July Update 2019: A Note From Nydia
In this issue:
- A Letter from Congresswoman Velázquez
- A Productive Legislative Month
- Standing with Immigrant Communities
- Making New York Safer and More Livable
- Championing Small Businesses
- Fighting for Our Planet
- Helping Puerto Rico Recover and Rebuild
A Letter from Congresswoman Velázquez
Before I get started, I wanted to remind you to follow me on social media. My Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube feeds are some of the best ways to stay in touch with my work in New York and D.C.
Again, these are some of the best ways of keeping up with me so, please, take a moment, click the links above and follow me on those channels.
I wanted to take a moment and update you on some of my recent work on behalf of our communities.
This has been a busy Congress with legislative action on a range of fronts. I’ve continued my efforts to protect New York’s immigrant communities and to oppose this Administration’s policies at the border. We’ve been working to protect our planet from pollution and address the looming threat of climate change. Closer to home, there have been a range of local issues demanding our attention. Our efforts to assist our brothers and sisters who are suffering in Puerto Rico continue. All these matters are discussed more below.
Also, last month, I officially called for the House of Representatives to open an impeachment inquiry into the President. As the first Member of Congress to call for the appointment of a Special Counsel, as far back as December of 2016, I have long been concerned about Russian interference in the U.S. elections and other wrongdoing. After carefully reviewing the Special Counsel’s report and listening to my constituents, I have come to the conclusion that an impeachment inquiry is the best path forward. You can hear more about my decision on this Twitter video here.
On all these issues, I’m most effective when I hear from you. So, please don’t hesitate to contact my office with questions, advice or simply to express your opinion.
Until then, thanks for reading.
A Productive Legislative Month
In June alone, Nydia has:
- Attended 24 in-district events
- Authored 8 bills
- Led 7 letters calling for regulatory or other action
- Passed 3 floor amendments
- Testified before 3 Congressional Committees
- Passed 1 Bill Out of Committee
- Passed 1 Bill Through the House of Representatives
Standing with Immigrant Communities
Nydia has been a leader in Congress in the fight for immigrant rights and in opposing policies that unfairly target immigrants. She is one of the original authors of H.R. 6, the “American Dream and Promise Act," legislation approved by the House in early June. Her bill would provide certainty and relief for Dreamers and recipients of Temporary Protected Status, immigrants who are in the U.S. after fleeing political violence or natural disasters.
“These immigrants, young Dreamers and families covered under TPS, are some of our most vulnerable neighbors,” Velázquez said. “We have a moral obligation to protect them and provide them the certainty that they are here to stay. That is what the bill I co-authored would accomplish and I’m proud the House passed it. Now, I urge the Senate to act.”
The Congresswoman spoke during floor debate on H.R. 6, focusing on provisions to assist TPS recipients. You can view video of her floor remarks here.
Equally important, Nydia is supporting legislation to end the Trump Administration’s detainment of migrants at the border. She has cosponsored H.R. 3239, the “Humanitarian Standards for Individuals in Customs and Border Protection Custody Act”, which would establish basic medical and nutritional standards for anyone in custody of Customs and Border Protection.
She has also supported:
- legislation that would prevent the shackling of pregnant women;
- efforts to reduce detention funding; and
- attempts to defund the "Stay in Mexico policy", which delays the processing of asylum requests and puts migrants in harm’s way.
Lastly, Nydia voted against the Senate-passed “supplemental appropriations” bill, which failed to protect child-migrants and other vulnerable populations.
Nydia believes immigrants make America the place that it is. Going forward, she will continue working to protect immigrants from harmful policies, while fighting for long term solutions to keep families together.
Rep. Velázquez joins colleagues in decrying anti-immigrant abuses by Customs and Border Protection and calling for humane conditions for detained migrants
Making New York Safer and More Livable
While her work in Washington keeps her busy, the Congresswoman is always focused on local issues that affect New Yorkers’ daily lives.
