THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - October 23, 2015

Oct 25, 2015

In this issue:

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Apply today for nomination to a U.S. Service Academy.

Young women and men from the Northern Marianas, interested in a high quality education and committed to serving our country, can apply now for a congressional nomination to a U.S. Service Academy. At this time, there are two openings available: one at the Merchant Marine Academy and one at the Naval Academy. The first step in applying for a nomination is to fill out the form at https://sablan.house.gov/serving-you.... At the same time, applicants should open an application at their academy or academies of choice: the Merchant Marine Academy (https://www.usmma.edu/admissions) and/or the Naval Academy (https://www.usna.edu/Admissions/inde...). More information and nomination applications are available at https://sablan.house.gov/serving-you... and at the district offices on Rota, Saipan, and Tinian. While Members of Congress make nominations, the final selection from among nominees is made by academy admission officials. They look for strong grades in high school, high SAT or ACT scores, physical ability, and leadership potential. Requests for nomination are due December 11, 2015. Deadlines for completing academy applications are March 1, 2016 for the Merchant Marine Academy and January 31, 2016 for the Naval Academy. Those interested are strongly encouraged to start now.

 
$9 m. awarded for water, sewer, envonmental protection.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a total fiscal year 2015 award of $9 million to the Northern Mariana Islands this week. The consolidated grant includes $6.7 million to the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation for water and sewer projects and $2.3 million to the Commonwealth’s Bureau of Environmental and Coastal Quality for environmental programs. The water and sewer money reflects the increase in funding that began after the Northern Marianas obtained representation in Congress and the funding formula was increased. The Commonwealth has received an additional $41 million as a result. That money is responsible for “the achievement of having the public water supply system provide 24-hour service to 95 percent of its population up from 25 percent in 2006,” according to EPA. This year the money that Congress has appropriated will be used for water storage tanks, waterline replacements, improvements to the sewer system, and work to make water and sewer infrastructure more able to withstand storms, like Typhoon Soudelor. Congratulations to CUC and BECQ.

 
CW cap is a call for more U.S. wokers.

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announcement this week that it will permit 12,999 foreign CW workers in the Northern Marianas in fiscal year 2016 means employers must find ways to hire more U.S. workers, if growth is to continue in the islands. The agency cut the number of Commonwealth-only Transitional Worker permits by 1,000 from the fiscal 2015 level. The law requires phasing out the special CW workers program completely by the end of 2019. USCIS has taken a gradual approach to the reductions in keeping with the requirement of P.L. 110-229, which extended federal immigration to the Marianas, that the law must be implemented in a way that minimizes adverse effects and maximizes the potential for future growth. But now everyone in the Marianas – business, government, and the educational system – has to work overtime to replace CWs in the labor force with U.S. citizens or green card holders, with workers holding H or other employment-based visas, or with citizens of the Freely Associated States, who have the ability to work and live in the Northern Marianas. The CW program began with a cap of 22,417 in 2009, based on the number of workers that had been permitted by the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands prior to the extension of U.S. immigration law. By 2013, USCIS officials have testified to Congress, the number of CW workers was down to 10,071. Earlier this year, the Commonwealth government reported to U.S. Secretary of Labor Tom Perez an unemployment rate of 16.8 percent in 2014, with 4,674 persons out of work.

 
Increase in NMI highway funds passes House committee.

This week, the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee unanimously approved the Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act of 2015 which includes an increase in federal-aid highway funding for the Northern Mariana Islands of $1.2 million over the next six years. H.R. 3763 also reauthorizes transit and highway safety programs worth another $1.2 million to the NMI annually. Authorization for surface transportation programs expires on October 29, next week, so the House is expected to move quickly on the Committee-approved bill so that negotiations can begin with the Senate, which passed its own version of a six-year transportation bill in July.

 
Insular Delegates: protect Close Up funding.

