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Staff remains busy through pandemic

By Congressman A. Donald McEachin

It’s July — almost midsummer — and, here in Virginia, we are slowly returning to the new normal. As we look around us at states to our south and west, we can’t help but exercise caution as we see their COVID-19 cases rise. Yet, with social distancing and mask-wearing, we can begin to regrow our economy and enjoy a more typical life. Fortunately, summer in Virginia means lots of outside activities, which are certainly safer.

My office, continuing to follow the guidance of both the Centers for Disease Control and Gov. Ralph Northam’s phased return to normal, is still teleworking. However, while the offices are closed, the staff is busy, responding to constituents, working on legislation and creating opportunities for me to interact with constituents, albeit mostly virtually. If you have an issue with a federal agency, whether it is collecting benefits owed you, obtaining a visa or a passport or any number of concerns, please go to my website, mceachin.house.gov, fill out the form, and we will be in touch quickly.

My staff and I have been reaching out to locality leadership and administrators to assess their needs and see how we can assist. Those calls are informative and helpful in determining the needs in the district.

Last month, I did another tele-town hall to discuss COVID and to provide updates from well-known experts. I wanted to focus on the impacts of COVID here in Virginia, so I was joined by a member of the governor’s team, Dr. Janice Underwood, director of diversity, equity and inclusion, who has been working closely with him during this pandemic. I was also joined by State Sen. Ghazala Hashmi and Delegate Lashrecse Aird.

Two issues that I hear about frequently are those who have been notified their Economic Impact Payment was sent, but they have not yet received it, and those who are struggling to get unemployment payments. Although unemployment is a state issue, my staff is happy to connect you with the Virginia Employment Commission, or in the case of missing Economic Impact Statements, to try and track it down. Just call my district office number at 804-486-1840 or visit my website at mceachin.house.gov.

We have seen some very significant legislation. The bill that has probably garnered the most publicity and discussion was the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. Most of us have seen the horrific video of the police officer with his knee on Mr. Floyd’s neck for over eight minutes as Mr. Floyd repeatedly says he cannot breathe, calls for his mother, and then is completely non-responsive. This extremely disturbing video has prompted ongoing protests around the nation and a re-evaluation and re-thinking about systemic racism in this country, and particularly about Black Americans’ encounters with police. This legislation is a start to reform police departments and police encounters. It changes training, prohibits chokeholds and increases transparency and accountability. It passed the House with bipartisan votes, and I certainly hope the Senate will consider it.

During this pandemic, the need for affordable, quality health care has become even more apparent. We voted for legislation this month that provides relief to working families by expanding tax credits and increasing subsidies so health care and needed prescriptions are more affordable.

My district and the entire state are crisscrossed by thousands of bridges and tunnels. I am strongly supportive of the INVEST in America Act that will bring much needed resources to improve roads, bridges, transit, schools, broadband, postal service and clean energy sectors. Too much of our infrastructure is stuck woefully in the last century. We need to make the investment to be ready for the rest of this century.

Congressman A. Donald McEachin represents Virginia’s 4th Congressional District.