AIDING PUERTO RICO’S RESPONSE TO HURRICANE FIONA
— Following conversations with Puerto Rico’s Governor, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) called for whatever it takes to overhaul Puerto Rico’s fragile and dated power grid as many of the island’s residents remained without power in the wake of Hurricane Fiona.
“Fellow Americans in Puerto Rico need immediate relief—whatever it takes—not just restoring power, but robust rebuilding of the energy system & other vital services. The time for throwing towels at problems is over. Build resilience.”
Blumenthal urged FEMA and other federal agencies, including the U.S. Department of Energy, to work with the Puerto Rican government to ensure that short term, rapid relief efforts are accompanied by long term plans to make the power grid resilient and capable of delivering stable and dependable electric service to Puerto Ricans. Following Hurricane Maria, FEMA obligated $28 billion for Puerto Rico to rebuild, however only 8 percent has been used on permanent work projects.
Power outages unrelated to major natural disasters are common in Puerto Rico because of the aging infrastructure. In April, millions of Puerto Ricans lost power for days when a circuit-breaker at a power plant caught fire and caused the remaining power plants to shut down. Following, Hurricane Maria in 2017, some Puerto Ricans did not have power for almost one year after the storm.
REBUILDING ROADS, BRIDGES, & MORE
— Blumenthal joined the American Society of Civil Engineers Connecticut Section to unveil the 2022 Report Card for Connecticut’s Infrastructure, which assesses the modernization of the state’s bridges, railways, roads, wastewater, and drinking water. The report card shows improvement from the last Connecticut Infrastructure Report Card, which was issued in 2018.
In 2021, Blumenthal supported passage of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill, which is expected to deliver a historic more than $5 billion investment to improve Connecticut’s infrastructure and create thousands of good paying jobs. The CSCE report will help identify areas where Connecticut infrastructure improvements are needed and where further investments can be made.
IMPROVING MENTAL HEALTH ON COLLEGE CAMPUSES
— Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) led a bipartisan group of six senators in introducing legislation to help improve college students’ mental health and incentivize higher education institutions to develop and implement comprehensive mental health and suicide prevention plans.
“This bipartisan measure will provide students with the mental health support they need to succeed,” said Blumenthal. “Our country is in the midst of a youth mental health crisis with serious cases of anxiety, depression, and thoughts of suicide growing among college students. Our bill aims to ensure colleges are prepared with the best evidence-based plans to promote positive mental health on campus and to support students when they need help the most.”
The Enhancing Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Through Campus Planning Act would amend the Higher Education Act, and require the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to collaborate and encourage higher education institutions like universities and colleges to create proactive plans for preventing suicide and promote positive mental health among students to address the mental health crisis. These plans would align with strategies recommended by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Suicide Prevention Resource Center, specifically its nine-part Comprehensive Approach to Suicide Prevention.
In the Senate, the legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Senators Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Bill Cassidy, M.D. (R-LA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Michael Bennet (D-CO). The text of the legislation can be found here. In the House, the bill was led by U.S. Representatives Susan Wild (D-PA) and Fred Keller (R-PA), and passed with overwhelming bipartisan support in June. The legislation has been endorsed by a number of mental health, education, and youth advocacy organizations.
HOLDING M&T BANK ACCOUNTABLE FOR CONVERSION FAILURES
— Blumenthal led a group of senators in issuing the following statement after M&T Bank responded to the Senators’ letter demanding compensation for customers who were affected by conversion failures during the transition of People’s United Bank accounts to M&T accounts.
“M&T Bank’s commitment to compensate customers who were adversely impacted by the conversion – whether missing payments or denied access to their money — is a welcome step toward making things right,” the Senators said. “We are encouraged by M&T Bank’s prompt action in response to our letter, but will continue monitoring the situation to make sure M&T follows through with their promises. Consumers need swift relief and remedy now for the hardships and stress the conversion failures caused.”
In a letter released on Friday, the Senators called for M&T bank to financially compensate all customers who were unable to access their funds during the conversion and those who incurred fees as a result of missed credit card, utility, or other payments.
CALLING FOR AIRLINE FEE TRANSPARENCY
— Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) members of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, issued the following joint statement after the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) announced a new proposed rule to require airlines to disclose fees upfront:
“By requiring airlines to disclose fees upfront, DOT has taken an important step for consumer transparency. The traveling public has been nickel-and-dimed by airlines at every step by an often obscured and seemingly ever-growing list of fees, and this new proposed rule will help bring much-needed clarity to what airlines are charging. Still, more work is needed to ensure that consumers stop being charged exorbitant fees for everyday needs like sitting next to their children, changing or canceling their flight, or checked or carry-on baggage. Congress must pass the Forbidding Airlines from Imposing Ridiculous (FAIR) Fees Act and the Airline Passengers’ Bill of Rights to prohibit these predatory fees altogether and restore sanity to the skies,” said the Senators.
