THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - June 11, 2021

Jun 13, 2021

In this issue:

·     Rescue Plan: 132 housing vouchers

·     $18.6m in Marianas Transpo Earmarks

·     Locking in 1.5% sewer set-aside

·     Walsh Commits to PUA/FPUC oversight

·     Shark fin ban passes Senate

·     Protecting the health of our oceans

·     Award equity for Marianas teachers

·     Supporting NMC students and staff

·     Kagman High School visit

·     $699K to CHCC for health equity

·     Medicare virtual fair 6/23 

·     FEMA funeral aid to Marianas

·     More help for vets on-island

·     Pressing VA Secretary for services

·     Listening to our veterans

·     Virtual benefits workshop for veterans

·     Wage, immigration top SHRM concerns

·     Chris Lukas, new D.C. intern

·     Tell your story

·     Kilili Time Capsule

·     Opportunities

·     Legislative highlights

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Rescue Plan: 132 housing vouchers

One hundred thirty-two emergency housing vouchers from the American Rescue Plan have been allocated to help individuals and families in the Marianas, who are homeless or at risk, move into safe, stable homes. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development made the announcement Thursday. Issuance of the emergency housing vouchers will be the responsibility of the Northern Marianas Housing Corporation. The Rescue Plan covers both the cost of the vouchers and the related administrative costs, including up-front costs to stand up the program for an initial 18-month period. HUD will continue to cover the cost of the vouchers in 12-month increments through September 30, 2030 or until the $5 billion Rescue Plan funding runs out, whichever comes first. Read more about the program and eligibility here.

$18.6m in Marianas Transpo earmarks

Twelve of my requests for Marianas transportation needs—worth $18.6 million—were approved, when the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee reported the INVEST in America Act on Thursday. The legislation reauthorizing surface transportation funding for the next five years also nearly triples the Territorial Highway Program, raising annual federal highway money for the Marianas from $4.2 million to $11.3 million. I want to thank the Commonwealth Office of Transit Authority and our Department of Public Works for assisting me with the justifications for the 12 earmarks. As a result, the Marianas received the largest number of these special projects out of all the insular areas and the second largest total dollar amount. No Republican voted for the legislation.

Locking in 1.5% sewer set-aside

Sewer funding for the Marianas increases six-fold, permanently, in the Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act, approved Thursday by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Every year, since I began work in Congress, the set-aside of this Clean Water Act funding for the insular areas has been increased from 0.25 percent to 1.5 percent. The result: instead of getting just $7.4 million for sewer infrastructure, the Marianas has received $44.3 million over that period of time. But the increase is embedded in annual appropriations measures, not the underlying Clean Water Act. So, every year there is uncertainty about getting the larger set-aside. The Transportation and Infrastructure Committee action this week would codify the increase and lock in permanently the 1.5 percent set-aside that makes such a big difference to keeping the Marianas environment clean and healthy. 

Shark fin ban passes Senate

The Senate passed the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act Tuesday, moving us closer to a ban on the possession and sale of shark fins in the United States. Text from my bill, H.R. 2811, and the companion bill introduced by Senator Corey Booker, S. 1106, was included in the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act. That bill, which makes large investments in research, development, and manufacturing in response to competition from China, has strong bipartisan support. The House is crafting its own version. Eventually, the two bills will go to conference. I am optimistic that the final version will retain the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act. Last Congress, my shark fin ban bill easily passed the House but the Senate failed to act. Shark finning is already illegal in U.S. waters. However, thousands of fins are still imported for domestic sale, legitimizing a cruel and wasteful practice that heavily contributes to sharks’ declining populations worldwide. My legislation mirrors Marianas law that already bans the sale, purchase, or possession of shark fins. 13 states and two other territories have similar bans.

Award equity for Marianas teachers

Marianas math and science teachers will have the same opportunity to be recognized for their skill as teachers in the rest of the United States under provisions of my STEM Educator Awards Equity Act, introduced on Tuesday. H.R. 3795 expands the annual Presidential Awards for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching so a math and a science teacher from each insular area will be selected, just as two teachers are selected from each state, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Department of Defense schools. Currently, teachers from the Marianas, Guam, American Samoa, and Virgin Islands compete against each other for the annual Presidential Awards. This lack of equal opportunity for insular teachers defeats the purpose of the program, which is to inspire excellence within each area and provide a role model for other local STEM educators to emulate. Selected teachers receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation and participate in expert-led training and collaboration opportunities in Washington.

$699K to CHCC for health equity

In the continuing distribution of funding from the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021, the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation is receiving $699,772, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced last week. Congress intended the funding to improve testing capabilities and other COVID-19 responses in populations at high-risk and underserved, including racial and ethnic minority groups and people living in rural communities, such as the Marianas. Congratulations, CHCC.

FEMA funeral aid to Marianas

We have been largely spared deaths from COVID-19. But one applicant in the Northern Mariana Islands has received $4,344 to help with Covid-related funeral costs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency reported this week. Congress made this assistance available in the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021. To be eligible an applicant must be a U.S. citizen, non-citizen national, or qualified alien, who incurred funeral expenses after January 20, 2020. There is no requirement that the deceased person be a U.S. citizen. The death certificate must attribute death to COVID-19. To apply for the aid, call toll-free to 844-684-6333 from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. ET, Monday through Friday. More information is available at FEMA.gov

Land and Water Conservation Fund

Full conservation funding close. Full and permanent funding of the Land and Water Conservation Fund is one step closer to reality, as the Senate voted to advance S. 3422, the Great American Outdoors Act

Working With the Governor on CW Extension

Working with the Governor on CW extension. Governor Ralph Torres and I made the rounds on Capitol Hill updating Members of Congress on the current economic growth in the Northern Mariana Islands and how the demand for workers is running up against the limits set by federal immigration law.

Mark-up Scheduled for Submerged Lands

Mark-up scheduled for submerged lands, Rota Park study bills. On June 15, the Committee on Natural Resources will mark up two of my bills: H.R. 670, to convey submerged lands to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and H.R. 1141, the Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act.

OPPORTUNITIES

Grants:

Jobs:

Public Comments:

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

The House was in recess for the Committee Work Week.

NEXT WEEK

·     H.R. 2726 - VA FOIA Reform Act of 2021

·     H.R. 3325 - To award four congressional gold medals to the United States Capitol Police and those who protected the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021

·     H.R. 239 - Equal Access to Contraception for Veterans Act