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December 27, 2012
Earlier this month, a tragedy befell the community of Newtown, Connecticut. I have spent most of these past few weeks in Connecticut and will never forget the sights and sounds of a grieving but strong and resolute, tight-knit community.
I first learned about this incident in the midst of a normal day. As the details mounted, I left Hartford to go to Newtown and to the firehouse in Sandy Hook. I arrived there as a public official but what I saw was through the eyes of a parent. The firehouse in Sandy Hook is where parents went to find out if their children were okay. The way they found out was that their children appeared – or they didn’t. And after a while, some of the children came, some were reunited with their parents there or at the school, and their parents took them home, and, sadly, others did not.
After that day, I was in Newtown many times, attending a local board of education meeting with town, state, and federal officials, participating in church services, funerals, and vigil memorials including one joined by President Obama. I spoke with police, fire and emergency responders and participated in a meeting of Newtown teachers and leaders. I observed acts of kindness and caring, large and small − too numerous to mention − showing remarkable solidarity.
Again and again, people in Newtown and across Connecticut have beseeched me: Please do something about gun violence. Indeed, Newtown has prompted national reflection and a call to action all around America. It is the right time to ask what we can do to prevent future tragedies. I urge all people who share that view – that we need real change to make America safer – to make their voices heard.
I will work to keep faith with the Newtown community and find a solution to this crisis that is rooted in common sense. I will work with the President, and my colleagues in the Senate, regardless of party, and with any organization that is willing to engage in a thoughtful, constructive discussion about the steps we need to take.
Here are some necessary steps:
- We must do something to effectively ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
- We need to better prevent mentally ill people and criminals from having access to firearms.
- We need to close loopholes that enable 40 percent of all gun sales to be made without background checks.
I have also heard from many constituents, asking what can be done and how they can help. At the vigil Sunday night, two of the children came up to me to show me some of the necklaces they had made, with 20 blue beads, each one for the child victims, and six stars for the adults. In the midst of tragedy, I saw this earnest hope from the children of Newtown that the friends and teachers that were senselessly taken from them would never be forgotten.
There is no single, simple solution, but our nation clearly can and must do something to stop the vicious spread of gun violence that victimized 20 young, beautiful children and the professional educators who courageously sought to protect them from this horrific massacre.
Thank you for your support for Newtown – and all of Connecticut – during this difficult time. This is my commitment today. To do something. In fact, to do everything I can as a Senator to prevent the next tragedy. As a former law enforcement official – and as a father – I cannot do less. I know there are some who say that we can never do anything about the problem of gun violence, that we are entrenched as a nation, that we will just continue to wring our hands after every massacre but never take action. And yet sometimes events happen that so horrify our country and our fellow citizens, that they change the nature of the discussion. They change the political ground under us. They are a tectonic shift. And I believe that the massacre of these innocent children and their loving teachers in Newtown is exactly such an event. This is our moment and we are the people to do it. And with your help we can and we will.
And so it is with eyes trained on a better, safer future, my family and I wish you and yours a blessed and peaceful new year.
U.S. Senator for Connecticut
Over the past few days, I have toured Connecticut and seen the devastation caused by Hurricane Sandy. I have also witnessed acts of kindness and aid, people coming together to help others in need. Even at the storm's worst moments, Connecticut has shown its best — including grit, courage, and generosity. To assess the damage and support recovery efforts, I have visited Greenwich, Stamford, Darien, Norwalk, Bridgeport, Milford, Fairfield, New Haven, Guilford, Clinton, Madison, New London, and Stonington. Over the coming weeks, I will continue to travel the state as we combine our efforts at every level.
I am working — along with other federal, state, and local officials — to spur and speed Connecticut Light & Power (CL&P) and United Illuminating (UI) to restore power to more than 300,000 residents still in the dark. Also, we are working closely with FEMA and other agencies to provide assistance to communities with hurricane damage.
Please be aware that recovery details, voting information, and cleanup efforts are constantly changing. My hope is that you and your family are safe, but I want to ensure that you have access to important resources available to help you deal with this natural disaster. Please consult the list below and my website for the most up-to-date information here.
As always, if you encounter problems, have questions, or need assistance, please do not hesitate to contact my office.
