Fifth Congressional District Representative Mike Thompson and Fourth California Assembly District Member Cecilia Aguiar-Curry held a joint virtual townhall meeting on Feb. 22 to answer questions from the community and to address current events.
The Zoom meeting was also broadcast live and is available on Thompson’s Congressional Facebook page.
Thompson’s opening remarks brought attention to what Congress has accomplished at the federal level, such as the signing of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) into law by President Joe Biden. The ARP, he said, delivered $1.9 trillion for COVID-19 relief to local governments, American families and businesses.
The bipartisan Infrastructure bill was another federally funded program Thompson touted as important to improve roads, bridges, internet, water supply, fire prevention and more. The benefit, he said, is currently being realized as federal funds are released from the government to the states.
Aguiar-Curry applauded Thompson’s work and said, “we are changing people’s lives by having jobs and making sure businesses can stay afloat.”
Community questions were submitted prior to the start of the meeting.
The first question pertained to the prospect of Russia invading Ukraine, to which Thompson responded matter-of-factly that the United States can’t put boots on the ground before criticizing Putin for his aggressive outreach for power. Thompson said he is supportive of the sanctions Biden ordered and for working with NATO to “make things uncomfortable enough so Putin backs off.”
Both Thompson and Aguiar-Curry responded to a question asking what they were doing to fight climate change. Thompson said his bill, the Green Act, has been made part of the Build Back Better Act with approximately $550 million in climate change provisions. He said he believes the quickest and most effective way to fight climate change is to incentivize businesses and individuals so they can move toward renewable energy.
The geopolitical impact of climate change, Thompson said, “is going to move populations of people and when that happens, it causes wars and other crazy stuff.”
Aguiar-Curry said in her district covering Yolo County that it is imperative lawmakers work with farmers to develop innovative approaches to dispose of biomass and ag waste. Addressing climate change, she said, is now a consideration in every bill.
Another question posed asked what the next step is in the Build Back Better Act. Thompson said there was a “razor thin” majority in the House where it passed, but still doesn’t have the votes in the Senate.
“I would say the next step is for Senator Manchin, the democratic senator from West Virginia.” He’s been very articulate and very clear about what he’s against, I think it’s time for Senator Manchin to be as clear and articulate in regard to what he’s for,” Thompson said.
A question of what was being done to prepare for this year’s fire season was presented. Thompson said his legislation in Build Back Better would provide tax incentives to private property landowners to lessen the threat of fire and reduce the amount of fuel on their property.
Because areas of western Yolo and Napa Counties have experienced devastating fire damage, Thompson said he is presently drafting legislation to provide tax relief for fire survivors. “Fire survivors shouldn’t be reimbursed for their loss and then be taxed for that. It makes absolutely no sense,” he said.
Aguiar-Curry noted that a similar tax relief bill for fire survivors is being drafted by a colleague for California.
Aguiar-Curry said a couple of years ago the state stopped using inmates to fight fires. However, they’ve since learned there are many areas where ground crews are necessary. Efforts to train and return inmates to the fire lines and educate property owners to fire harden areas around homes are being made, she said.
There’s also the “people part” to assist seniors and those with disabilities to get to safety during a fire. Community Fire Safe Councils are forming in areas to help identify vulnerable residents and respond to them when a fire danger presents itself.
The last question asked what is being done to bring broadband to rural areas. Thompson said the bipartisan infrastructure bill provides $65 billion for broadband support and of that, “California will receive, at a minimum, one hundred million dollars.”
“It’s a shame it took a pandemic to get broadband,” Aguiar-Curry said as it became widely realized during the pandemic that students couldn’t do distance learning, rural families didn’t have access to telehealth, health care, job applications and more. “The heartbreaking reality is that one in eight California homes does still not have sufficient internet,” she said.
A $7.5 billion investment in California broadband Thompson said was part of a larger bill passed in September earmarking $3.25 billion for “middle-mile” broadband, a physical fiber optic infrastructure to run on Caltrans property throughout California to enable internet connectivity.