THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - January 11, 2013

Jan 11, 2013

In this issue:

  • Panetta asked to speed territorial flag display
  • Child care eligibility eased in light of new minimum wage
  • Navy wants public comment on MIRC environmental assessment
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security
  • Opportunities - Federal contracts, grants, and jobs for and in the Marianas
  • Highlights in the Legislative Program

Panetta asked to speed territorial flag display.

Delegates from the District of Columbia and US territories and the Resident Commissioner from Puerto Rico want Defense Secretary Leon Panetta to quickly implement my flag display amendment that was included in the FY13 National Defense Authorization Act. We wrote to the Secretary this week, calling his attention to the new requirement that the flags of the areas we represent be on display at military installations and events alongside the flags of the 50 states. We asked for regulations to put the rule into effect promptly. President Obama signed the NDAA, Public Law 112-239, on January 2. Residents of non-state areas have served in the military throughout our Nation’s history. 18 service men and women from the Northern Marianas paid the ultimate price during the most recent conflicts in the Middle East. Displaying the flags of the District of Columbia and the US territories, alongside the flags of the states, serves as a recognition of that contribution and sacrifice. And thanks to my amendment our brave military personnel will no longer face the embarrassment of having the Commonwealth flag missing from welcome-home ceremonies, graduations, and other events. 

Child care eligibility eased in light of new minimum wage.

Some Northern Marianas parents will be eligible for federally-funded child care assistance again, despite their increased family income from the new minimum wage of $5.55. The US Department of Health and Human Services notified your congressional office this week that the income level for eligibility has been raised to $1,921 for a family of four. Previously, the threshhold was $1,838 per month; and some families lost the child care help after the minimum wage increase on October 1 lifted their income. Day care is expensive. Families earning minimum wage already find it hard to meet the high costs of gas, electricity, food, and other essentials. So it was important to get the eligibility standards adjusted. The Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands successfully submitted the program amendment that HHS has now approved. The Child Care and Development grant program provides subsidies to assist low-income families in obtaining child care so that parents can work or participate in education or training activities. In fiscal year 2012, the Northern Mariana Islands program received $1.9 million. 

Navy wants public comment on MIRC environmental assessment.

The Department of the Navy is soliciting input on the Draft Environmental Assessment/Overseas Environmental Assessment for the Mariana Islands Range Complex Airspace. The assessment looks at the potential environmental impacts of changes to the Navy’s plans for the existing training airspace, as well as the expansion of the restricted sea space around Farallon de Medinilla. A public open house information session will be held on Thursday, January 17, 2013, at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center in Susupe from 5 to 8 pm during which Navy representatives will staff poster sessions and answer questions about the project. The public is encouraged to provide written and/or verbal comments on the environmental issues analyzed in the draft EA/OEA at the information session or any time during the public comment period which closes on February 4, 2013. For more information on the project, to view the draft EA/OEA or to submit comments, please visit www.mircairspaceea.com.

Frequently Asked Questions about Social Security:

Now that CNMI government employees are covered by Social Security, questions may come up periodically about the ins and outs of the system. We’ll try to provide answers here. This week’s question: 

Can you confirm that the Social Security contribution rate has increased beginning January 1, 2013?

Yes, the rate went up from 4.2 percent to 6.2 percent. Congress authorized a reduced 4.2 percent Social Security contribution rate for employees in December 2010 in the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act (P.L. 111-312). The reduction was a response to the recession and intended to stimulate the economy by giving workers more take-home pay. The reduction was extended by the Temporary Payroll Tax Cut Continuation Act of 2011 (P.L. 112-78) and again, through the end of 2012, by the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act (P.L. 112-96). Because no further extension has been enacted the Social Security contribution rolls back to 6.2 percent effective January 1, 2013. While the temporary reduction may have had a positive impact on the economy, it also meant that US taxpayers will have to replace $224 billion in lost revenue to the Social Security trust fund. For more information, go to http://sablan.house.gov/sites/sablan.house.gov/files/assets/IRS%20FICA%20notice%202013.pdf

Please let us know if you have a question about Social Security. 

