THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - February 26, 2016

Feb 29, 2016

In this issue:

  • Puerto Rico crisis a chance to improve Medicaid, EITC
  • Obama Zika plan includes $471 m. in insular relief
  • Opportunities - Federal grants, jobs for/in the Marianas
  • Highlights in the legislative program

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Puerto Rico crisis a chance to improve Medicaid, EITC.

A hearing that brought Treasury Department officials to the Hill on Thursday to help develop a legislative response to Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis was also an opportunity for me to promote reforms in how insular areas are treated under Medicaid and expansion of the earned income tax credit. Read my statement here. Treasury proposed last fall and the President’s fiscal 2017 included funds for lifting the cap on Medicaid payments to the insular areas and moving towards the same federal/local cost-share as states enjoy. The President also proposed extending the earned income tax credit to Puerto Rico—though not to the Northern Marianas and the other insular areas, as my legislation, H.R. 4309, would do. The EITC is a direct payment to low-income families with a working parent. Unlike traditional welfare, the EITC rewards employment and could bring U.S. citizens into the workforce in the NMI, helping with our labor shortage. But the program is too expensive for the Commonwealth government to pay for. My bill requires a cover over to the CNMI from the U.S. Treasury, similar to the way the Child Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit now work. Puerto Rico is already defaulting on some $70 billion in debt it took on and Speaker Ryan has set a deadline of March 31 for legislation to address the fiscal crisis. This crisis could be an opportunity for the other islands, as well.

Obama Zika plan includes $471 m. in insualr relief.

In a letter to Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on Monday, President Barack Obama proposed emergency spending to deal with the spread of the Zika virus, including $246 million for Medicaid in the U.S. insular areas. Zika is transmitted by mosquito bite and cases have already been reported in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. Infection of pregnant women is associated with microcephaly, a birth defect, and some deaths have been reported. We should be grateful we have not yet seen a case of Zika in the Northern Mariana Islands. But tropical areas, such as our islands, are at risk. So, the President recommended lifting the federal share of Medicaid for insular areas from the current 55 percent to 65 percent for one year at a cost of $246 million. He also wants another $225 million set aside for grants and technical assistance to insular areas, where the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry the virus can thrive. All are proposals I support.

Opportunities - Federal grants, jobs for and in the Marianas:

Grants:

  • Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program – BJA is accepting applications for financial and technical assistance to develop and implement drug courts that effectively integrate evidenced-based substance abuse treatment, mandatory drug testing, sanctions and incentives, and transitional services in a judicially supervised court setting with jurisdiction over substance-abusing offenders. Current closing date is April 19, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281717.
  • Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-Serving Institutions Program – The AANAPISI Program provides grants to eligible institutions of higher education (IHEs) that have an undergraduate enrollment of at least 10 percent Asian American or Native American Pacific Islander students to allow such institutions to plan, develop, undertake, and carry out activities to improve and expand their capacity to serve Asian Americans and Native American Pacific Islanders and low-income individuals. Current closing date is April 22, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281701.
  • Rural Energy for America Program Renewable Energy Systems & Energy Efficiency Improvement – The purpose of this grant is to provide guaranteed loan financing and grant funding to agricultural producers and rural small businesses to purchase or install renewable energy systems or make energy efficiency improvements. Current closing date is May 2, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/rural-energy-america-program-renewable-energy-systems-energy-efficiency.
  • Clean Diesel National Grant – The program is soliciting proposals nationwide for projects that achieve significant reductions in diesel emissions in terms of tons of pollution produced by diesel engines and diesel emissions exposure, particularly from fleets operating in areas designated by the Administrator as poor air quality areas. Current closing date is April 26, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.epa.gov/cleandiesel/clean-diesel-national-grants.
  • TIGER Grant Program – U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx has announced $500 million will be made available for transportation projects across the country under an eighth round of Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) competitive grant program. Current closing date isApril 29, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.transportation.gov/TIGER.
  • National Significant Freight and Highway Projects (NSFHP) Grant Program– The NSFHP Grant Program, which the Department of Transportation will refer to as the Fostering Advancements in Shipping and Transportation for the Long-Term Achievement of National Efficiencies (FASTLANE) grants, includes $800 million in funding to address many of the challenges outlined in the Department’s Beyond Traffic report and draft National Freight Strategic Plan. Applications for FY 2016 are due on April 14, 2016. The Notice of Funding Opportunity can be found at: https://www.transportation.gov/FASTLANEgrants.
  • Community Facilities Direct Loan and Grant – Small matching grants, between $5,000 and $25,000, available from USDA Rural Development in support of non-profit schools, day cares, fire protection, public safety, medical facilities and other rural community-based initiatives. Grants can be used to purchase items such as equipment, furniture, computers, appliances, and vehicles. For more information, go to https://www.rd.usda.gov/programs-services/community-facilities-direct-loan-grant-program/hi.

Jobs:

  • Aircraft Pilot – The Army National Guard Unit is accepting applications for an Aircraft Pilot in Guam. The position is located in the office of the State Army Aviation Office and serves as the primary staff officer for the management of aircrew standardization and training programs, among other related duties. Position is open until March 21, 2016. For more information, go tohttps://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/430281900/.
  • Administrative Assistant – The Army National Guard Unit is accepting applications for an Administrative Assistant in Guam. The purpose of this position is to provide technical and administrative assistance for programs within the United States Property and Fiscal Officer’s area of responsibility. Position is open until March 17, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/429972600/.
  • Emergency Medical Technician/Paramedic – The Air Force Personnel Center is accepting applications for an EMT/Paramedic. Incumbent will provide initial care, respond to accidents, and perform basic emergency treatment, among other related duties. Position is open until April 30, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/430025700/.
Highlights in the Legislative Program

THIS WEEK:

On the floor

  • S.2109 – Directing Dollars to Disaster Relief Act of 2015 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.3584 – Transportation Security Administration Reform and Improvement Act of 2015 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.4408 – National Strategy to Combat Terrorist Travel Act of 2016 (Passed, 392-0)
  • H.R.4398 – DHS Acquisition Documentation Integrity Act of 2016 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.4402 – Foreign Fighter Review Act of 2016 (Passed, 397-0)
  • H.R.3624 – Fraudulent Joinder Prevention Act of 2016 (Passed, 229-189)
  • H.R.2406 – Sportsmen Heritage and Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act (Passed, 242-161)

NEXT WEEK:

On the floor

  • H.R.4238 – To amend the Department of Energy Organization Act and the Local Public Works Capital Development and Investment Act of 1976 to modernize terms relating to minorities
  • H.R.4583 – To promote a 21st century energy and manufacturing workforce
  • H.R.4401 – Amplifying Local Efforts to Root out Terror Act of 2016
  • H.R.1471 – FEMA Disaster Assistance Reform Act of 2015
  • S.1172 – Edward “Ted” Kaufman and Michael Leavitt Presidential Transitions Improvements Act of 2015
  • S.1580 – Competitive Service Act of 2015
  • H.R.3716 – Ensuring Terminated Providers are Removed from Medicaid and CHIP Act
  • H.R.4557 – Blocking Regulatory Interference from Closing Kilns Act of 2016

Committee Hearings

March 1

  • Committee on Natural Resources Oversight Hearing on “Examining the Department of the Interior’s Spending Priorities and the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget Proposal”
  • Subcommittee on Water, Power and Oceans Legislative Hearing on H.R.4576 - Ensuring Access to Pacific Fisheries Act