KEEPING VOTERS AND ELECTION WORKERS SAFE FROM GUNS AT THE POLLS
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) in introducing the Vote Without Fear Act, legislation to prevent armed voter intimidation at the polls. The legislation would prohibit the possession of a firearm within 100 yards of any federal election site, with exceptions for on-duty law enforcement or security guards. Only six states – Arizona, California, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Texas – and the District of Columbia currently ban guns at the polls while instances of private citizens bringing guns to polling places as well as threats against election workers are both on the rise.
“Armed voter intimidation poses a serious threat not only to public safety, but to our democracy. These incidents of violent extremism are on the rise and are only anticipated to worsen as we enter the election season. Every American should be able to safely cast their vote in the absence of fear. I am proud to support this commonsense legislation and thank my colleague, Senator Murphy, for leading the charge,” said Blumenthal.
U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) co-sponsored the legislation. Full text of the bill is available here.
ENSURING VETERAN ACCESS TO REPRODUCTIVE CARE
— Blumenthal joined advocacy groups and Members of Congress to condemn efforts to restrict abortion access and support the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs’ (VA) in providing abortion access and reproductive health care to veterans.
“Today should be the beginning of a campaign to make sure that women veterans get the healthcare that they need and deserve. It’s not only a matter of fundamental freedom, it’s a matter of equity. If you are in active duty, you get contraceptives without a copay. If you have private insurance, you get contraceptives without a copay. If you are in the VA, you have to pay that copay. That’s wrong. Women are the fastest growing group of veterans enrolling in VA healthcare. They deserve contraceptives without a copay. The Equal Access to Contraceptives for Veterans Act’s time has come,” said Senator Blumenthal.
PROVIDING ASSISTANCE FOR VETERANS ACCESSING BENEFITS
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR), and U.S. Representatives Scott Peters (D-CA) and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) to introduce the Veterans Claims Education Act to provide educational resources for veterans filing an electronic claim and to steer veterans to work with Department of Veterans Affairs (VA)-accredited entities. This will limit the ability of predatory companies to unfairly profit off veterans trying to access their hard-earned benefits.
“This legislation informs veterans of legitimate information sources when they make disability claims, so they can avoid scams and frauds,” said Senator Blumenthal. “Across the country, bad actors have tried to exploit those seeking their rightfully-earned benefits by charging veterans for free services. Our measure allows applicants to report profiteering and helps identify where they can get VA-accredited help filing their claims. I’m proud to join this bipartisan, bicameral effort to protect our veterans and get them the services they deserve.”
The bill requires the VA to inform all veterans filing a claim that there are accredited entities that can assist them, provide the web address of an online search tool that lists accredited entities that can assist veterans with filing a claim, and provide a publicly accessible web address where veterans can file a complaint to report entities that are unaccredited and target veterans by charging a fee for their services.
OPPOSING RUSSIAN ANNEXATION OF UKRAINIAN TERRITORY
— Blumenthal and U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) introduced legislation and a resolution that makes clear the United States views the annexation of any Ukrainian territory by the Russian Federation as illegal and unworthy of recognition by the international community.
“Our legislation would, very simply, immediately require cutting off economic and military aid to any country that recognizes Vladimir Putin’s illegal annexation of four regions of Ukraine,” said Blumenthal. “Vladimir Putin is pushing the countries that have backed Ukraine to somehow moderate what they’re doing, and it won’t work. Any nation that aids and abets Vladimir Putin in this absolutely illegal action ought to be held responsible for its complicity. No economic aid, no military aid to any country that recognizes this annexation. It’s a land grab, it’s a steal, and it’s another craven, brazen tactic by Vladimir Putin to test the west’s support for Ukraine. We will continue this effort to hold accountable nations that fail to side with international law, with the fight for freedom, and independence on the part of Ukraine.”
Blumenthal and Graham noted that pro-Russian authorities conducted the sham referenda in four regions in Eastern Ukraine (Donetsk, Luhansk, Kherson, and Zaporizhzhia) between September 22 - 27, 2022, with the ultimate goal of annexing these regions into the Russian Federation.
— Blumenthal joined members of the Connecticut Ukrainian American community to applaud the Senate passage of $12 billion in vital assistance for Ukraine.
“Putin’s annexation of Ukrainian territory is a craven, illegal land grab. This escalation should heighten our resolve to stand with the people of Ukraine. I joined CT’s strong Ukrainian community to recognize the latest $12B in vital assistance for the fierce freedom fighters.”
