Press Releases

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) today released the following statement after the House passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act to provide funding for small businesses, hospitals and health workers, and testing in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak:

“The interim emergency relief bill passed by Congress will replenish desperately needed funds for small businesses and provide additional money to support our health care system. Democrats worked hard over the last two weeks to make significant improvements to this legislation from what was first proposed by Senate Republicans.

“The dire circumstances facing small businesses were made clear by how quickly funding for the Paycheck Protection Program and other small business programs were exhausted. The bill passed today will not only provide additional funding for these programs but strengthen them to better reach all small businesses. This bill will set aside money for businesses in underserved communities through Community Development Financial Institutions and minority depository institutions.  

“The bill will also provide additional money to hospitals, providers, and medical professionals who are risking their lives every day to protect our communities. Hospitals and providers have faced a mounting financial burden responding to COVID-19. Funding from this bill will help ease this strain and help with purchasing additional personal protective equipment for their workers on the frontline.

“Lastly, it is especially important that this legislation devotes $25 billion to testing. Expanding our testing capacity is key to reopening the economy safely. States and the health care system cannot do this on their own. We were successful in requiring the Administration to develop a national testing strategy, including how we will increase testing capacity. Action from the federal government to take the lead in expanding testing across the U.S. is long overdue.   

“This bill is far from perfect. We still need more funding for state, local, and tribal entities on the frontlines of COVID-19 who face extraordinarily difficult fiscal conditions. Individuals and families need to be further supported by expanding SNAP benefits, providing additional cash payments to the people, ensuring adequate protections for workers, and enhancing assistance for rent, mortgage, and utility payments. We also must fill the gaps in previous federal assistance by prioritizing support and eligibility for immigrants and making sure that vulnerable communities are not left behind in prevention and recovery efforts. As we pass this interim legislation, the House is working on the next relief package to provide comprehensive support to help combat the health and economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA) today released the following statement after the House passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help our health care and economic response to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The emergency relief bill bolsters our capacity to sufficiently respond to the public health crisis and provides desperately needed support to individuals and families, small businesses, and workers who have been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly burdened the entire health care system in Washington. This bill directs billions of dollars to hospitals and providers and state, local, and tribal governments on the front lines of protecting the health of our communities. It also makes investments to help ensure we increase production and capacity for critical medical equipment and supplies to care for patients and keep health care workers and first responders safe. 

“Required social distancing measures keep us safe and help prevent our hospitals from collapsing, but they have also had a devastating effect on the economy. This bill infuses billions of dollars for relief to small businesses to maintain payroll and pay rent while many of their businesses have been forced to close. As we have seen unemployment claims skyrocket, this legislation provides a historic expansion and enhancement of unemployment benefits. It increases the amount eligible workers receive each week, provides for an additional 13 weeks of benefits, and expands eligibility to include gig economy, part-time, and self-employed workers. We are also fulfilling our promise of putting money directly into the pockets of individuals and families who need it. The bill will provide immediate payments to low and middle-income Americans of $1,200 for each adult and $500 for each child.

“This bill also recognizes that COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our society. It takes important steps to support schools, transit agencies, and other service providers that have been negatively impacted, and address challenges such as food security, homelessness, and childcare that have been exacerbated during this crisis.

“Today’s legislation also contains critical support for the Department of Defense. As we continue to grapple with this crisis, the DoD’s participation in the whole of government response is vital to our success.

“Specifically, the bill provides the DoD with the resources needed to sustain a significant deployment of National Guard troops supporting state responses to COVID-19 and purchase much-needed equipment and supplies under the Defense Production Act. And because our military’s greatest asset is our men and women in uniform, today’s bill also allocates nearly $4 billion for the Defense Health Program, $415 million of which will be dedicated to the research and development of vaccines and treatments.

“While this third relief package is another important step in combatting the impacts of the pandemic, it will not be the last action Congress takes. I greatly appreciate the input from organizations and constituents across the district over the last few weeks and look forward to continuing to work with the community to alleviate the impact of this public health crisis.”

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA-09) and the entire Washington congressional delegation including U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd), Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA, 5th), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA, 3rd), Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA, 1st), Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th), Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th), Dan Newhouse (R-WA, 4th), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th), and Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA, 8th) today sent a letter urging FEMA to provide sufficient and appropriate medical personnel and equipment as part of any field hospitals and clinics being deployed to Washington for the COVID-19 outbreak.