Hartford (860) 258-6940
Washington, D.C. (202) 224-2823
U.S. Senator for Connecticut
For People Who Have Suffered Losses from Hurricane Sandy
Helpful Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Tips
FEMA has a number of post-hurricane resources. Make sure to go to Ready.gov here for a full disaster checklist.
A few important items to consider:
- NEVER use a generator inside homes, garages, crawlspaces, sheds, or similar areas, even when using fans or opening doors and windows for ventilation. Deadly levels of carbon monoxide can quickly build up in these areas and can linger for hours, even after the generator has shut off.
- Take extra care during cleanup. With dangerous debris, damaged and downed trees, and tired, stressed victims, cleanup accidents are frequent. Take extra care while cleaning up and using power tools. If you are not sure whether it is safe to remove debris, please contact your local emergency officials for their assistance.
- If your home is without power, please call your electric utility provider – CL&P (800-286-2000) or United Illuminating (800-722-5584) – to report the outage. Do not assume the utility knows of your outage. When you call, make sure to tell them if the line from the street to your home was downed in the storm.
Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief
Individuals and business owners who sustained losses in the designated counties - Fairfield, Middlesex, New Haven and New London - can begin applying for assistance by registering online at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov, calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362), or by web enabled mobile device at m.fema.gov. Disaster assistance applicants, who have a speech disability or hearing loss and use TTY, should call 1-800-462-7585 directly; for those who use 711 or Video Relay Service (VRS), call 1-800-621-3362. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. (local time) seven days a week until further notice.
The following FEMA documents may be helpful:
Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Relief
Whether you rent or own your home, own a business, or own a small agricultural cooperative located in a declared disaster area, and are the victim of a disaster, you may be eligible for financial assistance from the U. S. Small Business Administration (SBA).
View the full SBA fact sheet here.
Special Disaster Tax Relief
Special tax law provisions may help taxpayers and businesses recover financially from the impact of a disaster, especially when the federal government declares their location to be a major disaster area. Depending on the circumstances, the IRS may grant additional time to file returns and pay taxes. Both individuals and businesses in a federally declared disaster area can get a faster refund by claiming losses related to the disaster on the tax return for the previous year, usually by filing an amended return.
More information can be found here.
Other Information Relating to Post-Hurricane Sandy Period:
Election Day & Voter Registration Extension
Secretary of the State Denise Merrill has extended the in-person voter registration deadline to Thursday, November 1st at 8:00 p.m. Connecticut voters who wish to cast a ballot in the November 6, 2012 presidential election can register in-person at their town offices. If you have questions or concerns about the election, absentee voting, or polling locations, head to http://www.sots.ct.gov or contact the Connecticut Secretary of the State at 860-509-6100 or 860-509-6200.
Volunteering for the Red Cross
If you would like to volunteer your time or resources, email email@example.com and a Red Cross team member will get back to you with information.
Please consider donating blood. Numerous blood drives have been canceled as a result of the storm. To schedule a blood donation or for more information about giving blood or platelets, visit http://www.redcrossblood.org or call 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).
Charity and Home Repair Scams May Appear After a Disaster
In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the Federal Trade Commission reminds consumers that scams often follow disasters. The nation’s consumer protection agency warns people about urgent appeals for charitable donations, and cautions residents in stricken areas about fraudulent home repair offers. If you are asked to make a charitable donation to help people in disaster-affected areas, consider whether you know and trust the charity, ask if the caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity. Do not give out personal or financial information, and never send cash.
Fraudsters target disaster-affected areas, hoping to cash in on property owners’ insurance settlements and financial relief from the federal government. Home and business owners who need to hire a contractor should check contractors' ID and references, avoid large advanced payments, and deal with reputable local businesses. The full checklist can be found here.
Preparing for The Next Storm:
Sign up for the Connecticut State Emergency Notification System (ENS) to receive alerts to your email, PDAs, and cell phones.
Information on emergency and hurricane preparedness can be found on the FEMA website.
Call 2-1-1 if you need non-emergency information. This is a free information service that will connect callers in Connecticut with knowledgeable staff to get information or referrals. Assistance is available through them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with multilingual operators and TDD access.
