Since winning a special election in June 2017, Jimmy Gomez, 45, has represented California’s 34th District in the U.S. House of Representatives. Prior to legislating in D.C., Gomez represented NELA in the California State Assembly from 2012–2017. Gomez sat down for a Zoom Q&A with our Community News editors Oct. 29. We discussed his record, his progressive agenda, issues within the district and why he feels he has earned reelection.
Read the full Q&A transcript below. Read our Q&A with Gomez’ opponent, David Kim, here. The interviews were edited for brevity and clarity.
Matthew Reagan: Aside from the job you’re up for, on a human level, how have you been doing these past seven months during the pandemic? Who have you really relied on to get you through this? Have you been able to find any moments of happiness through all of these crises?
Jimmy Gomez: Great question. This has been one of the most difficult years I’ve ever experienced, and probably a lot of people who are going through this would say the same thing. That’s for a variety of reasons. One, my job itself, we’re trying to tackle a big problem, the pandemic, making sure people get the resources, and we’re doing it remotely just like everybody else. It’s tough, because when you run for public office, you don’t run to be kept away from the public, right. It feels like we don’t have that interaction that we not only crave, but helps us do our job. So it’s always been real difficult in this situation. […]
I needed to go and do something besides going back to D.C. for votes. So I would go and volunteer at food banks and food distributions. That actually gave me a lot of hope, that made me feel so much better because it felt like we were doing something that the people could tangibly see. We passed trillions of dollars at the federal level, but you have to see how it impacts people at the local level, what it means to them. That really gave me the drive to keep going. So that really did make me a lot happier, is to see how that was impacting people’s lives.
Additionally, I have my mother-in-law who lives with me and she had a stroke a few years ago and she’s, I would say, in poor health. For us, keeping her isolated, making sure she wasn’t getting infected, or getting even close to getting infected was a big stress on myself, my wife. We have to continue working so we had her isolated with her caregiver and that’s been something that I think a lot of people have been going through. Keeping their parents safe, their family members who have an immune system that’s weak, something that puts them in a high-risk category. That has been really what it’s about is how do we take care of one another?
MR: I want to give you the opportunity, right off the bat to answer this question. What are the reasons you feel you’ve earned reelection from your constituents?
Gomez: You know, my commitment to fighting for my district comes from a personal level. I grew up without health insurance. My parents are immigrants from Mexico. I saw them struggle, I saw them when I got sick, I almost bankrupted my family. It was because of how government can change people’s lives that I committed myself to doing that. In the short time that I’ve been in office, I’ve been able to fight for climate change legislation at the state level with? other State Assembly members, passing the most progressive paid family leave program, and also making sure that we’re defending Planned Parenthood. It was always based on this concept of equity.
How do you make sure that people who are disproportionately impacted by poverty, climate change, unemployment, the pandemic get the most resources? I’ve done that time and time again, I actually ended up bringing in $40 million when I was at the state level to help finish the LA State Historic Park, another $150 million for the LA River restoration, which we also got just another $3 million to continue the design phase. We’ve also been making progress on a variety of issues. When it comes to health care, I actually passed legislation that made sure that Medicare was not just in the top three languages, but expanded to 10 languages. In the end, I’ve been there fighting every step of the way when it comes to COVID-19. Making sure people got their unemployment checks, making sure people got rent relief, making sure people got food. I’m a person that’s always been hands on and I will always be hands on. So I’m going to continue fighting this fight on all these fronts until we make progress and we feel that we actually succeeded in fighting for a progressive future.
Kathy Ou: How do you balance your responsibility to represent your constituents of the local district while legislating on national issues?