“Many other states and cities are projected to face shortcomings in their health care system; Washington is facing a crisis now. Hospitals in our State are already overwhelmed by the exponential growth in hospitalizations related to COVID-19. As the first and hardest hit region in the country by COVID-19 to date, the health care workforce in Washington has only been further strained,” the members wrote.

“Washington desperately needs additional bed capacity, but just as vital is that this additional capacity be accompanied by federal medical personnel and equipment. Anything short of this greatly jeopardizes the ability for Washington’s health care system to meet the urgent and growing needs of our communities.”

Read the full letter HERE and below:

Dear Administrator Gaynor:

We urge you to provide sufficient and appropriate medical personnel and equipment as part of the Mission Assignment for any field hospitals and clinics being deployed to Washington to ensure they will be fully staffed and equipped. We appreciate the additional bed capacity that we understand is set to be deployed to Washington, however, it will fail to meet the State’s needs and the federal government’s goals in deploying such assets if it does not include additional medical personnel and equipment.

In particular, we strongly urge you to work closely with Secretary Esper in determining how military medical personnel may be used as part of this effort. The Military Health System has a mission to maintain a ready medical force that is prepared to respond to the full spectrum of military operations. This includes humanitarian missions.

Many other states and cities are projected to face shortcomings in their health care system; Washington is facing a crisis now. Hospitals in our State are already overwhelmed by the exponential growth in hospitalizations related to COVID-19. Washington has just 1.7 hospital beds per 1,000 residents, significantly below the national average of 2.4 beds per 1,000 residents.

Part of the reason we believed it was critical to send the U.S.N.S. Mercy to the Puget Sound region is that it would come already staffed. Washington already faces an insufficient number of health care providers to handle the COVID-19 outbreak. Washington’s Registered Nurse (RN) to population ratio of 781 to 100,000 is well below the national average of 825 RNs to 100,000 population. Over 2,200,000 people in Washington live in a designated Primary Care Professional Shortage Area. Twenty-two percent of licensed physicians currently practice in other states, and twenty-five percent of RNs have a Washington license but do not practice in Washington.

As the first and hardest hit region in the country by COVID-19 to date, the health care workforce in Washington has only been further strained. The number of available nurses and physicians has decreased due to fatigue and illness caused by the outbreak. It is estimated that 35 percent of physicians are married to other physicians and have childcare responsibilities. Furthermore, an estimated 75 percent of nurses must either care for a child and/or an elderly relative at home. The necessary closure of schools and impact of the outbreak has led many of these health care workers to have to stay home to care for themselves and their families. The shortage of health care personnel in Washington resulting from the severity of the State’s COVID-19 outbreak is one that we desperately need the federal government to supplement.

As we wrote to President Trump on March 18, hospitals in the Puget Sound region will soon have to implement crisis care standards and make excruciating decisions about care rationing. Our State and local health agencies have taken extreme actions and exhausted every avenue to support our hospitals. But without urgent federal action, our state will see a near total collapse of hospitals in Washington like we have seen in other places such as Italy.

We understand that a 148-bed field hospital with medical staff is being prepared to deploy to Washington from Fort Carson. As you know, this initial deployment is still far short of the 1,000 beds and staff that would have come with the U.S.N.S. Mercy. We request a timeline for exactly when the deployment from Fort Carson will be operational in Washington and when a decision about additional deployments of beds and medical personnel from federal agencies to Washington will be made.

Washington desperately needs additional bed capacity, but just as vital is that this additional capacity be accompanied by federal medical personnel and equipment. Anything short of this greatly jeopardizes the ability for Washington’s health care system to meet the urgent and growing needs of our communities.

Sincerely,

cc:       The Honorable Mike Pence, Vice President, United States of America

            The Honorable Mark Esper, Secretary of Defense

            The Honorable Alex Azar, Secretary of Health and Human Services

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA-09) led a letter with Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (D-WA-07), Congressman Denny Heck (D-WA-10), and Congressman Derek Kilmer (D-WA-06) to the GEO Group Inc., the owner and operator of the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC) in Tacoma, Washington, requesting information on plans to mitigate and prepare for a potential COVID-19 outbreak.

