Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) voted to pass H.R. 1620, the bipartisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) reauthorization which would authorize funding for critical grant programs that support victim services for those who experience gender-based violence. It is a vital source of funding for violence prevention and education programs and is critical to helping survivors get access to justice and gain economic independence.

“The Violence Against Women Act has been instrumental in support of women and all survivors who have been subjected to domestic violence, sexual assault, and stalking. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, we have seen a sharp increase in domestic violence and other crimes making it even more urgent to pass this bill to ensure that every survivor and victim has the resources they need to lead lives free from violence and fear.

“VAWA reauthorization would increase funding for victims’ services, expand training and education for providers, and strengthen and improve programs to respond to this crisis. In addition to reinstating critical funding that expired in 2018, it will also address challenges identified by survivors and by domestic violence shelters, rape crisis centers, and other organizations that serve survivors. With this vote, we also close the ‘boyfriend loophole’ that currently allows abusive former partners and stalkers with previous convictions to obtain guns. Today, I proudly voted for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to strengthen and support lifesaving protections for women and to respond to our country’s crisis of domestic violence with action.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement after introducing the Ensuring a Long-Term Housing Recovery Act, which would utilize local Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to provide rental assistance for the duration of the COVID-19 pandemic and economic recession.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the existing affordable housing crisis facing far too many families in the Puget Sound region and across the country,” said Congressman Adam Smith. “As many renters struggle to pay for the essentials and keep up with monthly rent and utilities, we must invest heavily in our most efficient and effective programs available for providing rental assistance.”

“The Ensuring a Long-Term Housing Recovery Act will invest in new housing vouchers that eligible households can stay on until their income returns to normal. Housing vouchers are proven as one of the most effective policies for reducing homelessness and housing insecurity among low-income people and underserved communities,” continued Congressman Smith. “Investing in single-issue vouchers for all income-eligible families through the Public Housing Authorities maximizes our ability to reach households in need of support and ensures that emergency rental assistance will be efficiently distributed and last as long as people need it.”

“KCHA applauds Congressman Smith for introducing this critical legislation to bring new housing resources to low-income people in Washington State,” said Stephen Norman, Executive Director of the King County Housing Authority (KCHA). “The COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how central a stable and affordable home is to a family’s wellbeing. With so many families facing mounting rental debt, Congress must address the immediate needs of people on the brink of eviction, but also recognize that low-income people across the country will not see their incomes recover overnight. A new infusion of emergency Housing Choice Vouchers would provide immediate assistance and long-term stability for low-income families who have disproportionally seen their livelihoods impacted by the pandemic.”

“In all these ways, the bill is a smart response to an unprecedented housing emergency,” said Michael Mirra, Executive Director of the Tacoma Housing Authority. “The nation has invested billions in one-time housing assistance payments during the pandemic. Doing that has been a vital effort to forestall disaster for millions of households. Yet, if the only benefit the nation gets from that enormous investment is a modest reduction in rent arrearages and perhaps a short-term delay in eviction, then we must count that as a policy and financial defeat, as well as an unrelieved disaster for the most vulnerable victims of the pandemic. In contrast, your bill recognizes the value of a Housing Choice Voucher. A voucher helps a family, and a landlord, not only to avoid disaster, but also to recover a measure of stability. That stability will, in turn, allow them to regain a measure of prosperity. That is what builds families, builds neighborhoods, and promotes a housing market that works better for all.”

Click here to read the Tacoma Housing Authority’s full letter to Rep. Smith.

"The Seattle Housing Authority thanks Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) for introducing vital legislation to provide single-use housing vouchers,” said the Seattle Housing Authority. “Millions of people in our country are experiencing an inability to maintain or get housing as they struggle with job loss, reduced hours, loss of their businesses, caring full-time for children as day care centers and schools have closed, and the myriad other destabilizing impacts of the pandemic on their lives.   Now more than ever there is a need for immediate and innovative help for them.  Representative Smith’s bill to provide single-use housing vouchers will provide those most in need with housing. Without these vouchers it will be an incredible challenge for local communities and housing authorities to help keep these individuals and families from spiraling into extended homelessness.  Housing authorities are positioned to take on administration of these vouchers and get them into the hands of people who have no means to pay full rent as they attempt to recover and rebuild from the crisis.  Housing authorities and our community partners have the experience and infrastructure in place to support this desperately needed increase in housing vouchers for those hardest-hit by the economic fallout of COVID-19.”

