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Fall Update 2018: New Congress, New Direction

December 10, 2018

In this issue: 

A Note from Rep. Velázquez
Standing with Immigrant Communities 
Taking Steps to Combat Sexual Misconduct
Making Puerto Rico Whole
Honoring New York City’s Diverse Communities 
Holding the Trump Administration Accountable
Announcing Community Grants


A Note from Rep. Velázquez

Dear Friends,

Come January, the 116th Congress will be made up of the most diverse representatives in history. I could not be prouder to stand alongside this new generation of leaders as we work to address the most pressing issues facing New York’s working families.

Although the 116th Congress doesn’t start until January, I am wasting no time getting to work on reforms important to our communities. From protecting Dreamers and recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to ensuring families can afford health care and receive a dignified wage, these are all issues that I am working to address in Washington, D.C.

On the topic of health care, if you or your someone you love has been meaning to sign up for affordable health insurance, now is your chance. From November 1st, 2018 until January 31st, 2019, the New York State health exchange, “NY State of Health,” is accepting new enrollees. To find the plan that works best for you and your family, click here.

I can assure you that in Washington, D.C., I will not stop advocating for our shared priorities.

As always, you may reach out to my district offices for additional information.  I also post frequent updates on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. 

Thanks again for reading.

Nydia M. Velázquez
Member of Congress


Standing with Immigrant Communities 

A longtime supporter of helping immigrant New Yorkers secure a path to citizenship, the Congresswoman believes that immigration reform must be a top priority in the 116th Congress. To ensure New York’s immigrant communities have the tools they need, Congresswoman Velázquez has frequently held “Know Your Rights” forums across her district. 

In the wake of this Administration’s termination of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) for citizens of multiple countries, Congresswoman Velázquez has authored and introduced, “The American Promise Act,” a bill to afford recipients of Temporary Protected Status (TPS) with Legal Permanent Residence while creating an opportunity for citizenship. While the Congresswoman is glad to see a federal judge intervene to block the Administration from ending TPS, she also strongly believes that passing her bill to codify protections for TPS recipients is the best path for protecting these communities. You can read more about “The American Promise Act” in the Miami HeraldEl DiarioLa Opinion and Vox.

Additionally, the Congresswoman represents an estimated 2,400 DACA recipients who are among the City’s best and brightest young leaders.  In the 116th Congress, she will continue advocating for the DREAM Act, legislation that will provide “Dreamers” with the assurance that they can remain in the U.S., the only country that most of them have ever called home.

Like many Americans, she was outraged by the Administration’s zero-tolerance policy that led to the separation of families at the border. She previously visited the border and she’s continuing to press for humane treatment of those seeking refuge and asylum in the U.S.

Taking Steps to Combat Sexual Misconduct

The Congresswoman strongly believes that the Me Too and Times Up movements are bringing much needed momentum towards improving the treatment of women and all victims of assault in our society. To honor the messages of these movements, Rep. Velázquez is taking legislative action to combat sexual misconduct wherever it may be found. Recently, the Congresswoman introduced the “Sexual Harassment Awareness and Prevention Act”, which would ensure the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) proactively works with other agencies to collect information on sexual harassment and abuse claims related to housing. The Congresswoman’s bill came on the heels of what she believes is a devastating news report exposing the tragic reality that many women seeking housing assistance are coerced into sexual favors. 

As more and more women serve in the military and return to civilian life, the Congresswoman is focused on making sure they are greeted with the resources they deserve. To help guarantee that the Department of Veterans Affairs is proactively addressing domestic abuse among the veterans and servicemember communities, the Congresswoman has introduced the “Violence Against Women Veterans Act.” By establishing local domestic and sexual violence outreach coordinators under the VA and creating a comprehensive national program to prevent and treat intimate partner violence, Rep. Velázquez’s bill would take important strides towards increasing resources for veterans affected by domestic violence—both female and male. You can read more about her bill in Stars and Stripes.  

Making Puerto Rico Whole

More than a year since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico as one of the most destructive storms on record and causing the deaths of nearly 3,000 American citizens, the Congresswoman is continuing to take important steps to help the Island recover and rebuild. 

Rep. Velázquez believes that when a disaster hits, having an accurate death toll is crucial to ensuring an adequate federal response. For this reason, she joined Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) in authoring a bill to establish federal standards for counting fatalities after a natural disaster. This fall, their legislation, the Counting Our Unexpected Natural Tragedies’ (COUNT) Victims Act passed the House, Senate and was signed into law. Rep. Velázquez believes the passing of the COUNT Act is a critical step towards making sure the botched federal response to Hurricane Maria is never repeated in future natural disasters. Read more about the COUNT Act in the Queens Times Ledger,The Huffington PostVox and Pasquines

Furthermore, recognizing that many communities in Puerto Rico still rely on generators for electricity after Maria, the Congresswoman was dismayed to learn from news reports that FEMA had decided to de-install a number of generators on the Island.  In response, the Congresswoman spearheaded a letter to FEMA demanding an explanation of why the agency would remove generators from areas struggling to secure reliable power. You can read more about her letter in the New York Daily News

The Congresswoman has previously authored legislation that would establish a “9/11-style”Commission to examine the federal response to Puerto Rico.  She believes the American people deserve a full accounting of how the response played out.  

