THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - September 11, 2020

Sep 15, 2020

In this issue:

·     Help decide fate of ancestral sites

·     $73.6m in unemployment paid

·     Medicaid cap repeal gets a boost

·     Compact renewals necessary

·     CW-1 employers on notice

·     $545k CDBG award to NMHC

·     HVAC mark-up

·     Military academy nominations open

·     Welcome, Joshua Masga

·     Telework update

·     Kilili Time Capsule

·     Opportunities

·     Legislative highlights

________________________________________________________________

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. Honoring our Chamorro heritage is important to us all, which is why I began work on legislation authorizing study of the historical, archaeological, and cultural artifacts on Rota in 2010 during my first term in office. The original idea for a Rota National Park came from Rota’s then-Senator Diego Songao; and I was able to get a law authorizing study of the suitability and feasibility of a park in 2014 and funding the year after. The preliminary finding is that Rota contains resources found nowhere else in our nation and that a Chamorro National Historical Park could be added to the 57 other historical parks nationwide, if the people agree. Over 200 participated in the initial public meetings in the Marianas, when the Park study began in 2017, demonstrating significant interest and support. Now, everyone is invited to continue that conversation. The public meetings will be held on Zoom—to maintain safety in the pandemic—on the following dates:

·     Thursday, September 17, 9:00 to 11:00 am Chamorro Standard Time, at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85655125375

·     Saturday, September 19, 9:00 to 11:00 am Chamorro Standard Time, at https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86120394552

More information on the virtual public meetings is available at https://parkplanning.nps.gov/meetingNotices.cfm?projectID=65104. Comments may also be submitted to the National Park Service through October 26, 2020, in the following ways:

·     Mail: National Park Service – Planning & Compliance 333 Bush Street, Suite 500 San Francisco, CA 94104

·     Email: Rota_study@nps.gov

Online: https://parkplanning.nps.gov/rotastudy

Medicaid cap repeal gets a boost

Repeal of the cap on Medicaid for the Marianas and other insular areas — my bill, H.R. 6495 — has now been piggybacked on a larger bill addressing health inequities nationwide. Rep. Robin Kelly (D-Illinois) introduced H.R. 8200, the Ending Health Disparities during COVID-19 Act of 2020 on Friday, September 11 and agreed to include my Medicaid cap repeal language. We learned from testimony in a June 22 hearing in the House Education and Labor Committee that the people hit hardest by the coronavirus pandemic are those historically subjected to discrimination based on race and ethnicity, gender, physical and mental impairment, socioeconomic class, or place of residence, like people in the insular areas. And they are the most impacted because they are also in the groups with the least access to healthcare. Rep. Kelly’s bill addresses that inequity and already has 33 co-sponsors.

Compact renewals necessary

As Natural Resources Committee Vice Chair for Insular Affairs, I hosted a briefing by the Departments of State and Interior on Tuesday to update Congress on the ongoing negotiations on extensions of the Compacts of Free Association between the U.S. and the freely associated states of the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau. Co-Chair negotiators, State Department Ambassador Karen Stewart and Interior Assistant Secretary Douglas Domenech, reported they are hopeful negotiations can be finalized by the end of this year. Economic provisions of the compacts do not expire until 2023 for FSM and RMI, and in 2024 for Palau. However, we want to avoid a repeat of Palau’s last compact renewal, which was agreed to in 2010 but not funded until FY2018. The delay raised concerns about the U.S. commitment to our Pacific allies. With foreign powers eager to exert influence in the FAS, we should ensure that the U.S. helps advance their economic development and self-sufficiency, while U.S. national security strategy and diplomacy is maintained in the region. We must also make sure significant additional funding is made available to territories and states to help defray health, education, and infrastructure costs associated with hosting COFA migrants.

CW-1 employers on notice

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services today announced the issuance of Notices to Intent to Revoke for CW-1 employers, who failed to comply with the semiannual reporting requirement for workers with start dates from October 1, 2019 through December 18, 2019. The deadline to file was August 17, 2020. Employers who receive a Notice should read it carefully, however, for one-time instructions to avoid revocation. 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, the Semiannual Report for CW-1 Employers that begins 30 days before and closes 30 days after the six-month anniversary of the start date of an approved CW petition. 

$545k CDBG award to NMHC

Today, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development announced an additional $545,858 in Community Development Block Grant funding to the Northern Marianas Housing Corporation. The money will help eligible persons pay their rent for up to 6 months. This grant is the final allocation of the $1.4 million Congress provided for the Marianas CDBG program in the CARES Act. The Marianas previously received a grant of $274,635 and another of $549,270 that is being used to procure a mobile clinic to bring primary and preventive health services to Saipan residents.

Extra year of health care for vets

Service members would be eligible for VA health care for one year after discharge under terms of my legislation, H.R. 5024, included in the Veterans COMPACT bill approved by the House Veterans Affairs Committee on Thursday. The extended eligibility includes members of the Reserve and National Guard, as well. Ensuring health care coverage–including mental health care—in this way will help ease the transition to civilian life for service members and their families. The Veterans COMPACT bill will also improve Vet Centers nationwide. I used the mark-up meeting to advocate making Vet Center services available to Marianas veterans. Ours is the only U.S. jurisdiction without a Vet Center. You can listen to my exchange with witnesses here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ai9EE4wVeoU.

OPPORTUNITIES

Grants

·     A note to those receiving or applying for federal grants during the coronavirus crisis: The White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB) may extend for up to 12 months certain grants set to expire between March 31 and December 31, 2020. OMB is also providing some deadline flexibility for grant applications. Check out these links for OMB’s March 9 and March 17 memo on these extensions.

·     Strengthening Community Colleges Training Grants

·     NEH Care: Cultural Organization

 ·     Citizenship Instruction and Naturalization Application Services

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

The House was in recess for the District Work Period.

NEXT WEEK

The House is in recess for the Committee Work Period.