December 11, 2023

Investing in the Future of Our Ferries

Hello Folks –

I hope this message finds you and your loved ones in good spirits during this holiday season. It’s such a wonderful time of the year to reflect on what we’ve accomplished and look forward to the future.

Speaking of accomplishments, I can’t help but mention some exciting news from the sports world – our Washington Huskies clinched the Pac-12 Championship and are headed to the College Football Playoff!  While this team has occasionally been bad for my blood pressure, it’s been awesome to watch their determination and teamwork.  And it’s a joy to see folks come together to celebrate their success.  Go Dawgs!

Meanwhile, in the other Washington, my days have been filled with meetings, discussions, and plenty of coffee, all centered around ensuring that the voices and concerns of people back home are heard and addressed in the halls of the Capitol.

So, without further delay, let’s dive into the news.

Investing in the Future of Our Ferries

Sadly, we’ve seen plenty of disruption in the ferry system.  The state has an aging fleet, and maintenance problems have led to schedule uncertainty that has made life difficult for folks in our neck of the woods.  With that in mind, I’m delighted to bring you some good news from the world of transportation and infrastructure!

The Federal Transit Administration (FTA), in a move that underscores their commitment to modernizing our transport systems, has awarded much-needed funds to the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT). This funding is part of the FTA’s Urbanized Area Passenger Ferry Grant Program, a key element of the landmark Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

What does this mean for us? Well, federal funds can help with the effort to modernize our ferries. These ferries have been loyal workhorses, connecting communities and ferrying countless passengers over the years. Thanks to this funding, we can look forward to refurbished and revitalized passenger spaces.

Making sure that Washington State Ferries receives the necessary support to enhance their services has been a key focus of mine – and a shared aspiration of our community. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has been important in this regard. With its backing, the financial burden of ferry improvements will not solely rest on the shoulders of local taxpayers and regular ferry passengers.

Supporting Rural Hospitals

Forty-nine years ago, I was born at what was then called Olympic Memorial Hospital. Over the years, members of my family and I received good, quality care from what is now known as Olympic Medical Center’s well-trained physicians and nurses and from a staff that genuinely cares about the community. But the future of health care in rural communities faces extraordinary challenges that threaten the ability of folks to access the care they deserve. Unfortunately, the reality for many Americans in rural areas when it comes to health care is a story of gaps and barriers. And this isn’t just a problem for the Olympic Peninsula.

As a proud member of the Congressional Bipartisan Rural Health Caucus, I recently introduced the Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act. This bipartisan legislation will support our ongoing efforts to protect rural health care, helping rural hospitals access federal resources.

Just last week, I had the privilege of addressing the House, emphasizing the critical importance of providing technical assistance to our nation’s rural hospitals. The federal government has a crucial role to play in bolstering vital healthcare services in rural communities, preventing closures, and enhancing the financial and operational efficacy of these institutions.

As I wrote earlier this year, rural folks often bear the brunt of health care disparities. These factors burden rural hospitals, many of which are already buckling under pressure. Today, the rural hospital closure crisis threatens more than 400 rural hospitals nationwide with imminent closure.

For folks on the Olympic Peninsula, quality health care should be readily accessible – not a service only available in the shadow of the Space Needle. No matter who you are or where you’re from, you ought to be able to find quality, affordable medical care close to home.

This rural-urban health care divide is a crisis that demands urgent attention from Congress. With the support of one of my colleagues, a Republican from rural Texas, this bipartisan effort would provide targeted, in-depth technical assistance to vulnerable rural hospitals in communities struggling to maintain health care services. The Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act is a commitment to equity, a promise of access, and a crucial step toward ensuring that – going forward – quality health care isn’t a privilege confined to big cities.

Honoring One of Our Region’s Own

Last month, our region lost an extraordinary woman, Xinh Dwelley, after her lengthy battle with cancer.

She was so many things to so many people.

She was an outstanding chef who treated so many people to amazing meals, published cookbooks, and took immense joy in feeding people. She was an inspiration – someone with a powerful immigrant story who loved America mightily.  One of my favorite days in this job was gifting her a flag flown over the Capitol in her honor. She was just so proud. She was a community icon who supported local people and local causes with a generous heart and a warm smile. But perhaps most importantly, she was a friend. She was kind and caring. She treated me – and others – like family.

Earlier this month, to honor Xinh’s Legacy, I spoke on the House Floor. You can watch my tribute to Xinh Dwelley here.

Working for You

Connecting with Local Business Leaders

I enjoyed catching up with the folks at Carlile Transportation in Tacoma. It’s crucial to strengthen supply chains at the federal level for a stronger, more sustainable logistics sector. 

Working for Tribal Communities

It was great to meet with Chairwoman Amber Caldera of the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe. I’m inspired by her commitment to her community and looking forward to collaborating on issues like salmon recovery, early childhood education, and lowering housing costs.

Safeguarding our Way of Life

Thanks to folks from the Washington State Recreation and Conservation Office, the Governor’s Salmon Recovery Office, the Skokomish Tribe, and the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians for coming to discuss salmon recovery.

OK – that’s it for now, folks. As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Derek Kilmer
Derek Kilmer