Congress funds the Close Up program in order to bring young people a real experience of how their government works and to gain a deeper understanding of our national history. So, insular area Delegates were concerned to learn that the Office of Insular Affairs at the Department of Interior has notified the Close Up Foundation that it will need to compete for federal grant funds this year. This is a change from what the Department proposed in its budget justification submitted to Congress earlier this year. In response, insular area Delegates have requested that the Department reconsider its action and maintain funding for Close Up at the $1.1 million amount specified to Congress.

 
Reminder: Library of Congress online conference for teachers next week.

The Library of Congress’ first online conference for teachers is slated for October 28-29, 6am to 10am CHST (October 27-28, 4pm – 8pm EST), and educators in the Northern Marianas and across the nation are invited. This free, two-day conference will equip teachers to enhance student learning through the use of primary sources in the classroom, drawing on the Library’s extensive collections. For more information and to register for the conference, visit https://www.loc.gov/teachers/profess....

CMS Open Enrollment Begins.

The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced the Medicare Open Enrollment period for 2016 is open through December 7, 2015. If you are satisfied with your current coverage and feel it will meet your needs for 2016, you do not need to do anything. However, individuals who need to enroll or need additional information regarding their Medicare Part D prescription drug plans in the Northern Marianas can visit www.medicare.gov or call 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227) TTY 1-877-486-2048. You may also view the 2016 Medicare & You handbook online at: www.medicare.gov/pubs/pdf/10050.pdf.

Typhoon Soudelor Update - Week 12:

The steady recovery from Typhoon Soudelor continues. In addition to the reports on approval of assistance to individuals and households (table below), FEMA is now updating its accounting for public assistance, which includes both the initial emergency response, but also, and increasingly, the amount spent helping rebuild water, power, and other public infrastructure. That total is now $905,041.

 
 
Farm Service Agency continues helping farmers and ranchers.
 

The Farm Service Agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports this week that 32 farmers and ranchers have now contacted the Agency for recovery assistance. 21 have requested FSA loan applications and a team of loan officers arrived on Saipan Monday to continue taking applications and process the requests for loan assistance. The team is on island through November 10. Call 670-234-0896 to schedule an appointment or e-mail Doreen Rivera at doreen.rivera@pb.usda.gov.

 
 
OPPORTUNITIES - Federal contracts, grants, jobs for and in the Marianas
Grants:

CRCP Coral Reef NGO Partnership - The purpose of this notice is to invite Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) with demonstrated expertise and experience in supporting coral reef management in the United States to submit proposals to establish partnerships with the NOAA Coral Reef Conservation Program (CRCP) to further the conservation of U.S. coral reefs. Current closing date is January 21, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/vi....

Guidelines for Brownfields Assessment Grants - EPA provides funding through Brownfields Assessment Grants to inventory, characterize, assess, and conduct planning (including cleanup planning) and community involvement related to brownfield sites. Current closing date is December 18, 2015. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/vi....

Guidelines for Brownfields Cleanup Grants - EPA provides funding through Brownfields Cleanup Grants to conduct cleanup activities at a specific brownfield site owned by the applicant. Current closing date is December 18, 2015. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/vi....

Promoting Caregiver Health Using Self-Management - The purpose of this initiative is to stimulate research in promoting caregiver health using self-management. This concept focuses on informal caregivers. Informal caregivers (lay caregivers) are defined as unpaid individuals (spouses, partners, family members, friends, or neighbors) involved in assisting others with activities of daily living and/or medical tasks. Current closing date is March 3, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/vi....

NIH Director’s Early Independence Awards - The NIH Director’s Early Independence Award Program supports exceptional investigators who wish to pursue independent research directly after completion of their terminal doctoral/research degree or clinical residency, thereby forgoing the traditional post-doctoral training period and accelerating their entry into an independent research career. Current closing date is January 29, 2016. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/vi....

• MBDA Business Centers - MBDA Business Centers are established to provide technical assistance and business development services. The technical assistance and business development services are provided through federal financial assistance awards to generate increased financing and contract opportunities for minority business enterprises (MBEs). In addition, the services provided will assist MBEs in creating and retaining jobs. Current closing date is December 21, 2015. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/vi....

