THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - August 30, 2019

Sep 3, 2019

8,109 workers okayed, in JVA

Why temporary labor certifications?

$30.8m paid from Medicaid disaster

Promoting indigenous STEM

Protecting apprenticeship programs

$1.1m for coastal management

DHS ends parole for Russia

Opportunities

Legislative highlights

8,109 workers okayed, in JVA

Temporary labor certifications have been approved for 2,443 CW workers; and another 5,666 job vacancy announcements are active, according to the U.S. Department of Labor team I met with. Although Congress is in recess until September 9, I returned early to Washington to get the update, because Marianas businesses are worried the new certification, required before they can apply for FY20 CW permits, is not moving quickly enough. Labor officials told me the average time from start to finish is 52 days. It takes 11 days to get a prevailing wage determination. It takes another 41 days for the temporary labor certification. The 41 days includes the 21-day job vacancy announcement, or JVA, period. The Labor Department opened applications on April 4; and the entire process can be conducted online, so mail delays are not a factor. Labor said few Marianas businesses applied initially. A prevailing wage survey the Governor is required to produce under terms of the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act, enacted in July 2018, was not finished until July of this year.

 

Why temporary labor certifications?

In multiple listening sessions in 2017, as I prepared to write the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act, constituents told me they were being pushed out of jobs by foreign workers. So, I included in the law a new requirement for Marianas businesses that want to hire CW workers: businesses must first obtain a temporary labor certification from the U.S. Department of Labor. This ensures a U.S. citizen, green card holder, or citizen of one of the Freely Associated States, who is able, willing, qualified, and available for a job in the Marianas, gets hired first—before a non-U.S. worker with a CW permit. Certification also ensures U.S. worker pay is not pulled down by cheaper foreign labor. Although new for CW applications, the temporary labor certification is already a requirement for H-2B and other foreign worker visas nationwide. The TLC requirement was part of the original U.S. Workforce Act legislation that I introduced in the House and Senator Lisa Murkowski introduced in the Senate last year. No objection was raised from the business community or the Commonwealth government. The U.S. Workforce Act increased the number of CW permits from 5,000 to 13,000 last year and extended the program until 2029.

$30.8m paid from Medicaid disaster

The Commonwealth Healthcare Center and dozens of Marianas medical providers have received over $30.8 million to date from the $36 million in included for our Mediciad program in the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, Public Law 116-20, in June. The disaster Medicaid funding requires no local match. Congratulations to our local Medicaid office for getting the funds spent promptly.

Promoting indigenous STEM

The Indigenous STEM Professional Development Act, which I introduced today, will help grow our Marianas workforce by expanding opportunities for Chamorro and Refaluwasch students to earn degrees in science, engineering, technology and math (STEM). Based on a successful model pioneered in Alaska my bill promotes incorporation of indigenous language and culture in STEM instruction, along with intensive academic support, and hands-on learning for students from middle school through graduate school. The legislation authorizes up to $5 million annually in grants to partners, such as Northern Marianas College and PSS, with large indigenous student populations. The Marianas economy can only benefit from having more homegrown STEM graduates entering these rewarding and high-paying careers.

Protecting Apprenticeship Programs

Education and Labor Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA), Education Appropriations Subcommittee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), and I wrote to the Department of Labor, Office of Policy Development and Research Administrator Adele Gagliardi, in strong opposition to a proposed rule that would violate the law. The administration is seeking to establish an alternative apprenticeship program that lacks many of the protections and program training guarantees afforded to apprentices; changes that would also violate many requirements established under the National Apprenticeship Act.

$1.1m for coastal management

The Commonwealth’s Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality, Division of Coastal Resources Management, is receiving $1,111,000 in annual National Coastal Zone Management Program formula funding, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced. The grant funds support salaries and BECQ’s federally approved coastal management program focusing on coastal hazards, public access and recreation, and coastal community development. Projects include establishing a model for sustainable tourism at popular tourist sites and the development of new sea level rise models and coastal flooding maps for Tinian and Rota to increase storm resiliency. Congratulations to BECQ.

DHS ends parole for Russia

On Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security notified me that it will terminate the parole policy that allows Russian nationals visa-free entry into the Marianas and Guam. In 2009, former Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano authorized parole on a case-by-case basis, for Chinese and Russian visitors because they represented 20 percent of tourist dollars. This was consistent with the intent of Public Law 110-229 to reduce adverse economic effects resulting from the transition to federal immigration law. The decision to end parole for Russia resulted from President Trump’s Executive Order 13767, which directed the Homeland Security Secretary to ensure parole authority is exercised according to the plain language of the statue and for urgent humanitarian reasons. Upon review, the Secretary determined the policy does not meet that standard. The official Federal Register notice will be published September 3, 2019 and takes effect 30 days after. A public inspection copy is available here. The Marianas parole policy for Chinese nationals remains in effect.

OPPORTUNITIES

Jobs:

Public comment:

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK AND NEXT WEEK

The House is in recess for the District Work Period.