“The GEO Group Inc. (GEO) has a contractual responsibility for the health and wellbeing of detainees and staff. Given the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we write to request information about steps being taken by GEO to plan, mitigate, and respond to any potential outbreak at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC),” the members wrote.

“King County and the Seattle area is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Public health experts expect confirmed cases to continue to rise and the outbreak to spread. Populations living in close quarters and confined spaces are especially vulnerable to potential catastrophic outbreaks. We have already seen that immigration detention centers, such as the NWDC, are particularly susceptible to outbreaks of diseases.”

Read the full letter here and below:

Dear Mr. Zoley:

As the owner and operator of the Northwest Detention Center in Tacoma, Washington, The GEO Group Inc. (GEO) has a contractual responsibility for the health and wellbeing of detainees and staff. Given the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak, we write to request information about steps being taken by GEO to plan, mitigate, and respond to any potential outbreak at the Northwest Detention Center (NWDC).

King County and the Seattle area is the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak in the United States. Public health experts expect confirmed cases to continue to rise and the outbreak to spread. Populations living in close quarters and confined spaces are especially vulnerable to potential catastrophic outbreaks. We have already seen that immigration detention centers, such as the NWDC, are particularly susceptible to outbreaks of diseases. In August of 2019, the CDC reported that nearly 1,000 detainees and staffers at US immigration detention facilities had gotten mumps in an 11-month timespan.  According to public health experts and officials, “people residing in close living quarters are especially vulnerable to COVID-19 and will need special attention both to minimize transmission risk and address their healthcare needs in the context of an outbreak.” 

According to the Performance Based National Detention Standards, which GEO group is required to meet, each facility “shall have written plans that address the management of infections and communicable diseases, including screening, prevention, education, identification, monitoring and surveillance… and reporting to local, state and federal agencies”.  We understand that restrictions were recently put in place for outside visitors to the NWDC, including legal counsel. 

Please provide the updated policies and procedures GEO has in place to prepare and respond to a potential outbreak at the NWDC, and answers to the following questions by Wednesday, March 25. In addition, we request that you answer the following inquiries:

  • How does GEO plan to identify individuals within the NWDC that are at a heightened risk of serious illness should they contract COVID-19? What protocols and procedures exist to protect these individuals?
  • What policies and procedures does GEO follow when committing individuals to medical isolation? Does the NWDC have the capacity to isolate individuals from other inmates effectively should they contract COVID-19 or show symptoms, per the recommendations of public health officials? How many detainees does GEO believe it has the space to quarantine in isolation at the NWDC? If this number is less than the current population of NWDC, what plans are in place to partner with Pierce County Public Health, Washington State Department of Health, and other relevant stakeholders to adequately quarantine detainees? Does this isolation result in solitary confinement?
  • What practices is GEO implementing to ensure social distancing recommendations from the CDC are met? Given the population count of NWDC and capacity of the facility, can GEO ensure that detainees maintain 6 feet of distance from one another at all times?
  • What COVID-19 testing capabilities does GEO have access to? How many people has GEO tested to date? What criteria is GEO using to determine if an individual will be tested? 
  • Does GEO report test results to Pierce County Public Health and the Washington State Department of Health? Has GEO consulted with the local or state public health agency on their mitigation and response plans? What public information does GEO plan to provide regarding test results at the NWDC? Will GEO make public the number of people it has tested and the results?
  • What screening procedures are being implemented to mitigate the harm that may be caused by GEO, DHS, and other staff coming and going from facilities? What steps is GEO taking to ensure that detainees can still have access to legal counsel, while minimizing potential spread of COVID-19? What is GEO doing to ensure that spaces used by attorneys and their clients are adequately sanitized between uses?
  • What additional measures have been implemented to augment existing hygiene and sanitation standards? 
  • What information has GEO provided to detainees about the COVID-19 outbreak? Given that family visits have stopped, what additional methods of communication is GEO facilitating between detainees and their families? Is GEO working to set up free audio or video calls during this uncertainty? If not, why not?
  • For individuals who have been deported since January 20, 2020, the beginning of the outbreak in Washington state, which countries have they been deported to, and for those deported to Mexico what is their medical access status?

Thank you for your attention to this critical public health matter.

