THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - March 4, 2022

Mar 6, 2022

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More free COVID tests available

Constituents in the Marianas are reporting they have received the first round of COVID test kits that President Biden made available in January. In Tuesday’s State of the Union address, the President announced a second round of test distribution. You can order additional free, at-home COVID-19 tests starting next week at covidtests.gov or by calling 800-232-0233.

$5.75m saving in Covid costs

No local match will be required from the Commonwealth government through June 30 for assistance with COVID costs received from the Federal Emergency Management Administration. The waiver saves up to $5.75 million on the Commonwealth’s $23 million request for reimbursement currently under review. FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell announced the decision to continue the local waiver for all territories and states on a call Tuesday with the National Governors Association. The Commonwealth has already been granted a waiver worth $10.3 million on COVID aid of $41,124,864 from FEMA. That money has paid for the safe opening and operating of schools, COVID-related medical care, and vaccination and testing efforts. This is the third time the Biden administration has saved the Marianas and other cash-strapped local governments significant money with the local match waiver. Without further action from the President, the federal cost share will shift to 90 percent on July 1, although the statutory minimum federal cost share is 75 percent.

Small biz center gets $659K aid

Business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs in the Marianas will get new support services thanks to a Small Business Administration grant program I authorized with language in the National Defense Authorization Act in January. SBA has quickly awarded Northern Marianas College $659,990 this week to establish the Marianas’ first-ever Lead Small Business Development Center on Saipan, along with centers on Rota and Tinian. Previously, the development center at NMC was not eligible for Lead Center funding, as it was just a sub-office of Guam. My legislation gave the Marianas our own Lead Center. Marianas businesses will be able to receive free or low-cost services such as incubator workspaces and assistance with loan applications, business planning, operations, personnel administration, marketing, export assistance, sales, and other requirements for growth and success. Congratulations, NMC!

Vets back insular advisory bill

The Disabled American Veterans this week became the fifth organization to formally endorse my legislation creating an advisory board within the Department of Veterans Affairs to deal with insular area veterans’ issues. The American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Minority Veterans of America have all previously backed H.R. 3730, amending Title 38 of the U.S. Code to establish an Advisory Committee on United States Outlying Areas and Freely Associated States. Mr. Andrew Marshall, Commander of Disabled American Veterans, made the endorsement during a joint hearing of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs Committees on Tuesday.

More workers for disaster recovery

In response to the business community and the Commonwealth government and in recognition of the hundreds of millions of dollars Congress has provided to the Marianas for reconstruction and infrastructure hardening, I introduced on Thursday legislation that allows continued availability for CW-1 visas for construction workers beyond the current statutory limit of 2022. H.R. 6906 authorizes the Secretary of Homeland Security to make the visas available at the request of the Commonwealth Governor. Although this process might seem bureaucratic, the reality is that to set the number of visas or guess the time period in which they will be needed would be challenging for Congress. Of the 3,000 CW-1 visas for construction workers for fiscal years 2020, 2021, and 2022 that were originally made available in my Disaster Recovery Workforce Act, enacted in USPL 116-94, only about 100 have been used. That could well change, however, as money for the Marianas public water system in the American Rescue Plan Act, for better roads in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, for solid waste management on the islands of Rota and Tinian in the 2019 Disaster Relief Act, and for other public and private projects is put to use building the infrastructure the Marianas needs to replace what was destroyed by Super Typhoon Yutu and to prepare to withstand future storms made more likely by climate change.

Rescue Plan now in Senate

The Senate has begun a “vota-a-rama” on amendments to the American Rescue Plan that the House passed early last Saturday morning. H.R. 1319 extends federal unemployment assistance through August, provides taxpayers with an additional $1,400 rebate, keeps teachers and staff paid so our schools remain open, includes more money for Marianas food aid and vaccinations, and funds our Commonwealth and municipal governments with an estimated half-billion dollars.

Honoring the life of Mayor Aldan

At the State Memorial Service on Monday, I presented a U.S. flag to the family of the late Mayor of the Northern Islands, the Honorable Francisco Jerome Kaipat Aldan.

Grants Workshop trains 130 in finding, applying for funds

The Northern Marianas are now better equipped to find, apply for, and manage grant funds – an increasingly important component of the local economy.  The eight day intensive grants workshop, hosted by your congressional office, ended this Thursday.

Grants:

Jobs:

Public Comments:

THIS WEEK

  • H.R. 3967 - Honoring our PACT Act of 2021 (passed, 256-174)
  • H.Res. 950 - Providing for consideration of H.R. 3967 to improve health carte and benefits for veterans exposed to toxic substances (passed, 220-200)
  • H.Res. 956 - Supporting the people of Ukraine (passed, 426-3)

NEXT WEEK

  • H.R. 5615 - Homeland Security Capabilities Preservation Act
  • H.R. 5616 - DHA Basic Training Accreditation Improvement Act
  • H.Res. 881 - Condemning the heinous attack on Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville, Texas, on Jan. 15, 2022