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Town's public schools to receive over $1.1M in federal funding, Clark says

The office of U.S. Rep. Katharine Clark made public this news release on Thursday, Aug. 19:

Katherine Clark, 2020Clark

Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (MA-5) has announced that the U.S. Department of Education approved Massachusetts’ American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief plans and distributed the remaining such funds to them. Massachusetts’ plan details how the state is using and plan to use these funds to safely reopen and sustain the safe operation of schools and equitably expand opportunities for students who need it most, particularly those most impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The Arlington Public Schools will receive a total of more than $1.1 million from the American Rescue Plan.

 “Resources from the American Rescue Plan will be integral to our recovery and reconnection planning process in the Arlington Public Schools,” said Elizabeth C. Homan, superintendent, Arlington Public Schools, in the release. “These efforts are already underway and are engaging families, teachers, and district leaders as planning partners. We are grateful for the opportunity to holistically support our students with smaller class sizes, necessary social and mental health supports, additional academic interventions, and extended learning opportunities as a direct result of resources from the American Rescue Plan.”

“Public education is the bedrock of our democracy and the path to success for our nation’s children,” Clark said in the release. “But this pandemic has put an immeasurable toll on kids across the country and their families, leading to learning loss and threatening students’ social and emotional learning. I am thrilled that Massachusetts received approval for American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief to ensure that our children can safely return to in-person learning, address disparities in access, and support the teachers and administrators who make it all possible.”

Earlier this year, the Department distributed two-thirds of the relef funds, totaling $81 billion, to 50 states and the District of Columbia. The remaining third of the funding to states will be made available once state plans are approved. Massachusetts is receiving more than $1.8 billion total in such funds, and today’s approval of their plan will result in the release of the final $611 million. 

The ARP ESSER state plans approved by the Department today, including Massachusetts, show how states are using Federal pandemic resources to support safe in-person instruction and meet the social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs of students—with a focus on the students most impacted by the pandemic. For example:

  • Returning to In-Person Learning in 2021: The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) provided specific guidance on requirements related to the reopening and operation of school facilities. In the 2020-2021 school year, elementary schools returned to full-time, in-person learning in the spring. For the 2021-22 school year, all districts and schools will be required to be in-person, full-time, five days a week. Summer programming in 2021 will also operate in person. 
  • Safely Reopening Schools and Sustaining Safe Operations: DESE has collaborated with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (DPH) to expand opportunities for vaccinations for faculty and students. Their joint effort led to prioritizing educators for vaccines during March and April with specific days set aside solely for them at mass vaccination sites. Most recently, the Department and DPH have launched an effort to provide on-campus vaccination clinics for students, faculty, and family members. Such efforts will continue in the months ahead as vaccines become readily available for younger children and the state will encourage the use of American Rescue Plan funds for these efforts.
  • Accelerating Learning for Students Impacted by the Pandemic: DESE has developed an Acceleration Roadmap designed to provide a focused and phased approach to supporting students as they begin the 2021-22 school year. The state is also considering using ARP ESSER funds for programs like Acceleration Academies, which will create small, hands-on learning environments for Early Literacy and Math.  

A total of 40 states have submitted their ARP ESSER state plans to the Department. The Department is reviewing the plans expeditiously and is in contact with states to ensure their plans meet all necessary requirements in order to access the remaining funds, as outlined in the ARP. The Department is also in contact with states that have not yet submitted plans, the vast majority of which are due to state board of education or legislative review requirements.  

The distribution of such funds is part of the Department’s broader effort to support students and districts as they work to reengage students impacted by the pandemic, address inequities exacerbated by Covid-19, and build our education system back better than before. 

In addition to the actions the Biden administration has taken to reopen schools, the President has proposed critical investments through his Build Back Better Agenda that will enable schools to rebuild stronger than they were before the pandemic, such as investing billions to build a diverse educator workforce, expand access to pre-K to all families, and invest in school infrastructure, among other provisions.

Clark, Duckworth back resolution honoring WWII women, Rogers

The office of U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05) provided the following May 28:

Assistant Speaker Clark (D-MA-5) and Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) introduced a bipartisan resolution to honor the women who served in World War II and recognize the role of Rep. Edith Nourse Rogers —Massachusetts’ first congresswoman — in establishing the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and the Women’s Army Corps.

