U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez told a packed Christian Pentecostal Church in Irvington on Sunday, Jan. 28, that he remains committed to fighting for the issues that overwhelmingly impact minority communities, including quality education, safe and affordable housing, and criminal justice reform. The senator was joined by Irvington Mayor Tony Vauss and the church’s pastor, the Rev. Jerry Smith.
“These are the fights that I take on in Washington, these are the things I believe in, these are the things that I walk by faith in,” said Menendez.
The Christian Pentecostal Church was founded by Smith’s father, Bishop Willie L. Smith, in 1978 in Newark. The church moved its headquarters to its current location in Irvington several years later after a period of rapid growth. Currently, 700 devout worshipers attend the church.
Smith and his father have led the church through its decades-long history of serving underserved communities. From launching food and clothing drives, hosting toy drives for hospitalized children and hosting the annual Bishop Willie L. Smith Community Day, the Christian Pentecostal Church has been at the forefront of helping those less fortunate.
“It is always great to welcome those who are fighting for us in Washington back home to New Jersey to fellowship,” Smith said. I see the work Sen. Menendez does for us and I pray for his continued strength.”
During his time in Congress, Menendez has been a leading champion on many issues he mentioned during his remarks, including efforts to protect civil rights and voting rights and ensure equal justice under the law. He has sponsored legislation to reverse the Supreme Court’s damaging decision in Shelby County and restore the Voting Rights Act, as well as measures to make online and same-day voter registration available to all Americans, and as a supporter of criminal justice reform, co-sponsored the End Racial and Religious Profiling Act to prohibit racial profiling by law enforcement.
Menendez is also outspoken advocate against economic injustices that disproportionately affect minority families. As the ranking member on the Senate housing subcommittee, he co-authored the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2016, which revised the definition of “elevated blood lead levels” to match the Centers for Disease Control standard for elevated blood lead level and strengthen protocols, by which the Department of Housing and Urban Development identifies and investigates lead exposure in federally-assisted housing.
Last year, Menendez co-sponsored the Child Care for Working Families Act, a comprehensive early learning and child care bill to ensure affordable, high-quality child care for working families across the country. The Child Care for Working Families Act would create a federal-state partnership to ensure families making less than 150 percent of their state’s median income do not pay more than seven percent of their income on child care. The bill also supports access to high-quality preschool programs for low- and moderate-income 3- and 4-year olds. Finally, the bill would support our nation’s child care workforce by significantly improving wages and training for teachers and caregivers.
Menendez introduced the Better Education and Skills Training for America’s Workforce Act, which would provide a tax credit of as much as $4,000 for the tuition costs at a community college to any business that is willing to train a long-term unemployed worker for an open job that requires a certain type of certificate or other training credential.
The Christopher Bryski Student Loan Protection Act, reintroduced by Menendez late last year, aimed to increase transparency in the student loan process and provide better financial protections for borrowers and their co-signers in the event of severe injury or death. According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, more than 90 percent of private student loans have a co-signer, such as a parent or grandparent.