Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Ben Ray Luján (D-N.M.), and Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) led 27 senators in requesting additional resources to support the mental health of employees working in the U.S. Capitol complex. Following the insurrection on January 6, 2021, demand for existing mental health programs has surged, leaving many workers in the Capitol complex, including janitorial staff and members of the press, without additional resources to help them cope with any trauma they may have experienced related to the attack on the Capitol.
In their letter, the senators urge Architect of the Capitol James Brett Blanton, Senate Acting Sergeant at Arms Jennifer Hemingway, Librarian of Congress Dr. Carla Hayden, and the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) Acting Chief of Police Yogananda Pittman to work with them and the relevant House and Senate committees to expand the emotional and behavioral health services and resources available to congressional staff; janitorial and food service workers; members of the press corps; and Capitol Police.
“As we work toward accountability and governing after the attack, Congress must ensure that support services, including emotional and behavioral health services, and resources are available to and appropriate for all who work in the Capitol to help promote healing,” wrote Bennet and the senators.
They continued: “We thank [the Senate Employee Assistance Program] and [the House of Representatives Office of Employee Assistance] for responding to this crisis by rapidly scaling up their services and working relentlessly to ensure that Senate and House staff is aware of and understands the resources available to them. Nonetheless, needs are increasing, especially among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and we should expand these services to include all Capitol personnel, including contract workers and their families, who may be affected and need help. This would warrant further investment in the services and resources these offices provide.”
Following the attack on the Capitol, members of the Senate and House of Representatives returned to their respective chambers to finish certifying the results of the Electoral College. Janitorial crews also immediately returned to their duties to clean up the damage and vandalism. A member of the USCP, Brian Sicknick, died the day after the attack due to injuries sustained in the riot, and two other police officers have tragically died by suicide in the weeks following the attack. Additionally, congressional staff associations have raised concerns and are asking for answers and increased support services for themselves and other workers, highlighting the racial motivations behind the attack.
In addition to Bennet, Luján, and Klobuchar, the letter was signed by U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), and Robert Menendez (D-N.J.).
The text of the letter is available HERE and below.
Dear Mr. Blanton, Ms. Hemingway, Dr. Hayden, and Chief Pittman:
We write to thank you for the work you have done following the attack on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, and strongly urge you to provide additional support and resources to the Senate Employee Assistance Program (EAP), the House of Representatives Office of Employee Assistance (OEA), and other efforts to help the broader Capitol community cope with the attack. We additionally express our concerns regarding the procedures and policies in place to protect and support Members of Congress, their staff, and other essential workers, like contract staff, members of the press corps, and the U.S. Capitol Police (USCP) in the United States Capitol both during and after the traumatic event.
On January 6, 2021, the Capitol was overwhelmed by violent insurrectionists while the Senate and House were in session. We are grateful for the heroic actions taken by U.S. Capitol staff, including the USCP, congressional and non-congressional staff, and other supporting entities like the Secret Service, D.C. Metropolitan Police, and the soldiers of the National Guard. Many put themselves in harm’s way to protect us, our colleagues, and our staff. Following the attacks, non-congressional workers like contract janitorial staff had to return to work to clean up the disturbing aftermath of the incident. As we work toward accountability and governing after the attack, Congress must ensure that support services, including emotional and behavioral health services, and resources are available to and appropriate for all who work in the Capitol to help promote healing.
The United States Senate and the House of Representatives, through the EAP and OEA, respectively, assist Members, congressional staff, USCP, and their family members for personal and work-related problems, including emotional and behavioral support services. We thank EAP and OEA for responding to this crisis by rapidly scaling up their services and working relentlessly to ensure that Senate and House staff is aware of and understands the resources available to them. Nonetheless, needs are increasing, especially among Black, Indigenous, and People of Color, and we should expand these services to include all Capitol personnel, including contract workers and their families, who may be affected and need help. This would warrant further investment in the services and resources these offices provide.
Many of the Capitol’s essential workers and support staff are contract employees and many do not currently have access to support services through EAP. In some cases, access to these vital programs is tied to Title V, Sec. 2107, which does not classify contract workers as “congressional employees”. This stipulation is not mandatory and we would ask you to ensure that all workers in the U.S. Capitol, regardless of class or classification, and their families have access to these services, especially trauma counseling.
As Members of Congress, we strongly urge you to work with us, the Senate Rules Committee, the House Administration Committee, and the Senate and House Appropriations Committees to expand the services and resources you provide. This should include ensuring the following:
- Better information and protection for all U.S. Capitol workers in the event of future emergencies, including training, emergency planning, and coordination procedures;
- Sufficient staff and funding to respond to current and projected needs;
- Resources necessary to help non-congressional employees who may be affected such as members of the press-corps, food service contractors, military liaisons, and other contractors;
- Enhanced mental, emotional, and behavioral health resources, including crisis services, for USCP officers to address and cope with trauma;
- Availability of culturally competent services and resources for all employees, including those for whom English is a second language; and
- Additional reforms to make the OEA and EAP more accessible and available to all employees, contractors, support staff and their families.
Capitol workers and journalists investigate and ensure the health of the U.S. Capitol, the very heart of our democracy. Everyone must feel safe, supported and protected while fulfilling their duty within the halls of the United States Congress.