In 1942, Rogers’ legislation to create the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps became law, ensuring that if women served in support of the Army, they would have the same recognition and benefits as male soldiers. In 1943, the Army finally removed the auxiliary status of the WAAC units. 

“Edith Nourse Rogers was the first woman elected to Congress from Massachusetts. In 1942, she established the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps to ensure that women were able to fight for our country during World War II and be recognized for their service,” Clark said in a news release. “My grandmother contributed to the war effort as a factory worker, and she often remarked how profound this experience was for her. Whether women served as switchboard operators, mechanics, or pilots, they were critical to the war effort and changed the way women were viewed in society. In 1943, the Army rightfully removed the auxiliary status of the WAAC units, giving women all of the rank, privileges, and benefits of male soldiers. Today, we honor these women - and thank Congresswoman Rogers - by reaffirming the bravery of all our female service members and their importance to our nation’s safety.” 

Clark is joined in leading the resolution by Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA-5), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA-6), Ann Wagner (R-MO-2), Mikie Sherrill (D-NJ-11), Don Bacon (R-NE-2), Elaine Luria (D-VA-2), Liz Cheney (R-WY-At Large), Salud Carbajal (D-CA-24), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1), Jackie Speier (D-CA-14), and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA-2).

“By the end of the War, more than 400,000 women had served the United States in military capacities. Those women who served, despite their merit and the recognized value and importance of their contributions to the effort of the United States during the War, were not given status equal to their male counterparts; and struggled for years to receive the appreciation of Congress and the people of the United States. Those women helped to catalyze the social, demographic, and economic evolutions that occurred after the War and that continue to this day… and are owed a great debt of gratitude for their service to the United States,” wrote the members in the resolution.

“When our nation has asked ‘who among you will serve,’ women have consistently volunteered,” said Senator Duckworth. “Even before Congress allowed us to join the military, brave women left their homes and disguised themselves as men to defend our Constitution. The leadership of Congresswoman Edith Nourse Rogers in 1941 paved the way for millions of women like myself to serve our country in uniform over the past 80 years. I’m proud to introduce this resolution today honoring the legacy of our Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps and Congresswoman Rogers’ role in providing women a path to serve our nation in the Armed Forces.”

Clark votes to ensure fair workplaces for pregnant workers

 The office of U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05) provided the following May 14:

Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (MA-5) has voted to pass the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act to establish pregnant workers’ right to reasonable workplace accommodations. Introduced by Representative Jerrold Nadler (NY-10), the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act passed by a vote of 315-101.

“No parent should ever be forced to choose between a healthy pregnancy or a paycheck,” said Assistant Speaker Clark in a May 14 news release. “Right now, women are at a 33 year low in workforce participation because our economic infrastructure too often fails to meet the needs of working women. With this bill, workers would not be denied employment opportunities, reasonable accommodations, or be forced to leave their jobs without pay just because they are pregnant. This legislation is critical to ensure that employers are held accountable and that women have the same opportunities for success.”

The Pregnant Workers Fairness Act has broad support from more than 200 worker advocates, civil rights groups, and business groups, including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In a recent survey of voters across the country, 89 percent said they support the proposal, including 81 percent of Republicans, 86 percent of Independents, and 96 percent of Democrats.

Under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act:

  • Private sector employers with more than 15 employees as well as public sector employers must make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers (employees and job applicants with known limitations related to pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions). Like the Americans with Disabilities Act, employers are not required to make an accommodation if it imposes an undue hardship on an employer’s business.
  • Pregnant workers cannot be denied employment opportunities, retaliated against for requesting a reasonable accommodation, or forced to take paid or unpaid leave if another reasonable accommodation is available.
  • Workers denied a reasonable accommodation under the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act will have the same rights and remedies as those established under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. These include lost pay, compensatory damages, and reasonable attorneys’ fees. Public sector employees have similar relief available under the Congressional Accountability Act, Title V of the United States Code, and the Government Employee Rights Act of 1991.

