pushing to ensure that unemployment benefits are extended.

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Improving Access to Quality Childcare During the COVID-19 Crisis

This pandemic has been hard on parents and on kids. As we take steps to re-open the economy, it is absolutely essential we are ensuring folks who are returning to work have the access they need to safe, dependable, and high-quality childcare for their kids. As a dad, I know personally how important this will be as we look towards the fall – particularly if schools go virtual.

That’s why last week, the House passed two bills to provide support to families who need childcare and support for childcare providers to enable the safe reopening of the economy.

First, the House passed a bill I co-sponsored, the Child Care is Essential Act, to create a Child Care Stabilization Fund to invest in childcare and ensure providers across Washington have additional resources to safely reopen. Through the fund, approximately $838 million would be invested in Washington state’s childcare system - helping providers stay open, keeping employees on payroll, and ensuring childcare facilities are able to safely operate under new guidelines.

Additionally, the House passed the Child Care for Economic Recovery Act to provide ongoing federal investments and tax subsidies for working families, bringing quality childcare to more working families and providing new tax credits to support child care providers affected by the COVID-19 shutdowns.

Access to childcare is important to families – and to economic development. Passing these bills will help families in our region who need support – and help those who are working in childcare who have also felt the strain of this pandemic.

I’m hopeful these bills will be passed by the Senate to help families and providers ensure safe childcare in our communities.

Working for You

Answering Your Questions

Last week, I was joined by Dr. Anthony Chen, the Director of Health for Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department, for a Facebook Live conversation to answer questions from folks across our region about the health and economic response to COVID-19. You can catch the full conversation here:

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One of the key messages from Dr. Chen: Wear a mask and continue to social distance!

Supporting the Humanities

Arts and cultural institutions contribute mightily to our region’s economic vitality. As we work to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, we can’t leave those institutions behind. Thanks to the board of the Bainbridge Island Museum of Art for the great discussion last week – and for the extraordinary work they do to connect people.

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Celebrating the Americans with Disabilities Act – And Committing to More Action

Last Sunday, we celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) becoming law, which affirmed that people with disabilities have the right to live their lives free from discrimination. I spoke with Ivanova Smith, an inspiring self-advocate from our region, about the important progress we have made in expanding opportunity and access for Americans with disabilities under the ADA - and the work that remains ahead to ensure full inclusion and equality for all Americans with disabilities. Catch the full conversation over on my Facebook page this afternoon!

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OK folks, that’s it for now. Take care of yourselves - and of one another.

As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Sincerely,

Derek