Gomez: It’s always about the local constituents. These are your bosses, these are the people to whom you deliver. When people call my office, a lot of times they are calling from all over the country. I tell my staff, when it comes to people from the district, we marked down their name, what the issue they’re calling for. We really keep track of what they’re saying. So my constituents are always on the top of my agenda. But then at the same time, so our other 434 members of Congress, and what you’re doing is fighting for your interest, there’s a lot more interest that binds us together. I care about climate change and I know that I sit on Ways and Means and it’s a powerful committee that can do a lot on climate change. But at the same time, I don’t necessarily have the national platform like AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] has. So she and I are trying to work together next year on how do we pass components of the Green New Deal in order to move over the issue. We work together as a team to advance different issues. […]
A good example, if we were to pass the climate change legislation at the federal level, well, my district, half of it, couldn’t afford half an EV [electric vehicle] or retrofitting their homes to be weather resistant, or even taking advantage of some of that new technology. I’m always fighting for equity. So a good example, I introduced a bill called the used EV tax credit and what it would do is, if you’re below $45,000, it’ll give you up to $4,000 off a used EV from $9000 to $25,000. So you can get a used EV if you’re making like $30,000 for five grand. That’s how you take these bigger issues and then make them localized to take care of your districts.
KO: If you’re reelected, what is it about yourself that you will look to improve upon for your next term?
Gomez: Everything, I’m always looking at improving. It’s a tough, tough job. One of the things that I needed to get better at was learning the legislative process, how do I get bills passed, because it’s very different than Sacramento, and it’s very different from local. So you have to have the relationships, and you have to build on them and then you have to kind of push and push. One of the issues that I’m going to push even harder on is, of course, Medicare for All is something I’ve been pushing. I know there’s some ideas of lowering the age that even Biden supports. The Green New Deal is something I’m really trying to focus in on. How do I do that? That’s trying to figure my way in and that’s why I have these conversations with AOC [Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] — to do that, right? It’s twofold, it’s from two different directions: housing, I got to do more on housing, and make sure that I’m working with my counterparts at the local level. So I’m in constant contact with Kevin de Leon, just who got elected to be the CD-14 representative, Maria Elena Durazo as well as Wendy Carrillo and Miguel Santiago, because this is an issue that impacts all parts of our districts, and we got to really deal with it. So that’s an issue that I’ve been working on, I introduced a bill called the Rent Relief Act, because if we take the majority, I’m actually gonna be able to pass even bigger pieces of legislation. So that’s what I’m looking forward to.
MR: You also sit on the House Oversight and Reform Committee. For folks who maybe aren’t super well versed in politics or the operations of our Congress — What does having a representative on committees like those do for the district? How would that play out in their daily lives?
Gomez: Getting on these committees, like Oversight, I got on it my first term because a lot of people don’t want to be on Oversight when you’re in the minority party, because you can’t do much oversight, right? It’s very difficult but I always cared about the [U.S. Census Bureau], the census is something I studied when I was in graduate school and undergrad, and knew that I wanted to work on that issue. So I got on the committee because of the census but also because what you can do to investigate every federal department. The Postal Service, when [Louis] DeJoy came on, we got to investigate him throughout some of the crazy stuff that they were doing, and try to hold them accountable. So that one was easier to get on to.
The Ways and Means Committee, people spend years trying to get on because you have to get the votes of your region. […] I actually got clumped in with the freshman class, because I won a special election. Katie Porter and Mike Levin and all them who got elected, that became my class and they all voted for me. So I got on to the Ways and Means Committee, and this committee, when you try to pass anything that takes funding, to raise the revenue not to spend it, but to raise it, it has to be raised in this committee. Infrastructure, if you’re going to actually do something on infrastructure, it goes through the Transportation Committee, but then the people on this committee have to raise the revenue to pay for any infrastructure improvements. Same thing with Medicare, Medicare For All goes through this committee, Social Security goes through this committee, SNAP benefits, unemployment, all of that goes through this committee. It’s a powerful committee because of the jurisdiction that it has. Everything takes resources so even if you have a bill that’s gonna get passed, well, eventually we get to influence the final passage of that of the bill because we take the votes to raise the revenue. It is a big deal. Climate change, people are talking about a carbon tax, well, that goes through this committee. In order to get legislation passed through the committee, oftentimes that you have to be on it. If you’re not on it, you’re not going to pass it. A good example, there’s a colleague who’s a freshman member, but she’s in the tough seat, and we want to keep her there. She had a bill dealing with Medicare, and she’s not on the committee, so they asked me to join the bill, so I could get it through the committee for her. It’s really important that I’m on it because it really touches all the issues that people care about.