To read the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act bill text, click here >>

To read the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act fact sheet, click here >>

To read the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act section by section, click here >>

 Clark urges Baker to develop centralized vaccine preregistration system

  The office of U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05) provided the following Feb. 16: 

Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (MA-5) has announced that she sent a letter to Gov. Charlie Baker expressing concern regarding the absence of a centralized vaccine pre-registration system and implored the Governor to act with the requisite urgency to develop and implement a centralized, accessible system for all Massachusetts residents to pre-register for Covid-19 vaccinations, confirm eligibility details, and receive a notification when an appointment becomes available at a convenient location.

The letter was co-signed by Massachusetts delegation members, including Senators Edward Markey (D-MA) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Reps. James P. McGovern (MA-2),  Lori Trahan (MA-3), Jake Auchincloss (MA-4), Seth Moulton (MA-6), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), Stephen F. Lynch (MA-8), and William Keating (MA-9).

“The pandemic and its economic fallout continue to disproportionately devastate communities of color and immigrant communities, and the emergence of more transmissible variants has only intensified the urgency around vaccine deployment,” wrote the lawmakers. “Yet nearly two months after the arrival of the first Pfizer vaccine doses, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with its prestigious health care infrastructure and wealth of technological innovation, remains at the bottom of every states’ national vaccine distribution ranking. A disjointed and cumbersome sign-up process has left seniors confused and unable to access desperately needed vaccine appointments, and the disproportionate reliance on mass vaccination sites has left appointments unfilled with large portions of our most vulnerable populations unserved.”

“We remain deeply concerned that the absence of a centralized pre-registration system for vaccine appointments has contributed to a slow and inequitable deployment of vaccines in Massachusetts, a trend that will only be exacerbated by increased demand as appointments open up to future eligibility groups,” the lawmakers went on to say. “We therefore implore you to act with the requisite urgency to develop and implement a centralized, accessible system for all Massachusetts residents to pre-register for Covid-19 vaccinations, confirm eligibility details, and receive a notification when an appointment becomes available at a convenient location.”

The full text of the letter is attached and can be viewed below: 

February 12, 2021 

Governor Charlie Baker

Massachusetts State House

24 Beacon Street

Boston, MA 02108

Dear Governor Baker, 

We write to express our serious concerns regarding the Commonwealth’s Covid-19 vaccine distribution efforts. We appreciate that this undertaking has presented numerous challenges, many of which have been compounded by the Trump Administration’s mishandling of the pandemic, and recognize your administration’s recent efforts to improve accessibility of vaccine scheduling for seniors. However, we remain deeply concerned that the absence of a centralized pre-registration system for vaccine appointments has contributed to a slow and inequitable deployment of vaccines in Massachusetts, a trend that will only be exacerbated by increased demand as appointments open up to future eligibility groups. We therefore implore you to act with the requisite urgency to develop and implement a centralized, accessible system for all Massachusetts residents to pre-register for Covid-19 vaccinations, confirm eligibility details, and receive notification when an appointment becomes available at a convenient location. 

As we write this letter, over half a million Massachusetts residents have tested positive for Covid-19, and the virus has tragically claimed the lives of almost 15,000 Bay Staters. The pandemic and its economic fallout continue to disproportionately devastate communities of color and immigrant communities, and the emergence of more transmissible variants has only intensified the urgency around vaccine deployment. Yet nearly two months after the arrival of the first Pfizer vaccine doses, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with its prestigious health care infrastructure and wealth of technological innovation, remains at the bottom of every national ranking of states’ vaccine distribution. A disjointed and cumbersome sign-up process has left seniors confused and unable to access desperately needed vaccine appointments, and the disproportionate reliance on mass vaccination sites has left appointments unfilled and large portions of our most vulnerable populations unserved.

A centralized pre-registration system with multiple access points—including in person sites and telephone operated systems—for vaccine appointments would help to alleviate these challenges by:

  • Increasing equity by identifying communities and/or eligibility groups where targeted outreach is needed to help residents schedule appointments or build confidence in the vaccine;
  • Streamlining the intake and scheduling process for both patients and providers; and
  • Enabling the state to match vaccine supply with demand and ensuring that local providers and clinics would be able to administer enough doses to warrant their allotment.

We recognize that this type of emergency communication system requires funding, and we will continue to fight for federal resources to both scale up vaccine production and help the Commonwealth ensure vaccines are distributed equitably and efficiently. We appreciate your time and attention to this, and we thank you for your fair and full consideration of our request.