You can also get instant updates from emergency management and response agencies on Twitter:
Connecticut Dept. of Emergency Management and Homeland Security: @CTDEMHS
FEMA Region 1, which includes Connecticut: @femaregion1
Connecticut Red Cross: @CTRedCross
Connecticut Light & Power: @CTLightandPower
Northeast Utilities: @NEUtilities
United Illuminating: @UnitedIllum
For more disaster consumer tips and information, see: Disaster Recovery, Charity Fraud, Charity Checklist, and Charitable Donations: Give or Take.
Listening to the people of Connecticut is critical to my job as U.S. Senator. Last month, I was proud to travel throughout Connecticut to meet with hundreds of people doing their part to improve our state, and hear about what I can do in Congress to help them and all of Connecticut. In an effort to keep you informed of my activities, I invite you to take the time to read about my work this past month and to stay current as I share updates.
I look forward to hearing more from you in the future.
U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal
- Manufacturing in Connecticut
- Blumenthal Chairs U. S. Senate Lyme Disease Hearing
- Health Care Initiatives
- Working For Our Veterans
- Official Launch of the United States Senate Consumer Caucus
- Partnership To Save The Sound
- Partisan Gridlock
1. Manufacturing in Connecticut
Manufacturing is critical to Connecticut, and our nation’s economy, and the federal agenda must include initiatives to not only help this sector keep jobs, but grow as well. On August 29, I joined my friend and colleague, Congressman Chris Murphy, in presenting the results of our 2012 Survey of Connecticut Manufacturers. This statewide survey enabled us to listen to Connecticut manufacturers about how we can help create more manufacturing jobs, keep existing jobs in Connecticut, and cultivate a workforce with the right skills to fill present and future openings in this sector.
The survey shows that Connecticut manufacturers are confident, can-do job creators – most planning to hire new workers and raise pay – but are still struggling to find people with the right skills to fill positions. Some 56 percent anticipate expanding or creating jobs. Another very hopeful sign is that fewer layoffs are foreseen. But this survey made clear the need to emphasize skill training and workforce development at our technical high schools and community colleges, so manufacturers can fill those openings.
This survey also supports the need to stop unfair trade, like currency manipulation by China so that the United States can compete on a fair playing field, and investments in infrastructure, such as roads and bridges, which are necessary to move raw materials, parts and manufactured products. I am grateful to the nearly 200 manufacturers who provided their feedback to me and Congressman Murphy through this survey, and I will remain committed to growing and supporting Connecticut’s manufacturing sector with their input.
2. Blumenthal Chairs U. S. Senate Lyme Disease Hearing
On August 30, I hosted a U.S. Senate hearing at the University of Connecticut – Stamford on the federal response to Lyme disease, focusing on the need for better diagnosis, improved reporting, education among the medical community, research into treatment and cure, and the need for victims to be heard. Throughout my career, I have supported the fight against Lyme disease, and have been a strong advocate for victims. These objectives underlie the bipartisan Lyme and Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act (S. 1381), which I introduced to increase awareness about Lyme disease and provide more federal resources to fight it. The hearing, which I chaired in my capacity as a member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, explored important next steps that the federal government can take to combat Lyme disease, and the role of the patient perspective in this effort.
I heard from three panels which included witnesses with a variety of backgrounds. U. S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) spoke on the first panel. Three Connecticut patients – Mark Hopwood of Trumbull, Dwight Harris of Burlington, and Katy Reid of Ridgefield – followed her on the second panel. They discussed their personal experiences and the need for a patient voice in prevention, research, and treatment. I admire their courage and perseverance as they overcome this debilitating, often devastating, disease.
The third panel included three of Connecticut’s experts on Lyme disease. Dr. Kirby Stafford of the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station is a medical-veterinary entomologist in the state, and is an expert on controlling the blacklegged tick, which transmits the agents of Lyme disease. Dr. Amiram Katz of Yale University is a professor of neurology who specializes in the treatment of Lyme disease, and Dr. Joan Petrini of Danbury Hospital, who holds a Ph.D. in health research and supervises the Lyme disease registry at Danbury Hospital.
