Working Hard to Grow Jobs

This past weekend was a busy one for me. From the Quileute Tribal Festival out in LaPush to Kitsap Pride in Bremerton, from the Summer Arts Festival in Gig Harbor to the Geoduck Festival in Allyn, I covered a lot of territory and had a lot of amazing conversations.

In a lot of those discussions, I was struck by the fact that, folks didn’t just talk about what they were against. People spoke to me about their hopes. They talked about what they’re for.

It’s safe to say that I’ve got my fair share of concerns about proposals in our nation’s capital (if you’ve read past newsletters, you know what I’m talking about…if you haven’t read past newsletters, why haven’t you read past newsletters!?!?!).

That said, I think it’s important that we start having some more conversations about what we are for. With that in mind, I’m going to start my newsletter this week talking about something I’m for. 

I’m for jobs. 

I’m for making sure people have economic opportunity no matter what zip code they live in. 

I’m for policies that help people earn a good living and support their families. 

That’s the concern I heard in every spot I visited this weekend, and it’s the issue I hear about more than any other throughout our region.

It’s what got me into public service in the first place. 

Many of you may know that I grew up in Port Angeles. I was in high school around the time that the timber industry was taking it on the chin. I saw some of my friends’ parents lose their jobs, and it had a big impact on me. So much so that I studied public policy with a focus on economic development and then worked professionally in economic development for a decade. It continues to be my focus as your representative.

While some areas of our country are on the upswing, it’s clear to me that we need more jobs in more areas. I’m talking about all kinds of jobs too. I’m for boosting jobs in the construction trades, at our docks, at the shipyard, in office buildings, and anywhere else. If there are policies that can support job creation, if there are things government can do to help a small business owner or to help a worker put food on his or her table, I want to make it happen.

I’ve been working hard on a number of issues in that regard, and I want to focus this newsletter on some recent progress we’ve made. Read on for some good news!

I’m for fishing jobs

In 2013 an unusually warm mass of water (known as “the blob”) appeared off our coast and decided to stick around for a while. It ended up being toxic to salmon and was a contributing factor in runs plummeting to 20 percent of the previous five-year average. On top of that, changing ocean conditions fueled a massive harmful algal bloom (or HAB) that impacted iconic Dungeness crab populations.

That had major consequences for our region. Commercial and tribal fishermen who should have been trolling for salmon or setting crab pots could only look out at the water. Communities that depended on tourism fueled by fishing were negatively impacted too. In the end, lots of folks in our region were left wondering how exactly there were going to make their next loan payment or put food on the table.

I want to make sure entire livelihoods don’t go away and that these men and women can get back to doing what they do best. So we successfully pushed the U.S. Commerce Department last year to issue fishery disaster declarations for our region. Such declarations are supposed to give local communities access to assistance that can mitigate the impacts of disasters (like the blob) and sudden downturns in fish runs.

Despite the disaster declaration, it’s the job of Congress to provide the funding. As a member of the Appropriations Committee I went to work on this. I tag-teamed with the representative from our neighboring district, Jaime Herrera Beutler, to help these workers and these communities.

Last week, we successfully secured $20 million for these disasters in a bill headed to the House floor. We are taking concrete steps to get the resources our region needs to restore our runs. These investments mean jobs.   

Read more in the Aberdeen Daily World here.

I’m for economic development in local communities

Last week was a busy week in the Appropriations Committee.

I also got the opportunity to advocate for funding for economic development investments.  Not too long ago, we saw the opening of a new composite manufacturing center in Port Angeles.  This job-creating laboratory is taking carbon fiber composite scrap material and turning it into new, useful products.  It has the potential to drive manufacturing innovation – and job creation – on the Olympic Peninsula.

Why do I mention this?

Well, the composite recycling facility was funded in part by grants from the Economic Development Administration (the EDA).

So was some of the redevelopment of downtown Bremerton.

The EDA successfully provides grants for projects like these in communities throughout our country, because the costs of economic development shouldn’t be borne entirely by local taxpayers in struggling areas.

As you may recall from a past newsletter, the President’s budget proposal would have eliminated the Economic Development Administration altogether. That’s not right. I want the government to continue investing in jobs.

With that in mind, I worked with a bipartisan group of my colleagues last week to successfully restore some of that vital funding. It’s part of my ongoing push for jobs and economic growth in our region.


I’m for jobs at our local bases – and for the people who work there

Before we went home last week, a majority of Democrats and Republicans in Congress came together to pass a major bill known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that covers defense policy for our nation. This is important for a variety of reasons but let me start with what it means for the largest employer in our region.

For far too long, a number of policies put together in Washington D.C. have ignored the voices of workers in our region. Talented folks who are essential to maintaining our Naval fleet so it stays a step ahead have been asked to bear some big burdens. That’s not right.

