Opinion: Commentary: Our Work Continues

Opinion: Commentary: Our Work Continues

This year has the potential to bring about profound, long-overdue change.

Like millions of Americans across the country, Congress has had to adapt to the new reality we find ourselves in. But our work has never stopped. Throughout this pandemic, my team and I have continued to work on your behalf.

While we've had to limit in-person meetings and events in the interest of everyone's health and safety, I've made it a priority to connect virtually with as many constituents as possible. Since the stay-at-home guidance was issued, I've held 28 virtual town halls and webinars with community members, leaders, and organizations. For example, I hosted conversations with local hospitals and nursing homes, small business owners from our Latinx community, the NoVa Labor Airport Union Caucus, the Virginia Council of Muslim Organizations, Virginia non-profits, and many more. I also teamed up with Delegate Elizabeth Guzman, Delegate Jennifer Carroll Foy, Delegate Hala Ayala, and Fairfax County School Board Members Rachna Sizemore Heizer and Stella Pekarsky for three separate town halls on the issues most important to our constituents. But I have to admit, I had the most fun during my Kids Town Hall on Facebook Live.

Since March 1, we've responded to more than 14,000 emails and messages from constituents on a wide array of issues -- from PPE and the Postal Service to COVID-19 testing and support for small businesses. As your representative in Congress, it's always important that I hear directly from you about your concerns and opinions, but it's especially critical in times of crisis.

In addition to those 13,000 email responses, we've sent 40 e-newsletters with important updates, resources, and information to help our neighbors more easily navigate this crisis. In total, that's more than 1.2 million individual e-newsletters delivered to members of our community since the pandemic began.

As you may recall, Congress established the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) as a lifeline for businesses struggling to stay afloat during the coronavirus crisis. Since then, I have been proud to send letters in support of 75 local small businesses as they made their way through the PPP loan application process.

I have been in close, consistent contact with my colleagues in the House Democratic Caucus and with Governor Northam and his cabinet. During the crisis, I've joined 38 conference calls with Speaker Pelosi and my fellow House Democrats. These calls often feature conversations with policy experts, and have been vital to crafting our legislative response to COVID-19. Weekly conference calls between the Governor, his cabinet, and the Virginia congressional delegation have been equally valuable, offering us the opportunity to stay updated on the Commonwealth's response to the virus and to ask questions and offer input.

This crisis has not slowed our legislative and oversight efforts in the House. In fact, since this crisis began, I've cosponsored more than 50 pieces of legislation and signed more than 100 letters requesting information and documents from federal agencies and the White House. Additionally, as a senior member of the Oversight & Reform and Foreign Affairs committees, and chairman of the Subcommittee on Government Operations, I've participated in or chaired 29 virtual committee hearings and briefings over the past few months. They covered a range of critical issues, including our response to COVID-19, the pandemic's effects on our ability to conduct a fair and accurate census, combating the spread of disinformation about the virus, and the Trump administration's outrageous attacks on the independent Inspectors General tasked with weeding out waste, fraud, and abuse across the federal government.

Finally, as the coronavirus spread rapidly around the globe, Americans travelling in other countries found themselves scrambling to make it home before border closings and cancelled flights left them stuck abroad indefinitely. We worked with the State Department and U.S. Embassies in various nations to successfully repatriate more than 40 constituents who would have otherwise been forced to wait out this crisis away from their homes and families.

This has been a hectic and trying year, both in Congress and across our country. But, as I stood with hundreds of friends and neighbors at the Fairfax NAACP rally and at the "Lights for Justice" candlelight vigil in Woodbridge, it was clear that this year also has the potential to bring about profound, long-overdue change -- if we're willing to stand up and demand it.

I am more determined and hopeful than ever. Nothing, not a global pandemic nor anything else, will deter me from continuing to fight for our community.