 Kathryn Alexander
Communications Director
Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark 
Massachusetts 5th District 
2448 Rayburn House Office Building
(202) 706-8806

Clark, Trahan tout Outdoors Act at Minute Man National Park

The office of U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05) provided the following Jan. 25

Assistant Speaker Katherine Clark (MA-05) and Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03) visited Minute Man National Historical Park to celebrate the recent passage of the Great American Outdoors Act  and participate in a discussion on the importance of national parks, public lands, and conservation with the park’s leadership, the Appalachian Mountain Club, and key conservation and recreation partners.

“The Great American Outdoors Act is a long overdue investment in our children, our environment, and our future,” said Assistant Speaker Clark. “This law will help preserve our public lands and national parks, restore and revitalize outdoor recreation areas across the country, and boost the economies of rural communities surrounding these great spaces. Notably, the law also fully and permanently pays for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, one of our greatest tools to confront the impacts of climate change. The Covid-19 pandemic has led so many Americans to rediscover the outdoors, and I’m so grateful that the Great American Outdoors Act will ensure that these national treasures remain available to everyone for many years to come.”

“For far too long, Washington has divested from conservation efforts and neglected the need for maintenance and upgrades at national parks here in Massachusetts and across our nation. Making the Great American Outdoors Act law finally puts an end to that federal neglect,” said Congresswoman Trahan. “This law ensures that national parks like Minute Man receive the amount of funding that reflects their immense value and, consequently, guarantees every American the chance to enjoy our nation’s public lands for generations to come.”

Taking part in today’s celebration and discussion were Minute Man Superintendent BJ Dunn, Appalachian Mountain Club President and CEO John Judge, Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition Executive Director Robb Johnson, The Nature Conservancy Massachusetts Policy Manager Emily Myron, and Groundwork Lawrence Executive Director Heather McMann.

“Now, perhaps more than ever, Americans are showing how essential it is to be able to access public land and water for both physical and mental health. AMC applauds the passage Great American Outdoors Act with the steadfast support and leadership of Congresswoman Trahan and Assistant Speaker Clark to make this victory possible, permanently and fully funding the Land and Water Conservation Fund and addressing the backlog of maintenance on our public lands. As a leader of the national LWCF Coalition, we are grateful for this truly historic action to support our nation’s vibrant recreation economy and local communities, as well as help ensure that everyone will be able to reach a park, forest, or trail near them to enjoy time in the outdoors that is truly restorative,” said John Judge, President and CEO of Appalachian Mountain Club.

Minute Man National Historical Park spans 970 acres of rich historic land in and around the towns of Concord, Lexington, and Lincoln. Home to the place where the first battle of the Revolutionary War took place in 1775 and the storied Wayside property, the park has long been a hotspot for local, national, and international visitors. Between 1964 and 2019, the park has welcomed more than 51 million people to the park, and it continues to be a Covid-19 friendly recreational option for Massachusetts families. However, due to inconsistent federal support for national parks, Minute Man – like other national parks – has struggled to keep up with its maintenance requirements, causing a maintenance backlog now totaling $12.4 million.

To combat this issue, Trahan and Clark both joined with strong bipartisan majorities in both chambers to cosponsor and support the passage of the Great American Outdoors Act, landmark conservation legislation that fully funds the Land Water Conservation Fund and provides billions in funding to fix buildings, trails, roads, and other infrastructure in national parks like Minute Man. Specifically, this legislation provides the maximum funding for LWCF, building on a vote by both Representatives in 2019 to permanently authorize the critical program. It also establishes the National Parks and Public Land Legacy Restoration Fund, which will provide funding to the National Park Service and other federal land management agencies to close the $22 billion deferred maintenance backlog on public lands.

The Great American Outdoors Act was supported by more than 900 organizations, including the Appalachian Mountain Club, the Massachusetts Land Trust Coalition, and the Nature Conservancy.

For more on the Great American Outdoors Act, click here >>

Clark touts 'new beginning' for U.S.

The office of U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05) provided the following Jan 20

Happy Inauguration Day Friend,

Today is a new beginning for America. President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris represent the strength of our democracy and an opportunity to repair and rebuild our nation.

