Weekly Update: American Rescue Plan, Equality Act, USPS Hearing
Early Saturday morning, the House passed the American Rescue Plan to deliver much needed financial aid and support to the American people as our country continues to contend with the economic and health crises caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This week, we also passed the Equality Act, landmark legislation that ensures that LGBTQIA+ Americans are guaranteed the full protections of federal civil rights law, and the Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act to provide lasting protections for key public lands and waters in Arizona, Colorado, California, and Washington State.
Earlier in the week, I introduced two pieces of legislation, the Vote by Mail Tracking Act and the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act, and chaired two hearings – the first, an Oversight and Reform Committee hearing on legislative solutions to secure the financial stability of the USPS, and the second, an Oversight and Homeland Security Committees joint hearing on the SolarWinds Breach.
More on these and other updates below.
And, in case you missed it, you can read this week’s NY-12 COVID update here.
The American Rescue Plan
Early Saturday morning, I voted with my colleagues to pass H.R. 1319, The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. Funding and assistance from this bill is expected to deliver more than $70 billion to New York State, our communities and families.
As Chair of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, I oversaw the provisions of the package to provide $350 billion in new coronavirus funds for states, localities, Tribal governments, and territories; $117 million for oversight entities to promote transparency and accountability of all federal coronavirus relief funds; and emergency covid-related leave for federal employees and postal workers.
The bill also provides $1,400 stimulus checks, raises the minimum wage to $15 per hour, and provides important resources for testing, tracing, and mitigation, for our schools, for working families, and for those currently facing employment.
It has been an incredibly difficult year and we owe a tremendous amount of gratitude to all those working on the frontlines to keep us healthy, safe, and fed and I am hopeful that the American Rescue Plan will give them the tools they need to continue doing that work safely. Having been the epicenter of the pandemic in the early months, our city and state are in desperate need for federal aid and relief – and this bill delivers for New York. This bill is just the beginning. This is the rescue plan – the life preserver we need as a city, state, and country to stay above water as we fight this virus. Next up is the recovery plan which will enable us to build back better.
You can more about the bill here.
Protecting Vote by Mail in H.R.1
This week, I introduced the Vote by Mail Tracking Act, legislation to make it easier for election officials and voters to track the status of their ballots and for the Postal Service to identify, process, and deliver ballots more effectively. This bill has been included in an amendment to H.R. 1, the For the People Act. The House will be voting on H.R. 1 next week.
Allowing voters to track their ballots will reduce concerns about ballots not being counted and eliminate fears of ballots being counted that were mailed in after required deadlines. My Vote by Mail Tracking Act will also help speed up the accurate counting of mail-in ballots by implementing specifications for ballot envelopes which will help us protect the sanctity of future elections.
You can read more about the bill here.
The Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act
On Thursday, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and I introduced the Pandemic Heroes Compensation Act to create a new program for all essential workers and personnel who have been injured or impacted by COVID-19.
Modeled after the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund (VCF), this new fund would provide compensation for injuries to any individual, or their families, who are deemed an essential worker and were required to leave their home to perform services and became ill or died as a result of COVID-19.
On September 11th, it was the firefighters and officers who ran into the burning buildings to save lives. Over the last year, as New York City and the country battled the COVID pandemic, it is hospital workers – nurses, doctors, EMS, janitorial staff, pharmacists, technicians – and all essential workers who have put so much on the line to keep us safe and healthy. They have been there for us – taking care of our loved ones, stocking food shelves, keeping trains and busses running, delivering our mail – and we must assure them that if they or their loved ones become ill with COVID, we’ll be there to support them, too.
The Equality Act
On Thursday, I voted to pass H.R. 5, the Equality Act, landmark legislation that ensures that LGBTQIA+ Americans are guaranteed the full protections of federal civil rights law. The Equality Act extends anti-discrimination protections on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in all aspects of life – in employment, education, access to credit, jury service, federal financial assistance, housing, and public accommodations.
Earlier on Thursday, I went to the House floor to urge all my colleagues to join me in voting to pass this bill because everyone should be guaranteed equal protection and rights under the law – no matter who you love or your gender identity.
You can read and watch my full floor remarks here.
On Wednesday, I chaired an Oversight and Reform Committee hearing to review legislative proposals to place the Postal Service on more sustainable financial footing and preserve the vital functions of the USPS for years to come.
The Committee’s draft legislation discussed on Wednesday addresses bipartisan calls for action and includes provisions on service performance standards, repealing a requirement for the Postal Service to pre-fund retiree health care, and Medicare integration.