"The Council of Large Public Housing Authorities applauds Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) for introducing this most important legislation to provide single-use housing vouchers to communities in need,” said Sunia Zaterman, Executive Director of the Council of Large Public Housing Authorities. “The pandemic has created an urgency for a deeper investment in this form of housing assistance for long-term recovery. Single-use housing vouchers can provide immediate assistance to individuals and families and can do so more efficiently while placing the least amount of strain on local stakeholders and government services. These vouchers will assist housing authorities and communities across the country meet their most urgent housing needs arising from the coronavirus and resulting economic contraction. Housing authorities have the capacity for a rapid expansion and administration of these vouchers because the infrastructure is already in place within these agencies to support a substantial increase in voucher availability."

“As the pandemic-induced economic crisis continues, we must provide adequate federal rental assistance to help families stay in or find homes,” said Adrianne Todman, Chief Executive Officer of the National Association of Housing and Redevelopment Officials (NAHRO). “This bill would authorize $25 billion for new Housing Choice Vouchers as well as cover fees for utilities, security deposits, and application fees. The bill would also ensure that housing authorities had the flexibility and funding to make sure that the vouchers were used as quickly as possible. NAHRO supports Congressman Smith's effort to expand vouchers to more families who need assistance.”

“PHADA is pleased to endorse the Ensuring a Long-Term Housing Recovery Act, which will provide critically needed funding to address the serious affordable rental needs of low-income households across the country,” said Timothy Kaiser, Executive Director – Public Housing Authorities Directors Association (PHADA). “As you know, these needs have been exacerbated by the Coronavirus pandemic… PHADA recognizes that this expansion of the voucher program will directly address homelessness, housing instability, and overcrowding of low-income households. It will also help tens of thousands of households to gain quickly some measure of security and stability during the pandemic, which will help them get back on their feet and recover financially. Thank you for your commitment to helping low-income households in need and responding to the economic and health crisis facing our communities. An investment of this size and at this time is a direct investment in America’s families.”

Click here to read PHADA’s full letter to Rep. Smith.

“The MTW Collaborative supports the legislation introduced by Representative Adam Smith (D-WA) to provide single-use housing vouchers to communities in need,” said Andrew Lofton, President of MTW Collaborative. “The COVID-10 pandemic has only exacerbated our nation’s ongoing housing crisis and created an even more pressing need for investment in long-term recovery through housing assistance. Public housing authorities are well positioned to support a substantial increase in voucher assistance and already have the infrastructure and capacity in place for a rapid expansion and administration of single-use vouchers."

“Tenant based assistance has long been the cornerstone of the federal housing programs and represents a proven tool to be utilized in providing much needed assistance to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and its associated economic impact,” said Denise Muha, Executive Director of the National Leased Housing Association. “The current network of local and state housing agencies/authorities under the current Section 8 voucher program represent an efficient delivery system to assist urban, suburban and rural renters. Importantly, your proposed bill will provide housing authorities essential flexibility in meeting the challenges of both renters and landlords perpetuated by the pandemic. The authority to address rental arrears as well as current rental needs along with waivers and the ability to offer incentives for landlord participation will be key to that effort.

Click here to read the National Leased Housing Association’s full letter to Rep. Smith.

“Universal housing vouchers are key to ending the nationwide crisis in affordable housing as well as homelessness,” said the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “Rep. Smith’s bill commands the Alliance’s support because it is a significant step in the right direction.  The Alliance thanks Rep. Smith for his leadership on low income housing and homelessness issues.”