The war, now in its seventh month, is at a turning point. The Ukrainian Army is on the offensive and has won back in critical territories in the Kharkiv region of Eastern Ukraine. The $12 billion in aid includes $7.5 billion in military aid, weapons and equipment, $2.8 billion to bolster U.S. forces in Eastern Europe as well as $1.5 billion for weapons and munitions. The package also includes $35 million to prepare for and respond to potential nuclear incidents in Ukraine.
SUPPORTING AFGHAN ALLIES
— Blumenthal met with veterans and Afghans advocating for the swift passage of the Afghan Adjustment Act, which Blumenthal is a cosponsoring.
“Determined & dedicated veterans & Afghans are still on #FireWatch outside the Capitol. I stopped by again to visit & share my unwavering support for the #AfghanAdjustmentAct.”
In August, Blumenthal joined a bipartisan group of senators in introducing the Afghan Adjustment Act, bipartisan, bicameral legislation allowing Afghans with temporary status that undergo additional vetting to apply for permanent legal residency. Improving these newly arrived Afghans’ legal status would provide certainty as they build new lives in the United States.
HELPING FIND MISSING PERSONS
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senators Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) in introducing the bipartisan Help Find the Missing Act or “Billy’s Law.” This legislation would close loopholes in America’s missing persons systems by streamlining the missing persons reporting process and ensuring that law enforcement databases are more accessible and comprehensive.
“Our bipartisan measure will bolster resources for law enforcement officials as they help families with the search for missing loved ones. Patchwork reporting and loopholes in our national databases have impeded efforts to provide families with critical information. With a streamlined reporting process and increased funding, Billy’s Law will strengthen future searches and help bring closure to countless families,” said Blumenthal.
The bill was inspired by Janice Smolinski of Cheshire, Connecticut, after her 31-year-old son Billy went missing from Waterbury, Connecticut. While working with law enforcement to locate her missing son, Smolinski faced countless systemic challenges. Billy's Law was introduced to address those challenges and help ensure that the tens of thousands of American families whose loved ones go missing each year do not experience the same hurdles faced by the Smolinskis. Full text of the bill is available here.
PROTECTING YOUTH ONLINE PRIVACY
— Blumenthal joined U.S. Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA) and U.S. Representatives Kathy Castor (FL-14) and Lori Trahan (MA-03) in sending a letter to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chair Lina Khan applauding the FTC’s continued efforts to implement strong privacy safeguards and intake feedback from experts on how to effectively address surveillance threats to children and teens online.
“Experts agree that we have reached a crisis point for children and teens online, as the rates of mental health challenges for them soar, and the U.S. Surgeon General has called on technology and social media companies to address these threats to young people,” the lawmakers wrote. “In countries around the world, government entities have begun to take action by enacting policies that combat pernicious online threats to kids. The United States must now do the same.”
“The urgency of this issue requires an all-of-the-above approach,” the lawmakers continued. “We look forward to working with you as these processes move forward to ensure that kids and teens in the United States have the online protections they need and deserve.”
The full text of the letter can be found here.
PREVENTING FURNITURE TIP-OVER INJURY AND DEATH
— Blumenthal, alongside U.S. Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) applauded Senate passage of the Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth (STURDY) Act, legislation to prevent furniture tip-overs resulting in injury or death.
“The STURDY Act will enact strong furniture stability standards to prevent deadly tip-overs and protect children. I am pleased it passed the Senate and I will fight for its quick enactment into law so that no more families are forced to grieve the preventable death of their child,” said Blumenthal.
LAMBASTING LEGAL ATTACKS ON GUN SAFETY MEASURES
— Blumenthal, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, released the following statement in response to a federal lawsuit filed by the Connecticut Citizens Defense League seeking to repeal the assault weapons ban in Connecticut:
“This latest challenge to common sense gun safety protections is destined to fail—the same fate as similar misguided and malign attacks on our state laws. Having defended those laws when I was attorney general, I know firsthand how unjustified legally and morally these challenges are, but they must be vigorously fought. Our laws have doubtlessly saved lives. They have been models for other states and for the federal Bipartisan Safer Communities Act that we successfully championed in Congress. I have confidence that Attorney General Tong will fight this challenge with the same determination that it deserves.”
HELPING SURVIVORS OF NATURAL DISASTERS
— Blumenthal joined a group of Senators to reintroduce the Housing Survivors of Major Disasters Act, legislation to help communities affected by major natural disasters access housing assistance. The reintroduction of this bill is particularly timely given the recent damage caused by Hurricanes Ian and Fiona, and also follows the recent 5-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria.
“Our measure enables families to start recovering from natural disasters by helping them put a roof over their heads,” said Blumenthal. “Wrongful federal assistance denials and burdensome administrative requirements have previously prevented disaster survivors from accessing necessary housing aid and other assistance. The Housing Survivors of Major Disasters Act will help streamline these requirements and get faster relief to those who need it after a natural disaster tragically upends their lives.”
