06.15.20

Working for You

Hello Folks –

I hope this note finds you well. 

I’ve been asked a fair amount over the last few months whether I’m still meeting with constituents (even in the midst of social distancing). Well, through the wonders of technology, I’m actually spending about 10-14 hours each day meeting with folks from all over our region. A lot of the time has been focused on ensuring folks have information about resources that can help them through this challenging time. Sometimes it’s focused on listening to folks about their priorities and how I can represent them. Sometimes it’s both!

Quick example... on Friday, I had the pleasure of visiting with seniors from The Pearl on Oyster Bay, a senior living community in Bremerton. Our conversation was wide-ranging - we talked about the federal response to COVID-19 (and some of the unique challenges for seniors), my efforts to lower prescription drug prices, and my ongoing work to ensure our seniors receive the benefits they have earned and deserve.

In particular - we spoke about our shared belief in the need to protect and grow Social Security benefits. As many frequent readers of this newsletter know - my late Oma lived to almost 109 years old - and was able to live with dignity because of Social Security. I strongly believe that Congress needs to protect this critical program for current retirees and future retirees.

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That is why I’m a proud co-sponsor of the Social Security 2100 Act, which would take a comprehensive approach to protecting Social Security benefits for the years to come. That bill would extend the solvency of our Social Security system past the year 2100. Additionally, the bill would improve the cost-of-living-adjustment formula so that seniors are protected amid rising rates of inflation. Also, the bill would also expand upon tax benefits for Social Security recipients, as well as expand accessibility to fair Social Security compensation for low-income retirees. It does all this, simply put, by asking the very wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share. That makes a lot of sense to me – and made sense to the seniors I visited with in Bremerton!

We also discussed a bill I’ve sponsored called the Seniors Have Eyes, Ears, and Teeth Act. This bill acknowledges an important truth – that, as we age, so do our eyes, ears, and teeth. With that in mind, this bill would expand Medicare coverage to include eyeglasses, hearing aids, and dental care.  

It matters to me that Congress takes steps to protect Social Security and Medicare for generations to come – and I’m committed to doing all I can to make that happen.

Addressing Inequities in Our Country

While on the topic of health care, we know that during this pandemic, we cannot afford to leave anyone behind. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting communities of color as a result of deeply rooted health inequities. This unprecedented public health crisis underscores the health disparities and racial inequities that have existed in the U.S. health care system for generations. Most importantly, it points to the need to implement a comprehensive and strategic plan to improve the health and well-being of communities of color through a health equity perspective. That’s why I’m a sponsor of the Health Equity Accountability Act (HEAA).

The HEAA 2020, which was introduced by the Congressional Black, Hispanic, and Asian American Caucuses, provides critical federal resources and establishes policies to eliminate long-standing health inequities. The bill takes concrete steps to reduce and eliminate health disparities such as improving data collection, improving access to health care for everyone, and expanding mental and behavioral services targeting communities of color. It’s an important bill – and I’m proud to support it.

Sadly, there are many systemic injustices that have been built into our country that disadvantage Black Americans. There are inequities in housing, education, and criminal justice, just to name a few, that require our attention and our action.

With that in mind, I have sponsored several bills focused on addressing these inequities as well. That includes an important bill that has been a significant priority of the Congressional Black Caucus – the Commission on the Social Status of Black Men and Boys Act which would establish a commission to examine social disparities that disproportionately affect Black men and boys, and recommend policies and practices to improve upon or augment current government programs.

In addition, on Sunday, I was at Stadium High School in Tacoma with hundreds of teachers and students who showed up to demand action to end violence against Black Americans and to ensure more equitable opportunities. Several of the speakers referenced the importance of ensuring culturally relevant educational opportunities and ensuring that curriculum embraces our extraordinary diversity. That’s one reason I’m a sponsor of the Black History is American History Act, which would mandate the inclusion of Black history as a required component of American History and Civics Academies’ competitive grants, and promote the use of resources offered by the National Museum of African American History and Culture to teachers and students.

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This last week, Americans in our region and across the country continued to organize to voice pain and anger over the patterns of violence against Black Americans, and to demand justice.

I share this pain – the desire for change in our country – and believe that Congress must pursue bold reforms to improve the accountability of law enforcement.

Last week, I joined the Congressional Black Caucus in introducing the Justice in Policing Act of 2020 – a comprehensive bill focused on bold changes to combat police brutality, raise standards, and address racial injustice.

The Justice in Policing Act would, among other provisions, focus on:

  • combating police brutality, including by requiring body and dashboard cameras, banning chokeholds, ending the use of no-knock warrants in drug cases, and enacting steps to end racial profiling;
  • removing barriers to prosecuting police misconduct and recovering damages from officers who have violated civilians’ rights;
  • investing in transformative community-based policing programs;
  • de-militarizing the police by limiting the transfer of military weaponry to state and local police departments; 
  • stepping up pressure on the Justice Department to address systemic racial discrimination by law enforcement;
  • and finally, making lynching a federal hate crime.

On Saturday, I joined the Tacoma-Pierce County Black Collective to discuss these bills – and the further steps that must be taken to address these inequities in our country. I’m grateful to Lyle Quasim and the entire group for the kind welcome and the informative discussion.

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I was also grateful to speak with an incredible group of youth organizers in Kitsap County who are working for social justice in our region. A huge thank you to Living Life Leadership, Kitsap ERACE Coalition, and other amazing students for sharing important thoughts, stories, and ideas during this important moment in history. I look forward to working with you to tackle the injustices facing Black Americans here and across the country.

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Working for You

Helping Our Small Businesses

Last week, I spoke with the Washington State Small Business Recovery Working Group, a statewide partnership dedicated to ensuring our local employers emerge from this pandemic stronger than ever.

One thing we discussed: there is still $130 billion remaining in the Paycheck Protection Program. If you haven’t applied yet, I would encourage you to visit this U.S. Small Business Administration resource to learn more about potential relief for your business.

Answering Your Questions

On Thursday Congressman Denny Heck and I hosted a Facebook Live town hall discussion on the federal government’s response to COVID-19, new comprehensive legislation we are supporting to combat police brutality, raise standards, and address racial injustice, and to answer your questions. Thanks to everyone who participated. For those who missed it, you can catch the full conversation by clicking here:

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Tomorrow, Tuesday the 16th at 2:00pm, I’ll be hosting another town hall - this time with the AARP of Washington state. Tune in at Facebook.com/Derek.Kilmer/Live!

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Solving Problems for Our Constituents

I work for you! If you can’t get an answer from a federal agency or if you feel you’ve been treated unfairly, my casework team may be able to help resolve a problem or get you the information you need. That work has been more important than ever during this pandemic. Check out Nick’s story and how my team was able to lend a hand.

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If you need assistance with a federal agency, reach out to Team Kilmer here

Addressing the Housing Crisis

The coronavirus pandemic is putting even more strain on access to affordable housing and on folks experiencing homelessness in our region. The good news is that there are amazing people in our community who are working day-in and day-out to make life better for folks and to improve this situation. That includes Michael Mirra, the Executive Director of Tacoma Housing – who has been a fantastic leader, partner, and friend here in Tacoma. I spoke with Michael last week to talk about the situation, how the federal government has responded, and how we can work together to support our communities’ efforts to build out the kind of affordable housing supply we so desperately need.

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OK – that’s it for now, folks. Please take care of yourselves – and one another.

As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Sincerely,

Derek