THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - August 20, 2021

Aug 22, 2021

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$160 million ok’d for PSS

The Public School System’s spending plan for the $160,074,578 we included for the Marianas in the American Rescue Plan has been approved, the U.S. Department of Education announced Wednesday. The federal funds will continue to protect the jobs of PSS teachers and staff in light of reduced local appropriations for education. Also, “the plan focuses on helping our schools address the lost instruction time through high dosage tutorials, socio-emotional counseling programs for students and staff, athletics and other programs that directly benefit student learning,” said Commissioner of Education Alfred Ada. And PSS will be expanding career education programs and Chamorro and Refaluwasch language classes using the American Rescue Plan money.

Child Tax Credit plan approved

Also approved this week: the Commonwealth’s plan for distributing to Marianas families the increased child tax credit that we included in the American Rescue Plan Act. The ARP increased the credit from $2,000 per child to $3,000 per child for children from age six through 17. For children under age six the credit went up from $2,000 to $3,600. Any family with two working parents and an annual income below $150,000 is eligible for the full credit. Single parents earning up to $112,500 are also eligible for the full credit. The U.S. Treasury Department did not share details of the Commonwealth’s plan with the congressional office, citing confidentiality; so we do not know how soon payments begin. We did amend the Rescue Plan during drafting to allow the Governor to pay out the credit in monthly payments of $250 or $300, depending on the age of the child, as is being done in the U.S. states. And we included $300,000 for the Commonwealth to cover the administrative cost of monthly payments. Especially now, at the start of school, when they are always extra expenses for parents, the increased child tax credit would be welcome.

100% federal COVID funding extended

No local match will be required for emergency protective measure grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency in response to COVID-19, President Biden announced Tuesday. This is a continuation of the 100 percent federal funding the President decided on earlier this year, which expires on September 30. The extension runs through December 31, 2021. Emergency protective measures include temporary medical facilities, specialized medical equipment, emergency medical transport and sheltering, food, water, medicine and other consumable supplies, such as personal protective equipment and hazard material suits. The President’s extension order will also allow the Marianas and other jurisdictions to receive 100 percent federal reimbursement retroactively for costs associated with the safe opening and operation of public facilities dating back to January 20, 2020.

Protecting the right to vote

When minority voters anywhere in America are marginalized, minority Americans everywhere--even in the Marianas--are hurt. There could be fewer minority representatives in Congress, if minority votes are suppressed; and the interests of minority people will receive accordingly less attention. That is one reason I am a cosponsor of H.R. 4, the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021, which the House will consider next week. Already this year, 18 states have enacted laws that restrict the right to vote and hundreds of anti-voter bills are under consideration in state legislatures nationwide. To learn more about the threats to our freedom to vote and how Congress can protect this precious right, read the recently released report of the Committee on House Administration, Voting in America: Ensuring Free and Fair Access to the Ballot.

$188k to protect natural resources

Two Commonwealth agencies are receiving Coral Reef and Natural Resources program grants totaling $188,450, the Office of Insular Affairs announced Monday. $113,290 has been awarded to the Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality’s Division of Coastal Resources Management to support multiple projects including the Eco-Tour Operator Best Practices Certification Program, Marine and Terrestrial 3D Model Library Collection, and Post Disturbance Environmental Change Assessments. The Department of Lands and Natural Resources will receive $75,160 for the Sabana Pandanus Forest Control and Native Trees Restoration Project. OIA also announced grant funding to support the National Coral Reef Management Fellowship Program which provides insular coral reef management agencies with qualified candidates to help meet each area’s specific needs, while providing fellows with professional experience in coastal and coral reef resources management.

VA: low enrollment limits services

The Department of Veterans Affairs has provided the report I requested in last year’s appropriation for the agency, explaining that low enrollment by Marianas veterans limits the investment the Department can make in our islands. Together with difficulties recruiting and retaining staff, the VA concluded a Community Based Outpatient Clinic is not feasible for the Marianas at this time. For many years, I have urged our veterans to enroll in VA healthcare, even if you do not have any disability or injury related to your service and even if you do not need care now. Let’s bring our numbers up. Enroll here!

School reopens: parents need leave

Congress provided in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that some employers must offer employees paid leave, when their childrens’ schools are closed because of the virus.

Volunteers needed at American Memorial Park; Day of Service set for Saturday, Aug. 27

Volunteers needed at American Memorial Park; Day of Service set for Saturday, Aug. 27. U.S. Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan and Park Superintendent Jim Richardson are inviting all Marianas residents to join the first “Day of Service” at American Memorial Park on Saipan this Saturday, August 27, from 7am to 11am.

Bill introduced to separate Guam/NMI US Attorney office

On August 16, 2011, I introduced legislation requiring that the U.S. Attorney and the U.S. Marshal, appointed for the Northern Mariana Islands, reside in the Northern Mariana Islands.

Grants:

Jobs:

 

Public Comments:

THIS WEEK

The House was in recess for the District Work Period.

NEXT WEEK

  • H.R. 4 - John R. Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2021
  • S. Con. Res. 14 - Setting forth the congressional budget for the US Government for FY22 & setting forth the appropriate budgetary levels for FYs '23 through '31
  • H.R. 3684 - Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act