The U.S. economy is undoubtedly improving, but there is still much more that we in Congress must do. This past week, I introduced two pieces of legislation to help communities still struggling with high unemployment and put individuals back to work.
First, the HIRE Act would establish a grant program through the Department of Labor to allow areas of the country still battling high unemployment to hire people who are desperately seeking work, while simultaneously providing an opportunity to invest in projects benefitting the community.
The Groundwork USA Trust Act was developed in consultation with the nonprofit group Groundwork Lawrence and would create a dedicated federal funding stream to ensure support for the twenty existing Groundwork programs nationwide and enabling other cities to launch similar initiatives.
Groundworks USA trusts have a proven record of success. In 2012 the program turned $400,000 in federal grants to generate $10.8 million in activity, along with 57,000 hours of volunteer service. That's $27 return for every $1 spent.
The purpose of the HIRE Act and Groundwork USA Trust Act are two-fold: create quality jobs while helping citizens give back to their communities by creating safer, greener neighborhoods that revitalize our communities and protect our environment for the next generation.
People take pride in working to improve their communities instead of simply collecting benefits, no matter how well-earned those benefits are. These jobs also help unemployed workers gain skills, grow their network of contacts, and avoid lengthy gaps on their resumes as they look for permanent positions.
Creating green-space and public parks in urban communities is also an excellent way to revitalize neighborhoods and further economic development in our cities. By passing and instituting both these programs nationwide, we have the potential to have a widespread positive impact.
Please be sure to scroll down to read more information on some of the other topics on which I have been working.
As always, I hope that you continue to provide me with your thoughts, feedback, and opinions on these or any other subjects via my website or on Facebook and Twitter.
GUANTANAMO BAY DETENTION FACILITY
Recently there has been a lot of discussion around Guantanamo Bay detention facility and I applaud the President's renewed call to close the facility.
At this week's markup of the annual defense authorization bill I spoke in support of closing Guantanamo. Republicans have proposed language that would sink more money into building permanent facilities at Guantanamo, which is wasteful and moves us in the wrong direction on this issue. In a time of sequestration and budgetary belt-tightening, we should be closing Guantanamo rather than seek additional funds to make it permanent. I called for Congress to receive a full account of the costs required to keep Guantanamo open and will continue to work toward closing this facility.
PEPPERELL FIRE DEPARTMENT TO RECEIVE FEDERAL ASSISTANCE
Last week, the Pepperell Fire Department was awarded $32,300 through the Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) program.
The Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program was created because fire departments often have difficulty purchasing proper equipment. A ladder truck for a local fire department can run upwards of one million dollars and outfitting one firefighter with turnout gear and breathing apparatus can exceed $5,000. In addition, departments must fund training programs for paid and/or volunteer firefighters.
Given the constraints on state and local budgets, competitive grant funds such as these help to maintain public safety in our communities and provide first responders access to the resources they need to save lives. Our volunteer and career firefighters sacrifice a great deal to protect our communities and it is our duty to provide them with the equipment and training they need to keep their departments running safely and efficiently.
SEQUESTRATION NEEDS TO BE GROUNDED
Several months ago the manager of the Lawrence Municipal Airport notified my office that as a result of sequestration, automatic government spending cuts that went into effect in February, 2013, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) planned to close the air traffic control tower, costing jobs, economic growth and impacting safety at an airport that has seen an increase in flight traffic in recent years.
Airports across the country also faced furloughs for their air traffic controllers, which not only forced pay reductions to workers but also created severe logjams and delays for travelers. No doubt countless people experienced the logjam and received similar messages as I did from their chosen airline warning about delays due to sequestration.
This week I wrote an OpEd for the Lawrence Eagle Tribune that details the dangerous impact of sequestration right here in the Third District. I have heard from too many constituents whose lives have been affected by these drastic, blind cuts. As I write in the opinion piece, it is not too late to build a sustainable plan across party lines. The American people deserve a real solution, not just a series of stopgaps. We need to ground sequestration before more dangerous impacts really take off.
2013 CONGRESSIONAL ART COMPETITION WINNER ANNOUNCED
Last week I had the pleasure of participating in a reception at the Chelmsford Public Library to announce the winner and runners up of the annual Congressional Art Competition.
Andover resident Joshua Allen was named this year's winner for his artwork entitled "Onions and Shells." Joshua will have his artwork displayed at the U.S. Capitol building for one year, receive two complimentary airplane tickets to Washington, D.C. to participate in the national ceremony scheduled for June 26, 2013, and will receive an artistic scholarship.
Art plays an important role in the lives of us all. From a young age, art helps us become well-rounded individuals and encourages creative expression. Even during difficult economic times, it is so important that we continue to provide funding for public art and art education.
Congratulations to Joshua and all the participants in this year's competition.
TELEPHONE TOWN HALL MEETING
I hosted a telephone town hall meeting last week to discuss current issues before Congress and answer questions from Third District residents.
These meetings are similar to traditional town hall meetings, except it took place over the telephone so that people could participate from the convenience of their homes.
It was great to hear from so many constituents who shared with me their concerns and issues. I had the opportunity to touch on a number of topics, including the economy, jobs, my recent visit to Afghanistan and the measures being taken to combat sexual assault in the military.
UMASS LOWELL'S WOMEN IN PUBLIC SERVICE INAUGURAL CONFERENCE
I had the honor of keynoting UMass Lowell's Women in Public Service Inaugural Conference on Monday, June 3. I spoke about my role as a member of Congress and the importance of women participating in public service.
In attendance were women from four post-conflict countries -- Northern Ireland, Afghanistan, Liberia and Turkey -- who are working in their countries and communities to provide leadership for their governments and societies. I admire their strength and courage, and know they are helping inspire the next generation of women leaders.
The Women in Public Service Project (WPSP) was co-founded by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the U.S. State Department and five leading women's colleges -- Barnard, Bryn Mawr, Mount Holyoke, Smith, and Wellesley. Conference delegates were invited from governments, international agencies, nongovernmental organizations and educational institutions -- those who are working to confront the economics barriers and pitfalls to sustainable peace.