Sincerely,

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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Adam Smith (D-WA, 9th), joined the entire Washington state congressional delegation in pushing President Trump to issue a major disaster declaration to help address the coronavirus outbreak in Washington state. This declaration would open up a full suite of Individual Assistance Programs as requested by Governor Inslee for Washington state, including Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Disaster Legal Services, Disaster Care Management, Crisis Counseling Assistance, and Training Program, Individuals and Households Program Assistance, Voluntary Agency Coordination, and Mass Care and Emergency Assistance. Congressman Smith joined U.S. Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA), as well as U.S. Representatives Rick Larsen (D-WA, 2nd), Cathy McMorris Rogers (R-WA, 5th), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA, 3rd), Suzan K. DelBene (D-WA, 1st), Denny Heck (D-WA, 10th), Derek Kilmer (D-WA, 6th), Dan Newhouse (R-WA, 4th), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA, 7th), and Kim Schrier, M.D. (D-WA, 8th) in the letter.

“Taken together, the effects of this virus are unprecedented,” the Delegation wrote. “Governor Inslee and the Washington Emergency Management Division have implemented necessary precautions in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, since this public health crisis began state and local government resources have been overwhelmed. This is unsustainable for our state and highlights why federal support is necessary.”

The Delegation continued: “We fully support Governor Inslee’s request for a major disaster declaration and ask that you grant the full suite of Individual Assistance programs as soon as possible.”

COVID-19 has caused, and continues to cause, unprecedented disruption of normal community functions including lifesaving and life-sustaining services, essential community services, and the overall health and safety of all residents in Washington state. Schools have been closed across the state, impacting students’ access to nutritious meals and more. Additionally, with major employers closing their doors or encouraging employees to work from home, small business, hospitality, and entertainment commerce has dropped precipitously across the state, especially in the Puget Sound region. The additional programs granted to the state under a major disaster declaration would go a significant way towards getting local and state governments the resources they need to meet these challenges.  

Read the full letter below or HERE.

Dear Mr. President:

We write in support of Governor Jay Inslee’s March 20, 2020 request for a declaration of a major disaster for the State of Washington. On January 20, 2020, the first domestic case of the 2019 Novel Coronavirus Disease (COVID-19) was reported in Washington state. Since that time, our constituents have grappled with 1,376 confirmed cases of COVID-19, of which 74 have resulted in fatality as of March 19, 2020. These numbers are anticipated to grow as the disease spreads rapidly in the coming weeks. Specifically, we urge you to authorize the full suite of Individual Assistance Programs as requested by Governor Inslee, including Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Disaster Legal Services, Disaster Care Management, Crisis Counseling Assistance and Training Program, Individuals and Households Program Assistance, Voluntary Agency Coordination, and Mass Care and Emergency Assistance.

The COVID-19 pandemic has caused, and continues to cause, unprecedented disruption of normal community functions including lifesaving and life-sustaining services and essential community services. COVID-19 threatens the overall health and safety of all residents in the state. The rapid spread of the virus has led to extensive closures of schools and cancellations of gatherings, public events, and conferences, straining state and local economies, and placing a considerable burden on state and local public health workers, emergency responders, health care systems, and government officials.

In order to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 in the state, the Governor has suspended in-person classroom instruction for school districts and institutions of higher education have been advised to create plans for distance learning. Closures of schools have created issues for vulnerable families who struggle to afford child care, food, and other services provided by schools. For example, the 1,106,784 children in Washington state who regularly receive free and reduced meals are no longer able to easily access these meals.

The small business community in our state has suffered substantial economic losses as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Major employers are closing their doors or encouraging employees to work from home. Small businesses have been forced to close, while hospitality and entertainment commerce has dropped precipitously across the Puget Sound region. Many businesses do not have sufficient capital to withstand closures lasting multiple weeks, forcing them to take drastic measures, including temporary lay-offs, to stay afloat and several tribal-owned businesses have closed.

Taken together, the effects of this virus are unprecedented. Governor Inslee and the Washington Emergency Management Division have implemented necessary precautions in order to limit the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, since this public health crisis began state and local government resources have been overwhelmed. This is unsustainable for our state and highlights why federal support is necessary.

We fully support Governor Inslee’s request for a major disaster declaration and ask that you grant the full suite of Individual Assistance programs as soon as possible. Thank you for your prompt attention to this important matter.

Sincerely,

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