THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - March 06, 2020

Mar 10, 2020

IN THIS ISSUE

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Help Stop the Spread of Germs

There are no reported cases of the coronavirus in the Marianas at this time. But it is possible to be infected and not know it. For that reason, taking precautions now is wise — even in the Marianas. (See graphic, above, from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.) According to CDC, there have been 164 cases reported in the U.S. across 19 states; and 11 deaths have occured. I will continue to update you. You can also find additional information on the coronavirus on the CDC and CHCC websites.

Congress respond with $8.3B

The House passed an $8.3 billion spending package to fight the coronavirus on Wednesday, quickly followed by the Senate. The President signed the bill today. The amount of money shows how seriously we are taking the coronavirus outbreak and how serious we are about protecting public health. Included:

  •  $950 million to States, locals, territories, and tribes for:
  • surveillance for coronavirus;
  • laboratory testing to detect positive cases;
  • contact tracing to identify additional positive cases;
  • infection control at the local level to prevent additional cases; 
  • Reimbursement for State or local costs already incurred for coronavirus preparedness and response between January 20 and March 6 — 
  • Allowing funds to be used for construction or renovation of facilities to improve state and local preparedness and response capabilities.
  • $500 million for health agencies in areas of shortage of supplies to buy drugs, masks, and personal protective equipment.
  • $100 million for health services through Community Health Centers.
  • $3 billion for development of vaccines and treatment with requirement whatever is developed with taxpayer dollars is available and affordable.
  • $1 billion in loan subsidies for Small Business Disaster Loans. 

In addition to these appropriations to deal with the public health emergency, discussions have also begun regarding legislation to offset the economic impact of the coronavirus on individuals and state and local governments.

NMI emergency funding bill intro'd

To address the budget cuts and other austerity measures the Commonwealth is taking, I introduced legislation on Thursday providing $100 million in operational funding. My Coronavirus Emergency Assistance Act is intended to make sure the people of the Marianas, especially our vulnerable seniors and children, have access to the care and education essential to their health, safety, and well-being. The coronavirus will have an economic impact across our nation and the world. But because the Marianas is tourism-dependent and our tourists come from areas hit hard by the coronavirus—China, Korea, and Japan—we are at the frontline. My bill calls attention to our immediate need in the Marianas and will help push Congress to act quickly to face the economic effects of coronavirus.

Medicare beneficiaries, CMS announced that Part B (Medical Insurance) can cover a free clinical diagnostic laboratory test to see if you have coronavirus. This test is covered if your doctor or provider orders you to get it on or after February 4, 2020. While there is currently no vaccine for the coronavirus and the immediate health risks remain low, Medicare is here to help. For those who are not yet enrolled in Medicare Part B but would like to enroll, you have until March 31, 2020, to enroll through the General Enrollment period.

Bill lifts TSA pay

On Thursday, the House passed H.R.1140, Rights for Transportation Security Officer Act of 2020, lifting pay for Transportation Security Officers and giving them the same rights and protections as other federal workers under the Federal Civil Service System. I cosponsored the bill. We put our lives in the hands of Transportation Security Officers to protect us from terrorist attacks. Yet, these Officers are among the lowest paid Federal workers. They do not have due process protections or collective bargaining rights. These unfair conditions have led to low morale and high attrition among the workforce. H.R. 1140 fixes that. The bill lifts pay, provides for regular increases, and establishes meaningful appeal and bargaining rights. Of course, TSA management would still have authority to remove Officers to maintain the agency mission. And security procedures would not be subject to collective bargaining. But Officers would get a long-overdue recognition of the importance of their work.

Interior budget slammed

The Natural Resources Committee reviewed the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 funding proposal for the Department of the Interior Wednesday. I chaired the annual budget hearing. Secretary David Bernhardt declined to appear and defend the President’s plan to slash his Department by $12.8 billion, 16 percent off last year’s level. Insular programs are particularly hard hit, facing an even larger 21 percent cut, or $21.8 million. Although, the proposal does include increased funding for administrative costs in the Office of Insular Affairs. Interior Assistant Secretary of Policy, Management and Budget, Susan Combs testified in Bernhardt’s stead, taking heat from members on both sides of the aisle for the administration’s reckless proposal. As the threat of climate change increases and our national parks await billions of dollars worth of outstanding maintenance and repairs, the Department of Interior needs to step up, not stand down.

Passport = proof of citizenship

The Natural Resources Committee reviewed the President’s Fiscal Year 2021 funding proposal for the Department of the Interior Wednesday. I chaired the annual budget hearing. Secretary David Bernhardt declined to appear and defend the President’s plan to slash his Department by $12.8 billion, 16 percent off last year’s level. Insular programs are particularly hard hit, facing an even larger 21 percent cut, or $21.8 million. Although, the proposal does include increased funding for administrative costs in the Office of Insular Affairs. Interior Assistant Secretary of Policy, Management and Budget, Susan Combs testified in Bernhardt’s stead, taking heat from members on both sides of the aisle for the administration’s reckless proposal. As the threat of climate change increases and our national parks await billions of dollars worth of outstanding maintenance and repairs, the Department of Interior needs to step up, not stand down.

$11.2M more for Governor’s Office

The Office of the Governor has been awarded an additional $11,232,870.39 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for indirect costs, and other administrative expenses incurred by the Commonwealth for administering and managing Public Assistance funds after Supertyphoon Yutu. Covered activities include PA Program meetings, site inspections, training, and travel expenses. The grant covers 100% of management costs. Funding is authorized under Section 324 of the Robert T. Stafford Act.

OPPORTUNITIES

Scholarships/Fellowships

Jobs

Grants

Public Comments

Legislative Highlights

THIS WEEK

  • H.Res. 230 - Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the United States condemns all forms of violence against children globally and recognizes the harmful impacts of violence against children (passed by voice vote)
  • H.R. 4508 - Malala Yousafzai Scholarship Act (passed, 374-16)
  • S. 1678 - Taiwan Allies International Protection and Enhancement Initiative (TAIPEI) Act of 2019 (passed 415-0)

NEXT WEEK

  • H.Res 410 - Encouraging reunions of divided Korean-American Families
  • H.R. 1771 - Divided Families Reunification Act
  • H.Res. 756 - Implementing recommendations adopted by the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress