THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - July 30, 2022

Jul 31, 2022

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Insular teachers award bill passes

One science or math teacher from the Marianas will be selected each year for a Presidential Award for Excellence under provisions of a bill I wrote that is now on its way to the President to sign into law. The selected Marianas teacher will receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation and will participate in expert-led training and collaboration opportunities in Washington. Currently, Marianas teachers must compete with teachers from American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands for the annual prize. My STEM Educator Awards Equity Act makes the Presidential Award available in each of these insular areas and was included in the CHIPS and Science Act, H.R. 4346, passed by the Senate on Wednesday and the House on Thursday. H.R. 4346 also establishes grants to expand access to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics education and encourage more students to pursue STEM-related careers. Read more about the CHIPS and Science Act here.

Expanding acces to Marianas WIC 

People in households served by the Marianas Nutrition Assistance Program will automatically be considered eligible for WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, if they meet the income and nutrition risk criteria for the program. I included the language, covering Marianas NAP recipients, during the drafting process for the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act, H.R. 8450, which reauthorizes WIC and which the Education and Labor Committee reported out on Wednesday. The reauthorization also expands WIC assistance to include children aged six, up from the current age five limit. The bill makes it easier to get WIC food assistance for children enrolled in Head Start and for households with Head Start students. And, as a further part of the effort to streamline food aid, H.R. 8450 requires WIC agencies to certify eligibility for two-year periods and to allow virtual recertification. No Republicans voted for the bill in committee.

Infant formula altenatives allowed 

WIC families in need of infant formula can continue to purchase non-contract options through September, the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Thursday. This flexibility, the Biden Administration's response to the formula shortage, allowed WIC participants to purchase alternate sizes, forms, or brands of formula. Generally, WIC state and territory agencies have contracts with one of three manufacturers to provide formula to WIC infants. When one of the manufacturers, Abott, recalled its formulas in February, an ensuing national formula shortage prompted Congress to pass the Access to Baby Formula Act (H.R. 7791), which I co-sponsored and which President Biden signed into law in May. That bill allows USDA to cover additional supply costs for state and territory agencies seek alternate formulas during a shortage.

Republicans block vets healthcare 

Senate Republicans filibustered a bill this week to help veterans exposed to burn pits and other toxins during their military service get needed healthcare. Forty-one Republican Senators, many who voted on June 16 to pass the Honoring our PACT Act, turned their backs on veterans this week and blocked passage of the trailblazing bill. The PACT Act presumes that certain cancers and other diseases later in life can be attributed to veterans’ toxic exposures in Iraq and Afghanistan. Otherwise, the burden of proof connecting disease to exposure falls on the individual veteran. As a member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, I have worked with my colleagues for many years to achieve passage of the PACT Act. Despite this week’s disappointment we will continue working together and with Veterans Service Organizations nationwide to make sure veterans can easily obtain the healthcare they need.

Insular areas need better data

Good policy depends on good data. That is why House Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) and the Delegates from the five U.S insular areas introduced legislation on Thursday to address gaps and disparities in how the federal government collects data in our districts. The Territories Statistics Collection Equity Act directs the Interagency Council on Statistical Policy to develop a plan to collect and publish statistics regarding the U.S. Territories in the same manner as states. With timely, accurate numbers on insular economies, employment, incomes, and the full range of data the federal government collects, policymakers at the federal and local level will make more informed decisions. They will be able to measure whether policies and programs are working – and so will the public we serve.

Working for environmental justice 

The Committee on Natural Resources met Wednesday to advance H.R. 2021, the Environmental Justice For All Act. The Marianas and other communities of color, with indigenous populations, or low-income economies often bear the brunt of climate change and other environmental hazards that harm human health, including greater exposure to polluted air and water. There has been an historic disinvestment in the insular areas and other “environmental justice” communities, making us more susceptible to climate change impacts and putting our people at greater health risk. I supported this bill that seeks to right that wrong and achieve environmental justice, health equity, and climate justice for all underserved communities. Provisions of the Environmental Justice For All Act include: requiring consideration of cumulative impacts of pollution; strengthening the National Environmental Policy Act; and amending the Civil Rights Act to allow private citizens to legally challenge discrimination – including environmental discrimination.

USCIS grace periods extended 

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced this week it is extending certain COVID-19-related flexibilities through Oct. 23, 2022. USCIS will consider a response received within 60 calendar days after the due date, if the request or notice was issued between March 1, 2020, and Oct. 23, 2022. The following requests or notices qualify for the grace period:

  • Requests for Evidence;
  • Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14);
  • Notices of Intent to Deny;
  • Notices of Intent to Revoke;
  • Notices of Intent to Rescind;
  • Notices of Intent to Terminate regional centers;
  • Notices of Intent to Withdraw Temporary Protected Status; and
  • Motions to Reopen an N-400 Pursuant to 8 CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.

In addition, the agency says, it will consider a Form I-290B, Notice of

Appeal or Motion, or a Form N-336, Request for a Hearing on a Decision in Naturalization Proceedings (Under Section 336 of the INA), if:

  • The form was filed up to 90 calendar days from the issuance of an agency decision; and

The decision was made between Nov. 1, 2021, and Oct. 23, 2022, inclusive.

Marianas in FY22 spending bills

The FY22 combined spending bill the House passed contains earmarks I requested for the Marianas and funding that specifically benefits our area.

Kilili’s new school funding formula kicks in $11.5M for the Marianas

Washington, D.C. – Marianas schools are getting $11.5 million in federal Title IA education funds this year, Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan has announced. The increase—$4.1 million more over last year—comes from the new funding formula for island schools that Congressman Sablan was able to include in the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015.

San Jose and C.K. to benefit from $80,000 in patrol car grants

Congressional office partnership with the CNMI Department of Public Safety is helping make residents of San Jose and Chalan Kanoa safer. The U.S. Department of Agriculture sent word this week that it has approved about $80,000 for two new police patrol cars for those villages.

Grants:

  • Regional Ocean Partnership and Data Sharing
  • Humanities Collections and Reference Resources
  • Energizing Insular Communities
  • FEMA Public Assistance for Safe Opening and Operating of Schools 
  • FEMA 2021 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program
  • Emergency Rural Health Care Funds
  • Indigenous Communities Program (EDA)

Jobs:

Public comments:

THIS WEEK

  • H.R. 6933 - Cost-Share Accountability Act of 2022 (passed 336-90)
  • H.R. 7361 - National Weather Service Communications Improvement Act (passed 336-90)

NEXT WEEK

The House is in Recess for the District Work Period.