Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Albio Sires (8th District of New Jersey)
Last week, I signed onto legislation to help save public education jobs, protect polar bears and their natural habitat, and develop and protect outdoor parks. I also cosponsored legislation to expand access to high quality apprenticeship programs across the country. I signed onto letters opposing the expansion of the global gag rule and urging the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to reverse their guidance on eviction moratoriums.
Last week, I became a cosponsor of H.R. 8691, the Save Education Jobs Act, introduced by Rep. Jahana Hayes (D-CT). Unfortunately, between February and September 2020, an estimated 585,000 local public education employees lost their jobs across the country. Without sufficient funding from the federal government to support states and school districts during this economic recovery, an estimated 1.5 million education jobs will be lost over the next two years. This bill would deliver up to $261 billion to states and school districts over 10 years. The funding would help to save up to 3.9 million education jobs, including teachers, school leaders, social workers, school nurses, bus drivers, and more. Additionally, this legislation would also guarantee funding to all states for 6 years, or until the unemployment rate drops below 5.5%, to help school districts maintain their staff. The COVID-19 public health emergency has had a major financial impact across the country, including our schools. It is crucial that we support our local school districts with the funds they need so they can focus on what they do best – teaching our nation’s children and helping them flourish into thoughtful, independent adults.
I also cosponsored H.R. 8294, the National Apprenticeship Act of 2020, introduced by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Rep. Susan Davis (D-CA). This bill would authorize a grant program to expand access to high-quality registered apprenticeships, youth apprenticeships, and pre-apprenticeships. Registered apprenticeships are America’s most successful federally authorized workforce development program. According to the Department of Labor (DOL), 94 percent of people who complete registered apprenticeships are employed upon completion, earning an average starting wage of above $70,000. Yet, according to recent data, apprenticeships only make up 0.3 percent of the overall workforce in the United States. The investment stemming from this legislation would provide nearly 1 million new apprenticeship opportunities. With the high unemployment rate due to the COVID-19 pandemic, investing in this proven workforce system could provide more Americans with a paid pathway to high-quality, high-wage employment opportunities.
I signed onto H.R. 4512, the Outdoors for All Act, introduced by Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA). This bill will address outdoor recreation deficits by codifying and creating mandatory funding to the Outdoor Recreation Legacy Partnership (ORLP) to ensure that as our urban areas grow, there will be outdoor recreation opportunities and healthy communities. Priority would be given to shovel-ready projects that support underserved communities, provide job-training to youth, and leverage resources through public-private partnerships. This bill would also ensure underserved communities have access to local parks and outdoor recreation opportunities in areas that need it most. Especially in an era of social distancing brought on by COVID-19, it is important that all communities have outdoor areas for recreation.
Rep. Jared Huffman (D-CA) introduced H.R. 7876, the Polar Bear Cub Survival Act of 2020, which I cosponsored this week. The bill would prohibit any oil and gas activities from occurring within 1 mile of polar bear maternal denning habitats in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, creating a buffer that would protect polar bear cubs. The 1-mile buffer builds on existing regulation by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in the Beaufort Sea and is widely accepted as necessary to protect dens. As polar bears face increasing hardship due to natural resource activity and climate change, protecting their habitats and polar bear cubs is crucial to protecting the species long-term.
I signed onto a letter led by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), opposing a proposed rule to expand the global gag rule. The global gag rule prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from providing information, referrals, or services advocating legal abortion. In September, the Trump Administration released a proposal to amend the Federal Acquisition Regulation rule from the Department of Defense to implement the Protecting Life in Global Health Assistance Policy. The letter, addressed to Secretary of State Pompeo, Secretary of Health and Human Services Azar, and Acting Administrator Barsa of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), highlights the harmful effects this policy would have and asks the Administration to reverse the proposal. Women’s reproductive rights and the right to choose are a fundamental part of women’s health and should be treated as such in our mission to provide aid around the globe.
I also signed onto a letter led by Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) and Rep. William Lacy Clay (D-MO) to the Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), asking them to reverse their October guidance on eviction moratoriums. In September, the CDC issued an eviction moratorium on rental properties through December 31, 2020 before issuing updated guidance in October, undermining the intentions of the original agency order by allowing landlords to challenge tenant declarations and initiate the eviction process, badly threatening renters. To ensure renters are protected, the letter requests a 90-day extension of the order from December 31, 2020 until March 31, 2021 and the issuance of new guidance requiring landlords to inform renters of the original agency order. During this public health emergency, we need to protect renters and ensure they have a safe place to live. Additionally, the economic hardship brought about by COVID-19 is further evidence why we must protect renters in this time of need.
On November 1, 2020, Open Enrollment for health care plans will begin in New Jersey. This year, instead of using the federal marketplace, New Jersey will switch to their own state-run marketplace. In order to browse health care plans you can visit: www.nj.gov/getcoverednj. Here you will be able to compare available plans, review financial assistance options, and select a plan that is best for you. This new marketplace is easy to use and helps to clearly identify plans that will be most beneficial to you. In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is crucial we leave no one behind and that everyone has access to affordable health care. If you need health care, be sure to visit the site. Open enrollment is open from November 1, 2020 to January 31, 2021.
With cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise across the country, it is imperative we remain vigilant and safe. Please continue to wear a mask in public and practice social distancing when possible. Working together, we can help slow the spread of this virus. Please know that I will continue working to get the 8th District the resources it needs. If you have questions or need assistance please call my Washington, D.C. office at (202)225-7919 and follow instructions to be connected to my staff or send an email to NJ8inquiries@mail.house.gov. Together we can get through this.