MR: The census just ended. I know in the 34th district, the self-response rate was at 52.5 percent, which is compared to 2010’s, rate of 65.1 percent. So we have a much lower self-response rate in the district. That has big impacts on federal funding that flows to the district as well. I know a couple days ago, members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus put out a letter that you had cosigned, advocating for the Census Bureau to identify the undercount of Latinos as they have in years past. Given the fact we expect that there was an undercount based on self-response rates, what can you in Congress do to advocate and to best you can make sure that the most amount of resources and funding are still flowing to the district?
Gomez: Great question. I was very involved in just doing the outreach on the census from [the] very beginning. We knew when we interviewed Wilbur Ross, the head of the Commerce Department which oversees the census, that there was gonna be an undercount just by the fact that [President Donald] Trump had negative rhetoric when it came to immigrants. They actually downgraded their self-response rate by three percentage points. In the 34th it was even going to be more, just because there’s so many more undocumented immigrants and more Latinos here, more Asians that are undocumented — people from all walks of life. So we knew that the response rate was gonna be worse. That’s why we fought, and we won the battle, making sure that the citizenship question wasn’t on it. But then we fought to make sure that there were the resources necessary, we mobilized the local nonprofits to do more work in the area. If we didn’t do that, it would have been even worse than it actually turned out to be. But yeah, it was drastically lower and what we’re asking for now is to make sure that they use the administrative records to ensure that they make up the count, and that’s what they usually do. They take the administrative records — everything from taxes, to utility bills, to different sources to make up the difference to get the full, complete count. It also wasn’t just Latinos and immigrants, it was also downtown students. You know, a lot of students that didn’t come back, we had a lot of folks that went to USC, that were now living at home instead of living downtown. So we had a situation downtown where a lot of people like you’re supposed to do the count in the spring, but a lot of people because of the pandemic left. So, they never filled out the census here. If you look at the downtown, census tracts, they’re abysmal. Good thing is that people that are living in those buildings often have the administrative records to make up for the count. So I’m hoping that we do a little bit better. But yeah, it’s tough. Then at the same time, hopefully, the Supreme Court doesn’t make a terrible decision, I think that would go against precedent and history, that they say that undocumented immigrants should not be counted in the final numbers.
MR: You mentioned the makeup of the district and, as you know, it’s over 60 percent Latino or Hispanic identifying folks, according to 2019 data. How important is it for Latinos to be represented in Congress, and for Latino majority areas to be represented by Latinos themselves?
Gomez: Well, I’ve always been a firm believer in the idea that people from different walks of life can represent each other, but at the same time, you have to be able to relate. I didn’t grow up in the district, but I grew up with immigrant parents that worked four to five jobs to make ends meet. My family didn’t have health insurance, they struggled to make rent, they bought a house but they had a move, they got displaced from Orange County and they moved to Riverside. That’s this district through and through and understanding that experience allows me to better empathize and understand.
Perfect example — paid family leave. When I restructured it in California, I was interested in, how do we improve health outcomes for kids? Especially immigrant kids, Latinos, Asian, minority children, when it comes to health outcomes when they’re born. We started looking at bonding, and we looked at paid family leave. Well, then I looked into it and my staff told me, “Oh, paid family, you can take six weeks off to bond with a newborn child or sick parent or take care of a sick parent, for six weeks at 55 percent [income].” For me, I understood right away, I was like, “55 percent?” If you’re working class, like my parents who worked four to five jobs, and on 100 percent of their salary struggled, what makes anybody think that they can take off six weeks at 55 percent? So that’s why I actually passed the law that said, anybody who makes $45 thousand or lower, gets 70 percent of their income. I tried to get 80, but it actually comes out to about 80 percent, because they don’t pay taxes on it, and gave everybody else a bump. Your experience can help inform policies that say, “Yeah, that’s not gonna work for this population.”