U.S. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Dick Durbin (D-Il.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), and Raphael Warnock (D-Ga.) co-sponsored the bill.
This legislation is endorsed by: the National Low Income Housing Coalition, UnidosUS, Hispanic Federation, Americans for Financial Reform, United Way of Central Massachusetts, Seven Hills Foundation, and Inquilinos Boricuas en Accion.
The full bill text can be found here.
FILLING LEADERSHIP POSTS AT SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION
— Blumenthal joined a group of Senators in urging President Biden to nominate a Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner to serve at the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration has been without permanent leadership for over a year, making it difficult to address longstanding challenges that the agency faces in providing service to Americans who rely on these benefits.
The Senators write, “Today Social Security covers over 179 million workers, and over 70 million people receive monthly Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefits. More than one out of every six U.S. residents collects Social Security benefits and older Americans make up about four out of every five beneficiaries. Recent U.S. Census Bureau reports show that Social Security provides over half of the income for older adults, and nearly all of their income for one in four older adults. Social Security continues to be one of the largest anti-poverty programs in the country, lifting over 22 million Americans out of poverty.”
“The Social Security Commissioner is directly responsible for all programs administered by the agency, including state-administered programs directed by SSA. Nominating and confirming a permanent Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner would provide accountable leadership to the agency and reassure the public of SSA’s commitment to supporting the vulnerable populations that rely on its programs,” they continue.
Blumenthal joined the following Senators in the letter: Senators Van Hollen (D-MD), Brown (D-OH), Carper (D-DE), Padilla (D-CA), Baldwin (D-WI), Casey (D-PA), Whitehouse (D-RI), Markey (D-MA), Cardin (D-MD), Murray (D-WA), Gillibrand (D-NY), Sanders (I-VT), Warren (D-MA), Schatz (D-HI), and Feinstein (D-CA).
The full text of the letter is available here.
— Blumenthal attended the annual veteran and service member Stand Down hosted by the Connecticut Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) at the Bridgeport regional location.
“Great turnout of veterans at the Bridgeport Stand Down. A moving ceremony & many significant service providers. Thanks to all who attended & helped organize it—especially the State Department of Veteran Affairs and the University of Bridgeport.”
Connecticut veterans and currently serving National Guard, Reserve, and Active Duty personnel and their families are eligible to attend to access a multitude of benefits and support services from DVA, VA Connecticut, State and Federal agencies, and other community providers.
— Blumenthal attended the 102nd Annual Durham Agricultural Fair, owned and operated by the Durham Agricultural Fair Association, Inc.
“Crystal clear skies & exquisite fall sunshine made it a perfect fair day in Durham. Fun food, rides, & much more make it special. Thanks to all for your hard work!”
— Blumenthal joined CT Governor Ned Lamont and Lt. Governor Susan Bysiewicz at the Bans Off Our Bodies rally to defend and expand abortion rights.
“Stupendous pro-choice rally in West Hartford—Bans Off Our Bodies. Magnetic energy, exuberance, & enthusiasm for this galvanizing cause. Inspiring!”
— Blumenthal attended Trinity Health of New England’s first annual “Making Miracles Happen” gala, where over $1 million was raised to benefit the Maximilian E. and Marion O. Hoffman Heart and Vascular Institute of Connecticut, home to the regional health care organization’s highly specialized cardiovascular care.
“Trinity Health’s “Making Miracles Happen” Gala celebrated all of its great hospitals & care centers for the first time—with a resplendent, elegant turnout. Thanks to all the frontline health care heroes”.
— Blumenthal celebrated the Dixwell Avenue Congregational United Church of Christ’s bicentennial. The Dixwell Avenue Congregational UCC is the nation’s oldest African American United Congregational Church.
“A historic milestone—the Dixwell Avenue Congregational UCC Bicentennial celebration. Proud to join so many friends & community leaders at this amazing event.”
— Blumenthal attended the 9th annual Sam’s Children Benefit, supporting families with children fighting life debilitating illnesses.
“All who attended the 9th annual Sam’s Children Benefit deserve thanks for supporting this impressive organization, doing so much to help kids & families when they are most vulnerable & needful. Thank you to Naeem Khalid & your team.”
— Blumenthal joined the Bristol Chrysanthemum (Mum) Parade to celebrate 60 years of supporting the Bristol community.
“Despite occasional drizzle, great spirit at Bristol’s Mum Parade this weekend—an iconic fall tradition. Wonderful turnout, particularly veterans. Proud to march again & thanks to hardworking organizers,” said Blumenthal.