Housing availability and affordability are perennial challenges for New York’s working families, seniors and others. The Congresswoman continues pressing for additional federal resources for public housing. She recently wrote House appropriators calling for additional funding for the Public Housing Capital Fund, which supports upkeep at the New York City Housing Authority and public housing authorities around the country.
The Congresswoman is also working to protect tenants’ rights. She’s authored the “Landlord Accountability Act”, legislation that would prevent voucher discrimination, and fine landlords who intentionally try to force units out of federal housing programs, like Section 8. The bill would also steer federal resources to local organizations that empower tenants to stand up to abusive landlords.
Rep. Velázquez discusses the need for federal investment in public housing
Nydia’s also working to make sure New York children attend safe, healthy schools. Recent press reports documented elevated rates of lead dust in New York City public schools, raising concerns about children’s exposure to the toxin. In response, Nydia led the NYC Congressional delegation in writing to the City Department of Education and Health, calling on the agencies to conduct additional lead dust testing, starting with schools used for summer programs. You can read the letter online here.
Press coverage of the Members’ letter is also available from Gothamist here and WNYC here.
After a helicopter crashed in Manhattan last month, the Congresswoman joined her colleagues, Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), in calling on the Federal Aviation Administration to ban non-essential helicopter flights over Manhattan. Subsequently, the lawmakers wrote to the Mayor of New York City, arguing that the city could act to ban non-essential helicopter flights, even before the FAA. You can read the lawmakers’ letter to the FAA here and to the Mayor here.
The Congresswoman has also been working in recent weeks to protect important local landmarks. In early June, when UPS began demolition of the historic Lidgerwood Manufacturing Company building in Red Hook, many members of the community expressed concern. The Congresswoman intervened, writing to the company and, after conversations with the firm, UPS, for now, agreed to maintain the historic façade of the building that sits on Coffey Street.
Read more from the local press here and read the Congresswoman’s statement here.
Championing Small Businesses
Small businesses have long been the cornerstone of New York’s local economies. As the Chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, Nydia is always at the forefront of fighting for small firms and creating opportunity for entrepreneurs of all backgrounds.
Most recently, the Congresswoman has been taking on unscrupulous lenders who prey on small business owners with unfair “merchant cash advance loans” that have been used to bankrupt some business owners by locking them into unsustainable debt. The Congresswoman has introduced bipartisan legislation that would prohibit so-called “Confessions of Judgment”, an arcane legal tool that has been used to force small business borrowers to surrender their rights to dishonest lenders.
In the Small Business Committee, the Congresswoman also held a hearing this month to further raise the issue’s profile.
You can read more in the Washington Post here.
Fighting for Our Planet
Nydia believes a cleaner environment means working people will have healthier communities in which to raise their children. She also believes that a warming planet will mean serious threats to our communities in the form of more frequent extreme weather events and other disruptions.
To that end, the Congresswoman is working to advance policies to slow or reverse climate change. The Congresswoman has cosponsored H.Res. 109, legislation authored by fellow New York Rep. Alexandria Ocascio-Cortez (D-NY), that calls for the creation of a “Green New Deal” that would combat climate change, while reducing income inequality.
The Congresswoman also believes there must be transparency in climate change research that is taxpayer funded. She recently wrote the U.S. Department of Agriculture expressing concern that the agency is suppressing the release of research on climate change’s impact on agriculture. You can read that letter online here.
Nydia also believes we need adequate federal resources to clean up local environmental sore spots. New York’s 7th Congressional district contains three Superfund sites: the Gowanus Canal, Newtown Creek and Wolff-Alport. Having seen how important the Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund program is locally, Nydia has been working federally to make sure the initiative is sufficiently funded. As part of the Congressional appropriations process, she wrote the Appropriations Committee requesting additional funding for the Superfund account. Her letter is online here. Ultimately, the House approved an increase of $55 million above the Fiscal Year 2019 level for Superfund.