Same with the pandemic, I knew that COVID-19 would eventually devastate the Latino community because we tend to live multi-generationally in the same household, same with most immigrants, we work more in the service sector, we worked in plants. So we were fighting to make sure that this area got resources upon resources for more testing and testing, and then catering that policy to it. So yeah, it makes a big difference of just having that experience. But then also being open to other people that you don’t necessarily come from that community. You look for those interactions, those similarities, so you can better advocate for them.
KO: You and others have been campaigning on behalf of Proposition 16 that would repeal California’s Proposition 209, which eliminated affirmative action. Why is this proposition so important and are there any misconceptions you’re trying to dispel?
Gomez: The reason why I’m fighting for it is that, let’s take a look at what’s going on when it comes to just the national awakening on policing, right? I always knew that people of color, Latinos and Blacks get pulled over by police more often than non-Latinos or Blacks. I studied that, we passed legislation in Sacramento to keep track of those statistics. We know that there’s a disparity in policing, but there’s also a disparity in health care. A Black woman is more likely to die at childbirth than a white woman, a Black woman is more likely to die of breast cancer, even though the incidence of breast cancer is higher in the white population and Latinos are more likely to not graduate from high school and college. So you know, that the disparity exists. Even in environmental policy, we know the disparity exists. So what we’re doing is developing policies to counteract that disparity. Instead of making sure that we’re funding more police officers, let’s fund more schools, let’s fund intervention programs. If we know that climate change is disproportionately impacting people of color and poor areas, let’s invest in those communities of color — same with COVID-19, same with education. So Proposition 16, is just taking into account the realities, the fact that not everybody starts at the same place and not everybody has the same opportunities and if you give them a chance, these kids will do amazing things.
I was not supposed to go off to college. None of my counselors said, “Hey, go to college.” I actually ended up working at Subway and Target right after high school. A friend of mine who was going to go to college, but he broke his ankle and couldn’t play soccer that year so he had to take a year and work and go to community college. He took me and signed me up for one class at the community college. That one class changed my life. I ended up going full time, I was a biochem major, I wanted to be a doctor and give back. Then I took a workshop on political activism, and something just clicked and another friend of mine was like, “You need to go into politics.” He said, “You can fight for healthcare and politics as much as you can as a doctor.” I ended up going to UCLA and then Harvard for my master’s degree. Why is it that all of a sudden that I was able to do that, but I couldn’t do that before? That’s all Proposition 16 is about is to get people that we know don’t start off at first base, a little extra help and opportunity. The misconception is that people think that it will hurt them, it doesn’t hurt, it actually helps everybody do better. They think it’s a zero-sum game. “If these people get in, I don’t get in.” That’s not how it works.
KO: Affirmative action can be controversial, especially in the Asian community. Our district has a large Asian population as well. What would you say to the Asian community or people who might be ambivalent on this?
Gomez: Yeah, it actually breaks down, Asians are not the same, right? All Asians don’t come from the same background. That actually breaks down the different ethnic backgrounds of Asians. So you get a better understanding, not all Asians are the “the model minority” that go off to college, become doctors and lawyers as that stereotype says. So breaking it down to Filipinos, people of Japanese descent, of Korean, Chinese, across the board, you get a better sense of certain parts of the Asian community and the Latino community — because Guatemalans, Salvadorians are not the same and don’t do the same necessarily, as Mexicans who have been here for generations. So having more data is always a good thing. It’s not a bad thing, it’s a good thing. Then giving people help, who need it, is even better, especially targeting that help.
MR: We’ve talked about the pandemic and how the policies you’ve wanted to implement are based on equity. LA is around 60 percent renters. You’ve cosponsored a bill that would give tax breaks to folks who spend over 30 percent of their income on rent. One solution your opponent has brought up to address rent inequity and rent struggles has been universal basic income (UBI). What is your position on UBI and do you think it can be part of the solution for people who are struggling with rent?