Meeting AClark, Gormanmanda Gorman right after she became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history >>

After four years of conflict, corruption and chaos, the American people chose hope and healing. The new administration, in partnership with a Democratic House and Senate, will bring solutions and an end to the great suffering afflicting our nation, from the devastation wrought by the pandemic to the deep pains of injustice. Our work begins to rebuild a stronger, more just America where every family has a fair shot and where every person is treated with dignity and respect. 

While there are obstacles ahead of us, we will unite around progress. We will unite in action for climate justice, gender justice, and racial justice. We will unite in bringing to life America’s great promise: freedom for all.

Let today stand as a clear message that if we honor truth and justice, democracy will always prevail.

Remove the U.S. traitor

The office of U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05) provided the following statement Jan. 11

The president and his corrupt enablers summoned a seditious mob to our nation's capital, whipped them into a violent frenzy and unleashed them upon the U.S. Capitol building as members of Congress and the vice president were certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election. 

We all saw what happened next: insurrectionists desecrated the center of our government, determined to forcefully overturn the results of a free and fair election and end American democracy itself. 

They failed. 

Every instigator, perpetrator, and accomplice to this assault on our democracy that resulted in the deaths of five Americans, including the murder of a U.S. Capitol police officer, must be held to account and brought to justice. Chief among them being the president of the United States. 

Donald Trump is a traitor to our country. He must be removed from office.

The House is using every power at our disposal to protect the American people and our democracy. This week, we will pass a resolution to call on Vice President Pence to enact the 25th Amendment, and we will impeach the president. Inaction is not an option. 

In the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: "It is always the right time to do what is right." In the wake of a violent coup attempt against our government and as an out-of-control pandemic continues to rage across every state, the future of our country and the lives of millions depend on it.

I promise to keep you updated as the situation continues to develop, and I will continue to do everything in my power to protect the American people and defend our democracy.

Clark, House OK funding, Covid relief

The office of U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05) provided the following statement Dec. 21

Seven months after the House passed the first Heroes Act Covid-19 stimulus package, Congresswoman Katherine Clark joined the House in advancing a bipartisan Covid-19 relief bill that will deliver critically needed emergency services to the American people and fund the government through the next fiscal year. 

“Today, after seven months of Republican pauses, excuses, and indifference to the growing pandemic and economic crisis, House Democrats secured a bipartisan agreement to provide critical aid to families and businesses,” said Congresswoman Katherine Clark.

 “With this lifesaving legislation, we will deliver funding to the child care industry, ensure the efficient and ethical distribution of vaccines, and provide families with unemployment benefits and direct payments. It is truly shameful that while infections spread and the death toll grew, the White House and its Republican allies had to be pushed into supporting basic resources to ensure the survival of millions. This bill is way too late and way too little, but it does extend a bridge to a brighter tomorrow when the incoming Biden administration will work with the House to advance policies grounded in science and compassion.” 

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a number of bills to proactively address the pandemic and economic crisis throughout the spring, summer and fall. House Democrats first passed the HEROES Act in May, then proceeded to pass a bailout of the child care industry, U.S. Postal Service, and two other comprehensive relief packages as part of negotiations with the Senate. These bills were met with silence from the Republican led body. 

The emergency relief package includes: 

  • $10 billion for the child care sector and $250 million to help Head Start providers affected by the pandemic
  • $69 billion total for vaccines, testing, and tracing
  • A second round of Economic Impact Payments of $600 for individuals making up to $75,000 and $1,200 for couples making up to $150,000, as well as an extra $600 per child.
  • Extends an additional $300 per week in supplemental unemployment insurance  through March 14, 2021 and extends the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program to continue unemployment assistance to the self-employed, gig workers, and part-time workers.
  • $25 billion in rental assistance to help renters pay their rent and extends the Federal eviction ban through the end of January. 
  • $13 billion to bump up food stamp benefits by 15%. 
  • $82 billion total for colleges and universities, which includes:

o    $54 billion for public K-12 schools to help address Covid-related expenses to help reopen schools

o    $23 billion for higher education fund including $1.7 billion set-aside for HBCUs, tribal colleges, and other MSI

