Washington Review, August 17, 2020
Last week, I signed onto legislation to help support small independent restaurants impacted by COVID-19. I also signed onto letters asking the Census Bureau for an explanation on why they would end data collection early, opposing the President’s order for the federal government to not cover the cost of National Guard stationed in states, and to include immigrants in any future COVID-19 relief legislation.
Last Monday, I became a cosponsor of H.R. 7197, the Real Economic Support That Acknowledges Unique Restaurant Assistance Needed To Survive (RESTAURANTS) Act of 2020, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR). This legislation would help to offer much needed support to independent restaurants across the country by establishing a $120 billion restaurant revitalization fund. The funds would be flexible and could be used for such things as payroll, food, utilities, and mortgage and rent payments. Independently owned restaurants are the backbone of local communities everywhere in the country. Their charm and services make up the character of the communities in which they reside. The COVID-19 pandemic has hindered many restaurants, and it is important that we protect these small businesses and help them stay on their feet during this public health crisis.
Last Thursday, I joined a letter led by Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) to Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Director of the Census Bureau Dr. Steven Dillingham, expressing concern over the Census Bureau’s recent decision to end data collection on the census a month early. The Census collection was originally scheduled to end on October 31, 2020, but a recent directive from the Census Bureau stated that enumeration would end on September 30, 2020, 4 weeks early. The fact that we are in the midst of a public health emergency makes it even more crucial that we should extend the collection period for the Census, to ensure all areas of our country have the resources they need going forward. In the past few weeks, I have signed onto letters urging the Census Bureau to extend their collection period into 2021, to ensure we get a fair and accurate count of everyone throughout the country. This latest announcement is disappointing and will lead to an inaccurate count of communities across the country.
I also joined the New Jersey Delegation in a letter led by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), addressed to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Acting Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Chad Wolf, expressing our concern that the Administration plans to end the cost sharing of the federal government for National Guard units in states. Memos signed by the President on August 3, 2020 require all states besides Texas and Florida to pay for National Guard units, while previously the federal government covered 100% of the cost-share. During this COVID-19 pandemic, many states budgets are already stretched thin, making this additional cost for National Guard units devastating for many state budgets. The National Guard has played a critical role here in New Jersey in combatting the spread of COVID-19 and helping to provide essential services to our communities. The federal government needs to reverse this decision so that the National Guard can continue to assist states as needed.
Last Monday, I signed onto a letter led by Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), addressed to Congressional Leadership urging them to include immigrants in any future COVID-19 relief legislation. The letter urges leadership to include families with Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) taxpayers, previously excluded from the assistance in the CARES Act, in any additional economic stimulus payments and to ensure immigration enforcement is not funded by any COVID-19 relief packages. The pandemic and secondary effects from this public health crisis have disproportionately affected immigrant communities and communities of color. We need to ensure that appropriate relief gets to these communities, and that no one who needs this relief is wrongfully excluded from it.
I also joined over 100 of my colleagues in a letter led by Rep. Jesus ‘Chuy’ Garcia (D-IL) and Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL) to Mexican President Lopez Obrador, urging the President to ensure that Mexican states comply with Mexican labor law. The letter also calls on President Lopez Obrador to ensure workers are allowed to organize independent unions and have lawyers represent them without fear of arrest or retaliation in the workplace. Currently, governors in various northern border states of Mexico are collaborating with the manufacturing industry to attack workers fighting for higher wages and safe workplaces. Additionally, Susana Prieto Terrazas, a prominent Mexican labor lawyer was recently arrested for her efforts to help employees of a U.S. auto parts plant organize an independent union. Labor rights are essential in normal times, and even more important during this COVID-19 pandemic. Mexico should be working with the rest of North America to help strengthen labor rights throughout the region, rather than attempting to dismantle them.
The Administration has again renewed their attacks on the Postal Service, with the President actively withholding funding from the agency in order to cast doubt on the results of November’s election. Last Thursday, I wrote an Op-Ed in support of the USPS, outlining the many flaws that would result from defunding or privatizing the Postal Service. The Postal Service is not a tool for private gain, but rather for public good, and the Administration needs to start supporting one of our most time-honored agencies and institutions. You can read my full Op-Ed here. I have also taken concrete action this Congress to support our Postal Service, I have cosponsored H.R. 6425, the Protect Our Post Offices Act, to help allocate $25 billion for the service when they needed it most. I’ve also cosponsored H.R. 2382, the USPS Fairness Act, which would repeal the requirement that the Postal Service annually prepay future retirement health benefits, another option besides privatization that would help the profitability of the Postal Service, as well as signed onto numerous letters to Congressional leadership urging them to support funding for USPS in any future relief legislation. We need to support our Postal Service and the hundreds of thousands of hard-working postal employees, which helps millions of Americans send vital correspondence, get medication, and pay bills.
The Census response rate in the 8th District is far below the average for the rest of New Jersey. Completing the Census is not only a constitutional responsibility but also greatly helps your district and local community get the funds it needs. Census results are directly tied to funding for emergency first responders, hospitals, schools, and many other important federal programs. Completing your census takes less than 10 minutes total and can have a significant impact. To complete your census visit: https://2020census.gov/en.html
Please know that I will continue working to get the 8th District the resources it needs. If you have questions or need assistance please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202)225-7919 and follow instructions to be connected to my staff or send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov. Together we can get through this.