THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS - September 25, 2020

Sep 28, 2020

In this issue:

·     Apprenticeship help for insular areas

·     $210k for COVID vaccine prep

·     Vet Center assessment required

·     One year’s discharge health aid closer

·     Vets cemetery grant boost approved

·     Governor, don’t cut food aid

·     $750k for Karidat

·     Military academy nominations open

·     Telework update

·     Kilili Time Capsule

·     Opportunities

·     Legislative highlights

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Apprenticeship help for insular areas

The Marianas would receive $2.8 million over 5 years to support the creation of registered apprenticeship programs under terms of my bill  H.R. 8320, the Outlying Area Apprenticeship Act. On Thursday, the House Committee on Education and Labor passed the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020 and included the text of my bill. Apprenticeships supported by the original National Apprenticeship Act over the last 83 years have proven a good return on investment, helped local economies grow, and provided unparalleled job and career opportunities to young people. The Act did not support apprenticeships in the Marianas and other insular areas, however—an inequity my bill addresses. The National Apprenticeship Act now goes to the full House for consideration.

$210k for COVID vaccine prep

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) awarded $210,000 to the Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation this week. The money will help CHCC prepare to store, transport, and administer a COVID-19 vaccine, once available. Congress included the funding in the CARES Act in March. To date, the Marianas has received $5,896,231 for the public health response activities to COVID-19 through the various relief packages Congress has enacted.

Vet Center assessment required    

The Department of Veterans Affairs will be required to report to Congress on how it plans to provide Vet Center services in the Marianas and other areas that have no Vet Center. I included the requirement by amendment of H.R. 1812, which Congress sent to the President for signature on Tuesday. The bill expands Vet Center services—specifically, readjustment counseling and other mental health care—which underscores the need for the Department to explain how they will make sure Marianas veterans are treated equally. Guam Vet Center staff periodically conduct outreach for our veterans, but they deserve more frequent and regular access to all Vet Center services. I have also included a provision in the Fiscal Year 2021 VA funding bill report mandating an assessment of increasing staffing and establishing a Vet Center in the Marianas. 

 

One year’s discharge health aid closer

The U.S. Veterans Administration must develop a strategic plan to give all veterans one year of health care after they separate from active service. The requirement is a compromise worked out between the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees on the proposal for one year of health care coverage that I introduced in H.R. 5024. The requirement is included in S.785, a package of bills Congress sent to the White House for signature on Wednesday. Providing one year of health care after discharge would greatly help veterans and their families make the transition to civilian life. By removing the worry of health care, I want to free them to focus on their next steps in education, employment, and housing, and ultimately make the transition successful. VA must submit the strategic plan to Congress no later than one year after the bill’s enactment.

 

Vets cemetery grants boost approved                  

The Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee favorably reported S. 4511, an omnibus package including my bill, H.R. 5487, increasing federal maintenance funds available for the Marpi vets cemetery and others nationwide. With more veterans choosing burial near home, more state, territorial, and tribal governments in charge of cemeteries are faced with increased operations and maintenance costs. H.R. 5487, the Veterans Cemetery Grants Improvement Act, doubles the current grant limit of $5 million for these purposes. The funding helps address the challenges the Commonwealth faces in preventing the defacing of our veterans’ final resting places. S. 4511 now goes to the full Senate for consideration. 

Governor, don’t cut food aid

Governor Torres should show some compassion for the 5,169 families now receiving help from the federally funded Nutrition Assistance Program and not cut their aid. That was my message this week in response to the Governor's threat to cut families from eligibility and reduce benefits across the board, unless Congress came up with another $11.5 million for fiscal year 2021. I also let the Governor know I had alerted Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives to the shortfall he identified and that Speaker Pelosi added the Marianas to Pandemic EBT food assistance program in the continuing resolution the House passed on Tuesday. If the Senate agrees and the President signs off on the continuing resolution, preventing a government shutdown on October 1, the Pandemic EBT program will mean between $12 and $16 million in additional food aid for Marianas families with school children.

 

$750k for Karidat

The U.S. Department of Justice awarded $750,000 to Karidat Social Services from the Services for Victims of Human Trafficking Program. The program funds direct services to victims of human and labor trafficking and efforts to enhance interagency collaboration and community response capacity. The grant will enable Karidat to provide individualized trauma-informed services and increase partnerships to ensure victims receive needed care.

OPPORTUNITIES

·     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

·     H.R. 3465 - Fallen Journalist Memorial Act (passed by voice vote)

·     H.R. 3010 - Honoring All Veterans Act (passed by voice vote)

NEXT WEEK

Bills to be considered not available at time of print.