WaterSMART: Title XVI Water Reclamation and Reuse Program Funding - Reclamation works to identify and investigate opportunities to reclaim and reuse wastewater and naturally impaired ground and surface water in the 17 Western States and Hawaii. Title XVI also provides authority for Reclamation to provide up to the lesser of 25 percent of, or the Federal appropriations ceiling (typically $20 million), for the cost of planning, designing, and constructing specific water recycling projects. The objective of this Funding Opportunity Announcement (FOA) is to invite sponsors of congressionally authorized Title XVI Projects to request cost-shared funding for the planning, design, and/or construction of those authorized projects. Current closing date is December 10, 2015. For more information, go to https://www.grants.gov/web/grants/vi....

Jobs:

Emergency Management Specialist - The U.S. Coast Guard, Department of Homeland Security is accepting applications for an Emergency Management Specialist. The incumbent will serve as the Sector’s expert in Emergency Management and will be responsible for producing related plans as necessary and serving as a liaison to promote coordination between the Sector and other local emergency management response agencies. Position is open until November 2, 2015. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/View....

Clinical Psychologist - The Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs is accepting applications for a Clinical Psychologist. The incumbent will be assigned to the Guam Community Based Outpatient Clinic (CBOC) and provide leadership, guidance and/or consultation to the Guam VA clinic and the Saipan Outreach clinic staff specific to psychological aspects of evaluation and treatment of veterans, with particular attention to the OEF/OIF veterans and their families. Position is open until November 2, 2015. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/View....

Utilities Analyst - The Naval Facilities Engineering Command, Department of the Navy, is accepting applications for a Utilities Analyst. Duties include resolving discrepancies, collecting information, analyzing utilities raw data, modifying administrative approaches and resolving billing disputes. Position is open until October 26, 2015. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/View....

Audiologist - The Naval Hospital, Naval Medical Command, Department of the Navy is accepting applications for an Audiologist. Incumbent will perform clinical audiometric services, consult customers on effective hearing, develop operational standards, and identify commonly unrecognized hearing loss trends. Position is open until October 23, 2015. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/View....

Psych-Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist - The Veterans Health Administration, Department of Veterans Affairs is accepting applications for a Psych-Mental Health Clinical Nurse Specialist. Incumbent will provide assessment, diagnosis, and treatment of mental disorders, and serve as primary case manager/mental health treatment coordinator to a defined panel of patients, among other duties. Position is open until October 30, 2015. For more information, go to https://www.usajobs.gov/GetJob/View....

Highlights in the legislative program

THIS WEEK:

On the floor

  • H.R.1428Judicial Redress Act of 2015 (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.3493Securing the Cities Act of 2015 (Passed, 411-4)
  • H.R.3350 – Know the CBRN Terrorism Threats to Transportation Act (Passed, 416-0)
  • H.R.1315 – To amend section 1105(a) of title 31, United States Code, to require that annual budget submissions of the President to Congress provide an estimate of the cost per taxpayer of the deficit, and for other purposes (Agreed to by voice vote)
  • H.R.692 – Default Prevention Act (Passed, 235 – 194)
  • H.R.10 – SOAR Reauthorization Act (Passed, 240-191)
  • H.R.1937 – National Strategic and Critical Minerals Production Act of 2015 (Passed, 254-177)
  • H.R.3762 – Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015 (Passed, 240-189) 

NEXT WEEK:

On the floor

  • H.R. 3033 - Research Excellence and Advancements for Dyslexia (READ) Act
  • H.R. 623 - DHS Social Media Improvements Act of 2015
  • H.R. 1317 - To amend the Commodity Exchange Act and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 to specify how clearing requirements apply to certain affiliate transactions, and for other purposes
  • H.R. 3032 - Security and Exchange Commission Reporting Modernization Act of 2015

Consideration of Legislation Related to the Debt Limit

Committee Hearings

October 27

  • Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Hearing on "Improving Career and Technical Education to Help Students Succeed in the Workforce"

October 28

  • Subcommittee on Indian, Insular and Alaska Native Affairs Legislative Hearing - H.R. 3764, Tribal Recignition Act of 2015
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