“Home has never been more important than during this pandemic," said Michael Seiwerath, Executive Director of SouthEast Effective Development. "Vouchers are an essential part of the solution to address homelessness and ensure that all our neighbors have a decent home they can afford. SouthEast Effective Development supports Congressman Smith’s leadership in expanding the number of sorely needed vouchers.”

The Ensuring a Long-Term Housing Recovery Act would provide $25 billion for single-issue vouchers through Public Housing Authorities (PHAs) to all income-eligible families.

  • This would fund approximately 200,000 vouchers over five years.
  • The single-issue housing vouchers sunset whenever the initial households that use them exit the program. PHAs are prohibited from reissuing these vouchers to other households.
  • A portion of the $25 billion would be given to HUD to award to PHAs competitively to ensure a subset of vouchers are targeted in a manner consistent with highest need or awarded to PHAs with demonstrated capacity to issue vouchers quickly and effectively.

You can read the full text of the Ensuring a Long-Term Housing Recovery Act here.

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) introduced the 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act, which would provide funding for unarmed 911 response programs that divert nonviolent 911 calls to specialized service providers instead of law enforcement.

“It’s abundantly clear that we need to fundamentally reimagine public safety and what law enforcement looks like in our country,” said Rep. Adam Smith. “Too often, law enforcement officers are tasked with responding to situations they are neither trained nor equipped to handle. Directly addressing systemic racism and restructuring law enforcement’s approach to public safety must recognize the range of urgent needs that are best addressed without police involvement in a holistic, equitable way that centers on getting individuals the resources and services they need.

“With guidance from members of the community, I authored the 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act to support programs that enable 911 call dispatchers to direct nonviolent calls toward unarmed, specialized responders who can connect people with the care they need,” Rep. Smith continued. “Community-based public safety programs across the country have shown incredible success in responding to nonviolent 911 calls, and instead of sending police to a behavioral health crisis, specialized service providers like social workers, medical professionals, and peer support counselors would respond. These programs reduce violent and hostile encounters, help restore trust between law enforcement and community members, and provide better services and care for public safety.”

911 receives more than 240 million calls every year. The overwhelming majority of these calls involve nonviolent, non-criminal incidents such as neighbor disputes, nuisance complaints, truancy, reports of “suspicious” activity, requests for wellness checks, and mental health crises. Both the police and policing reform advocates often assert that specialized service providers—such as social workers, paramedics, and peer support counselors—are better equipped to handle such situations than armed officers. The “send the police to everything” approach that prevails in much of our country often places armed law enforcement officers in situations they are neither equipped nor trained to handle and leads to encounters between police and civilians that turn violent and, in many cases, deadly.

The 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act would provide funding to state, local, or tribal jurisdictions to support unarmed 911 response programs that divert nonviolent 911 calls toward specialized service providers and away from traditional law enforcement.

The bill requires that the programs are managed independently from state or local law enforcement agencies. These diversion programs will help ensure that individuals who are experiencing addiction crises, homelessness, or developmental or intellectual disability, or other mental health issues are met with professional service providers capable of providing screening, assessment, de-escalation, and transportation to immediately necessary treatment.

The 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act one-page summary is available here and text of the bill can be found here.

Statements of Support:

Washington State Representative Jesse Johnson:

“This legislation is about doing all we can to prevent another needless death. Another funeral. Preserving and protecting human life should be our highest value. The 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel program is common sense because it prioritizes de-escalation and alternatives to incarceration for those experiencing a mental health crisis, homelessness, addiction or a disability. It will help reduce violence and build trust in the system with communities of color because everyone deserves to be safe and to be protected. Every life should be valued.”

Michelle Merriweather, Urban League of Metropolitan Seattle:

“Everyone deserves to be treated with humanity, including those who face mental health crises. 1 in 10 police interactions involve a person with a mental illness. Our Black and Brown folks living with disabilities need support, not potential jail time. Having a diversion program to ensure that when someone is in crisis, they are not met with an armed police officer will provide public safety so that everyone makes it out alive. The 911 Diversion to Unarmed Personnel Act will provide vital funding for our community in Washington state and make sure we are protected.”

