Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands)
In this issue:
· Bus, highway monies increased
· NMI AMBER Alert funding ok’d
· $1.14M for San Antonio school
· School budget cuts, learning loss examined
· Conservation funding clears Senate
· Police reform moves
· CARES Act: more PPP/EIDL
· EZ PPP forgiveness form available
· Keeping post offices open
· Correction: Veterans ID cards
· 3-year permit for long-term workers
· Grace period for long-term residents
· Calling all tech-savvy students
· Kilili Time Capsule
· Legislative highlights
Bus, highway monies increased
The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure agreed to increase the annual grant for the Marianas public bus system by about $400,000 over the FY20 level of $847,021 and more than double the Territorial Highway Program from $42 million to $100 million annually. THP funds are shared by the Marianas, American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. The increases are part of the INVEST in America Act, which the Committee approved Thursday. The five-year, $494 billion surface transportation authorization tackles the nation’s significant backlog of road and bridge repairs and replacements and provides substantial funding for highway safety, railways, transit, and climate mitigation. A surface transportation reauthorization approved by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works last year only increased insular area highway funding to $46 million. Current surface transportation authorization expires September 30, 2020. The INVEST in America Act now moves to the House floor.
NMI AMBER Alert funding ok’d
My legislation allowing the Marianas and other insular areas to tap federal funding to build their AMBER Alert systems for missing children was approved by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Rep. Plaskett (D-Virgin Islands), a cosponsor of the bill, offered its provision extending access to AMBER Alert funding from the U.S. Department of Transportation as an amendment to H.R. 2, the INVEST in America Act, which the Committee approved Thursday. H.R. 2 now goes to the full House for consideration. Thank you, Representative Plaskett.
$1.14M for San Antonio school
Federal funding for Super Typoon Yutu repairs continues. On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced a $1,144,124.10 grant to the CNMI Public School System to repair Francisco M. Sablan Middle School from the extensive damage caused by Super Typhoon Yutu. Funds will be used to restore the roofing, electrical, heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems, and building interior structures to pre-disaster capacity and function. To date, PSS has received more than $17.6 million in disaster recovery funds.
School budget cuts, learning loss examined
The Education and Labor Committee held a virtual hearing Monday to hear from school officials and experts on the impact COVID-19 has on their funding and their students’ ability to keep up with their studies. School superintendents discussed how their districts, like the Marianas Public School System, did not have the resources or training to quickly establish remote learning programs, leaving students, parents, and teachers scrambling to make up the lost learning time. I queried Cleveland Public Schools CEO Eric Gordon about the challenges he faces safely reopening schools which needed major repairs to HVAC and other critical systems before the pandemic. Gordon said COVID-19-related expenses had postponed plans to fund repair work and that federal investments in the Rebuild America’s Schools Act would help. The funding would also expand internet access so more students can participate in remote learning on-line. Watch the hearing here.
Conservation funding clears Senate
The increase in the Land and Water Conservation Fund annual grant for the Marianas to about $800,000 is closer to becoming permanent. The Marianas grant jumped from $100,000, when we succeeded in getting our own state-share of money in last year’s John J. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act, Public Law 116-9. Before that, the five U.S. territories and the District of Columbia all split one state-share. But the Land and Water Conservation Fund—and the value of a state-share—is still subject to annual appropriation ups and downs. On Wednesday, however, the Senate voted 73-25 to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, locking in $900 million in offshore oil and gas revenues, which the federal government collects each year, specifically for the Fund. This means the Marianas state-share will remain relatively constant at $800,000. The money can be used to improve and maintain our public parks, playgrounds, sports fields, and beach areas. Next, the House is expected to approve the Senate-passed bill, then send it to the President for signature.
Police reform moves
On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee passed the H.R. 7120, the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act of 2020, of which I am a cosponsor. The Act is a comprehensive approach to law enforcement reform intended to address racism and bias in policing and build trust between communities and law enforcement. The Act bans the use of chokeholds, allows individuals to sue for damages for constitutional rights violations by police, establishes a National Police Misconduct Registry to track police misconduct, and provides grants to help communities develop just and equitable public safety approaches. The bill passed the Committee by a vote of 24 to 14. The House is expected to bring the bill to the Floor next week.
CARES Act: more PPP/EIDL
More approvals for Marianas businesses and non-profits for the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program: as of June 12, 414 PPP loans worth $36,763,173 have been okayed as well as 118 EIDL loans worth $7,914,300 and 124 EIDL grant advances worth $582,000. Funding remains available for both programs to help with payroll and fixed expenses during the coronavirus crisis. To learn more, visit the SBA PPP website. Download a PPP application here. EIDL applications can be downloaded here; and a step-by-step guide on the application process can be viewed here.
EZ PPP forgiveness form available
On Wednesday, the U.S. Small Business Administration announced updates to its loan forgiveness form for PPP borrowers. The new EZ PPP application requires fewer calculations and less documentation. The following borrowers may use the EZ form: self-employed and have no employees; borrowers who did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%, and did not reduce the number or hours of their employees; or borrowers who experienced reductions in business activity as a result of health directives related to COVID19, and did not reduce the salaries or wages of their employees by more than 25%. The PPP EZ Loan Forgiveness Application is available here and application instructions here. For other PPP borrowers, the latest version of the application is available here with instructions here
Keeping post offices open
The U.S. Postal Service provides essential mail and package delivery service to Marianas residents–and it is running out of money. That is why I joined 136 other Members from both sides of the aisle in a letter urging Senate leadership to pass legislation providing $25 billion in emergency funding for the Postal Service. USPS needs the money to offset COVID-19-related revenue losses, expected to total $22 billion over the next 18 months. The House has already approved $25 billion in funding for the post office in the HEROES Act. Without funding the Postal Service would have to cease operations.
Correction: VHIC cards
We reported incorrectly in last week’s e-news that the Saipan Veterans Affairs Outreach Clinic is now able to print Veterans Health Identification Cards. In fact, the Clinic is only able to accept the necessary documents for obtaining a card and validate a veterans’s eligibility. Copies of two valid IDs, such as a driver’s license and passport, must be submitted along with the photo taken from the chest up with a solid white background. These documents can be sent directly to the Saipan VA Outreach Clinic staff, Ms. Ruth Coleman, at firstname.lastname@example.org. Because Ms. Coleman can now validate a veteran’s identity, documents no longer are sent to Guam or Hawai’i for processing but go directly to Atlanta, Georgia, where cards are printed, then mailed directly to the veteran’s address. VHICs can be used by veterans with 0-90% rated service-connected disabilities to access in-store shopping privileges at a military exchange. We apologize for this error.
3-year permit for long-term workers
The Grace period for long-term residents
On Wednesday, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the automatic extension of parole and employment authorization (EAD) for Marianas persons with parole expiring on June 29, 2020. USCIS is taking this action to allow those applying for CNMI Long-Term Resident Status to do so without worrying about their status. Individuals covered by this announcement will need a copy of the web alert, Form I-766 (EAD) with the “C-11” category code and expiration date on or before June 29, 2020 to prove identity and work authorization to prove employment eligibility.
The House is in recess for the District Work Period.
The House is in recess for the District Work Period.