For example, if you are someone living in Bremerton and working at the shipyard, you might get a call to take an assignment on the forward deployed aircraft carrier in Japan for months. But your ability to get overtime was in danger. If you are willing to spend time away from your family, you shouldn’t take a financial hit. Both Democrats and Republicans agree that if you work overtime you should get overtime.

So I successfully added an amendment to the defense bill to extend the authorization for overtime payments through 2019. You can bet I’m going to continue pushing Congress to settle this matter once and for all so workers aren’t left in limbo.

I also made sure that the NDAA included a provision to eliminate a policy enacted by the Defense Department that passed the burden of covering travel costs while on assignment to individual employees rather than the department or service.

This is something I’ve worked on for a while. Here’s a quick refresher. The per diem allowance for long-term temporary duty (TDY) workers was reduced by 25 percent for TDY periods longer than 30 days and 45 percent for those lasting long than 180 days. Every year, more than a thousand workers from Puget Sound Naval Shipyard and Naval Base Kitsap are deployed throughout the Pacific to assist in the readiness and maintenance of the Navy’s fleet.

Again, workers and servicemembers traveling for assignment shouldn’t have to take a financial hit to find a safe place to stay. I’m pleased that this provision was included in the defense bill, and I’m going to keep on this until we lighten the load on these men and women working on behalf of our national security. 

Read more here from the Kitsap Sun here.

I’m for jobs for our veterans

Since 9/11, those who separate from the military have been able to immediately seek employment as civil servants within the Department of Defense.  While a decades-old law required that members of the military wait 180 days before working for the DoD, that policy has been waived since 9/11.  Unfortunately, the waiver ended earlier this year, and the Trump Administration has not yet been willing to reinstate it.

This change in policy has had difficult consequences.  Over the last several months, we heard stories of veterans who want to go work at our region’s largest employers (Naval Base Kitsap and Joint Base Lewis McChord), but have to wait. Earlier this year, I met with a man who, after serving in the Navy for 20 years, was told he couldn’t head to work at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard despite the fact that he had an offer in hand. That’s not right for him or his family. To me, it’s not fair to ask veterans to be unemployed for 6 months before they can get a job.

With that in mind, earlier this year, I introduced the bipartisan Military Retiree Employment Act to eliminate this roadblock facing veterans. I’m pleased to report that my bill was included in the National Defense Authorization Act last week. I’m hoping the Senate will act on this as well, because this can make a real difference for veterans.

For a quick refresher on why this became a problem, check out this Kitsap Sun article from earlier this year.

That’s a lot about jobs! The bill also had some other good initiatives important to our nation’s military. Check out this video from my Facebook page to get a sense of some of the other elements of the bill – and why I supported it. 

I’m for preparing kids for school – and for life

I’m also proud to announce an investment for Kitsap County that will get kids excited about learning! Kitsap County (via Kitsap Community Resources) was recently awarded a Head Start and Early Head Start grant of over $3 million.

This grant will ensure that more than 220 students in Kitsap County will have access to no-cost preschool, essential health screenings, and special needs intervention.

This is good news because it means more kids in Kitsap will get off to a good start. Head Start provides a place for kids to learn valuable skills from talented educators. This will help us close the achievement gap, ensuring that kids – regardless of their background – have an opportunity to thrive when they enter a classroom.

Read more about the grant here.

Working for you

When I’m back home in the district, I’m also focused on jobs and economic development.

It was terrific being a part of the launching of the new Kitsap Fast Ferry from Bremerton. This will be a game-changer, helping to connect our region more quickly to customers, workers, and commerce across the water. Congratulations to John Clauson, the Kitsap Transit team, and all those who were involved in making this a reality.

I was happy to visit the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber's Medium Business of the Year, The Doty Group, P.S. It's great to see a long-standing family-owned business return to Downtown Tacoma! Thanks to Paul for taking the time to chat and for employing folks in the 6th Congressional District!

It was a pleasure to meet Lori Forte-Harnick, the new CEO of Goodwill in our region. From job trainings to supporting our veterans as they transition to the civilian workforce, I am thankful for all Goodwill Industries does for our region!

Speaking of transitioning veterans, I spent some time with a room full of military retirees at Naval Base Kitsap two weekends ago. We chatted about how to ensure that we have the backs of all who serve. Our region is much stronger because of the men and women who serve and live in our communities.

I also had the opportunity to meet with folks at an important employer in Tacoma – the Carol Milgard Breast Center. While there, I heard from a group of radiologists about new technologies enabling them to diagnose and treat cancer sooner. We also had an in-depth conversation about the path forward on health care policy.

Before I close, let me thank everyone who tuned in for my first Twitter Q&A! There will be more to come, so please stay tuned. If you want to check it out, you can visit here.  

OK… that’s it for now. If I can ever lend a hand to you or someone else you know, please give me a holler.

As always, it’s an honor to represent you.

Derek Kilmer