THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - September 16, 2022

Sep 18, 2022

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New help for Marianas farmers 

Families in the Marianas will have increased access to fresh and nutritious food from local farmers thanks to funding for the Local Food Purchase program in Section 1001(b)(4) of the American Rescue Plan Act. The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced an implementing agreement with the Commonwealth on Tuesday. The agreement creates the Feeding Marianas Food Purchase Program under which the Commonwealth will purchase food grown or processed in our islands to be distributed through Marianas nonprofits, food banks, and other food aid organizations. No Republican voted in favor of the American Rescue Plan.

$411k to fight invasive species 

The Commonwealth’s Department of Lands and Natural Resources is receiving $410,974 from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law for the Marianas to support invasive species eradication and control projects, the Office of Insular Affairs announced Thursday. Funding will be used for the following projects aimed at safeguarding our island ecosystems.

  • $280,351 to support Coconut Rhinoceros Beetle Detection, Eradication, and Preventative Measures
  • $130,623 for the Mucuna Pruriens (velvet bean) Eradication Project

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law invests $1.4 billion for ecosystem restoration and resilience efforts over the next five years to help restore ecosystems and protect habitats across the country. Congratulations to DLNR.

$11.3m more for COVID relief 

The Commonwealth is receiving another $9,606,182.67 to cover costs of responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced on Monday. The funds require no local match and are intended to pay for labor, rented equipment, materials, and contract services performed between April 2020 through September 2021 to set up alternative care sites. And on Tuesday FEMA announced a second grant of $1,678,097.80 to purchase personal protective equipment and ensure the safe opening and operation of the local healthcare system during the pandemic. These funds, too, require no local match. To date, the Commonwealth has received $69.3 million in FEMA grants related to pandemic relief.

$1.3m in DOJ grants to the Marianas

The Commonwealth is receiving three grants worth $1,267,000 for crime prevention, domestic and sexual violence, victim assistance, training, and the sex offender registry, the U.S. Department of Justice announced this week:

  • $616,423 - STOP (Services, Training, Officers, Prosecuters) Violence Against Women FOrmula Grant award to the Criminal Justice Planning Agency (CJPA) to develop and strengthen efforts to combat violent crimes against women and strengthen and improve victim safe and services.
  • $267,469 - The State and Territory Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Coalitions Program grant to Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence to support rape crisis centers and nonprofits that provide direct assistance and services to sexual assault victims. 
  • $384,080 - Support for Adam Walsh Act Implements Grant Program to the Department of Public Safety to implement the Sex Offender Registration and Notification Act (SORNA) which requires jurisdictions maintain a sex offender registry and sex offenders register and maintain current registration in area they live, work, or attend school. SORNA requirements also include participation in the National Sex Offender Public Website.

$938k for safe, supportive schools

On Thursday, the U.S. Department of Education awarded the Marianas Public School System $938,320 to help provide students safer, healthier learning environments. The funding comes from the Department’s Stronger Connections grant program, authorized by Congress in the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act in June. The purposes of the grant are to implement comprehensive, evidence-based strategies that meet each student’s various well-being needs; engage with parents, families, and community partners for feedback; and design and implement policies and practices that are responsive to underserved students. Congratulations, PSS.

NMI businesses get $100k for export aid

Marianas small businesses will get help exporting their products and services using $100,000 in federal funds awarded to the CNMI Department of Commerce. The Marianas became eligible for this funding as a result of a statutory change I added to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2013. Prior to that change, the Marianas was not eligible to compete for State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grant funds. Congratulations to the Department of Commerce.

$13k Pell Grant proposed 

On Thursday, House Education and Labor Committee Chairs Bobby Scott and Frederica Wilson introduced the Lowering Obstacles to Achievement Now (LOAN) Act (H.R. 8872), which aims to reduce the burden of student loans on borrowers and improve the loan system for current and future borrowers. Specifically, the bill:

  • Doubles the federal Pell Grant by increasing the maximum award over 5 years to $13,000
  • Shortens the time to forgiveness for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program and codifies the current PSLF waiver
  • Expands access to subsidized loans and creates a safety net for vulnerable borrowers
  • Requires no new loan to have an interest rate higher than 5%  

I am an original co-sponsor of the measure.

Kilili: No Medicaid “cliff” for Marianas

Federal Medicaid for the Marianas will be $64,010,000 for fiscal year 2022, beginning October 1, Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan announced today. “Rather than dealing with a Medicaid ‘cliff,’ the Commonwealth will actually be eligible for more money in fiscal 2022 than we received this year. This is very good news.”

Helping pay for child care

Families making less than 150 percent of median income in the Marianas would be eligible for federal help for child care costs under terms of the bill that 44 fellow Democrats and I introduced.

Continuing Resolution dodges cuts, keeps NMI funding at FY12 levels

Instead of cutting programs the Northern Marianas relies on as the majority has proposed, the House voted recently to keep government-wide funding for fiscal year 2013 at fiscal 2012 levels – at least for the first six months of the year from October through March.

Grants:

  • Regional Ocean Partnership and Data Sharing
  • Humanities Collections and Reference Resources
  • Energizing Insular Communities
  • FEMA Public Assistance for Safe Opening and Operating of Schools 
  • FEMA 2021 Assistance to Firefighters Grant (AFG) Program
  • Emergency Rural Health Care Funds
  • Indigenous Communities Program (EDA)

Public comments:

THIS WEEK

  • H.R. 5774 - Expediting Disaster Recovery Act, as amended (passed, 406-20)
  • H.R. 7939 - Student Veteran Emergency Relief Act of 2022, as amended (passed under suspension)
  • H.R. 8260 - Faster Payments to Veterans Survivors’ Act of 2022 (passed under suspension)

NEXT WEEK