Maria's Monday Memo Senator Maria Cantwell's Weekly Update for Washington State
Monday, February 16, 2009
Tuesday, February 17,2009
Cantwell Named Chair of Subcommittee on Energy
Renewable energy, smart grid technologies, research at national labs, energy market regulation and nuclear waste cleanup are among my top priorities as the new chairwoman of the Energy Subcommittee. Transitioning to a clean energy system is a key component of our economic recovery, and I am anxious to continue working with members of the Energy Subcommittee and green energy technology leaders to move America toward this new clean energy future.
I will take a close look at energy's role in climate change legislation. I believe the committee also has an important role to play in crafting climate change control legislation, and I'd like to focus on innovative ways to make climate policy simpler, more equitable, and more transparent.
The Energy Subcommittee has jurisdiction over fossil fuels, most aspects of the nuclear cycle, utilities, renewable energy, the Energy Information Administration, the strategic petroleum reserve, many of the programs in the $24 billion Energy Department except the weapons program, and other energy-related infrastructure.
Cantwell Leads Efforts to Strengthen Washington's Oil Spill Safety Net
On Monday, I joined representatives from the Washington state legislature, Puget Sound Partnership, Clallam County, and the Makah Tribe to highlight efforts in our state to protect our waters from the threat of oil spills. During both the 109th and 110th Congresses I authored comprehensive legislation to improve oil spill prevention and response to protect our waterways. My bill, the Oil Pollution Prevention and Response Act, strengthens the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, passed by Congress in response to the devastating 1989 Exxon Valdez spill.
Oil spills are a risk for everyone. All of us - including those at both the federal and state level - need to do our part. It only takes one accident to devastate our region's coastal environment and economy. In these times of uncertainty, when our economy is more fragile than it has been in decades, a catastrophic oil spill is the last thing our state's economy needs. I will continue fighting in Congress for better oil spill protections, and I'm happy to see that people at both the state and local level are also working hard on this important issue.
Cantwell Urges Increased Partnership Between U.S. and China on Energy Challenges and Opportunities
On Tuesday, I addressed the U.S- China Clean Energy Forum in Bellevue in an effort to promote cooperation and collaboration between the world's two largest energy consumers and importers. This is an opportunity for Washington state to recognize clean energy as global in scope, with enormous economic potential. The process could become an opportunity for the Pacific Northwest's growing clean-energy sector by giving U.S. manufacturers a chance to promote energy-efficient building products.
Participants in the two-day forum included a 30-member delegation from China that included Han Wenke, director general of the Energy Research Institute; Gao Guangsheng, director general of the National Coordination Committee on Climate Change; and Zhou Wenzhong, China's ambassador to the U.S.
Cantwell Successfully Keeps Funding Flowing to Affordable Housing Developments in Seattle
The road to economic recovery goes through affordable housing, which is critical to the lives of the poor, the disabled and the elderly. On Tuesday, I joined local housing advocates to discuss how Washington state will benefit from passage of the economic recovery package. Federal money from the package will help King County housing groups deal with the high foreclosure rate. I want to ensure Washington's State and Local Housing Authorities have the resources to repair and make more energy-efficient public housing projects, allow communities to buy and repair foreclosed homes, and help the homeless.
Currently, in Washington, there are 11 housing projects at risk of not having adequate financing; these projects involve 534 units of needed affordable housing. The bill will allow state agencies to fill that financing gap so these projects can continue on schedule. The National Association of Homebuilders estimates that the construction of a 100-unit housing project creates 151 local jobs. By keeping the development of these 534 units in the pipeline, this bill will preserve 801 jobs in the state.
Washington State Will Receive Billions to Invest in Infrastructure, Support Small Businesses and Create 75,000 Jobs; Washington State to Receive More Than $2 Billion More In Medicaid Funding
Last week, I successfully fought to provide Washington state fiscal relief in the Senate Finance Committee's economic recovery package currently being considered by Congress. Through FMAP, the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage, or the federal government's share of state expenditures for most Medicaid services, Washington state will receive more than $2 billion in Medicaid relief.
At a time when over 136,000 Washingtonians are losing their jobs and the economy is teetering, I successfully secured $7 billion to extend funding for the current extended unemployment benefits programwhich would provide up to 33 weeks of extended benefits through 2009. In addition, those eligible for the program would see jobless benefits increase by $25 per week for those as well as provide funding incentives for states to modernize their unemployment insurance.
Medicaid is a critical safety net for over one million Washingtonians currently enrolled in the program. It is the economic foundation of our health care infrastructure. As Washington state is grappling with tough budget choices during this national economic crisis, the increased Medicaid funding will to help sustain health programs at a time when it might otherwise be forced to make cut essential sources of health care coverage.
The immediate macroeconomic benefit of putting more money in the pockets of unemployed Washingtonians looking for work is reason enough to extend benefits. The additional income provides resources for covering necessary everyday expenses as the economic downturn keeps them out of work longer. This is stimulus money that will swiftly and assuredly flow back into the economy.