THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - October 5, 2018

Oct 9, 2018

In this issue:

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More disaster aid now available

President Trump signed a major disaster declaration for the Northern Marianas on September 29, making two types of federal assistance available to those adversely impacted by Typhoon Mangkhut. The Individuals and Households Program provides financial help or direct services to eligible individuals who are unable to meet immediate needs and expenses. The Public Assistance Program provides reimbursement grants to the commonwealth and certain non-profits to assist with disaster response and recovery, including debris removal, emergency protective measures, and restoring infrastructure. Additionally, low-interest federal disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration are now available for businesses and private nonprofit organizations to repair or replace damaged assets. Homeowners may also be eligible for SBA loans for certain improvement projects. The first step in seeking federal disaster assistance is to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA Disaster Survivor Assistance staff are on Rota, Saipan, and Tinian at these locations:

ROTA: NMC Rota Instructional Site

  • Monday, 10/8, through Wednesday, 10/10, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

SAIPAN: Joeten-Kiyu Public Library, Susupe

  • Saturday, 10/6, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • Wednesday, 10/10, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • CLOSED Sunday, 10/7 through Tuesday, 10/9

TINIAN: Department of Commerce Building (near the Municipal Baseball Field in San Jose Village)

  • Saturday, 10/6 from 8 a.m. to 12 p.m. 
  • Monday, 10/8 through Wednesday, 10/10, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
  • CLOSED Sunday, 10/7

To ensure a fast and efficient application process, FEMA recommends having the following information with you:

  • Social Security Number (one per household)
  • Address of the damaged home or apartment
  • Description of the damage
  • Information about insurance coverage, if any, including policy numbers
  • Telephone number
  • Mailing address
  • Bank account and routing numbers for direct deposit of funds

Please contact your congressional office if you are unable to receive the assistance you need.

VA social worker arrives

Marianas Veterans’ requests for more staffing at the Veterans Health Administration Office on Saipan were fulfilled this week. Mr. William Moore has come on board as a clinical social worker. I worked with the VA leadership over the course of many months to help make this possible. A retired Air Force Major, Moore served as an embedded Combat and Operational Stress Control officer with the 10th Mountain Division of the U.S. Army in Afghanistan. He has had a leadership role in the Air Force suicide prevention program, as well as programs addressing substance abuse, domestic violence, child abuse, and mental health/life skills. From his duty station on Saipan Mr. Moore will visit Rota and Tinian regularly to provide services there. He is also trained in telehealth so he can provide services to veterans directly in their homes over the internet. And he intends to work with other partner agencies in the Marianas, sharing his experience in suicide prevention. I welcome Mr. Moore to our community.

Congress says no to $700 CW fee

The U.S. House of Representatives rejected a Trump administration proposal on September 26 to add a new $700 fee to CW permits in the Marianas. Instead the U.S. Department of Labor will be able to reprogram $8.25 million in unused funds to cover the cost of the new labor certifications required by my U.S. Workforce Act, Public Law 115-218. I worked with the appropriation conference committee to block the new fee—which would double the cost of a CW permit—for several weeks. The decision was part of H.R. 6157, the Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act, 2019 and Continuing Appropriations Act, 2019, which the President signed on September 28. Other important spending decisions:

  • $15.9 billion for Title I education grants, $100 million more than FY2018 and means more money for our Public School System as a result of the funding formula change I included in the Every Student Succeeds Act.
  • Military pay increases by 2.6 percent
  • $10.1 billion for Head Start, $200 million more than the FY2018 enacted level
  • $12.4 billion for Special Education Part B State Grants (IDEA), $87 million more than the FY2018 level
  • Increase in the maximum Pell Grant award by $100 to $6,195
  • $3.7 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), $50 million more than the FY2018 enacted level
  • $4.4 billion, a $100 million increase, for programs responding to the Opioid Crisis
  • $5.6 billion, a $200 million increase, for community health centers
  • $1.9 billion for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s Substance Abuse Grants
  • $1.5 billion for SAMSHA’s State Opioid Response Grant
  • $160 million, a $15 million increase, for Registered Apprenticeship Grants (NMC is a registered apprenticeship program)
  • $2.8 billion for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Grants to States The Northern Marianas receives approximately $1.43 million a year in Youth, Adult and Dislocated Worker funding under WIOA.
  • $1.6 billion for Department of Labor worker protection agencies (including OSHA and the Wage and Hour division, which has done much work in the Marianas in the past year).

Also of note in the Continuing Resolution is the temporary re-authorization of the Violence Against Women Act through December 7, although this is not the five-year reauthorization that I support as an original cosponsor of H.R. 65545. I was also an original cosponsor when VAWA was last reauthorized in 2013 and included a provision in Section 201 of the Act that doubled the funding allocated to the Northern Mariana Islands for the Sexual Assault Service Program. Section 809 of that law allowed women, who petition for status as victims of human trafficking or violence, to count the time lived in the Northern Marianas as time present in the United States, so they can more quickly adjust to a permanent immigrant status. Now, more than ever, we are all being made aware of how many lives are damaged by acts of sexual harassment and violence. We have to do everything we can to bring federal resources to bear on prevention, healing, and, where required, punishment.

