THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - March 13, 2020

Mar 16, 2020

In this issue:

  • Coronavirus: Act, and stay safe
  • $370k for coronavirus response
  • Virus impacts schools
  • $1.6m for school repairs
  • Ideas from the Legislature
  • DC office moves to telework
  • Public sites reducing access
  • NMI Small Biz Development Act ok’d
  • Relief for vets when schools fold
  • More info on “public charge”
  • 100% for conservation votes
  • Get your art on
  • Kilili Time Capsule
  • Opportunities
  • Legislative highlights


Coronavirus: Act, and stay safe

Another week, and there are no cases of coronavirus in the Marianas reported by Commonwealth or federal health authorities. But symptoms can take up to 14 days to appear. So, I continue to ask my family, congressional staff, and everyone I represent to take the precautions the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lay out in the graphic, above. There is no vaccine nor any specific cure, so our best action now is to keep the coronavirus from spreading. It is easier to contain a fire when it starts on the stove than after it spreads to the whole house. You can find additional information on the coronavirus on the CDC and CHCC websites.

$370k to CHCC for coronavirus

Congress made coronavirus funding available to states and territories a week ago, and yesterday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced an initial distribution. The Marianas will receive $369,765.90. The money can be used for:

  • Epidemiology
  • Surveillance
  • Laboratory
  • Case identification
  • Monitoring of travelers
  • Data management
  • Equipment, supplies, and shipping
  • Infection control
  • Surge staffing
  • Emergency operations and coordination
  • Risk communication

Reimbursement of allowable costs incurred for these activities from January 20, 2020 to March 6, 2020 is permitted.


$1.6m for school repairs

The Commonwealth Public School System has been awarded a $1,619,045.04 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to repair William S. Reyes Elementary School buildings damaged by Super Typhoon Yutu. Ninety-percent of the repair costs are covered by the grant.


DC office moves to telework

Much of the work the Washington congressional staff does is by phone, e-mail, and internet. So, with one confirmed case of coronavirus on Capitol Hill this week and the House scheduled to be out next week, your DC congressional office will move to a telework posture from March 16 through 20. The decision has also been made to limit access to the Capitol and its office buildings for the time being, so we apologize to anyone who had planned to visit or take a tour. If we all work together to contain the spread of coronavirus, we can soon return to business as usual.

Public sites reducing access

To help contain the spread of the coronavirus by limiting social contact, federal facilities and Washington sites are suspending tours and other public access. In addition to the U.S. Capitol, these include:

NMI Small Biz Development Act ok’d

Businesses in the Marianas will have more access to Small Business Administration programs under terms of my Small Business Development Act, which the House Small Business Committee amended and approved Wednesday. The bill makes the Marianas eligible for a grant to establish an SBDC Lead Center and provides technical assistance to small businesses interested in seed funding from the SBIR and STTR programs. The Committee’s amendment took part of my original bill and added it to the Microloan Improvement Act, making more microloans available to Marianas businesses. Having obtained Committee recommendation, both bills will now go before the House for a vote. Watch my remarks before the ommittee here.

Relief for vets when schools fold

Unlike other GI Bill students, disabled veterans are out of luck if the college they attend closes or their courses are disapproved through no fault of their own. The Disabled Veterans Education Relief Act, which I introduced on Thursday, fixes that. My bill restores a disabled veterans vocational rehabilitation and employment (VR&E) benefits, if their school closes or their course was disapproved as a result of a Veterans Administration policy, regulation, or law. Students would also continue receiving their subsistence allowances through the end of the academic term when the closure or disapproval occurred. And the bill requires the VA to notify disabled veteran-students of imminent school closures and how the closure will affect their VR&E benefits. Rep. Mike Bost (R-IL) joined me as an original cosponsor. The Veterans of Foreign Wars and other veteran organizations support H.R. 6262.

More info on “public charge”

Many have asked the congressional office how the new public charge rule from the Trump administration will impact applications for green cards and extension of stay petitions for CW-1 and E-2 CNMI investor visa holders. Although the congressional office cannot provide legal advice to individuals, we want to provide as much information as we can and have compiled this public charge fact sheet. Individuals, who think they are affected by these changes, should consult an attorney.


100% for conservation votes

The League of Conservation Voters gave me a 100 percent score for my pro-environment and conservation record in their 2019 National Environmental Scorecard released Thursday. Representing the consensus of numerous environmental and conservation organizations, the annual LCV publication provides information on important environmental legislation and the support and voting records of Members of Congress. The 2019 Scorecard is the first to include Members from the territories. I thank the LCV for recognizing our efforts to protect our air, water, lands and wildlife and our continued work to fight against the Trump Administration's attempts to strip environmental protections that threaten public health and worsen the climate crisis.




Public Comments

Legislative Highlights


  • H.Res 410 - Encouraging reunions of divided Korean-American Families (passed, 391-0)
  • H.R. 1771 - Divided Families Reunification Act (passed, 391-0)
  • H.Res. 756 - Implementing recommendations adopted by the Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress (passed, 395-13)
The House is in recess for the District Work Period