District Work Week with Congressman Faso
Friday, June 2, 2017
Table of contents

Week in Review

Honoring Our Fallen

This week I was invited to provide the keynote address to our local residents, veterans and their families at the Sullivan County Veterans Cemetery Memorial Day service and wreath-laying ceremony. I also had the opportunity and distinct honor to walk in Memorial Day parades and participate in events in Catskill, Milan, Hyde Park, and Saugerties. In my Sullivan County remarks, I mentioned how integral our communities and our military families have been to the growth of a strong United States. For example, New York provided more men and munitions to the Union cause than any other during the Civil War, but it was Sullivan County who let these men march. Over 80 percent of all the leather goods, including boots, used by the Union side were conditioned in the tanning vats of Sullivan County. It has been said with justification that the “Civil War was won with boots tanned in Sullivan County.”

Travel and Tourism Roundtable in Dutchess County

The Hudson Valley is a world-class destination for tourists and travelers. We’re blessed by an abundance of historical, cultural, artistic and culinary locations drawing hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. In my home county of Columbia, for instance, tourists spent $130 million in 2015, and a larger share of our labor force is supported by tourism than any nearby Hudson Valley county. With this economic engine in mind, this week I met with local tourism experts, businesses and elected officials in Dutchess County for a Travel and Tourism Roundtable. The event was held at Hyde Park’s Culinary Institute of America and focused on public policies to attract additional visitors to our region while maximizing the economic benefits travel and tourism confer. Special thanks to my friends Senator Sue Serino and County Executive Marc Molinaro for attending as well as Dutchess Tourism's Mary Kay Vrba for organizing the event.

Family Dinner and Literacy Event in Delaware County

This week I visited South Kortright Central School for its “Empty Bowls” hunger-awareness event and student-prepared dinner. Students were joined by family and faculty and accepted donations of non-perishable food items for a summer program run in partnership with the Hobart Food Pantry. The event was part of the Creating Rural Opportunities Partnership (CROP) after-school programs. CROP is funded through the federal 21st Century Community Learning Centers program (21st CCLC). South Kortright Central is one of 10 school districts in the northern Catskills served by CROP. I was proud to support continued funding for CCLC in the bipartisan appropriations agreement passed on May 3.

Legislative Corner
Statement on Paris Agreement Withdrawal

As a member of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, I support US efforts to continue promotion of innovative clean-energy solutions which will mitigate the effects of man-made climate change. As such, I believe the withdrawal of the US from the agreement is ill-advised. However, the non-binding Paris COP21 never received Senate approval, as treaties must under our Constitution. The US never ratified the Kyoto agreement yet our nation reduced CO2 emissions beyond those called for in that agreement due to the responsiveness of our market-based economy. Regardless of who is in the White House, I believe the US must continue to work to lower greenhouse gas emissions while balancing the needs of our economy. At the end of the day, economic incentives for cleaner, less-polluting energy will have a greater impact on reducing CO2 emissions than a non-binding agreement with no enforcement mechanisms.

Supporting Our Veterans

Last week the House passed several bills aimed at improving benefits and services provided to our nation’s veterans.

With my support, the House approved H.R. 1329, the Veterans' Compensation Cost-of-Living Adjustment Act. H.R. 1329 provides a financial cost-of-living adjustment for disabled veterans and surviving dependent beneficiaries. This increase will be tied to the same increase that Social Security recipients receive in 2018.

The House also unanimously passed H.R. 2288, the Veterans Appeals Improvement and Modernization Act. As of January 1, 2015 the VA appeals backlog numbered 375,000 individual appeals pending. By January 1, 2017 that number had grown to 470,000 – a growth of 95,000 in just two years. H.R. 2288 reforms and streamlines the appeals process at the Department of Veterans Affairs and provides veterans with access to a greater range of options in that process.

Those who have put their lives on the line in defense of our freedoms deserve our full support, and I am proud to have supported these bills.

Brownfield Site Revitalization Grants

This week two local governments in the 19th District were awarded $400,000 in grants from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for brownfield site revitalization. Sullivan County and the Village of Valley Falls (Rensselaer County) will each receive $200,000 in competitive grants to help them redevelop vacant and unused properties. These grants will allow Sullivan County and Valley Falls to make innovative and productive improvements to former industrial sites and encourage redevelopment and local and regional economic growth.

The Sullivan County EPA grant will be used to assess the county’s brownfield sites as well as conduct planning and community outreach, focusing on the urbanized areas of Monticello, Liberty and South Fallsburg. Specifically, funding targets include: redevelopment of urban structures, improvement of the Route 17 and Route 17B corridors, and encouraging the development of agritourism and light industry on the identified and remediated brownfield sites.

The Village of Valley Falls, in Rensselaer County, will focus its $200,000 grant funding on assessing hazardous substances at the Old Thompson Mill site, an abandoned textile mill over 100 years old. A 2009 fire badly damaged buildings at the site. Following assessment and cleanup, the village plans to construct a waterfront recreational park there incorporating reused bricks and wooden support beams from the Old Mill.

Sullivan County Radio Call-in Q&A

I appeared on the radio this week to answer your healthcare-related questions on Sullivan County’s Thunder 102.1 FM. You can listen to the hourlong question-and-answer call-in program here.

Lyme Disease Prevention Interview

Counties such as Dutchess and Columbia are epicenters for the Lyme disease crisis. With diagnosed cases on the rise nationally, Millbrook’s Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies suggests that 2017 could be a particularly bad year for tick-borne illnesses. This week I appeared on Spectrum News’ “In Focus with Solomon Syed” to discuss how to protect yourself and your family from the poppy-seed-sized arachnids as well as my work in Congress to support continued funding for Lyme disease prevention.

Watch the discussion here or click the image above.

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