New build-up H-2B rules issued

Contractors on projects related to the military build-up on Guam or in the Commonwealth may now employ workers with H-2B visas that are good for up to 3 years, even if the workers’ jobs are not temporary, as is usually required for H-2B visas. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services issued guidance this week on the new exemption that was included in Section 1045 of the John S. McCain National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019, Public Law 115-232. The exemption from the usual requirement of temporariness also applies to nurses and other health professional working in facilities that jointly serve the military and civilians. The policy itself is temporary, applying only to H-2B petitions with start dates before December 31, 2023.

New Form I-129CW now required

Employers petitioning for Commonwealth-Only Transitional Workers are now required to use a revised Form I-129CW, issued on August 1, 2018. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will reject CW petitions submitted after October 1 on I-129CW forms with earlier version dates. Revision of the form was necessary because of the new provisions of the Northern Mariana Islands U.S. Workforce Act of 2018, Public Law 115-218. The Workforce Act raised the number of CW permits available for FY19 to 13,000, 8,001 more than the cap set by the Trump Administration. In addition to more CW permits, the U.S. Workforce Act extends the bar on asylum, the exemption from the H visa cap, and the E-2CNMI investor program another 10 years.

100% with a star

Thanks to the Humane Society for recognizing my work to end the trade in shark fins and on other animal protection issues. The Society’s Legislative Fund scored me at 100 percent on their annual report card, released today, and gave me an additional leadership star for the Shark Fin Sales Elimination Act, H.R. 1456. The bill I jointly introduced with Chairman Ed Royce (R-California) currently has 257 cosponsors. It is intended to protect sharks and preserve our oceans' fragile ecosystems. In this Congress I have also supported legislation to block the trade in dog and cat meat, prevent horse slaughter, and prevent the Agriculture Department from issuing licenses to dog breeders whose previous licenses have been revoked or suspended. As a pet owner myself, I believe in preventing animal abuse and support reasonable animal welfare measures.

Apply now for academy nomination

Young men and women from the Northern Marianas interested in an exceptional college education at no cost and committed to serving our country should apply now for a congressional nomination to one of the U.S. service academies. As a result of changes I included in U.S. Public Laws 111-84, 111-383, and 114-92, there are openings for the Marianas at all four academies – the U.S. Air Force Academy, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Military Academy – for next year’s incoming class. Attending any of the academies is a unique opportunity to obtain a premier education and an officer’s commission in return for five years of service. As your Congressman, I may make nominations, but the final selection among nominees is made by academy admissions officials. They look for strong grades, high SAT or ACT scores, physical ability, and leadership potential. More information and an application form are available at https://sablan.house.gov/serving-you/academy-nominations, and at your local congressional office. Applications are due on Friday, December 7.

Justice awards $1.37M

As fiscal year 2018 closed, federal agencies released billions in Congressionally appropriated funds, including from the Department of Justice:

  • $906,929 to the Commonwealth Judiciary under the Bureau of Justice Assistance Adult Drug Court Discretionary Grant Program for financial and technical assistance to implement and enhance drug courts and veterans treatment courts that effectively integrate evidence-based substance abuse treatment, mandatory drug testing, sanctions and incentives, and transitional services in a judicially supervised court setting. Funds will be used to implement a data-driven strategy for reaching and expanding the capacity of drug court options and services for nonviolent, high risk/high need offenders.
  • $238,112 to the Northern Marianas Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to support the organization’s efforts to end domestic and sexual violence in our islands through community outreach, providing training and technical assistance service providers and responders, and other services. I authored the language in Section 311 of U.S. Public Law 111-320, the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act that made the Coalition eligible for a state-share of funding. Prior to the change, the Northern Marianas, Guam, American Samoa, and the U.S. Virgin Islands had to split one state share.
  • $150,000 to the Northern Marianas Department of Public Safety from the Support for Adam Walsh Act Implementation Grant Program. The funds will be used to maintain the Saipan sex offender registry, support development of registries in Tinian and Rota, and increase public safety and awareness.
  • $74,344 to the NMI Criminal Justice Planning Agency from the Formula Grants Program authorized under Title II of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. The program funds local delinquency prevention and intervention efforts, including activities to prevent juveniles from engaging in substance abuse, violent crimes, gang activities, and other delinquent acts, as well as identifying youth at risk of delinquency.

$13k for mine safety

$13,000 has been awarded to the Commonwealth Government by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Mine Safety and Health Administration to fund federally mandated safety and health training for miners. The grant provides for training those working on underground and on the surface, including those employed at surface stone, sand and gravel mining operations. Forty-six states, the Navajo Nation, Guam and the Marianas all received funding.

OPPORTUNITIES

Public Comment:

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK AND NEXT WEEK

The house is in recess for the District Work Period.