  • $45 billion for transportation, which includes:

o    $14 billion for mass transit

o    $10 billion for state highways

o    $15 billion for the Airline Payroll Support Program

o    $2 billion for airports

The bill also includes all 12 fiscal year 2021 appropriations bills totaling $1.4 trillion. The House was able to secure within the funding package: 

  • Congresswoman Clark’s initiative to expand access to housing by providing $43.4 million in new targeted vouchers to reduce homelessness among families with children, individuals, the unsheltered, veterans, and survivors of domestic violence.
  • Resources to build safer communities, with $25 million split evenly for federal research at the CDC and NIH into our nation’s gun violence epidemic, as well as $85 million for grants to improve the NICS firearms background check system.
  • Funding to protect our environment, with $9.24 billion, a $180 million increase, for the Environmental Protection Agency to ensure clean air and water and to hold polluters accountable.
  • Investments that honor our responsibilities to veterans by providing $90 billion for VA medical care, including homelessness assistance, suicide prevention and outreach, and gender-specific care.

The package of bills will be voted on this evening by the U.S. Senate and then head to the president’s desk. 

Clark, Merkley, Lowenthal urge Biden to tackle plastics crisis

The office of U.S. Rep. Katherine Clark (MA-05) provided the following statement Dec. 11

Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA-5) and Alan Lowenthal (D-CA-47) teamed up with Oregon’s U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley to urge President-elect Biden to adopt a comprehensive plan that would address the ramifications of plastic pollution on Americans’ health and our environment—both of which disproportionately impact communities of color—while also boosting the domestic manufacturing of sustainable alternatives and creating new jobs.

The proposed strategy, the Presidential Plastics Action Plan, is the culmination of over 400 environmental and health organizations’ work to identify crucial actions President-elect Biden could take to bypass congressional gridlock and prioritize communities that have historically been the hardest-hit by the impacts of the accelerating climate crisis: communities of color, Indigenous communities, and low-income Americans.

“Plastic pollution is everywhere – from visible trash in our streets, sidewalks, parking lots, rivers, and waterways to nearly invisible plastic dust raining down in our landscapes and national parks.[1] And it doesn’t go away – plastics break down into small pieces known as microplastics that make their way into the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink,” the lawmakers wrote.

Additionally, the lawmakers emphasized that the economic fallout of the coronavirus crisis, coupled with America’s cry for long-overdue racial justice, make action on plastics all the more urgent.

“We need only look at the disproportionate impacts that plastic production and pollution have on some of our poorest communities to understand how racial and environmental justice are inextricably linked. Plastic production and processing facilities, much like landfills, oil refineries, and other sources of industrial pollution, are overwhelmingly constructed in low-income communities of color that already bear the brunt of environmental and economic burdens,” they continued.

Specifically, the plan includes:

  • Using the purchasing power of the federal government to eliminate single-use plastic items and replace them with reusable products;
  • Suspending and denying permits for new or expanded plastic production facilities, associated infrastructure projects, and exports;
  • Making corporate polluters pay and rejecting false solutions;
  • Advancing environmental justice in petrochemical regions;
  • Updating existing federal regulations to curtail pollution from plastic facilities by using best available science and technology; 
  • Stopping federal subsidies to plastic producers;
  • Joining international efforts to establish binding commitments to reduce plastic use and eliminate single-use plastics; and
  • Reducing and mitigating the impacts of discarded and lost fishing gear. 

Merkley, Lowenthal and Clark have led the charge for plastic pollution reduction policy, and plan to complement the efforts outlined in the plan by reintroducing the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act in the new Congress.

The full text of the lawmakers’ letter follows below.

Dear President-Elect Biden,

The world faces an indisputable plastic pollution crisis. The rampant production of unnecessary single-use plastic products is driving climate change through increased greenhouse gas emissions that harm local environmental justice communities, both where plastic is made and where plastic is often discarded with commensurate toxic air and water pollution. We urge you and your Administration to tackle this issue comprehensively with significant measures that can be taken independently from Congressional action.

Plastic pollution is everywhere – from visible trash in our streets, sidewalks, parking lots, rivers, and waterways to nearly invisible plastic dust raining down in our landscapes and national parks.[1] And it doesn’t go away – plastics break down into small pieces known as microplastics that make their way into the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the water we drink. 

