Winter 2017 Newsletter
December Update 2017
A Note from Rep. Velázquez
As we approach the holiday season and end of the year, I wanted to reach out and give you an update on some of my activities this fall.
As a New Yorker, I oppose President Trump’s agenda and what it will mean for our City’s working families. From health care to the environment, I believe this Administration is working to gut programs and undermine protections for our working families, all in the hopes of giving billionaires a tax break.
At this moment, too many American citizens in Puerto Rico continue to lack access to clean drinking water, food and electricity as we mark over two months since Hurricane Maria. In Congress, I am fighting for immediate and sustainable relief assistance.
I remain hopeful that our City’s and our nation’s spirit of resilience will help us to overcome these challenges. Below, you’ll find a short discussion of some of my activities, but as always you may reach out to my district offices for additional information.
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Nydia M. Velázquez
Member of Congress
Standing with Working Families
This fall, Republicans in Congress put forth their tax plan. It’s nothing more than a scam to give tax breaks to corporations, and Congresswoman Velázquez is standing firmly with New York’s working families.
Time and again, reports have highlighted that their tax bill will have disastrous consequences for the middle class, teachers, seniors and students.
Earlier this month, Congresswoman Velázquez amplified her opposition to the House Republican tax bill alongside Mayor Bill de Blasio and other local officials at City Hall. You can watch the Congresswoman’s remarks, as well as the entire anti-tax cuts rally on Facebook and read about it in AM New York.
Under the House Republican leadership’s bill, by eliminating the student loan interest deduction, higher education would become even more expensive for almost 800,000 New York students. Under the bill, nearly a third of tax cuts would go to the top 1% in 2018 alone.
The Congresswoman believes, for nearly half a million New Yorkers who struggle with serious illness and high medical bills, the House Republican leadership’s tax bill would force them to dig even deeper into over-stretched bank accounts. As different versions of the bill move through Congress, the Congresswoman will continue raising her voice to protect working families, teachers, students, seniors and small businesses.
Standing with Dreamers, Opposing Anti-Immigration Efforts
The Congresswoman believes that the President’s decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program will devastate entire communities. The Congresswoman represents an estimated 2,400 DACA recipients who are among the City’s best and brightest young leaders.
In the House of Representatives, the Congresswoman signed a discharge petition to bring the Dream Act to the House floor for a vote. If passed, the Dream Act would codify DACA into law and ultimately provide a path to citizenship for Dreamers. You can read about the Congresswoman’s efforts in the Queens Chronicle, The Lo-Down and City Limits. In addition to protecting Dreamers, Congress must do more to address comprehensive immigration reform.
Congresswoman Velázquez has been outspoken against these recent anti-immigrant efforts and rhetoric. Further, she firmly opposes any measures to build a wall at the border, a proposal she believes is dangerous, immoral and an abuse of taxpayer money.
While the Trump Administration continues to repeal Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program that provides legal status for those whose home countries are caught in civil war or recovering from natural disasters, the Congresswoman is speaking out. Following the Administration’s announcement to revoke TPS status for over 2,500 Nicaraguans and nearly 50,000 Haitians, the Congresswoman quickly condemned such action.
Leading efforts in Congress to extend TPS, Congresswoman Velázquez is advocating for her bill, the American Promise Act, which provides protection from deportation and a path to citizenship for TPS beneficiaries. Her bill has gathered widespread support from a range of labor, immigration and other advocacy groups. You can read more about the American Promise Act here.
Rebuilding after the Devastation of Hurricane Maria
New York has always shared a proud bond with the people of Puerto Rico. Furthermore, many New Yorkers, including the Congresswoman, have personal ties to the Island, whether through family, friends or neighbors. As Puerto Rico continues to rebuild, New Yorkers are stepping up to extend a helping hand.
Traveling with Governor Cuomo to Puerto Rico just days after the storm, Congresswoman Velázquez saw firsthand the heartbreaking scope of destruction. Read more about her trip with the Governor in AM New York and New York Daily News.
Days later, the Congresswoman was appointed Co-Chair of New York’s Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico. This initiative is another important step in cementing New York’s commitment to the people of Puerto Rico and will be a crucial channel for relief supplies, personnel and assistance. You can read more about this initiative in the New York Times and CNBC. To read the Congresswoman’s statement on the effort, click here.
Since day one, Congresswoman Velázquez has firmly called on President Trump and the federal government to provide a full recovery effort in Puerto Rico. As one of Puerto Rico’s biggest champions in Congress, the Congresswoman has repeated her call for comprehensive federal aid on MSNBC, CNN, Democracy Now! and NPR. The 3.5 million people in Puerto Rico are Americans citizens and deserve to be treated with a swift and comprehensive response just like those living in Houston and Florida.
