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Judy Chu (Dem) represents the 28th Congressional District, which covers most of Pasadena, Rancho Cucamonga, Alhambra, Monterey Park and a number of other San Gabriel Valley cities. The District also includes a large percentage of the Angeles National Forest.
Q– Our community has recently endured many challenges, including the Monterey Park Ballroom shooting incident, the murder of a beloved San Gabriel Catholic Bishop and the arson attack on the San Gabriel Mission. How important was your House Small Business Committee membership to crafting solutions for these issues?
A– It was so incredibly shocking and stunning, especially on the eve of the Lunar New Year, to have a gunman walk into the Star Dance Studio and kill 11 people and wound nine others with a semi-automatic weapon that had a high-capacity magazine. We could never have imagined that this would happen in our peaceful city. And yet it did.
It has been incredibly important for the community to come together to find ways to heal, and I worked to be a large part of the process. I took it upon myself to meet with many of the victims’ families to see what kind of resources I could provide. It was a very moving experience to do that. They actually needed concrete help because they were so stunned and shocked that they really didn’t know what to do.
I also asked Washington, DC to come up with federal resources, and I’m so glad to say that they responded almost immediately. Vice President Kamala Harris came and consoled the victims. We had the secretaries of our various federal departments come to try to provide resources and listen to the community. Our Health and Human Services Secretary Javier Becerra came and had a roundtable with the community providers who helped in the aftermath of the shooting. He was able to provide suggestions for future actions.
The Small Business Administrator Isabel Guzman came to visit the local businesses around the shooting. She declared the area around the shooting (as well as all of LA County) a disaster zone for this year, which enables any small business to be able to get a very low-interest loan that could help tide them over during this time period. This is only available until the end of the year. I want to get the word out on that. It’s a loan of up to a million dollars at 3.3 percent interest, which is very low. I hope that people avail themselves of this opportunity.
Of course, I asked President Biden to come and he did answer my call. He came and individually consoled each of the victims’ families. He was just so empathetic. I was with him as he visited each one, and he provided so much healing through his great show of concern. He also took that opportunity to talk about his executive order on reducing gun violence. That was an incredibly important step forward.
“My bill says that there has to be outreach to communities and in languages other than English and that the outreach must be done in culturally appropriate ways.”Judy Chu
Since then, I have introduced two bills. One has to do with the Red Flag Law. I think that this whole shooting could have been prevented had there been somebody in the shooter’s circle who knew that a Red Flag Law existed because this shooter was increasingly paranoid and angry. He went to the police department two weeks prior and said his family was trying to poison and defraud him. At the same time, he was accumulating more and more ammunition. If anybody in his circle had reported that, the guns could have been temporarily taken away from him. It could have saved all these lives, and yet, in our community, with so many who have English language issues and who may not read the LA Times every day, I’m sure that they did not know that this existed.
My bill says that there has to be outreach to communities and in languages other than English and that the outreach must be done in culturally appropriate ways. I also have another bill, which provides $50 million in grants to local communities to be a resource to anybody who wants to enact a Red Flag Law because going through any government entity system can be daunting to many.
Q– With your Red Flag Law, is funding attached to that?
A– Not with the first one. That’s why these two bills are companions to each other. The other good thing is I have a Senate sponsor, Kristin Gillibrand from New York. She’s carrying the same two bills on the Senate side.
Q– That area of the San Gabriel Valley has been repeatedly hit over the last two years. It was devastating for that area.
A– But of course, the biggest hit of all was COVID-19. That’s why, with my position on the House Small Business Committee, I had to answer the calls of my constituents who were being turned down for the PPP loans. The biggest banks were only servicing their biggest customers. These smaller businesses, of which we have many in the San Gabriel Valley, were turned away.
So that’s why those of us who were concerned about it decided to have $60 billion set aside for the smaller businesses and to be administered by the smaller banks and smaller financial institutions. They who knew the types of customers that needed this kind of money. As a result of the $60 billion set aside, the smallest of the small businesses were indeed able to access the PPP loans. These loans were forgiven, so they really ended up being grants.
Q– Speaking of money, regarding the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument that you and President Obama created, is there any other funding attached to that for the Transit to Trails program?
A– What was really great about that in the immediate aftermath of the declaration in 2014, when President Obama declared the national monument, is that there were resources immediately brought to the area. We got $6.5 million in federal funds and then $5 million in philanthropic funds. Then the federal government got a monument manager and a volunteer manager and actually a whole set of staff that weren’t there before.
Map of California’s 28th Congressional District. Courtesy: ZipDataMaps
We didn’t have those who could just concentrate on that area in terms of making it better, but because they did that, they were able to facilitate volunteer resources as well as staff to be able to do a massive trash and graffiti cleanup. I know that there are far too many cars up there, and that’s why I was thrilled to be able to bring forth $1.75 million for a Transit to Trails program that starts at the Metro Gold Line in Pasadena and then goes up to the mountains and has five stops, ultimately ending up at the Mount Wilson Observatory. So it’s great because you know how the Gold Line is attached to so many places in LA County along that Metro route. It would make the mountains accessible to so many people who might not otherwise have been able to get there.
