THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - September 10, 2021

Sep 12, 2021

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$77m for NMI schools, in-state tuition ok’d

The Education and Labor Committee completed its portion of the reconciliation budget plan for Fiscal Year 2022, S. Con. Res.14 on Friday. Democratic Members delivered on the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better Agenda, by making major investments in education, job training, child care, and more. An estimated $77 million is allocated to fix Marianas schools in need of repair. Students from the Marianas seeking bachelor’s degrees will be eligible for in-state tuition at U.S. public universities. Child care will also be more affordable for families. And for the first time the Marianas will receive U.S. Department of Labor funding to establish one-stop job centers for those seeking employment and training opportunities. All Republicans voted against the legislation, which now goes to the Budget Committee for consideration.

$1.1b in spending for territories

The Northern Marianas and other insular areas will receive $1.1 billion for critical health infrastructure, to prepare for the harmful effects of climate change, and to conserve endangered species under terms of the reconciliation measure the Natural Resources Committee passed on Thursday. No Republicans voted for the bill. The Committee was assigned $25.6 billion as its portion of the reconciliation budget plan for Fiscal Year 2022, S. Con. Res.14 and allocated a significant amount for the insular areas. The Natural Resources component of the reconciliation measure will now be combined with the larger $3.5 trillion Build Back Better Agenda the President has proposed. The Biden Administration wants to make major investments in education, health care, environmental protection, and more to lift the economy and strengthen our nation.

$750K available to help NMI small biz

This week the U.S. Small Business Administration released the first-ever grant application to establish the future Lead Small Business Development Center (SBDC) in the Marianas. I was able to make this opportunity available in the National Defense Authorization Act signed into law in January. Previously, the Marianas SBDC was not eligible for Lead Center funding, as it was a sub-office of the Pacific Islands SBDC Lead Center on Guam. With up to $750,000 available to establish the Marianas Lead SBDC, small businesses on Saipan, Tinian, and Rota could have access to free or low-cost services such as incubator workspaces for entrepreneurs, assistance with loan applications, business planning, operations, personnel administration, marketing, export assistance, sales, and other requirements for growth and success. Applications are due Saturday, October 8, 1:59 a.m. ChST.

Fighting for equal rights

Along with Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl Grijalva (D-Arizona) and other Members of Congress, I sent a letter to Attorney General Garland and Acting Solicitor General Fletcher on Wednesday, requesting the Department of Justice explicitly condemn the Insular Cases and the territorial incorporation doctrine. The Department is currently preparing to argue two cases that could establish the legal rights of residents of U.S. territories and whether the Constitution fully applies to the territories; and this presents an opportunity to renounce the Insular Cases. The same Supreme Court that affirmed racist Jim Crow laws over a century ago established a doctrine of “separate but unequal” for residents of the territories. That doctrine has been used ever since to deny Americans in the territories equal access to federal programs, including Supplemental Security Income, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, and Medicare Part D low-income subsidies. The Justice Department should stop defending this inequality in court and expressly condemn the Insular Cases, if the Biden-Harris administration is to remain true to its broader call for racial justice.

Reminder for CW-1 employers

Employers of CW-1 workers must confirm the continued employment of the CW-1 workers every six months. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services may revoke an employer’s approved petition or deny their future petitions if they do not comply with the reporting requirement. The NMI U.S. Workforce Act of 2018 (USWA), Public Law 115-118, established the semiannual reporting requirement in part to stop the “ghost employee” practice that had made it difficult for legacy businesses in the Marianas to obtain CW-1 workers. The interim final rule, implementing the U.S. Workforce Act, gives employers a 60-day window to file Form 1-129CWR that begins 30 days before and closes 30 days after the six-month anniversary of the start date of an approved CW petition. Employers can verify if USCIS received the Form I-129CWR by entering the receipt number of the approved Form I-129CW petition in Case Status Online.

Help decide fate of ancestral sites

Two virtual public meetings next week will help decide how we honor our ancient Chamorro heritage. Preliminary results of the Rota Special Resource Study will be discussed; and ideas from the meetings and from comments submitted in writing will be incorporated into a final report to the Secretary of the Interior next year.

Hearing on Marianas economic, labor issues set for Tuesday

The House Subcommittee on Indian, Insular, and Alaska Native Affairs holds an oversight hearing this Tuesday, September 13 on the economic impacts of the Commonwealth-only worker (CW) program in the Northern Mariana Islands.

President’s American Jobs Act benefits schools, invests in infrastructure

The American Jobs Act, which President Obama outlined in an address to Congress on Thursday, will provide money to help keep 280,000 teachers on the job nationwide and modernize at least 35,000 public schools, focusing on those most in need.

Grants:

Jobs:

Public Comments:

THIS WEEK

The House was in recess for the Committee Work Week.

NEXT WEEK

The House is in recess for the Committee Work Week.