Congresswoman Velázquez also led House Democrats in a press conference to highlight a number of concrete actions that will help the Island. You can read more about these efforts in The New York Times. To provide lasting sustainable relief, the Congresswoman is urging Congress to allocate resources to fix Puerto Rico’s energy grid, fund Medicaid and address the Island’s looming debt crisis. Congresswoman Velázquez has also warned that if not adequately addressed, the clean water shortage in Puerto Rico “could become another Flint.” Read more on this issue in The Daily Beast.
After President Trump tweeted his intent to withdraw federal assistance from Puerto Rico, Rep. Velázquez rebuked the idea of pulling aid away. In a hearing before the House Financial Services Committee, Congresswoman Velázquez reminded members of the Administration that the United States invaded Puerto Rico in 1898 and that “with invasion comes responsibility”. A video of the Congresswoman’s speech was featured in CNN, NBC, Washington Post and Buzzfeed.
To read more about the steps Congresswoman Velázquez is taking to make Puerto Rico whole again, click here. You can watch the full video of the Congresswoman’s federal disaster update forum on Facebook, and read about it in NBC News.
Protecting our Communities from Gun Violence
This fall, our country witnessed the single worst mass shooting in its history when a gunman in Las Vegas took the lives of 58 innocent concert-goers, injuring over 500 others. Tragically, a month after, another gunman took the lives of 26 innocent worshipers at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. Beyond mass shootings, gun violence is all too frequent a problem in the streets of New York City. In 2017, 835 New Yorkers have become victims of shootings.
The Congresswoman is saying “enough is enough”. To that end, this fall, Congresswoman Velázquez introduced two new bills to help fund research to stop gun violence and prevent the illegal sale of guns. First, the “Protecting Americans from Gun Violence Act of 2017” would place a fee on gun sales, which would ultimately go towards funding gun research and prevention. Currently, reliable data on gun violence is sorely lacking, in part due to powerful voices in the gun lobby resisting research efforts. The Congresswoman’s bill seeks to put an end to the long overdue drought in gun research.
Her second bill, the “Stopping the Iron Pipeline Act of 2017” would utilize new technology in order to crack down on the iron pipeline of out-of-state guns that have been funneled into New York. You can read more about both bills here.
Additionally, Congresswoman Velázquez has always supported efforts to ban the sale of bump stocks, increase background checks and ban assault weapons.
Taking a stance for diversity; opposing acts of hate racism
The Congresswoman knows that our diversity is our strength, and New York City is one of the most inclusive cities in the country. She continues to oppose acts of hate or intolerance wherever they arise.
In the direct aftermath of the neo-Nazi and White Supremacist march in Charlottesville, the Congresswoman introduced, the Hate Crimes Victim Assistance Act. If passed, the Act would allocate $50 million in federal funds to help prevent, track and prosecute hate crimes and assist victims. It would also give $20 million to fund a hate crimes hotline, which would make reporting crimes easier. Read more about her bill in New York Daily News.
The Congresswoman strongly condemns the perpetration of racist stereotypes in our popular culture. When “Dirty Chinese Restaurant,” a video game that deployed racist stereotypes against the Asian-American community, was set to hit online platforms, Congresswoman Velázquez spoke out. The game featured the eating and slaughtering of cats and dogs, among other racist stereotypes, and thanks to widespread criticism, was later removed from online stores. You can read more in The Epoch Times. When the hip-hop artist, Hopsin released a music video demeaning Asian women, the Congresswoman denounced the video for its insensitivity and offensiveness.
Deeply disturbed by a series of hate mail targeted at numerous Jewish cultural institutions in New York City, the Congresswoman reaffirmed her commitment to cracking down on hate crimes. Expressing her outrange, the Congresswoman firmly believes that such acts of hatred against our Jewish neighbors have no place in the City. You can read more from CBS News.
Working for Health Care for All
November 1st marked the start of open enrollment, a time to sign-up for a health care plan that best fits your needs on New York State of Health, our state’s online health insurance marketplace. Health care may be more affordable than you think, as you may qualify for assistance with your monthly payments. On the marketplace, you can find a plan with no-cost preventative care coverage— like cancer screenings and flu shots. The online marketplace can additionally help you find out if you qualify for free or low-cost coverage via Medicaid, the Essential Plan or Child Health Plus. Don’t wait—enrollment ends on January 31st, 2018.
Health insurance is an important investment because it helps protect you from unexpected costs in the face of a serious accident or illness. The Congresswoman strongly believes that no family should have to go without access to top-notch doctors, medicine and treatment.
To contact a health care navigator or broker who can help you understand the process, click here. If you are a small business owner looking to provide coverage for your employees, see more here. You may also find support in Spanish or Mandarin by clicking here.
This fall, yet again, Republican efforts to repeal health care failed in Congress. This would have affected over 20 million Americans.
