THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - April 29,2022

May 2, 2022

__________________________________________________________

New help for Veterans' caregivers

Marianas families caring for a disabled veteran may now apply for help—including a monthly stipend—from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. The Program of Comprehensive Assistance for Family Caregivers can also cover travel costs for caregivers, provide health insurance for them, and offers caregiver training. Your congressional office has been working to make the program available in the Marianas since veterans began reporting earlier this year their applications were being rejected because, the Department said, the Marianas were not part of the United States. As a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, I immediately let the Department know they were making a terrible mistake and injuring men and women who had put their lives on the line for America. I want to thank everyone at the Department who responded to the error by contacting Marianas veterans who had been initially rejected and by officially extending the caregivers program this week to families in the Marianas who need help in caring for a disabled veteran. To qualify a veteran must have incurred or aggravated a serious injury in the line of duty on or before May 7, 1975, or on or after September 11, 2001, and have a service-connected disability rating of 70% or more. Additional information on eligibility and how to apply can be found on the VA’s website. Veterans may also contact their congressional office on Saipan, Tinian, or Rota for assistance.

Teachers speak up for teachers

Dr. Riya Nathrani and her teacher of the year counterparts from Guam and the Virgin Islands spoke with Marianas congressional staff Thursday about issues of concern to island educators, including how they will be paid when American Rescue Plan funds are exhausted. Most of the Marianas’ $160 million in ARP school funding is going to personnel: $83m for salaries, $13m for fringe benefits, and $10m for pay differential and overtime. Dr. Nathrani teaches at Hopwood Middle School and hopes to see FEMA funds that were allocated to rebuild classrooms there destroyed by Super Typhoon Yutu used soon. Staff briefed the teachers on my just-completed FY23 funding requests to the House Appropriations Committee, including more earmarks for school projects and doubling funding for the annual Title I grant that helps pay PSS teachers and school staff. Thank you all for visiting and for your work educating our island children.

More fruit added to school menus

Fruit smoothies are now on the breakfast menu at Tinian, Rota, and Saipan high schools thanks to a $199,920 provided through the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, U.S. Public Law 111-296, which I co-sponsored my freshman year in Congress. The Marianas Public School System used the funds to purchase the equipment and supplies needed to offer fruit smoothies, encouraging more students to make a nutritious breakfast part of their morning routine. Beginning next week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports, fruit smoothies will also be available at all five public middle schools in the Marianas.

$60m for Marianas food aid, what's next?

Following up on the $30 million set-aside for the Marianas Nutrition Assistance Program I added to the American Rescue Plan and another $30 million we put in the FY22 appropriations law, I asked Agriculture Deputy Undersecretary Stacy Dean at a hearing Thursday what additional steps the Department is taking to ensure my constituents in the Marianas in need of food will get the same help other Americans receive. The $60 million I have gotten for NAP over the last 14 months has meant about 2,000 more individuals in the Marianas are eligible for assistance and benefits are up 23 percent, on par with the national Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Getting the Marianas fully into SNAP, however, remains a top priority for me as a member of the Agriculture Committee. Listen to my exchange with DUS Dean here.

Small business support on the way

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Treasury announced plans to deploy funds from the State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) to support small business across the country, including in the U.S. territories. Qualifying underserved entrepreneurs and very small businesses with fewer than ten employees will receive these funds. According to the Treasury, the Marianas has been awarded $468,670 in technical assistance, which will support small businesses in their legal, accounting, and financial services. More information about the funds can be found in SSBCI’s guidelines.

Rescue Plan for restaurants begins

Restaurants in the Marianas will be able to apply for direct relief through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund beginning Monday, May 3, at 12:00 p.m. ET. You can register to apply now.

Senate holds hearing on CW bill

The Marianas Economic Expansion Act, H.R. 339, got a hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. My bill has already passed the House twice, and now needs Senate approval. H.R. 339 lifts the cap on Commonwealth-Only Transition (CW) workers from 12,998 to 15,000 for fiscal 2017 only. This helps the hospital, private clinics, and local businesses that cannot get CW permits because so many have been taken for temporary construction workers.

Republicans vote to cut territory Medicaid — NMI would lose $100 m.; local match would rise

Republicans on the House Energy and Commerce Committee voted today to take away about $100 million in Medicaid funding from the Northern Mariana Islands and increase the NMI’s local match by 11%.  The Republican legislation strips Medicaid funding from all the U.S. territories that they won in health care reform - Obamacare - when Democrats led Congress in 2010.

Grants:

Jobs/Internships:

Public Comments:

THIS WEEK

  • H.R. 3525 – Commission to Study the Potential Creation of a National Museum of Asian Pacific American History and Culture Act (passed, voice vote)
  • H.R. 6445 – Small Business Development Centers Improvement Act (passed, voice vote)
  • H.R. 5796 – Patents for Humanity Act (passed, voice vote)

NEXT WEEK

The House is in recess for the District Work Period.