Dear Friends, 

Earlier this week, President Joe Biden made a historic announcement that provides incredible financial relief to millions of hard-working Americans.

On Wednesday, the President announced that he will move forward with a plan to cancel significant amounts of federal student loans, providing up to $20,000 of loan forgiveness to tens of millions of Americans.

According to the Department of Education, one third of borrowers will have their debt completely eliminated.

Here is information on the new debt relief from the Federal Student Aid website:

“To smooth the transition back to repayment and help borrowers at highest risk of delinquencies or default once payments resume, the U.S. Department of Education will provide up to $20,000 in debt cancellation to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the Department of Education and up to $10,000 in debt cancellation to non-Pell Grant recipients. Borrowers are eligible for this relief if their individual income is less than $125,000 or $250,000 for households.”

In addition to this relief, the Biden Administration is also restructuring the student loan system to help current and future borrowers. This includes requiring that borrowers pay no more than 5% of their discretionary income monthly to their loans, raising the amount of income that is considered non-discretionary, forgiving loan balances after 10 years of payments instead of 20, and covering unpaid monthly interested as long as borrowers make their monthly payments.

For more information about these changes, click here.

While we still have a long way to go to ensure that quality education is available to all those who want it, this week marks an incredible step forward in support hard working Americans who will now be able to better participate in our economy.

Thank you, President Biden!

Keep reading for more on this Fantastic Friday. 

“Stay Safe, Stay Healthy”
Rep. Debra Lekanoff

Swinomish Clam Garden 

Since time immemorial, Washington’s Native peoples have created clam gardens and helped promote healthy shellfish populations along our beautiful coast. It is a cultural tradition that is not just an important piece of Native history, but it is also a tremendous boon to these habitats.

Now, the Swinomish tribe is underway with creating a modern clam garden that will stretch 200 feet in length, be four feet wide, and no more than two feet high. This will both create a sustainable source of traditional knowledge for generations to come, as well as revive an ancient cultural practice that reduces impacts of climate change on clam habitats.

“The Swinomish Tribe’s Shellfish Science Team is working on a full range of shellfish management issues, all of which can be viewed through the lens of climate change. As our oceans become warmer and more acidic, they are less hospitable to shellfish, so we are working to track that progress and understand ways that we can increase resiliency while recovering and restoring native shellfish populations that are important to tribal members,” said Senior Shellfish Biologist, Julie Barber.

According to the Swinomish Climate change Initiative website, their “goals are to improve ecological conditions within the greater nearshore environment, and increase and sustain the health and well-being of Swinomish tribal members. Furthermore, information and tools produced by our project will be transferable to other resource-dependent communities within the Salish Sea and beyond to advance regional shellfisheries management.”

I am so excited for this incredible step forward, and I am prepared to continue supporting steps that restore our beautiful natural world. For more information about Swinomish efforts to combat climate change, check out their website here.

European Green Crab Populations 

In addition to the efforts to help support clam populations we talked about above, tribes, groups, and agencies throughout Washington are coming together to address the growth of European green crab populations – an invasive species that consumes shellfish and other native marine life.

While the crabs first appeared on our shores in the late 1990’s and appeared to die out, the past few years have seen a resurgence, specifically with the Lummi Sea Pond as a major area of concern. Since 2019, the Lummi Nation has said populations have grown from fewer than 100 to thousands of crabs.

“We’re not seeing a let-up on any of the numbers we’re trapping and there’s no population reduction we’ve seen anywhere,” Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe Director of Natural Resources Larissa Pfleeger-Ritzman said.

This is an important issue that we must monitor closely for the sake of our native marine life habitats. Keep an eye out for additional updates on this front, and know that there are strong efforts being made at all levels of government to address the green crab population growth.

San Juan Oil Spill 

Friends, as you may know earlier this month a fishing vessel sank west of San Juan Island and has been spilling oil off our shores ever since. As soon as this occurred, all levels of government jumped to action in order to address the leaking ship as quickly as possible.

I wanted to share an update that I received from spills program at the Washington Department of Ecology detailing what occurred, and what the current response efforts include.

Here is what they said:

“The ALEUTIAN ISLE, a fishing vessel, sank west of San Juan Island, Washington on Saturday August 13, 2022.  The vessel has a fuel capacity of 4,000 gallons and was reported to have around 2,500 gallons of diesel on board at the time of the sinking. A Unified Command has been formed consisting of the US Coast Guard, Washington State Department of Ecology, San Juan Office of Emergency Management, and the Swinomish Tribe, to help coordinate response efforts.  Professional response organizations have been contracted to help protect sensitive resources and conduct diving operations on the sunken vessel.    

