THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - July 16, 2021

Jul 18, 2021

In this issue:

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$482m. agreed for Marianas Medicaid

Marianas Medicaid will receive $482,350,000 over the next eight years under terms of a bipartisan agreement approved by the Health Subcommittee of the Energy and Commerce Committee on Thursday. H.R. 4406 also sets the local match requirement for the Marianas at 17 percent, lower than for any state. I want to thank Frank Pallone, Jr., Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, and Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Ranking Member, who worked on their respective sides of the aisle to reach this agreement. Their deal extends through 2029 the two-year funding increase and 83/17 improved federal/local matching rates that we enacted in 2020 for the Marianas, American Samoa, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. H.R. 4406 also provides Puerto Rico with a five-year extension at a federal/local match of 76/24. “This would be the longest extension of increased Medicaid funding for the U.S. territories other than the extension we were able to provide in the Affordable Care Act,” Pallone said at Thursday’s mark-up, adding “I remain committed to a permanent funding solution for all of the territories.” As do I.

Forgiveness of CNMI $88.7m. loan

Language that would forgive the $88.7 million the Commonwealth borrowed from the federal government this year was added to the fiscal 2022 Homeland Security spending bill during Monday’s Appropriations Committee mark-up. Governor Torres asked me in May 2020 for a change in federal law that would allow him to get a Community Disaster Loan from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to fund Commonwealth government operations. I did include the necessary statutory change in the fiscal 2021 omnibus appropriation, Public Law 116-260, enacted in December. And the Governor quickly borrowed $88,734,930. Given how shaky our economy is right now, however, I do not want the people of the Marianas saddled with so much debt. So, I am working to make sure the debt is forgiven. This week’s action in Congress was a first step toward that goal.

PSS funding doubles in FY22 bill

Title I-A funding for the Marianas Public School System more than doubles in the fiscal year 2022 education spending bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee on Thursday. PSS would receive $26,954,000, according to the analysis provided me by the Congressional Research Service. That is a big jump from the $12,264,954 estimated for the current fiscal year. As Chair of the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education, I led a request signed by 89 other Members of Congress earlier this year, asking for $36.5 billion in Title I grants. I want to thank Appropriations Chair Rosa DeLauro and Ranking Member Tom Cole for agreeing to that request, which makes the increase for PSS possible. Also a factor is the change in the Title I funding allocation formula I obtained in 2015. That change in the law has produced more school funding for the Marianas ever since. My requests to appropriators to increase funding for special education, for Pell Grants, and for Head Start were also included in the FY22 appropriations. The bill raises special ed funding by $3.1 billion, increases the maximum Pell grant award to $6,895, and adds $1.4 billion for Head Start.

Helping survivors, students, older workers

The Education and Labor Committee held a mark-up on Thursday, advancing four bills I cosponsored that support domestic violence survivors, students, and older workers. H.R. 2119 reauthorizes critical services, including shelters, support services for survivors and increases formula grant funding for the Marianas. H.R. 3992 ensures older job applicants can seek legal recourse for age-based discrimination in hiring. provides older workers protections against age discrimination in the work place. The Strength in Diversity Act helps schools study segregation, evaluate current policies, and develop evidence-based plans to address socioeconomic and racial isolation. And the Equity and Inclusion Enforcement Act guarantees students and parents have the ability to file suit to address racial inequities in public education and ensures that there is an assigned person at their school dedicated to investigating complaints of discrimination based on race, color or national origin. All four bills now go to the full House for consideration. 

More Marianas earmarks in FY22

The House Appropriations Committee added six more of my requests for Marianas community projects—worth $2,253,000—to fiscal 2022 spending bills on Monday. This brings total funding for my earmarks to $4,577,533. Three of the new projects are for the Public School System, including $150,000 for school libraries and a district-wide e-book library. Another $350,000 will update the successful language and cultural heritage immersion program of Kagman Elementary School and expand it to all nine public elementary schools. Student health would benefit from $150,000 for PSS to collect body mass index data school-wide and use that information to encourage young people to stay physically active into adulthood. Also added to FY22 spending is $1,250,000 I requested to renovate and modernize Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation laboratory facilities to meet national standards. For the Commonwealth Judiciary there is $303,000 to determine the viability of a Mental Health Treatment Court with a specific docket for Veterans. And Karidat would receive $50,000 to install a generator to ensure the shelter for victims of domestic violence has power during natural disasters. Thanks to all these organizations for helping their congressional office put together successful proposals for congressional spending.

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!

Climate bills advanced

The Natural Resources Committee favorably reported 14 bills in a lengthy mark-up Wednesday. Republican Members were unsuccessful in their attempts to block two climate measures – the Insular Area Climate Change Act and the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act. They also tried to weaken the bills by offering many amendments favorable to the oil and gas industries. The Insular Area Climate Change Act would provide broad financial and technical support to prepare the U.S. Territories and Freely Associated States for the negative effects of climate change. The Oceans-Based Climate Solutions Act integrates evidence-based approaches to address climate change, including protecting our ocean and coastal communities, promoting sustainable job opportunities, and supporting offshore renewable energy. The Northern Marianas and other insular areas are experiencing unprecedented sea level rise, coastal erosion, and increasing storm impacts that threaten lives, critical infrastructure, ecosystems, and livelihood security. We must act now to mitigate and prepare for the serious impacts of climate change.

SNAP Benefits Cliff

The House Agriculture Committee, Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations held a hearing on Monday to discuss the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits Cliff. While SNAP is a flexible program, states that opt to not use the Broad Based Categorical Eligibility, which allows recipients to save for the future, incentives work without losing benefits, and reduces administrative burdens for states and participants. Getting the Marianas into SNAP is my top Priority on the Agriculture Committee, and the Benefits Cliff will continue to be a point of advocacy in my role on the Agriculture Committee.

More money for vets cemeteries

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and other veterans organizations are backing my bill to increase federal funding for the maintenance of veterans cemeteries in Marpi and nationwide.

Kilili bill backs 902 team immigration goals

Keeping the promise I made to Governor Ralph Torres, I introduced legislation, H.R. 5888, that reflects the immigration policy proposals presented by the Governor and his team of negotiators in Section 902 consultations with the White House in June.

At immigration hearing: DHS reveals back-up plan, if no workers regs by November

Among the many questions the Department of Homeland Security had to answer this week was what it plans to do if CNMI-only worker regulations are not in place by the end of the immigration transition period.

OPPORTUNITIES

Grants:

Jobs:

Public Comments:

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

The House was in recess next week for the Committee Work Week

 

NEXT WEEK

  • H.R. 3119 - Energy Emergency Leadership Act
  • H.R. 826 - Divided Families Reunification Act
  • H.R. 3138 - State and Local Cybersecurity Improvement Act
  • H.R. 1893 - Transportation Security Preparedness Act of 2021
  • H.R. 2668 - Consumer Protection and Recovery Act