Sakara Remmu, Washington Black Lives Matter Alliance:

“The nation has reached a pivotal point, both in awareness of community safety through the experiences and deaths of Black Americans, and in deciding to stand up and take action to make the changes required to better serve all communities. It is time to go beyond imagining a new way—it’s time to begin to implement alternatives to an armed police response when someone needs help, or is having a mental health crisis. Law enforcement officers are not social workers, they aren’t doctors.  Attempts at de-escalation are more likely to fail when someone with a gun shows up. With this bill, Congress is beginning to take steps to make changes to policing and community safety that we have demanded for decades.”

Lyn Idahosa, Federal Way Black Collective:

“The summer of 2020 taught us a lot, as organizers in community we have heard calls for true change had a goal to create a solution that removes the burden of utilizing the police as a catch all agency and also clearly sets a priority to change the way mental health services are delivered to the public from a more holistic and dignified perspective. Having trusted messengers in community to respond in times of mental crisis is important not only for future patients but also in restoring trust in systems and the improving community trust and outcomes. Congressman Smith is honing in on clear practical policy that makes sense and is the response community has been calling for every time we say the name of the victims that have lost their lives because we need the right kind of service providers addressing these calls.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement after the House passed H.R. 8, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021, and H.R. 1446, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and economic crisis, gun violence has only grown worse, ending an average of 100 American lives each day. Even with many Americans staying home to prevent the spread of COVID-19, gun purchases spiked in March 2020 and firearm fatalities rose in the following months. Today, Congress has begun to address the epidemic of gun violence with two pieces of strong, bipartisan legislation.

"It’s is overwhelmingly clear that background checks work. Every day, background checks stop approximately 170 felons, 50 domestic abusers, and 20 fugitives from obtaining a gun. However, major loopholes exist in the system that allow unlicensed dealers and vendors at gun shows to sell guns without running any background check at all. Ninety percent of Americans, including responsible gun owners, recognize the value in keeping firearms away from people who can’t pass a background check. H.R. 8 closes the background check loophole to bring all states forward in requiring background checks on every gun purchase.

“I’m also proud to have finally closed a major loophole in gun laws that armed the shooter in the tragic massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, that killed nine innocent people. Commonly referred to as the ‘Charleston Loophole,’ federal law allows licensed gun dealers to hand over guns to individuals who may not qualify if their background check has not been completed by the FBI within three days. Despite being prohibited by law from possessing a firearm due to his history of unlawful controlled substance abuse, the shooter obtained a gun due to this technicality. H.R. 1446 provides the FBI with the crucial time needed to complete a background check on a potential firearms purchaser before a licensed dealer can transfer a gun.

“With the passage of the Bipartisan Background Checks Act and the Enhanced Background Checks Act in the House, Congress has taken a foundational step toward saving lives from gun violence and keeping our communities safe.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Representative Adam Smith (D-Wash.) released the following statement after the House passed the American Rescue Plan Act, sending it to President Biden’s desk to be signed into law.

“The American Rescue Plan Act will provide the tools needed to beat COVID-19 and support individuals, families, and small businesses struggling from the economic crisis. This package provides direct cash assistance to families, ramps up vaccine distribution, gives schools resources for COVID-19 prevention and mitigation, and supports small businesses.

“The American Rescue Plan delivers immediate relief to the workers and families bearing the brunt of this pandemic. The bill will provide direct housing assistance, nutrition assistance for 40 million Americans, and expand access to safe and reliable child care. It includes the most significant expansion of affordable health insurance in a decade to keep affordable health care within reach for millions of people. Unemployment insurance is extended so that 18 million American workers can afford to pay their bills and put food on the table. The bill also strengthens economic recovery by expanding the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit to cut child poverty in half and support more than 17 million low-wage workers.

“While we still have much work to do, this package lays the foundation needed to help bring an end to the pandemic, support students and schools, get shots in arms, put dollars into families’ pockets, and help people get back to work.”

For more details, please see the H.R. 1319, American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 One-Pager here and full Fact Sheet here.

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