The overriding consensus is that Lyme has reached epidemic proportions, spreading to new areas of the country and reaching 40,000 cases a year. But these reported cases are only a fraction of the total actually occurring, because as few as one in ten is reported. More accurate reporting is essential. Prevention of the disease through habitat changes, clothing and repellent precautions are important as well. My legislative proposal is supported by a strong bipartisan coalition of 12 Senators from across the nation, as well as advocacy groups throughout the country. It gives patients a seat at the table for the first time, enhances Lyme research and provides resources for better diagnostic tools and tests. I am encouraged by the support this bill has received thus far, and I’m committed to working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to see this legislation pass as soon as possible.
3. Health Care Initiatives
On August 23, I visited St. Francis Hospital in Hartford to see first-hand how doctors in Connecticut are working to improve patient safety, and thereby enhance health care quality as well as reduce its costs. This visit pursued themes from a U.S. Senate Aging Committee hearing held here in July, which I chaired. The hearing focused on the importance of patient safety initiatives and their role in saving lives, and millions of dollars as well. One of the hearing witnesses, Dr. Scott Ellner, Director of Surgical Quality at St. Francis Hospital, demonstrated his Patient Safety Checklist, which he uses before surgeries to prevent medical error.
Hospitals like St. Francis have put Connecticut at the forefront nationally of improving patient care and safety. Others can learn from these models, because patient injuries are still much too common. They cause senseless pain and suffering, and cost taxpayers $4.4 billion every year. With thoughtful practice by health care professionals, costs can be cut and lives saved. Observing Dr. Ellner’s common-sense approach to patient safety was eye-opening, and I look forward to learning more from him and other experts.
4. Working For Our Veterans
Listening and responding to our veterans is one of my priorities as a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Suspension of Dishonest Veteran’s Group
On August 16, I met with veterans in East Hartford at the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 2083 to announce that the Veterans Support Organization (VSO), an organization that has come under fire in Connecticut and across the country for potentially dishonest, misleading, and fraudulent business practices, has been suspended from the Department of Veterans Affairs' (VA) National Advisory Committee (NAC). In May, at the request of Connecticut’s veterans, I was joined by Senator Patty Murray (D-Wash.) and Senator Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in writing to Secretary of Veterans Affairs Eric Shinseki expressing concern about VSO's membership on the NAC.
A number of government, news, and veterans’ organizations across America have reported that the VSO uses allegedly dishonest practices in its attempts to collect donations for veterans.
In response to our letter, the VA suspended VSO’s membership in the NAC, pending the results of a government investigation into the group’s activities. It is also establishing a task force to review the NAC's membership criteria and standard operating procedures – one of our key concerns. I am committed to reviewing this issue with Connecticut’s veterans while the VA conducts its investigation, and look forward to continuing my work with veterans so that dollars donated for their benefit actually serve their needs and interests.
Supporting Veterans’ Employment in Connecticut
On August 20, I toured Bristol's Arna Machine Company – a Connecticut-based maker of machined components for the aerospace, military, and marine industries – to raise awareness about federal tax credits for hiring veterans. The Arna Machine Company in Bristol is one company in Connecticut that hires veterans and recently took advantage of these tax credits.
Recently, Arna Machine Company hired veteran Nick Saucier from Asnuntuck Community College's veterans training program. Impressively, he has applied his Army training as a sniper to his job as a machinist. I was able to visit with Nick and learn more about the great work he is doing. Unfortunately, many employers still are not aware of tax credits that encourage the hiring of unemployed veterans. These tax credits, which I strongly advocated, were signed into law by President Obama last year as part of the VOW to Hire Heroes Act. The tax credits help to grow businesses in Connecticut and create good jobs for veterans when they return home from service. I encourage you to contact my office for more information on federal tax credits for hiring veterans so that your business can take part in this incredible opportunity.
As your senator, I am committed to educating the public about these tax credits, and I pledge to continue my strong support for our veterans by fighting for future legislation that gives Connecticut’s veterans the job opportunities they deserve.
5. Official Launch of the United States Senate Consumer Caucus
On August 2, I launched the Senate Consumer Protection Caucus with my colleague Senator Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) who is a fellow champion for consumers’ rights. As Attorney General and now as U.S. Senator, I have fought to protect consumers against deceptive and unfair business practices, invasion of privacy and security of their personal information, and misleading or excessive fees and charges.
