Rep. Bonamici visits a fire station on Labor Day
U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici stopped by a fire station in Tigard on Labor Day — her visits to firehouses are part of her holiday rounds — and talked about issues of interest to first responders and others during the coronavirus pandemic.
"People think it's Labor Day, and everybody is off having a picnic," Bonamici told reporters after meeting crews at Station 50 of Tualatin Valley Fire & Rescue. "But in fact, firefighters and other first responders are working hard today and every day — and I want to thank them.
"They are working during challenging times … They need to have our support and appreciation."
Bonamici, a Democrat from Beaverton, has represented northwest Oregon in the U.S. House since she won a special election for the 1st District congressional seat in early 2012. The TVF&R district fans out from eastern Washington County into parts of Multnomah, Clackamas and Yamhill counties.
One of those challenges is how firefighters/paramedics respond when they get medical calls, which now typically account for 80% of their total.
"We're wearing a full gown, gloves, goggles and a face mask. That is to protect us and the patient," Capt. Brian Smith told Bonamici.
"We keep a close account of what we have and what we need (for personal protective equipment). As of right now, we are well supplied."
Smith said a memory-care center, which houses some COVID-19 coronavirus patients, is within the area served by Station 50. He said the center has taken appropriate precautions for emergency access by TVF&R crews to limit their exposure to residents.
"We know you are supportive of our union and labor in general," Smith told Bonamici. "So we appreciate you coming on Labor Day to check us out and see how we are doing."
Two other firefighters/paramedics, Bryan Green and Rachel McKinnis, showed Bonamici equipment such as fire hoses contained in portable backpacks.
A to-do list
Bonamici and other representatives will return to Washington, D.C., next week after a summer recess and virtual committee meetings the rest of this week. She said the House has a to-do list, including action on her proposed ban on asbestos and a new coronavirus aid plan.
Her ban on asbestos, a heat-resistant material once used in flame retardants but also found to be a cause of cancer, has cleared the House Energy and Commerce Committee. But it (HR 1603) awaits a vote of the full House. A Senate version (S 717) is sponsored by Oregon Sen. Jeff Merkley.
The bill is named after Alan Reinstein, who died in 2006 at age 66 after contracting mesothelioma from work-related exposure to asbestos. Alan's wife, Linda, co-founded the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization in 2004.
The Democratic-led House passed a follow-up to the $2 trillion CARES Act with a $3 trillion HEROES Act back on May 15. It proposes almost $1 trillion for federal aid to state and local governments, which have seen sharp drops in income taxes and other revenue because of business shutdowns resulting from the coronavirus pandemic.
But the Republican majority in the Senate has balked at the price tag. Senate Republicans have put together their own plan estimated at $1 trillion, but even that amount is too much for some GOP members.
Among the sticking points are aid to state and local governments, plus a continuation of extra benefits to unemployed or underemployed workers.
"I'm concerned about what the impacts will be if that funding does not come through, both on public employees and in the community," Smith said.
Bonamici was a state senator during the Great Recession a decade ago. She said the spending cuts state lawmakers faced back then reduced public services during a time of need.
"Revenue is down because of the coronavirus. If our state and local governments have to start making these devastating cuts, we know what that means," she said.
"These are challenging times. We need to make investments for our communities and working families, and to make sure we have the safety we need."
In addition, Bonamici said, a new coronavirus aid plan must have money for adequate personal protective equipment for first responders and health-care workers, and for aid to childcare. On July 29, the House passed a bill (HR 7027) for $50 billion more in federal aid. The vote followed a June 12 report released by Bonamici on the availability of childcare in Oregon. A proposal by Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, plus 39 other senators, for $175 billion in federal aid to schools includes $50 billion for childcare.
The federal government also runs out of spending authority when the budget year ends Sept. 30. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin have pledged to work on short-term legislation that will extend spending authority through December.
"I am hopeful we can get another coronavirus support legislation over the finish line," Bonamici said.
"We are not done working on our coronavirus response — and of course, we need to keep the government open when the fiscal year ends. I will do everything I can to avoid another government shutdown."
You count on us to stay informed and we depend on you to fund our efforts. Quality local journalism takes time and money. Please support us to protect the future of community journalism.