THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - June 19, 2021

Jun 21, 2021

In this issue:

·     Bill to double Pell Grant intro’d

·     STEM teacher awards bill progresses 

·     Biden committed to Medicaid parity

·     Kagman Isla Community Health expands

·     Medicare virtual fair 6/23 

·     Congratulations, essayists Jia, Camille

·     End racial profiling

·     Rebuilding traditional canoe house

·     Rescue Plan: $204k for Humanities Council

·     Bipartisan work on human trafficking 

·     LTR applicants get parole extension

·     Examining Puerto Rico’s options

·     Listening to Rota

·     Vets workshop 6/23 

·     Tell your food aid story

·     Kilili Time Capsule

·     OPPORTUNITIES  

·     HIGHLIGHTS

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Bill to double Pell Grant intro’d

As the cost of college continues to rise, the amount of federal aid available to students in need has not kept up. That is why I joined House and Senate Democrats to introduce the Pell Grant Preservation and Expansion Act on Wednesday. The bill indexes the Pell grant to inflation and sets a five-year plan to reach a $13,000 maximum award in 2027-28, which is double the 2021-22 limit of $6,495. The bill also makes Pell Grant funding fully mandatory to protect it from funding shortfalls. About 1,000 Northern Marianas College students each year pay for their tuition and other expenses with Pell grants. Read more on the bill here.

Award equity for Marianas teachers ok’d

Marianas math and science teachers will have the same opportunity to be recognized for their skill as teachers in the rest of America under my STEM Educator Awards Equity Act, which passed the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee on Tuesday. My bill 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 for Presidential Awards. Currently, teachers from all the insular areas compete against each other for two Awards. Selected teachers receive $10,000 from the National Science Foundation and participate in expert-led training and collaboration opportunities in Washington. Chairwoman Eddie Bernice Johnson (D-Texas) included my bill in H.R. 2225, in her National Science Foundation for the Future Act, which the Science, Space, and Technology Committee voted to advance to the full House for consideration. Thank you, Chairwoman Johnson.

$204k for Humanities Council

On Tuesday, the National Endowment for the Arts announced that the National Marianas Humanities Council will receive $203,935 as part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This funding is to assist cultural institutions to recover from the economic impact of COVID-19. 

Bipartisan Work on Human Trafficking

Congressman Tim Walberg (R-Michigan) and I have teamed up again on legislation aimed at human trafficking. We reintroduced the Enhancing Detection of Human Trafficking Act, H.R. 3957, on Wednesday. Our bill will ensure U.S. Department of Labor employees are taught how to recognize human trafficking and refer these cases to federal law enforcement. “Human trafficking is a terrible scourge and we need to use every tool at our disposal to stop it from happening,” Congressman Walberg said. “I am pleased to partner once again with Congressman Sablan on this bipartisan bill to stand up for the most vulnerable.” The Marianas is not immune from the impacts of human trafficking. Construction companies working in our islands have lured foreign workers with false promises about wages and working conditions, only to withhold pay and confiscate passports. Human trafficking concerns were also behind the decision to deny H-2B visas for workers from the Philippines, although that ban is now lifted.

LTR applicants get parole extension

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has extended parole for long term resident applicants through the end of 2021 or until their applications are adjudicated, whichever comes first. USCIS announced the automatic extension on Wednesday. My legislation, creating a permanent status in the Northern Marianas for certain long term residents was signed into law in June 2019 and applications were due by August 2020. Largely because of the coronavirus pandemic, however, which caused closure of the USCIS Application Service Center in the Marianas, the agency has been slow to process applications. In the meantime, USCIS placed applicants in parole status and provided them with work authorizations, both of which would expire by June 30, if not for this week’s extension. This is the fourth time USCIS has extended the paroles and work authorizations. Reopening the Application Service Center was one of my requests, when I met with Alejandro Mayorkas, the Biden administration’s new Secretary of Homeland Security, in February. At the time, there were 2,861 applications pending. The ASC is now staffed and reopened.

Bus, highway monies increased.

The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure agreed to increase the annual grant for the Marianas public bus system by about $400,000 over the FY20 level of $847,021 and more than double the Territorial Highway Program from $42 million to $100 million annually.

Senate bill triggers $4.7 m. PSS increase.

The new formula I included in the Every Student Succeeds Act in December increases federal help for elementary and high school students in the Northern Mariana Islands by almost $5 million, beginning in fiscal year 2017.

Rota Park bill gets Committee okay.

The Rota Cultural and Natural Resources Study Act, H.R. 1141, cleared the Natural Resources Committee on Wednesday. Next stop in the legislative process is a vote by the full House of Representatives.

OPPORTUNITIES

Grants:

·     Energizing Insular Communities

·     Emergency Management Performance Grant

·     American Rescue Plan: Humanities Organizations

·     American Rescue Plan: Humanities Grantmaking

·     Pandemic Assistance for Producers Initiative (USDA-FSA Cooperative Agreement )

·     Distance Learning and Telemedicine

·     Community Policing Development (CPD) Microgrants Program

·     Citizenship Instruction and Naturalization Application Services

Jobs:

·     Soil Conservationist

Public Comments:

·     Produce from Hawaii & territories

·     Clean Water Act revisions

·     Marianas Monument Draft

·     Territory Medicaid inclusion date delay

·     Temporary Employment Certification info

·     Medical Reserve Corps program

·     Pest risk on melons from Japan

·     Assistive Technology Program info

·     Microentrepreneur program final rule

·     2022 Construction General Permit

·     Medicare payment system change

·     US Territory Advisory Committees

·     DBE & ACDBE program info

·     REAP final rule

·     USPS proposed service changes

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS 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