Unfortunately, some companies fail to follow these principles, and consumers often fall prey to these predatory practices through no fault of their own.
In the U.S. Senate, I have led a number of efforts to ensure consumers’ rights are protected. I led the fight to increase security for electronic data, so that an individual’s personal and financial information is not wrongly released, stolen, or hacked. Specifically, I introduced the Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act, which holds companies accountable for disclosing their consumers’ personal data. I championed measures to protect veterans from deceptive marketing used by for-profit colleges that attempt to enroll veterans in programs that require them to pay exorbitant fees for little in return. And last year, I led sponsors of the Next Generation Wireless Disclosure Act to require mobile phone companies to provide customers with information on so-called “4G” plans so they can make informed purchasing decisions.
One of my most significant pieces of legislation that addresses consumers’ rights is the Password Protection Act, which prevents employers from forcing prospective employees to hand over their passwords to social media sites. I introduced the Password Protection Act in response to the disturbing increase in the number of employers asking prospective employees to provide usernames and passwords to their social media accounts, like Facebook. These applicants are asked to provide this information so that interviewers can browse the applicant’s profile, creating an unreasonable and intolerable invasion of privacy. With few exceptions, employers do not have the need or the right to demand access to applicants’ private, password-protected information. This legislation ensures that employees and job seekers are free from these invasive and intrusive practices.
The need for more education about these challenges is a major reason I formed the Senate Consumer Protection Caucus last month. The goal of the Caucus is to raise awareness and support in Congress and around the country about consumer protection and help close loopholes in the law that leave consumers vulnerable. To learn more about the Senate Consumer Protection Caucus, read updates about its activities in the U.S. Senate, and my work on consumer protection issues, please visit http://blumenthal.senate.gov/consumerprotection.
6. Partnership to Save the Sound
Preserving Long Island Sound is one of my top priorities, and I have worked throughout my career to ensure it is kept as clean and safe for the people of Connecticut – fighting Broadwater, for example, and other threats to this national treasure.
At a roundtable in New Haven with U.S. Senator Joe Lieberman, Governor Dan Malloy, and other state officials, we sought to mobilize support for initiatives like our Long Island Sound Restoration and Stewardship Act. This bill authorizes programs and funding for key federal Long Island Sound conservation and preservation activities. For example, the funds support Long Island Sound cleanup projects, and projects to restore the coastal habitat to help revitalize the wildlife population and coastal wetlands.
Other challenges include Connecticut’s declining lobster industry, hypoxia, and other pollution-related problems. Preserving open space and wildlife on Plum Island is another key goal.
7. Partisan Gridlock
As I travel the state, I continue to hear that people in Connecticut are frustrated with partisan gridlock. This gridlock is also my largest frustration. For too long, partisan gridlock has greatly impacted our ability to grow jobs, build our economy, and help Americans during tough times. Issues such as student loan interest rates, job growth, and even domestic violence prevention, have fallen victim to partisan politics in the last year. In my job as a U.S. Senator, I’ve found that when we can overcome our differences, we can make incredible progress. For example, this year, Congress passed a bill I introduced with my Republican colleague, Bob Corker of Tennessee, to incentivize the production of life-saving antibiotics. Our bill, the GAIN Act, will help drug companies develop new antibiotics to fight infections that cause nearly 90,000 deaths each year and cost our health care system $26 billion annually. My work with Senator Corker produced results because we were able to put partisan politics aside and work on a solution for a truly devastating public health crisis. As we approach the next session of Congress, I will continue to reach across the aisle and work with my colleagues from all parties as I have on numerous legislative efforts, such as the GAIN Act, and the Lyme Tick-Borne Disease Prevention, Education, and Research Act. Congress can achieve results when we work together, and I look forward to doing my part with my colleagues in the 113th Congress to eliminate this gridlock.
Travelling the State
Discover where I've been during the August Recess! Please visit http://blumenthal.senate.gov/TravellingTheState
Federal grants may be available to your organization in Connecticut. To research available grant opportunities, please visit : https://www.blumenthal.senate.gov/services/federal-funding/grants