Gomez: The Rent Relief Act with Kamala Harris has a great chance of passing because she’s actually doing it and if she becomes vice president it’s an even bigger chance. It’s a bill that gives a refundable monthly tax credit for anybody who pays more than 30 percent. So say you’re paying 40 percent of your income towards rent, you will get the difference between 30 and 40 percent monthly. It’s not waiting till the end of the year, which is a big deal. On the universal basic income, I actually am a supporter of Ro Khanna’s bill called Emergency Money For the People Act which is $2,000 a month, during the pandemic for anybody making $130,000 or less. I believe in universal basic income that’s targeted to people who need it. Do you think that a person who makes $300,000 should get $2,000 a month? I don’t. Here’s the reason why — we already have a problem with economic disparity in this country. The fact that the rich are getting richer, even during the pandemic, and we often have policies that make them better off and sometimes the working class can’t even access those programs. Instead of giving people who honestly don’t need it at the higher end of the economic ladder more money, let’s target more of it towards the people who are at the bottom who are struggling. That’s what I’m actually proposing and that’s why I’m a cosponsor of a UBI even though it’s during the pandemic.
MR: The 34th District, I’m sure, as you’re aware, has one of the highest populations of unhoused folks in the nation. What are some specific actions that you’ve taken in your role to combat this issue?
Gomez: You have to look at it from multiple perspectives. One, you got to keep people in their homes, so that they don’t go on the streets. That’s why in the CARES Act, I was a supporter of an eviction moratorium. That’s what we’re gonna try to do, again, in the HEROES Act, to make sure that people are not getting kicked out, especially during the pandemic. The Rent Relief Act is gonna be a big help for people to make sure that, if the rent goes up, the amount they’re going to get is going to go up. That is a big bill. Additionally, we believe in helping people so that they have the other resources necessary to get by. We’re fighting for increases in food stamps and SNAP benefits, we’re also making sure that that same social safety net is there. If they don’t have to pay for food, then they can have extra money for rent, which is a huge deal. Additionally, we got to build more shelters and more transitional housing, more beds. That’s why I’m a cosponsor of the bill by Maxine Waters, that’s a $13 billion bill, for people who are experiencing homelessness to build more shelters and more beds, which is going to be big.
We also need to make sure that there’s the resources for mental health, resources for making sure that people can have access to resources if they are using alcohol or something that they can’t get off of. One of the things that I know that we’ve got to do, although it’s at a local level, rent stabilization is big. Right now, it only applies to units built before 1978 or before. We’ve got to move it to 1980, 1982 and bring more units on the market under rent stabilization. It would be a big, big help and then build more workforce and affordable units. It’s a problem that’s gotten worse because of the pandemic. I’m also working with Kevin de Leon, the new council member (CD-14) and the state senator to figure out what we can do as a unit to actually get more resources because that’s the only way we’re going to solve it. We have to make sure that people can get the care that they need, that they have the options.
I got displaced, like I said earlier, my parents lived in Orange County, a developer came in, bought the house they were renting and turned it into a strip mall with a Taco Bell. So I always tell people, my family got replaced by bad Mexican food, literally. That’s what’s going on, it’s a complicated issue but we got to really understand that the unhoused are people who are part of our community, and we need to help them because they’re hurting.
KO: At the local level, because of the conditions of the current projects available, even though there is funding by the city, a lot of unhoused residents may be unwilling to take up the project because of the poor conditions in those projects. How can you foster more collaboration between the city side and the more the nonprofits working on a more local scale?
Gomez: They’re definitely working together more but then it needs to increase. So the main problem is a lot of the units that have been being built, recently, have been market rate without any affordable units. That is unacceptable. Any market rate has to have at least 20 percent affordable units in order to create workforce housing that people can actually use. At the same time, we need to expand different federal programs. Most people don’t know this, but the programs that are used to build housing for individuals experiencing homelessness or affordable housing, is a federal program called the affordable housing tax credit. So they use the affordable housing tax credit, in order to build and finance a lot of their projects, we need to do that. But we’re increasing the percentage that they have asked when they take out loans, and when they do these buildings to cancel out and they can build more. Then they use other programs to make it even better, they use the section eight voucher program, then they use SNAP benefits, and then they sign everybody up for Medicaid or Medicare to ensure that they’re getting the wraparound services. That’s what we need to do more, is partnership between the federal, providing the tax credits on these programs, and the state and local. There are great programs, there’s one by the Skid Row Housing Trust, that’s done a number of units in Skid Row now based on that model. So we need to expand that and do more. Yes, there are individuals who don’t want to seek assistance — we’ve got to keep talking to them and trying to get them into programs that will make their health outcomes better. It’s unfortunate, but at LA County-USC [hospital], in the emergency room, they have a chart when somebody comes in they have a list of high blood pressure, different things that most people have that will determine the risk. They have homelessness now on that list. That should tell people that this is not just a housing crisis it’s actually a public health crisis that’s going on.
