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Veteran of the Year honored

By Congressman A. Donald McEachin

It is the holiday season, and I want to take this opportunity to wish everyone a blessed and peaceful holiday, whatever you celebrate. I would caution everyone that the pandemic is still spreading, so please, wear a mask, social distance and wash your hands frequently as you enjoy your holidays. The end is in sight with the exciting news about two vaccines. I understand we are all tired, stressed and anxious, but we should follow public health advice and soon those vaccines will improve our lives significantly.

With the rate of COVID worsening, my staff is still working remotely. Please know if you have any issue with a federal agency from a missing passport to a lost tax return to misplaced benefits, please go to my website, mceachin.house.gov, and one of my very able constituent services representatives will get back to you with assistance.

This month my office initiated a new program — annually, we will be naming a Veteran of the Year from our congressional district. Our veterans have risked their lives to keep our country safe and free, and we owe them lifelong respect and gratitude. Many of our veterans return from their service and find other ways to improve our communities, so we are excited to shout someone out when we can. This year’s honoree, our very first one, is Dr. Harold Sayles of Henrico. Dr. Sayles served in Operation Urgent Fury-Grenada and Operation Desert Storm. He received, among other commendations, the Bronze Star for Valor and the Legion of Merit. As a veteran, he has received national recognition for his work with the Veterans of Foreign Wars and is on the Suicide Prevention Task Force for veterans for the VFW’s Southern Conference. He is post commander for the American Legion in Richmond among other volunteer activities.

Professionally, Dr. Sayles serves as the executive director of the Crater District Area Agency on Aging and is an associate pastor of Rising Mount Zion Baptist Church in Henrico. We thank Dr. Sayles for his ongoing service to our communities.

Last month, with one of my House colleagues, I introduced the Lead-Safe Housing for Kids Act of 2020, legislation to protect children in federally assisted housing from dangerous lead exposure and poisoning.  The legislation would adopt federal prevention measures, including comprehensive risk assessments, to determine the presence of lead hazards.

While the incidence of lead poisoning in children has diminished, current federal regulations are still inadequate. No child should be put at risk of lead poisoning, which often requires long-term medical treatment and special education services, because some impacts can cause permanent damage.

The legislation would specifically require landlords to disclose and control lead hazards if found in the home, as well as provide notice to tenants about their rights. It would also provide a process for families to relocate on an emergency basis, without penalty or the loss of assistance, if a lead hazard is identified in the home and the landlord fails to control the hazard within 30 days of being notified of the presence of lead. I look forward to advocating for this policy as it moves throughout the legislative process.

Congressman A. Donald McEachin represents Virginia’s 4th Congressional District.