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Velazquez Legislative Package to Improve Quality of Life


The official swearing in for the 110th Congress on Thursday January 4, 2007. Pictured (left to right): Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Nydia Velazquez's husband Paul Bader and Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez.

by Kate Davis

As Congresswoman Nydia M. Velazquez (D-NY) was officially sworn in to the 110th Congress today, she introduced a legislative package to address a number of the ongoing concerns that New York City families and small businesses have been faced with over the past several years. These initiatives are aimed at improving the health of residents, expanding access to affordable housing and technology, as well as cleaning up areas throughout the City. “For the past six years, the needs of our families and small businesses have been overlooked by the current administration and Republicans in Congress – as a result, communities have been left behind when it comes to accessing a healthy, quality lifestyle,” Congresswoman Velazquez said. “This legislative package is an important step toward improving the well-being and vitality of our residents. From expanding dietary options, to helping low-income communities and cleaning up valuable areas of land throughout our neighborhoods, this will truly make a difference in enhancing the quality of our everyday lives.”

Ensuring access to a healthy diet:
The health of the nation – and New York City – continue to be at risk as more than 60 million people are classified as obese today. With the recent announcement of a ban on artificial trans fat in New York City restaurants, Congresswoman Velazquez has introduced a bill that will further enhance residents’ health. She has long recognized the need to ensure that families have ample access to a nourishing diet, such as fresh produce and alternatives that do not contain artificial trans frat. H.R. 45, The Healthy Foods for Healthy Living Act will ensure that a wholesome diet and food alternatives are accessible to residents in all communities. The bill focuses on making healthy food choices available, as well as educating consumers on the importance and benefits of a well-balanced diet.

Addressing the affordable housing crisis:
Access to a healthy diet is not the only issue New Yorkers are being hit with today as they also find themselves in the midst of an ongoing housing crisis with the availability of affordable options failing to meet tenant demands. It is estimated that 30 million households face housing problems today – and in New York City alone, over half of all renters spend at least 30 percent of their income on housing. To address this issue, Congresswoman Velazquez, the most senior New York Member on the Financial Services Subcommittee on Housing and Community Opportunity, held a roundtable last month with local housing organization representatives to develop a new legislative agenda to help resolve these concerns. As an outcome of the discussion, Congresswoman Velazquez introduced H.R. 44, The Stabilizing Affordable Housing for the Future Act that aims to preserve affordable housing, and provide residents with the tools they need to do so. The legislation will create vehicles to revitalize “distressed” HUD-owned properties and keep those buildings affordable, as well as provide support for units undergoing repairs. Overall, the bill ensures preservation of current affordability levels, as well as offering protections for renters.

Ensuring low-income communities have access to technological advancements:
As Congresswoman Velazquez takes steps to address the housing crisis, she has also recognized the need for a sound solution to lessen the gap of the increasing digital divide. Today, a large number of New York City residents continue to lack access to sound technological advancements. In 2005, it was estimated that less than 40 percent of New Yorkers had broadband access, leaving a number of areas highly un-served when it comes to accessing broadband telecommunications, including the Internet. In order to help narrow this ongoing gap, Congresswoman Velazquez introduced legislation, H.R. 42, The Serving Everyone with Reliable, Vital Internet, Communications and Education (SERVICE) Act of 2007, to expand access to telecommunications services, and help families, students and the local workforce access vital information via the Internet. This initiative will make it easier for low income communities to utilize important telecommunication tools, and ensure individuals are better able to communicate with others for social, economic, and educational purposes.

Transforming unusable land into safe, vibrant locations for residents:
Local communities should not only be able to reap the benefits of the latest technology, but they should also enjoy the use of safe and vibrant locations throughout neighborhoods. The reclaiming and restoration of environmentally damaged areas is key to restoring communities throughout the country. There are an estimated 6,000 Brownfield sites in New York City alone, representing an estimated 3500 acres of unusable land. In order to transform these areas to usable, safe locations, Congresswoman Velazquez introduced H.R. 43, The Brownfields Housing and Community Renewal Development Act, which will provide for the planning and rehabilitation involved in the process. This bill will ensure the areas are reintegrated into their local communities, and can be enjoyed by local residents.

Helping small businesses grow:
As Chairwoman of the U.S. House Small Business Committee, Congresswoman Velazquez also introduced two bills to help ease the tax burden on entrepreneurs as well as increase investment options. H.R. 46, The Small Business Tax Fairness and Simplification Act of 2007 will take steps to simplify the tax code and provide greater flexibility for small businesses in terms of filing their taxes. In order to keep small firms on a level playing field with their larger counterparts, Chairwoman Velazquez also introduced H.R. 41, The Business Checking Fairness Act of 2007, which would remove a long-standing barrier that has prevented small firms from having greater freedom over their finances. These steps will enable entrepreneurs to invest back into their firms, and expand their enterprises. “These are the types of changes that will result in healthier, more secure lifestyles – and will help provide relief to those residents that need it most,” Congresswoman Velazquez said. “This legislative package will ensure that the needs of our families and small businesses are finally being met. Today’s initiatives are just the beginning of a renewed commitment to improving the environment for our residents and entrepreneurs.”

Kate Davis is Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez's press officer

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