THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - October 15, 2021

Oct 18, 2021

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Full-time Vet Center counselor approved

Dr. Steven Lieberman, Acting Veterans Affairs Health Undersecretary, briefed me on the VA’s plans to assign a full-time Vet Center counselor to the Marianas. Currently Guam Vet Center staff periodically visit our islands to meet veterans. My legislation signed into law last October mandated VA to report on its plans to provide these services in the Marianas. This position has been a long time coming; but Marianas veterans will have a counselor right here at home to help them and their families readjust to civilian life and provide mental health services. Thank you, Dr. Lieberman.

More Pandemic EBT benefits ok'd

Families with children in school or in childcare can receive Pandemic EBT food aid covering summer 2021 following the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service’s approval of the Commonwealth’s plan. This follows FNS’ approval in April of Commonwealth’s plan to provide P-EBT benefits through June 2021. Congress provided Pandemic EBT benefits to the Marianas in the continuing resolution last October. P-EBT helps pay the cost of meals that students would have received if they had been attending school in-person.

Marianas CBOC bill gains support

Legislation addressing the Marianas’ lack of a VA Community Based Outpatient Clinic and Vet Center was on the agenda of the House Veterans’ Affairs Health Subcommittee hearing on Wednesday. H.R. 5543, the Vet CENTERS for Mental Health Act I introduced with Congresswoman Mikie Sherrill (D-New Jersey) would mandate the establishment of VA facilities in underserved communities, including a CBOC in the Marianas. The bill, H.R. 5543, is now gaining traction fast. Veteran Service Organizations, including the Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion, testified in support of the bill. Watch the hearing here.

Violent extremists targeting vets 

On Wednesday, the Veterans’ Affairs Committee heard from veterans and experts on violent extremist organizations in America targeting veterans for recruitment. These groups recruit veterans as a means of legitimizing their cause and gaining members with weapons training and experience. Watch the hearing here.

Bill intro'd for territory recognition

Last week, I introduced H.Res 712, a resolution to annually recognize the first Thursday of October as “U.S. Territories Day.” Across the country, many Americans don’t even know the territories exist. Often, we are literally not even on the Map, let alone internet dropdown menus, history classes, and every federal program we’ve been excluded from. A lack of awareness makes it hard for all territories to advocate for themselves, but I’m working to change that. With this resolution, I hope that school children nationwide will at least once a year learn that the Marianas and other territories are a part of the American Family.

$498k for brown tree snake control

The Commonwealth’s Department of Lands and Natural Resources has been awarded $407,950 for the Brown Tree Snake Interdiction Program, the Office of Insular Affairs announced Thursday. Grant funds will be used to help pay for prevention and detection programs and fund Fish and Wildlife inspectors who inspect planes, vessels, and cargo at our air and seaports. Funded annually by Congress, the Office of Insular Affairs’ Brown Tree Snake Program received $3.5 million in FY 2021. Congratulations to DLNR.

$244M plan for CDBG-DR okayed

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved the plan to spend $244 million in CDBG-DR funds that Congress made available to the Marianas in last year’s disaster relief act, Public Law 116-20. 

Governor to expand food stamp eligibility, benefits

Governor Ralph Torres has decided how to use $30.5 million of food assistance for the Marianas that I included in the 2014 Agricultural Act.

Paleʹ Jesse blesses the congressional day

Paleʹ Jesse Tudela Reyes ushered in the start of Thursday’s legislative day in the House of Representatives. This was the first time a clergyman from the Northern Marianas, acting as guest chaplain, delivered the invocation.

Grants:

Jobs:

Public Comments:

THIS WEEK

The House was in recess for the Committee Work Week.

NEXT WEEK

  • H.R. 654 - Drug-free Communities Pandemic Relief Act
  • H.R. 3919 - Secure Equipment Act of 2021
  • H.R. 4469 - AI in Counterterrorism Oversight Enhancement Act