THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - November 08, 2019

Nov 12, 2019

In this issue:

Health coverage for vets

Veterans would receive one year of health care from the U.S. Veterans Administration after they separate from active service under terms of the Veteran Transitional Health Care Improvement Act. I introduced the bill today. The transition to civilian life presents a number of challenges for veterans and their families. By removing the worry of health care, I hope to free them to focus on their next steps in education, employment, and housing, and ultimately make their transition successful. Rep. Aumua Amata (R-American Samoa) joined me as an original  co-sponsor. The Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and Reserve Officers Association all support the proposal, which covers those separating from service in the Armed Forces or from active status with the National Guard or Reserve. 

NMI small biz bill gains support

Two national business organizations have decided to support my bill extending SBA programs to the Marianas. The Main Street Alliance, in its support letter to the House Small Business Committee, highlighted how aspiring Marianas entrepreneurs who cannot get conventional loans at commercial banks would benefit from eligibility for microloans in my bill. The Small Business Majority noted the importance of ensuring Marianas small businesses have equal access to SBA programs in order to recover from Super Typhoon Yutu. My thanks to both organizations for their support and for the work they do on behalf of small business everywhere in America.

Economy shrank 20% last year

Gross Domestic Product for the Marianas fell to $1.3 billion in 2018, a 19.6 percent decrease from 2017. The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis Director Dr. Brian C. Moyer met with me on Thursday to go over his agency’s annual economic report as he did last year just days before Super Typhoon Yutu. The storm significantly impacted overall economic results for 2018. Tourists stopped coming and the GDP data reflects this loss. Construction activity was strong in 2018 and, in part because of recovery from the storm, that trend should continue. Also likely to bolster 2019 numbers will be tens of millions in federal disaster aid that Congress has approved. The information that BEA produces for the Marianas and the other U.S. insular areas is a key tool for policymakers both in Washington and here at home. It also lets the public know whether our economy is headed in the right direction. Congress provides the money that makes production of the annual economic data possible. See all the data here.

Career Program open to NMI students

A five-year $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education will expand access to careers in vocational rehabilitation counseling for Marianas students and other areas without similar programs. The funds will support stipends for students enrolled in San Diego State University’s graduate program that trains counselors to help transition individuals with disabilities into the workforce. Students in the Marianas and other insular areas who enroll as online distance learners are eligible. Learn more about the program here

Apprenticeships in the Marianas

The LEARNS Act, introduced October 31, should give a boost to apprenticeship programs in the Marianas. The Leveraging Effective Apprenticeships to Rebuild National Skills Act will channel more technical assistance from the U.S. Department of Labor to Northern Marianas College, Northern Marianas Trades Institute, and the Public School System. These schools are all working to set up apprenticeship programs that combine on-the-job training with classroom instruction and lead to industry recognized credentials and a good-paying job after graduation. I joined Rep. Mark Pocan (D-Wisconsin) and 55 Democratic colleagues in introducing the bill, which has been referred to the Committee on Education and Labor where I chair a subcommittee. For years, the Marianas has needed a robust apprenticeship program. The LEARNS Act could help that effort. 

Cuts to school meals opposed

According to the Trump administration’s own Department of Agriculture, its proposed changes in eligibility standards will lead to 982,000 children losing their school meals. So, I joined 27 of my colleagues on the Education and Labor Committee this week in opposing the proposal. USDA has been forced to reopen the comment period because the Department initially failed to disclose the true number of children impacted, if they were not automatically eligible for school meals because their family gets food aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That hurts not just the SNAP students. It can mean no meals for anyone, if the total number participating at a school falls below 40 percent. It is true the Marianas does not participate in SNAP, but I believe it is important to support students everywhere in America and cannot allow this proposal to go unchallenged.

OPPORTUNITIES

Public Comments

Grants

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

The House is in recess for the District Work Period.

NEXT WEEK

  • H.R. 4625 - Protect the GI Bill Act
  • H.R. 4477 – Reducing High Risk to Veterans And Veterans Service Act
  • H.R. 3537 – Veteran Entrepreneurship Training Act of 2019