The Congresswoman has also taken a leadership role in Congress in addressing dangerous pesticides that are too often used in agriculture. She has introduced “the Pesticide Protection Act,” which would ban Chlorpyrifos, a toxic chemical that has been linked to damaging and often irreversible health outcomes in workers, pregnant women and children. While the Obama-era EPA had developed a regulation to prohibit Chlorpyrifos, under the Trump Administration, the agency had been taking steps to reverse that regulation.
More recently she authored legislation to prohibit the use of dangerous neonicotinoid pesticides, commonly called neonics, in National Wildlife Refuges. Neonicotinoids are a group of toxic pesticides attributed to the deterioration of bees, migratory birds, and various species protected under the Endangered Species Act. The pesticides resemble nicotine and act upon animals’ and insects’ nervous systems.
“Big chemical companies continue lobbying the EPA and other agencies to keep these dangerous pesticides in circulation,” Velázquez noted. “These chemicals have harmful health and environmental effects and I believe we must be more vigilant in working to control them.”
From taking on pesticide companies to fighting for more renewable energy, protecting the planet and addressing climate change will remain among Nydia’s top priorities.
Helping Puerto Rico Recover and Rebuild
As Puerto Rico continues recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria and years of economic difficulty, the Congresswoman remains a stalwart voice on behalf of the Island.
In June, news reports surfaced that $600 million in previously-approved nutritional aid to Puerto Rico was being held up by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In response, the Congresswoman led several colleagues in writing to USDA and calling for an investigation into the delay.
“The emergency Nutritional Assistance Program aid approved by Congress allows Puerto Rico to bring its food stamps benefits roughly in line to those received by states on the mainland,” the letter states. “However, because the funds have not been released, recipients in Puerto Rico have experienced benefit cuts of almost 25 percent.” You can read that letter online here.
The Congresswoman is working to see Puerto Rico’s Medicaid system fixed for the long term. She has introduced the “Puerto Rico Health Care Fairness, Accountability, and Beneficiary Access Act of 2019,” legislation that would put Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program on a path to parity with other Medicaid programs throughout the United States. The bill would ensure Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program is available for the long term, helping meet the health needs of Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable. You can read more about her Medicaid bill here.
Nydia is also focused on bringing transparency and fairness to Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring. Late last year, media reports emerged that some consultants employed to work on Puerto Rico’s debt are also holders of Puerto Rico’s bonds, creating a potential conflict of interest or, at minimum, the appearance of unfairness. In response, the Congresswoman has authored the “Puerto Rico Accuracy in Disclosure Act,” which would apply the same transparency requirements to Puerto Rico’s debt restructuring as those that exist on the mainland.
As she puts it, “The Puerto Rican people deserve to have confidence that those working on the debt restructuring have the Island’s best interest in mind, and are not trying to line their own pockets.”
The Congresswoman testified before the House Judiciary Committee in late June in support of this bill. You can watch her testimony online here.
The New York Times covered her bill. You may read that article here.
Nydia is also working to help clean up environmental dangers in Puerto Rico. She was able to pass an amendment aimed at advancing the cleanup of Caño Martín Peña, a 3.7-mile channel in San Juan that has long been plagued with environmental problems.
Caño Martín Peña is clogged with debris, sediment and organic waste, and area structures continue discharging sewage into the waterway. As a result, residents of the surrounding Martín Peña neighborhood are frequently exposed to health hazards. Residents there increasingly suffer from health conditions like skin rashes, asthma, and outbreaks of mosquito-borne diseases from exposure to contaminated water. Hurricanes Maria and Irma exacerbated environmental problems in the channel and surrounding area, as more than 1,000 area homes sustained damage.
“This is not only an environmental project, but also a pressing issue of social and environmental justice,” Velázquez added. “The people who live along this troubled canal have suffered long enough, and Maria and Irma underscored how quickly these problems can worsen with extreme weather. With hurricane season looming upon us, we have an obligation to act before the next hurricane or flood.”
You can read more about her amendment online here.
As Puerto Rico continues its long path to recovery, Nydia will continue working with her colleagues, so Washington provides the Island the help it needs to recover physically and economically.