MR: I just wanted you to weigh-in on some local stuff going on in the LA City Council this week. The council pushed a motion, they’re supposed to vote on the motion, that would ban sitting, sleeping or lying down within 500 feet of freeways, freeway ramps, tunnels and other homeless services. What is your opinion on this motion and do you think banning folks presence on the streets is an effective way to combat the causes of homelessness?
Gomez: I don’t know about the motion but when I was in the state legislature, I voted for a bill that would allow people to sleep in their cars, it wouldn’t criminalize it. One of the things that people had said, “Oh, you’re just going to encourage people to sleep in their cars.” I was like, “No, they’re sleeping in their cars because they have no other choice.” That’s how I feel about individuals who are homeless, a lot of them are sleeping on the streets because they have no other choice, nobody does it because they want to. It’s a measure of last resort. I think that we have to, in my opinion, pass something that is akin to a right to housing, that we guarantee everybody a place to sleep, if they don’t have one. Until we get there, I’m not sure these kinds of measures are going to actually help the people who are sleeping on the street. It’s not going to help the community because they have nowhere to go, that’s why they’re on the street.
MR: Moving on to the racial reckoning that’s been going on in our country, specifically with police violence. I know you cosponsored, the George Floyd Justice for Police Act in Congress, which among other things, would ban choke calls and qualified immunity for officers. What does defunding the police mean to you and do you think it’s an effective way to combat police violence? How would you imagine something like that would look in LA?
Gomez: I’ve always said I’m a firm believer in early childhood education and childcare and getting early interventions. I say a life is like shooting an arrow, it’s easier to change the trajectory of that arrow at the beginning than in mid-flight. The mid-flight is the police officers. We want to make sure that if we invest, we take dollars that we have and invest it in early interventions: education, housing to take care of a lot of those societal needs, that you can change the trajectory of those individual lives. So the mayor moving the $250 million, I’m in favor of that. I’m actually a supporter of Measure J, that we reallocates funds. We also have to make sure that at the same time, we’re educating people about how the police are funded. A lot of the the funds of the police were passed by the voters. Because they’re passed by the voters, the only people that can undo it are the voters. That’s why Measure J is so important, those are mostly restricted funds. That’s the biggest part of the budget, are the restricted funds. We want to change that and use it for something else.
At the same time, you still need to reform policing. We need to pass federal laws like the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act because it does end qualified immunity as we know it. It also creates a national database for bad police officers, it also bans chokeholds and it does a variety of things. That is something that we’re going to get done in the new Congress. Additionally, we need to pass local ordinances like Measure J, it’s hugely important. Then look at how we can change and reimagine policing, you know, policing changes when the public is involved and engaged. It creates the oversight. That’s why I’m working with Jamie Raskin on actually investigating the sheriff’s department to hold these criminal gangs in these clinics accountable for violation of the civil rights of Angelenos. We’re asking the Department of Justice to investigate them, we’re not going to let that go. We’re going to make sure that people are held accountable, but it’s a multi-pronged approach. We’re definitely working on that. I agree, we need to invest back into the preventive measures that have worked well in the past. So it’s something that personally, I can tell you that I’ve had interactions with police officers when I was younger and the first question they always asked me is, “When was the last time you got arrested? Are you on probation?” Why is that? Because I was a young Mexican American? So we still need a lot of work to do.
