Washington Review, August 24, 2020
Over the weekend, the House was back in session to vote on legislation to curb the Administration’s preposterous attacks on the United States Postal Service (USPS). I also signed onto the Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act and legislation to ensure the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) could provide funeral assistance to undocumented immigrants dealing with the fallout of COVID-19. Additionally, I signed onto letters highlighting the adverse effects the Administration’s recent policies at the USPS have on our veterans, requesting more aid for the people impacted by the tragic explosion in Beirut, and protecting the right to vote by mail for people across the country.
On Saturday, the House convened to vote on H.R. 8015, the Delivering for America Act, introduced by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY). I proudly voted in favor of this crucial legislation, which I also cosponsored, that passed the house by a vote of (257-150). In the midst of continued attacks on the USPS by the Trump Administration, it was imperative for the House to vote on legislation to halt the attempted damage the Administration sought to inflict on the Postal Service. H.R. 8015 would prohibit the Postal Service from implementing, initiating, or approving any changes to operational or service standards that were in effect on January 1, 2020. This restriction would remain in effect until January 2021, or the end of the public health emergency relating to the spread of COVID-19, whichever date comes later. Specifically, this bill prohibits any change that would affect service on a nationwide basis, any revision of existing service standards, the closing, consolidating, or reducing of the house of any post office or facility, any restriction on paying overtime to postal employees, and any change that would have the effect of delaying mail or increasing the volume of undelivered mail. Additionally, this legislation includes $25 billion in emergency funds for the USPS, requires the Postal Service to treat all official election mail as First-Class mail, prohibits the removal of mailboxes and mail sorting machines, and reverses any already implemented changes to the operations or policies of the USPS that delay mail delivery. I have long been supportive of the USPS and the hard-working Postal Employees. The Administration’s attacks on the agency are nothing short of appalling and need to be stopped. I recently wrote an Op-Ed, discussing how the Administration should work with Congress, rather than attack the Postal Service. You can read my Op-Ed here. H.R. 8015 now awaits further action from the Senate, and I urge my colleagues there to swiftly take up and pass this important piece of legislation.
Last week, I signed onto two letters, led by Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) and Rep. Brendan Boyle (D-PA), addressed to Postmaster General DeJoy highlighting the delays in mail-order prescriptions to United States Veterans. Recent policies implemented by the Administration have caused mail-order prescriptions from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), which are normally delivered in days, to be delayed by weeks. The VA currently fills about 80% of its prescriptions by mail, resulting in about 500,000 prescriptions per day sent from the VA through USPS. Many of these medications are vital to the well-being of our veteran’s and delays are unacceptable. Our courageous veterans, who rely on this timely prescription delivery from the VA and the USPS, have been adversely affected and deserve better. The letters ask Postmaster General DeJoy what actions are being taken to eliminate these delays on veteran’s prescriptions and how the USPS is coordinating with the VA to ensure these delays no longer happen. Those who have served their country deserve to have their prescriptions delivered in a timely and effective manner.
Last Tuesday, I signed onto a letter led by Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ), addressed to Speaker Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Schumer (D-NY), urging them to include support for the Postal Service in any future COVID-19 relief bill. The USPS employs over 620,000 Americans and provides important services such as delivering the 2020 census, stimulus checks, prescriptions, and vote-by-mail ballots, in addition to normal mail delivery. With the general election taking place in a few months, and a record number of mail-in ballots expected to be cast, it is imperative that we ensure the Postal Service is adequately equipped to ensure millions of Americans can safely and effectively exercise their right to vote.
I became a cosponsor of H.R. 6828, the COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Fund, introduced by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). This legislation would direct FEMA to provide financial assistance to individuals, both citizens and undocumented immigrants, as well as funeral homes, for the funeral expenses of an individual who died of COVID-19 without sufficient insurance to pay for the expenses through he establishment of a COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Fund. COVID-19 has impacted many families across the country, and those who are undocumented and have lost a loved one to this virus deserve assistance as much as the rest of us. My thoughts are with the families and friends of anyone who has lost a loved one to this virus.
I also cosponsored H.R. 6814, the Supporting Connectivity for Higher Education Students in Need Act, introduced by Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CT). This legislation helps provide internet connectivity and devices for college and graduate students with demonstrated financial need. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, many colleges and universities are moving towards virtual learning for the safety of students, faculty, and staff. However, students who do not have reliable access to internet at home risk falling behind and missing material. This bill will help address that gap and prioritizes funding towards minority serving institutes and students who are eligible for need-based financial aid and other programs such as SNAP and Medicaid.
Last Monday, I joined over 50 of my colleagues in signing onto a letter led by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), addressed to the President and Acting Department of Homeland Security Secretary Chad Wolf urging the Administration to designate Lebanon for Temporary Protected Status (TPS) or Deferred Enforced Departure (DED). The deadly recent explosion in Beirut has unfortunately killed hundreds, injured thousands more, and left over 300,000 people homeless. The explosion struck during an already difficult time for Lebanon, as its people are battling both the COVID-19 pandemic and an economic crisis. With the hardships already being endured by the Lebanese people before this tragedy, it is incumbent upon us to offer safe-haven to those individuals who now have nowhere to go. The explosion has unfortunately devastated and uprooted the lives of hundreds of thousands across Lebanon, the United States has always been a home for those with nowhere else to turn, and we must continue living up to this great legacy.
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.