THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - April 16, 2020

Apr 18, 2021

In this issue:  

·     Vaccine update

·     $497k to speed unemployment

·     Marianas gets $36.2m for childcare

·     $1.9m more for NMC disaster recovery

·     SNAP: #1 priority in Ag Committee

·     Keeping close eye on minimum wage

·     National veterans advocacy needed

·     Calling young artists

·     Kilili Time Capsule

·     Opportunities

·     Legislative highlights

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$497k to speed unemployment

The Commonwealth Department of Labor is getting $497,248 to speed up payments of unemployment assistance and develop an unemployment insurance program for the Marianas. Congress set aside the money for the insular areas in the CARES Act in March 2020; and the U.S. Interior Department announced the award.

When we passed the CARES Act, we made unemployment assistance available to workers in the Marianas for the first time. Since then, over $350 million has been paid out to Marianas workers, whose jobs were affected by the coronavirus pandemic. But delays in payment have made life hard for many families.

In a letter of support for the grant, Governor Ralph Torres said the money would also be used to renovate the overcrowded building, where unemployment assistance is managed, and improve conditions for staff working outdoors, who are subject to “heat exhaustion and inclement weather, technical complications or limitations, and other threats.” Congratulations to the Department of Labor.

Marianas gets $36.2m for childcare 

Child care in the Marianas will receive $36,220,162 in American Rescue Plan Act funding, the Biden administration announced yesterday. The money will help child care providers stay open safely, keeping their employees on payroll and helping hardworking families with young children cover the cost of this essential service.

As Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, making sure pre-school-age children have a safe environment, while parents are at work, is one of my primary concerns. The Rescue Plan money for the Marianas comes from two sources.

The Child Care Stabilization Fund supplies $22,282,113 to help providers in the Marianas reopen or stay open, maintain safe and healthy learning environments, keep workers on payroll, and get mental health support, as needed, to educators and children. Another $13,934,049 is supplied through the Child Care Development Fund.

This money may be used by the Commonwealth government to subsidize child care for families that need help, increase compensation for early childhood workers, and meet other care needs in the Marianas.

$1.9m more for NMC disaster recovery

Northern Marianas College was awarded a Public Assistance Grant of $1,931,365.30, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced Wednesday. Funds are for management costs as a direct result of Super Typhoon Yutu.

Because of President Biden’s decision to reverse President’s Trump refusal to waive the local match for FEMA funding, NMC will not have to match this week’s grant with any of its own funds. To date, NMC has received $35,247,465.15 from the federal government for Yutu recovery.

Keeping close eye on minimum wage

Today, I introduced H.R. 2602, the Northern Mariana Islands Wage and Economic Stability Act, to protect the Marianas from wage increases our economy cannot absorb. Unlike the rest of the nation, where the minimum wage has been static since 2008 and is due for an increase, the minimum in the Marianas has more than doubled since then to reach the federal level of $7.25/hr.

This increase benefited thousands of Marianas families and encouraged more U.S. workers to join the workforce. But I had to manage it legislatively year-by-year based on economic analysis from the Government Accountability Office.

That strategy was successful. Wages doubled without job loss. In fact, more jobs than ever began to pay more than minimum wage. I continue to support raising workers wages, as long as we do so with a close eye on economic conditions in our islands.

If the national minimum is increased, my new bill will provide Congress with the necessary analytical tools and the time to fit that increase to conditions in the Marianas.

OPPORTUNITIES

Grants:

·     Energizing Insular Communities

·     Emergency Management Performance Grant

·     American Rescue Plan: Humanities Organizations

·     American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking

·     Pandemic Assistance for Producers Initiative (USDA-FSA Cooperative Agreement )

·     Distance Learning and Telemedicine

Jobs:

·     Soil Conservationist

Public Comments:

·     Flexible-use license auction procedures

·     Prevailing wage info

·     Guam-CNMI Visa Waiver Program

·     Critical habitat for coral 

·     2022 Census of Agriculture

·     Extension of Child Care report 

·     Water Quality Standards info

·     Wetland indicator status ratings

·     Marine mammal research

·    Geographic overlay licenses 

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

  • H.R. 7 - Paycheck Fairness Act (passed, 217-210)
  • H.R. 1195 - Workplace Violence Prevention for Health Care and Social Service Workers Act (passed, 254-166)

NEXT WEEK

·     H.R. 1996 - SAFE Banking Act of 2021

·     H.R. 473 - Trusted Traveler Reconsideration and Restoration Act of 2021

·     H.R. 1251 - Cyber Diplomacy Act

·     H.R. 1083 - Southeast Asia Strategy Act