The witnesses at the hearing unanimously agreed that eliminating the pre-funding mandate combined with Medicare integration for all Postal Service employees would go a long way towards putting the Postal Service on strong financial footing. This strong foundation will allow this bipartisan legislation to pass quickly and ensure a strong Postal Service for the future.
You can read more about the hearing here.
President Biden’s Nominations to the USPS Board of Governors
Also on Wednesday, President Biden nominated three new members to the Postal Service Board of Governors. It is crystal clear that the Postal Service’s performance and its financial condition have deteriorated significantly, and new and better leadership is urgently needed. I applaud the President for these nominations and for his continuing commitment to appoint individuals who represent the diversity of America.
Oversight and Homeland Security Committees Joint Hearing on the SolarWinds Breach
On Friday, I joined with Congressman Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, to hold a joint hearing examining recent cybersecurity incidents affecting government and private sector networks, including the supply chain attack targeting SolarWinds Orion Software and other cyberattacks.
During the hearing, I released a 23-page presentation from former SolarWinds employee Ian Thornton-Trump which highlights the need for private sector accountability for their role in the attack. I also announced that the Oversight Committee will examine procurement in light of the SolarWinds attack. We must demand better cybersecurity practices from our suppliers, as well as increased information-sharing with the private sector.
Members of the two committees and witnesses discussed the urgent need to improve cybersecurity in both the private and public sector, including the need for increased information-sharing with the private sector, new reporting requirements on cyber threat indicators or instructions, and common-sense procurement rules that do not harm the U.S. Government.
You can read more about the hearing here.
D.C. Statehood Bill Hearing
This week, I joined with Washington, D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton to announce that the Oversight Committee will hold a hearing on her District of Columbia statehood bill (H.R. 51) on March 11.
I applaud Congresswoman Holmes Norton’s fierce leadership and tenacity in the fight to secure congressional voting rights and the local self-government D.C. residents rightfully deserve. The fact that more than half a million Americans living in the District of Columbia are denied representation in Congress is a historic wrong that flies in the face of the democratic values on which our nation was founded. This hearing will make that clear.
Urging the SEC to Adopt Nasdaq's Board Diversity Proposal
On Monday, Congressman Gregory Meeks (D-NY) and I wrote to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) expressing our support for Nasdaq’s recent proposal to provide greater transparency into the composition and diversity of the board of directors of Nasdaq listed companies.
Last Congress, the House passed our bill, H.R.5084 - Improving Corporate Governance Through Diversity Act of 2019, to require public companies to annually publish diversity data – including the racial, ethnic, and gender composition of their board of directors, nominees for the board of directors, and executive officers.
As we stated in our letter, “we strongly believe that by requiring companies to analyze the makeup of their boards through public disclosure, we will create incentives and inspire change to ensure boards better reflect the American public at large. By disclosing this information to investors, this proposal will empower shareholders to support companies that embody their ideals. Beyond making moral and common sense, increasing diversity also is financially beneficial as studies have repeatedly found that companies with more diverse leadership are better positioned to succeed.”
You can read the full letter here.
The Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act
Protecting our environment is not a matter of choice, it is the only path forward for our nation and our way of life. We have already seen the deadly and devastating effects of climate change – from Super Storm Sandy to an unprecedented, deadly snowstorm that just blanketed Texas causing widespread blackouts, flooding, and dangerous conditions. We must leave this planet a better place for our children and grandchildren.
The Protecting America’s Wilderness and Public Lands Act helps us reach that goal and I was proud to join with my colleagues in voting to pass this bill. This legislative package provides lasting protections for key public lands and waters in Arizona, Colorado, California, and Washington State. This bill designates approximately 1.49 million acres of public lands and wilderness and incorporates more than 1,000 river miles into the National Wild and Scenic Rivers System (NWSRS). The legislation would also protect more than 1.2 million acres of public land from being considered for new oil and gas and mining claims.
Congressional Crohn’s and Colitis Caucus
This week, I relaunched he Congressional Crohn’s and Colitis Caucus for the 117th Congress. This bipartisan caucus works to raise awareness, support medical research, protect patient access to care, and educate Congress and the American public on Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, collectively known as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Snapshots from NY-12
Last Saturday, I was joined by Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, State Senator Brad Hoylman, State Senator Julia Salazar, Assemblymember Deborah Glick, and City Councilmember Ben Kallos to applaud the $70+ billion in COVID relief expected for New York State, our communities, and families as part of President Biden’s American Rescue Plan.
Also on Saturday, I met with Queens community leaders at M. Wells in Long Island City to discuss small business relief, Astoria Sea Wall resiliency, building schools in Long Island City, and how my work on the East River Esplanade can help Queens residents too.
As always, your concerns still and always remain my top priority. Please do not hesitate to email me through my website.