MR: You support a lot of progressive agenda items. Nowadays though, many progressives have made it a point not to accept any PAC or corporate donations for their campaigns. That’s something your opponent has been critical of you for. Why haven’t you [rejected PAC and corporate donations] and do you think it’s fair to question your progressive credentials based on the donations you receive?
Gomez: I always tell people to look at my record and it speaks for itself. There’s a reason why Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution actually endorsed me. The Our Revolution at the federal level that came out of his movement, because they know where I stand on every single issue. That’s why the Sierra Club has endorsed me. That’s why Karen Bass has endorsed me, Ayanna Pressley, because they know what I’ve actually done, I have the record. It shows that I can deliver bar-none better than anybody. I actually was endorsed by End Citizens United, because I helped pass the California Disclose Act, to end dark money and the use of dark money in political campaigns. I’m definitely in support of a campaign finance reform for small dollar donations. I’m completely on board on that and I know that I can continue delivering for my district. I have one of the most progressive records, and I’ll continue to do that.
KO: What effect do you think free public colleges and universities can have in LA and nationally?
Gomez: Huge, that’s why I’m in support of Miguel Santiago, passing the bill that created a free two year community college, huge deal. Now they’re working on the two-year Cal State. I believe we got to go back to the idea of free college for everybody. I think we need to move back to trying to achieve a master plan for education where everybody has an opportunity to go to college either at a community college, a Cal State, a University [of California] or private school and then have that as an option for everybody. Here’s the thing, if we don’t, I think you’re going to continue to have this disparity between the wealthy individuals and the people that are working class. I don’t want to say that it’s going to be easy, but the investment is worth it. I know so many people who have changed their life because of education. I started off at a community college and then went to UCLA. That is still possible but we got to make that investment so that people don’t leave college and school with just a ton of debt where there’s so saddled by it, that they only work at certain jobs and do certain things. It’s hard for them to start their lives. I actually have $45,000 of student loan debt still to this day and I finished grad school in 2003. I’ve actually walked away with $85,000 in debt, which seems very low compared to students today but we got to do something about it.
KO: Why do you think young people should be comfortable voting for you? What are some steps that you’re taking to safeguard their future, regardless of who wins the election?
Gomez: I’ve always been a big proponent of empowering younger voters. When I was in the state legislature, I passed the bill called the Voter Education Week, for the high schools that would allow students to register other students to vote and then to create a voting curriculum, voluntarily, for the state so that different school districts can implement it to teach them how to use their voice through the legislative and political process. It is something that I believed in from day one. That’s what I’m going to continue doing. I set up a youth council for my office to have students advise me on legislation and issues that they care about. We couldn’t do it this year because of the pandemic, but it’s something that we’re going to do next year. It’s a way to have that voice. I’ve always delivered, right, this is what I’ve done, I delivered when it comes to a variety of issues — climate change, which I know a lot of people care about, I actually pass the most progressive climate change legislation in the country called AB 1550. I also help negotiate a water bond that brings in money to help restore the Los Angeles River. I helped pass legislation when it comes to student debt when I was in the legislature, and now I’m working on those issues at the federal level. I’m always looking at, “How do I help every part of my constituency, but also give them the resources that they need?” I have a record of delivering results, and I’m going to continue doing that.
MR: Congress has adjourned and stimulus talks have fallen through. Nothing is really expected to happen on that front until maybe even December. I know this is a big disappointment to a lot of folks in Congress, but also a lot of folks who are relying on that relief. What message, if any, do you have to Angelenos who were relying on some form of assistance and won’t be getting it until December, maybe.
Gomez: I’m disappointed that we haven’t passed that relief package, but what I want people to know is that they can reach out to my official office in order to get assistance. It just helped somebody the other day, who has been delayed on their unemployment, they reached out, we reached out to a different office to get them the assistance. Somebody called up, they didn’t have access to food so we actually hooked them up with the food pantry, to make sure that they’re getting the assistance they need. They should know their rights when it comes to a variety of issues. So they should reach out number one. Number two, when we pass the next package, it’s gonna be retroactive when it comes to funding, unemployment, when it comes to the stimulus checks when it comes to taking care of people in the most in need.