However, President Trump has evoked his executive power to let employers make private medical decisions on behalf of millions of women. The order would gut the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that requires employers to provide access to birth control under federal insurance plans. Congresswoman Velázquez spoke forcefully against this action, and additionally spoke on the House floor in opposition to an unconstitutional 20-week abortion ban. You can watch her speech on YouTube.
The Congresswoman strongly believes that health care should be a right and not a privilege. To this end, she has co-sponsored a bill to expand Medicare for all.
Honoring Our Veterans with Action
After putting their lives on the line to fight for our freedoms, too many veterans still lack access to adequate health care as they transition back into civilian life. For that reason, just before Veterans Day, the Congresswoman introduced a pair of bills to help our veterans receive the high-quality health care they deserve.
Currently, a veteran receiving benefits through the Veterans Administration (VA) must have documented proof that an injury was obtained in the line of duty. The Congresswoman’s two new bills aim to fill a coverage cap, providing health care coverage for service-related injuries that develop months or years after service completion.
Velázquez’s first bill, the Blast Exposure Protection Act of 2017 would extend health care coverage for illnesses that blast victims experience later in life. Velázquez’s second bill, the Hear our Heroes Act of 2017 extends service connection benefits to veterans who suffered hearing loss and were diagnosed after a discharge. Both bills were endorsed by the Blinded Veterans Association and Veterans of Foreign Wars. To read more about the Congresswoman’s efforts to provide high-quality care to our veterans, click here.
Safeguarding our Environment
In the wake of extreme natural disasters, one thing is for certain—repealing American efforts to fight climate change is the last thing our leaders should be doing. Trump’s decision to repeal the Clean Power Plan does just that. The Congresswoman believes that our country has a responsibility to preserve the planet by taking every possible action to fight climate change. In Congress, the Congresswoman is continuing to advocate for policies that put the environment over profits for big coal and industrial polluters. Read her statement on the Clean Power Plan here. Additionally, the Congresswoman recently joined the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, where she will continue working towards building climate resilience and reducing climate risk.
Beyond fighting to curb climate change, the Congresswoman remains dedicated to environmental justice and preserving healthy communities. To this aim, the Congresswoman has partnered with Rep. Keith Ellison on a bill to ban the use of the toxic pesticide Chlorpyrifos. Their bill, the Pesticide Protection Act of 2017 would outlaw the toxin’s use on America’s crops. Velázquez and Ellison held a forum to highlight the harms of Chlorpyrifos on public health and safety. The entire event can be viewed on Facebook Live.
Back home in New York City, at a town hall on the Gowanus Canal Superfund cleanup, Congresswoman Velázquez praised community leaders for their dedication and efforts to restore the canal. Opposing the Trump Administration’s proposals to cut funding for environmental protection, the Congresswoman has vowed to keep up pressure in Congress to maintain funding for the Gowanus Canal Superfund and other crucial environmental efforts. You can tune in to watch the entire town hall on Facebook Live. You can also read more about the Congresswoman’s town hall in the Brooklyn Eagle, Gowanus Patch and Brownstoner.
Confronting Challenges Faced by Young New Yorkers
In September, Congresswoman Velázquez held an event in Bushwick to showcase the voices of the City’s young residents. The Congresswoman expressed her concerns about the tough economic climate facing young people in the Bushwick Daily.
Young New Yorkers are facing an economic climate chock-full of challenges ranging from lack of steady employment to a mountain of student debt. At the forum, the Congresswoman discussed her bill which would provide student loan relief to artists and art professionals. You can watch the entire event on Facebook Live.
Apply for Assistance This Winter:
New Yorkers should be aware that deadlines to apply for a number of assistance programs are fast approaching. You can find more information on these programs below.
NYS Weatherization Assistance Program
The NYS WAP Program is FREE to homeowners of 1-2 family homes, if they or their IN UNIT dependents are receiving HEAP/SSI or Public Assistance or if the homeowners total household income meets the requirements. It is also FREE to homeowners of 3-4 family homes if the homeowner and one other unit qualifies. Apply here or call SPRC, Inc. 718 492 8580 for further details.
Heat and Energy Assistance Program
For help heating your home this winter, you may be eligible for one HEAP benefit per season and an emergency HEAP benefit if you are in impending danger of running out of fuel or having your utility service shut off. Apply here.
NYS Disabled and Senior Citizen Rent Increase Exemption Program (DRIE/SCRIE)
The Disability Rent Increase Exemption (DRIE, also known as the NYC Rent Freeze Program) is an exemption against future rent increases for eligible disabled OR senior persons living in rent-controlled, rent-stabilized, Mitchell-Lama and other eligible apartments. Apply here.
For assistance, call 311 or visit SCRIE and DRIE Walk-in Office at 66 John Street, 3rd floor, New York, NY, Monday to Friday, 8:30 AM to 4:30 PM.