THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - May 21, 2021

May 23, 2021

In this issue:

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Rescue Plan: Rental assistance

Emergency rental assistance from the American Rescue Plan is available to those in need in the Marianas. The U.S. Treasury Department published the websites of each state and territory this week to assist renters get help paying rent, utilities, deposits, and penalties for the period from March 2020 through April 2021. The Commonwealth’s website with information on who qualifies and how to apply is here.

The Emergency Rental Assistance is offered to U.S. citizens and Permanent Residents, as well as those with the Long-Term CNMI Resident status created in my legislation, U.S. Public Law 116-24. Under terms of Section 3201 of the American Rescue Plan the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands has been allocated $10,400,669.30 on the basis of population for the Emergency Rental Assistance program. According to the Commonwealth’s website, interested renters may call (670) 682-7368/RENT for more information or e-mail: dcalvo.ccera@gmail.com.

Pandemic EBT available

Families with school-age children may now apply for the Pandemic EBT food aid that Congress provided the Marianas in the continuing resolution last October. The estimated $11.1 million for pandemic EBT will help pay the cost of meals that students would have received, if they had been attending school in-person. The rate of reimbursement is $7.97 per day. Some 11,671 students are expected to be eligible.

According to the Public School System, students were given applications last week to bring home. All completed applications must be turned in to the PSS Child Nutrition Program Office on Capital Hill or the CNMI Nutrition Assistance Program in As Lito by June 11, 2021 4:30 p.m. ChST. Read the Commonwealth’s State Plan here. More information and answers to frequently asked questions are available here.

Restaurant relief fund is closing

Restaurants in the Marianas have until Tuesday, May 25, at 10 a.m. ChST to apply for direct relief through the Restaurant Revitalization Fund. The $28.6 billion Restaurant Revitalization Fund is part of the American Rescue Plan that Democrats in Congress passed and President Biden signed into law in March.

The Fund provides restaurants and other hard-hit food businesses with funding equal to their pandemic-related revenue loss up to $10 million. The relief does not have to be repaid, provided that the funds are put toward eligible uses by March 11, 2023. A funding guide is available here, and a sample application here. Entities eligible to apply include restaurants, caterers, bars, bakeries, and breweries.

FAST grants for NMI businesses

Marianas businesses may now apply for the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Federal and State Technology (FAST) partnership program, which I made available in the National Defense Authorization Act last year. FAST makes up to $125,000 available to help women and people from economically-disadvantaged backgrounds or rural areas compete for $3 billion in federal seed money for business start-ups.

Public or private entities can use FAST grants to fund proposals, outreach and technical assistance to small businesses interested in competing for the federal Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs. Applications are due Friday, June 4, 6 a.m. ChST. Apply here and read more about the program here.

Supporting vulnerable students

Students, who are homeless or in foster care, have lower success rates in the best of times, but during the pandemic the challenges for these young people have only worsened. I called a hearing Wednesday, as Chairman of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee, to hear firsthand how the pandemic has impacted homeless and foster students and to learn whether funding we provided in the American Rescue Plan is helping them.

The Marianas Public School System received over $160 million from the American Rescue Plan to pay for teachers, staff, and other resources to help students keep up with their education and remain connected to their schools. School leaders, an academic researcher, and a foster parent all testified before the subcommittee at this week’s hearing on the effectiveness of those funds. Watch the hearing here.

DC office reopening

With the announcement last week by Congress’ Office of the Attending Physician that fully-vaccinated staff may return to their pre-pandemic work activities, your congressional office in Washington has reopened after a year of teleworking. All fully-vaccinated staff are in the office full-time, although we continue to ask visitors entering to wear a mask and maintain social distance, because we cannot know their vaccination status. We also recommend visitors set up an appointment before coming to the office, so crowding does not occur. 

Teleworking from their homes presented unique challenges for your congressional staff, but they were able to maintain a high level of productivity. In this period, the American Rescue Plan, the CARES Act, and the FY21 omnibus appropriation and relief measure included significant, Marianas-specific benefits to help the people we represent get through the coronavirus and continue recovery from the typhoons of 2018. We hope you did not see any reduction in our work; and we thank you for your understanding during this unprecedented pandemic.

OPPORTUNITIES

Grants:

Public Comments:

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

  • H.R. 204 - STEM Opportunities Act (passed under suspension of rules)
  • H.R. 2695 - Combating Sexual Harassment in Science Act (passed under suspension of rules)
  • H.R. 2959 - COVID-19 Fraud Prevention Act (passed by voice vote)
  • H.R. 3233 - National Commission to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the United States Capitol Complex Act (passed, 252-175)

NEXT WEEK

The House is in recess for the Committee Work Period.