Operations have confirmed that the sunken vessel remains in an accessible location to continue with planned dive operations later this week. Specialized equipment, including the crane barge and mixed gas used for deep water diving, is enroute to the response and expected to arrive by Friday. When on location, the crane barge and other equipment will need to be positioned before safe dive operations can begin. The mixed gas used for deep water diving is being carefully calibrated and tested this week to ensure the safety of the divers. The dive and salvage team anticipate the first dive operations to begin on Saturday with potential for an initial dive on Friday if sea conditions and weather permit. A Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) will be deployed this week to assess the condition of the vessel and location of any remaining safety hazards before initial dives can begin. At this time, it is unknown how many dives will be necessary to plug the vents of the vessel and secure the rigging in place so that the vessel can be lifted onto the barge. Operations may extend into next week depending on factors necessary to protect the safety of dive teams and responders.”

This is a tragic event that will have rippling impacts throughout the San Juan Islands. I’m keeping a close eye on all developments and am ready to help with cleanup and recovery as soon as we are able to move in this direction.

Rest assured, I will continue to share updates with you all as soon as I receive them myself.

Staying Cool in the Heat 

If you’re anything like me, then you’ve been absolutely struggling through this most recent heat wave. We’ve been seeing incredibly high temperatures across the country, and right here in the 40th LD.

Not only is this  a wake up call to ramp up our action on climate change and the environment, but it is also a reminder that we need to be careful and take care of ourselves during these times of incredible heat.

There are a number of things that we can do to help protect ourselves against the heat – staying hydrated, avoiding extended time in direct sunlight, and utilizing Washington’s cooling centers that are located throughout Western Washington.

Be sure to take care of yourself this weekend, Washington!   

COVID-19 Business Grant Opportunity 

While we have made great progress in minimizing the spread and impact of COVID-19, we must continue our efforts to support communities and businesses as our recovery continues. It’s with that in mind that I’d like to share a grant that is currently available.

The Washington State Department of Commerce, working in partnership with the Washington State Arts Commission (ArtsWA) will open applications for Working Washington Grants: Round 5 and Convention Center Grant Programs. 

Eligible for-profit and non-profit businesses, including tribal member-owned business operating on a reservation with a license issued by a federally recognized tribe in Washington state, may apply. Award amounts will vary and are subject to review and adjustment pending application volume, reported losses, and take into account previous Working Washington grant awards received from Commerce or affiliated partners.

Working Washington Grants: Round 5 includes $70 million of available funds with portions set aside for the following targeted sectors:

  • 60% is identified for the arts, heritage, and science sectors, including those that operate live entertainment venues;
  • 40% is identified for most other sectors, including hospitality, fitness, and personal services.

For more information, and to apply, click here.

Snake River Dam Update

As many of you know, there is an ongoing important discussion around the Snake River Dams and their potential removal. Recently Governor Inslee and Senator Murray expressed that breaching the dams will require extensive preparation and bipartisan support U.S. Democrats don’t yet have

Federal agencies have poured more than $17 billion into salmon recovery over the last 20 years, hoping to revive populations using fish ladders, diversion screens, and hatcheries. But conditions for Snake River sockeye and spring-summer chinook are still dire and, limited on ideas, some federal and regional political actors are starting to look more closely at the possibility of breaching four eastern Washington dams — Ice Harbor, Lower Monumental, Little Goose, and Lower Granite.

All sides have a lot at stake. There’s no guarantee that breaching these dams will be enough to reverse dwindling salmon numbers, and if they go, grain producers lose an important shipping route, farmers must find other ways to irrigate thousands of acres of farmland, and the region says goodbye to 1,000 megawatts of renewable energy. But if they stay, all four species could continue to decline into extinction.

In June, a draft report commissioned by Inslee and Murray estimated it would cost between $10.3 billion and $27.2 billion to replace the collective benefits for energy, irrigation and recreation provided by the four Lower Snake Rivers.

While the report found that breaching the dams will offer the best chance for salmon runs to recover in the Columbia and Lower Snake rivers, and for honoring tribal rights promised by the federal government, it did not take a position on whether the hydroelectric dams should be removed.

This will not be an immediate process, no overnight fix is possible. It will take a lot of difficult, coordinated work across all levels of government, ensuring that as these dams are removed we are able to replace the services they provided and set ourselves up for the future.

Endorsement Shoutouts!

Working on your behalf in Olympia has been the pleasure of a lifetime these past four years, and it’s been an honor to work alongside so many great individuals and organizations as I’ve worked to represent you and the interests of the 40th LD.

Now I’m pleased to thank all those who have endorsed my second re-election campaign! It is an honor to have your support as I work on behalf of all Washingtonians.

Excited to run to continue as your voice in Olympia!

Representing you in Olympia these past four years has been such an incredible honor. I have loved getting to know each and every one of you, and it is always my goal to listen to each of you as we continue working to create a place our grandchildren’s grandchildren will be proud to call home.

It’s with that in mind that I ask you to stand with my campaign – I would love to include your name on my list of endorsements as I run for re-election this year. If you’d like to endorse my campaign, click here – it will only take a minute!

The 40th LD is an incredible place, and I am proud to have you behind me as I run for re-election to continue as your voice in Olympia.

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