Washington Review, August 31, 2020
Last week, I joined a virtual conference to discuss the impacts COVID-19 is having on affordable rent and housing in the 8th District. I also signed onto legislation to protect the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), protect our children from toxic pesticides, and expand school nutrition waivers for children. Additionally, I sent and signed onto letters urging support for state parks, and pressing the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to stop their pursuit of the Pebble Mine.
- Housing Summit
On Tuesday, I joined a virtual summit hosted by the Housing and Community Development Network of New Jersey to talk about safe and affordable housing in the 8th District. I was happy to speak to constituents from the 8th District about the policies I am pursuing in Congress to ensure affordable homes, both in my district, and across the country. The COVID-19 pandemic has put a strain on homeowners and renters as the economic effects of the virus have left many struggling to pay for housing. Since the onset of the pandemic I have been supportive of efforts to provide assistance to individuals who are now facing hardships making payments. On June 29, 2020 I voted in favor of H.R. 7301, the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act, introduced by Rep. Maxine Waters (D-CA). Among the many provisions in this legislation was $100 billion in emergency funding for rental assistance, $11.5 billion in funding to help prevent the spread of COVID-19 among people experiencing homelessness, and a national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. COVID-19 has impacted our communities and economies in many ways. During this public health emergency no one should have to worry about having a roof over their head.
On Wednesday, I became a cosponsor of H.R. 7764, the Child Nutrition Relief Act of 2020, introduced by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY). On March 14, 2020, the House passed H.R. 6201 the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). Among the many provisions in this legislation was waivers for school meal programs to ensure children continued to receive nutritious meals while being out of the classroom. The funding for these waivers as detailed in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act is set to expire on September 30, 2020. That is why I cosponsored the Child Nutrition Relief Act of 2020, which will again extend the waivers for these school meal programs through the end of the 2020/2021 school year. Millions of children across the country rely on school meals and meal programs in order to get their daily nutrition intake. With so many children resuming online learning in the fall, it is imperative that we continue to get these meals to the children that need them.
I also became a cosponsor of H.R. 6797, the Children’s Health Insurance Program Pandemic Enhancement and Relief (CHIPPER) Act, introduced by Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA). This legislation would prevent any cuts in states’ Children’s Health Insurance Programs (CHIP) which are scheduled to take place October 1, 2020. Recently, Congress increased CHIP’s Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) by 11.5% for fiscal year (FY) 2020. This legislation would keep that 11.5% increase in funding through to October 2021. During the midst of a public health emergency we should not be cutting health funding for our children.
On Wednesday, I cosponsored H.R. 7940, the Protect America’s Children from Toxic Pesticides Act, introduced by Rep. Joe Neguse (D-CO). This legislation would eliminate many types of dangerous pesticides that have been proven to lead to neurodevelopmental damage, muscle damage, and other diseases in children. This legislation would also suspend the use of pesticides that have been deemed unsafe by either the European Union (EU) or Canada until they undergo further review by the EPA, and allow individuals and communities to petition the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to remove certain harmful pesticides from approved usage. This bill would also help farmers and farmworkers by requiring all employers of farmworkers to disclose pesticide related injuries to the EPA, and by requiring the EPA to work with pesticide manufacturers to develop more clear labelling on their products. Time and time again pesticides have shown to be detrimental to human health, we need to ensure our populations are protected from these dangerous chemicals.
On Tuesday, I sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), urging her to include funding for state parks and the departments that oversee them in any future relief legislation. Liberty State Park in the 8th District is a magnificent outdoor getaway that many people are visiting this summer to enjoy the outdoors while remaining socially distant and safe. Like Liberty State Park, parks across the country have seen a rise in the number of visitors as people who work from home seek to get some fresh air. This increased attendance, coupled with an increased need for maintenance and sanitation means state park budgets are getting stretched thin. My letter to Speaker Pelosi outlines the importance of Liberty State Park to the 8th District, and the importance of state parks across the country in helping people enjoy the outdoors, relieve stress, and enjoy the sunshine safely during the current COVID-19 pandemic. It is crucial we fund our state parks and the agencies overseeing them so people can continue to utilize them.
I also sent a letter, led by Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY), to the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Administrator John Barsa expressing my concerns with the agency’s 2020 Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment Policies. The letter highlights how the proposed policies present a reversal of USAID’s commitment to empowering women and children across the globe for the past decade. Additionally, the draft policy also does not take into account the specific needs of the LGBTQ+ community, does not adhere to global human rights standards, and does not recognize the role of reproductive health in women and girls’ empowerment. The United States is a leader in women’s empowerment across the globe, and we should be striving to continue that tradition. It is much more important to ensure women and children across the world are properly treated and cared for, rather than to create overtly political policies that will come at the detriment of marginalized communities.
I joined over 25 of my colleagues in a letter led by Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA), to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Wheeler, urging him to protect Bristol Bay, Alaska and stop the proposed Pebble Mine from coming to fruition there. The letter calls for Administrator Wheeler to use the authority of the EPA under the Clean Water Act to oppose the Pebble Mine. The mine would be situated at the base of the Bristol Bay Watershed, one of America’s most ecologically valuable waterways. The mine would also threaten a globally significant ecosystem, putting at risk one of the world’s greatest sockeye salmon fisheries, a multimillion-dollar contributor to the local economy.
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