The Congresswoman also wants to see Puerto Rico put back on a path to economic prosperity. The Island was already suffering tremendously before Maria and the hurricane further ravaged the local economy.  In order to see Puerto Rico succeed economically, the Congresswoman has joined Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) in authoring legislation that would provide a mechanism to discharge much of the Island’s debt. 

Finally, the Congresswoman believes the federal government must continue helping Puerto Rico to rebuild.  After President Trump suggested Puerto Rico should stop receiving federal aid, the Congresswoman joined with several colleagues in writing to the President, saying pulling federal aid would be catastrophic to the Island and arguing that, instead, future legislation should preclude disaster relief funds from being used to pay for Puerto Rico’s debt.   

Honoring New York City’s Diverse Communities 

Representing a district where dozens of languages are spoken and people hail from every corner of the globe, the Congresswoman is always working to honor New York’s diversity. 

This summer, Congress passed and the President signed into law H.R.4463, Rep. Velázquez’s bill to rename a post office at 6 Doyers Street in Manhattan’s Chinatown, the “Mabel Lee Memorial Post Office.” Arriving in New York City during the early twentieth century, Mabel Lee was a Chinese-American luminary who dedicated her life to serving Manhattan’s Chinatown community and fighting for women to secure the right to vote. When Lee was just 22 years old and a recent graduate of Barnard College, she led a contingent of Chinese and Chinese-American women in a May 1917 pro-suffrage parade in New York City. Additionally, Lee was the first Chinese woman to receive a PhD from Columbia University.  

After gaining widespread support from 296 bipartisan Members of Congress, Congresswoman Velázquez’s bill, “The Rabbi Michoel Ber Weissmandl Congressional Gold Medal Act of 2017,” passed in the House. A hero of Jewish resistance to Hitler’s unconscionable regime, Rabbi Weissmandl helped to lead multiple efforts to prevent the deaths of the Jewish people of Slovakia facing the Nazi regime. As a key member of an underground Working Group, Rabbi Weissmandl led an effort to negotiate ransom with German and Slovakian officials in order to delay mass deportations. Weissmandl also wrote the first known appeal for the use of aerial bombs to destroy the rail lines and tunnels leading to Auschwitz. 

You can watch a video of the Congresswoman honoring Rabbi Weissmandl on the House floor here. You can read more about the Congresswoman’s efforts to honor Rabbi Weissmandl in The Algemeiner

Holding the Trump Administration Accountable

As the first member of Congress to call for a Special Counsel appointment to investigate Russian interference in 2016 elections, Congresswoman Velázquez firmly believes that all ongoing investigations must be allowed to proceed without interference and follow the facts wherever they may lead.  

The Congresswoman is highly concerned over the President’s appointment of Matthew Whitaker as the Acting U.S. Attorney General. The Congresswoman has called upon Whitaker to recuse himself from overseeing the Special Counsel investigation. The Congresswoman has also co-sponsored legislation, the “Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act,” that would codify protections for the Special Counsel investigation into law. She strongly believes that Congress ought to serve as a check on this Administration by passing legislation to protect Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

115th Congress Wrap Up 

The 115th Congress has been busy for Rep. Velázquez, as she’s authored the 5th most number of bills, compared to all her House colleagues. Ten of the Congresswoman’s bills were enacted as either standalone measures or as part of larger legislative packages.  She’ll continue working in the next Congress to introduce and push for the enactment of legislation that makes a meaningful difference in New Yorkers’ lives.


Announcing Community Grants

Recently, the Congresswoman announced a series of federal grants that will help fund local Head Start early learning, health care and other vital public programs for New Yorkers. This fall, the following institutions within New York’s 7th District have received federal grants. 

  • A grant has been awarded to University Settlement Society of New York to help fund Early Head Start childhood education. The Society has been awarded $1,231,870 in federal funding. 
  • The Chinese Community Concerns Corporation, Inc. has been awarded $526,769 to fund their Head Start program to help children on the Lower East Side receive early childhood education.
  • The Educational Alliance, Inc. located on the Lower East Side, has received $718,820 in federal grant funding to support early education through their Head Start program. 
  • New York City Health & Hospitals/ Woodhull ($108,049) and Wyckoff Heights Medical Center ($33,044) both located in Brooklyn have been awarded federal grants to expand dental services to at-risk populations.
  • Betances Health Center located on the Lower East Side of Manhattan has received $285,000 in a federal Health Center Cluster grant to continue their work providing accessible health services to all those in need. 
  • Three health care providers located in the Congresswoman’s district have been awarded federal Mental Health & Substance Abuse Service Grants to help expand mental health services to local patients in need. The recipients are NYU Lutheran Family Health Centers ($282,231 & $524,322), Flatbush Certified Community Behavioral Health Center ($1,778,233) and After Hour Project, Inc. ($524,670). 
  • Sunset Park Health Council, Inc has been awarded a series of grants ($15,133,121, $1,266,924, $320,250) to continue their work to provide accessible community health care to patients in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. 
  • Two local small businesses have received federal Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) to further their innovation. The first, Phoenix Nest, Inc. located in Brooklyn has been awarded a National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke SBIR grant for $3,176,406. Additionally, Coldsteel Laser, Inc. in Brooklyn has been awarded a SBIR grant from the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering for the amount of $150,000.  


Nydia M. Velázquez
Member of Congress