Q– One of the concerns in the community is that at the proposed shuttle stops in the forest, there are no facilities, no park rangers and very little to accommodate the crowds, including the trash pick-up afterward. Where’s the funding for help for that?
A– Yes, there was an article in the LA Times about the trash in the East Fork. There is an abundance of people who have gone up recently because of the heatwave and also because people were so anxious to get out into the open air after COVID-19. There were a lot of people going to the East Fork, leaving a lot of trash, and that trash could have been managed had there been park rangers up there.
“What’s going on here? Why isn’t this being picked up and the place cleaned?”Judy Chu
I immediately met with the Forest Service Manager and said, “What’s going on here? Why isn’t this being picked up and the place cleaned?” He said that he has 19 positions open for forest rangers and that he can’t get them filled.
My plea to everybody out there reading this article is that if anybody has an interest in this job, please apply. If you are a veteran or disabled, then how you get the job is facilitated.
Q– Are there any other programs or policies you’re looking forward to implementing?
A– There is my Woman’s Health Protection Act. It would uphold the rights of every woman to make decisions about her body, just as we’ve had for 50 years. Right now, because of what the Supreme Court did, young women have fewer rights than their grandmothers and half of the population got their rights stripped from them. So that’s why this bill is so important.
I have put forth a huge effort to get this through. We did actually get it out of the House twice in the last Congress when Democrats were in control. Once we get the House back, I want to put it forth again, and now we have a majority of Democrats in the Senate. President Biden has already said that he would sign it into law. We could restore reproductive rights for every woman in this country, regardless of their zip code.
Q– Can you talk a little about why saving local news is important?
A– Oh my goodness, I am so concerned about the trend of local news outlets disappearing, whether that be a local paper or a local radio program.
Not every single story is national. Sometimes, the people best equipped to cover a story or a community are the ones who live there. It’s so important that people have sources of information that are accurate and that they can trust about their local communities. So yes, there needs to be some means to save these local news outlets.
“We were that close to getting it done. When we get the House back, I’d love to see movement on something like this in the future.”Judy Chu
That’s why I was proud that the House version of Build Back Better specifically included funding to assist local news outlets. It included $1.67 billion in tax credits for newspapers, radio stations, TV stations, Web sites and other outlets that primarily cover local news. That’s why the Ways and Means Committee, which has jurisdiction over tax matters, specifically did include this in Build Back Better because we know how important local news is to our communities and what a difference it makes in people’s lives.
The Build Back Better Bill went through different iterations and ultimately became the Inflation Reduction Act, and, unfortunately, it did not make it into the final version of the law. We were that close to getting it done. When we get the House back, I’d love to see movement on something like this in the future.
Q– Yes, I think the Local News Sustainability Act has been stalled for two years.
A– Sometimes, though, the best way to get action is to have it in some big bill that’s moving. That’s why I was so hopeful with the Build Back Better Act.
Q– Any final thoughts?
A– When Democrats were in the majority, we were able to make incredible strides by passing the Infrastructure Act, the Chips and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act. What these do is strengthen our economy by rebuilding our aging airports and bridges, and they create jobs for the industries of tomorrow. For example, there will be discounts for those consumers who want to invest in clean energy for their homes.
One of the most important things in the Inflation Reduction Act is reducing the cost of drugs for seniors. Seniors would pay no more than $35 a month for insulin and spend no more than $2,000 a year for their prescription drugs. For the first time in history, it allows Medicare to negotiate for the prices of the most expensive prescription drugs. We started with ten at first, but we will continue negotiating on them until we cover many more.
Even though this is about seniors, Medicare is a gold standard, and as a result, when something happens to Medicare, the other insurance companies soon follow. For example, the $ 35-a-month insulin reduction was adopted by the different drug companies soon thereafter. So yes, this is a very important step forward.
“Every other nation in the world has figured out how to make this work.”Judy Chu
One of my biggest efforts has been in getting paid family leave. The United States is one of six countries with no national paid family and medical leave. I would like to see that changed. We actually got so close during the last Democratic majority when we were in control of the House. We even passed a national 12-week paid family leave through the House. Ultimately, it didn’t get through on the Senate side. But can you imagine? Every other nation in the world has figured out how to make this work.
Here in California, we know that offering paid family leave helps so many families, so we do have it here. However, we need national paid family leave so that everybody can benefit from it.
Q– Congresswoman, I appreciate you taking the time to speak with us. We’re finding that many local news agencies don’t have a reporter that they can assign to do an interview. I don’t know how many interviews you do, but I appreciate that you took time for us today.
A– You’re right about that. There aren’t that many local ones doing that. So that’s why I appreciate you.