The rise in single-use plastics has come with a tremendous environmental cost. An estimated 17.6 billion pounds of plastic enters the marine environment every year — roughly equivalent to dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the oceans every minute.[2] The United States generates the most plastic waste of any country in the world. A recent study found that despite the United States only accounting for 4% of the global population in 2016, the U.S. generated 17% of all plastic waste and ranks third among countries contributing to coastal plastic pollution.

State and local governments across the country are in the throes of an economic crisis, as revenues for important services diminish and costs continue to increase. This includes recycling collection, an industry with exorbitant costs and few commensurate benefits even before the Covid-19 pandemic.

We have also watched mass protests and movements across the country calling for sweeping changes on racial justice. We need only look at the disproportionate impacts that plastic production and pollution have on some of our poorest communities to understand how racial and environmental justice are inextricably linked. Plastic production and processing facilities, much like landfills, oil refineries, and other sources of industrial pollution, are overwhelmingly constructed in low-income communities of color that already bear the brunt of environmental and economic burdens.

These same communities are on the front lines of the climate crisis, which is made worse by the manufacturing of additional virgin plastics. The greenhouse gas emissions linked to this production are estimated to reach 1.3 billion tons by 2030, equivalent to 300 coal-fired power plants.

For years, industry advocates and producers have focused exclusively on downstream solutions, like recycling. The result has been more plastics produced without consideration of their environmental impacts and mounting piles of waste left for local governments to clean up at their time and expense. According to a recently released report by the Pew Center, Breaking the Plastic Wave, a strategy focused solely on recycling would still result in 18 million metric tons of plastic flowing into the ocean each year by 2040 at the cost of $140 billion more than business as usual between 2021 and 2040.[4] We cannot recycle our way out of this problem.

A multi-pronged approach that focuses on limiting plastic and packaging production and a transition to a truly circular economy is the only solution. It will require reducing unnecessary plastic and packaging, finding sustainable substitutes, promoting reusable items, improving recycling practices, and expanding waste collection services. These actions can transform our economy, bolster domestic infrastructure, and create U.S. jobs.

Your Administration can play a critical role in addressing this crisis. Internationally, the State Department and the U.S. Trade Representative should proactively engage with the global community on climate change and plastic pollution issues.  At home, the Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy, Department of Commerce, Department of the Interior, and the Department of Health and Human Services will all need to be proactive in addressing plastic pollution issues within their jurisdictions.

In the coming weeks, a major group of over 400 environmental and health organizations will unveil their proposal for a Presidential Plastics Action Plan. They have identified eight crucial actions that you as President will be able to take separate from Congress. These actions will immediately set the nation on a pathway to a plastic-pollution-free future, securing a healthier future for our country and our planet.

Each of the described actions will require you as President to prioritize support for communities that historically have been harmed “first and worst:” communities of color, Indigenous communities, and impoverished communities. These actions will provide an opportunity to drive job growth in a new green economy, providing unionized jobs with family-sustaining wages in communities that need it the most, and fighting past and future environmental injustices. 

The presidential plan includes:

  • Using the purchasing power of the federal government to eliminate single-use plastic items and replace them with reusable products;
  • Suspending and denying permits for new or expanded plastic production facilities, associated infrastructure projects, and exports;
  • Making corporate polluters pay and reject false solutions;
  • Advancing environmental justice in petrochemical regions;
  • Updating existing federal regulations to curtail pollution from plastic facilities by using best available science and technology; 
  • Stop subsidizing plastic producers;
  • Joining international efforts to establish binding commitments to reduce plastic use and eliminate single-use plastics; and
  • Reducing and mitigating the impacts of discarded and lost fishing gear. 

We will compliment these efforts in the 117th Congress by reintroducing the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act, comprehensive legislation that would make producers responsible for their pollution by requiring them to design, manage, and finance waste and recycling programs. Additionally, this legislation would phase out unnecessary single-use plastic products, create a nationwide beverage container refund program, and establish minimum recycled content standards.

We would be happy to share details of the plan or connect you with relevant stakeholders as you begin your transition so that you can effectively and immediately address the crisis of plastic pollution. 

 


These news announcements were updated Aug. 19, 2021.

Upbeat Cycling to close; owner explores underlying...
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