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

Grants:

  • Connecting Kids to Coverage Outreach and Enrollment – Connecting Kids to Coverage Outreach and Enrollment (Cycle III) grants will support outreach strategies and activities designed to help families understand new application procedures and health coverage opportunities, including Medicaid, CHIP and insurance affordability programs under the Affordable Care Act. Closing date is February 21, 2013. For more information, go to Grants.gov
  • Projects of Special Merit Competition – The intent of Projects of Special Merit funding is to offer coastal management programs the opportunity to develop innovative projects that further their approved enhancement area strategies and focus on national priorities. Closing date is February 15, 2013. For more information, go to Grants.gov.
  • Statewide Family Network Program – The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Center for Mental Health Services is accepting applications for the Statewide Family Network Program grants. The purpose of this program is to enhance state capacity and infrastructure to be more oriented to the needs of children and adolescents with serious emotional disturbances and their families. These grants will provide information, referrals, and support to families who have a child with a serious emotional disturbance and create a method for families to participate in mental health services planning and policy development. Closing date is March 7, 2013. For more information, go to Grants.gov
  • RSAT Training and Technical Assistance Program – The Residential Substance Abuse Treatment for State Prisoners Training and Technical Assistance Program is designed to assist states, tribes, and units of local government in the provision of residential substance abuse treatment services for incarcerated inmates; prepare offenders for their reintegration into communities by incorporating reentry planning activities into treatment programs and assist offenders and their communities in the reentry process through the delivery of community-based treatment and other broad-based aftercare services. Closing date is March 11, 2013. For more information, go to https://www.bja.gov/Funding/13RSATTTAsol.pdf.
  • Second Chance Act Technology Career Training Program – The goal of this program is to increase the post-release employability of offenders in related technology-based jobs and career fields. The objective of the program is to establish and provide technology career training programs for incarcerated adults and juveniles during the 6-18 month period before release from a prison, jail, or juvenile facility. Closing date is March 11, 2013. For more information, go to https://www.bja.gov/Funding/13SCATechCareersSol.pdf.
  • Nursing Workforce Diversity Program – The Division of Nursing NWD program grants are awarded to increase nursing education opportunities for individuals who are from disadvantaged backgrounds by providing student scholarships or stipends for diploma or associate degree nurses to enter a bridge or degree completion program; and student scholarships or stipends for accelerated nursing degree programs, pre-entry preparation, advanced education preparation, and retention activities. Closing date is March 8, 2013. For more information, go to Grants.gov.
  • Education, Training and Enhanced Services to End Violence Against and Abuse of Women with Disabilities – The goal of the Office on Violence Against Women Disability Grant Program is to create sustainable change within and between organizations that result in accessible, safe and effective services for individuals with disabilities and Deaf individuals who are victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking and accountability for perpetrators of such crimes. Closing date is February 26, 2013. For more information, go to http://www.ovw.usdoj.gov/docs/disability-grant-prog-fy13.pdf

Jobs: 

  • Educational Aid – The Department of Defense Education Activity is accepting applications for Educational Aids in Guam. Incumbents prepare instructional materials related to class lessons; prepare letters, tests, schedules, purchase orders, and other documents; collect resources to support the educational lessons; monitors and assist students. Job position is open until December 31, 2013. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/335117800.
  • Monitor – The Department of Defense Education Activity is accepting applications for DOD School Monitors in Guam. Incumbents must be able to assist in monitoring duties such as identifying and reporting known or suspected problems, issues or concerns to the appropriate faculty member and enforce safety rules on all grounds. Job position is open until December 31, 2012. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/335117500
  • Office Automation Assistant – The Department of Defense Education Activity is accepting applications for Office Automation Assistants in Guam. In this position, incumbent will perform various office automation duties in support of school administration, operate equipment and devices to process a variety of applications programs, and other office duties. Job position is open until December 31, 2013. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/335117600.
  • Office Automation Clerk - The Department of Defense Education Activity is accepting applications for Office Automation Clerks in Guam. In this position, incumbent will perform general office clerical and office automation duties, including word processing, and a variety of clerical functions in support of the school to which assigned. Job position is open until December 31, 2013. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/ViewDetails/335118000.

HIGHLIGHTS IN THE LEGISLATIVE PROGRAM

THIS WEEK

The House is in recess for the district work period

NEXT WEEK

On the floor

H.R.___ –  The Sandy Recovery Improvement Act of 2013

Reading of the Constitution of the United States by Members of the House of Representatives

H.R. 152 – Disaster Relief Appropriations Act, 2013