MIL-OSI USA: THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS – March 26, 2021

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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (Northern Mariana Islands)

In this issue:

·     Marianas leads in vaccination rate

·     More vaccine on the way

·     Veterans’ vaccine?

·     Vets Committee hosts new Secretary

·     Remembering Vietnam Vets

·     VA: Act quickly on Agent Orange

·     $880k for Kagman Community Health Center

·     Thanks for EITC, monthly  CTC, TANF

·     Biden waives unemployment local match

·     Addressing pandemic learning loss

·     More payout from $56m waste fund

·     $9m for Marianas CIP

·     Build back insular infrastructure

·     Discussing utility priorities

·     Future of America’s public lands

·     Commonwealth is REAL ID compliant

·     New I-129CW & 129CWR forms

·     More time for certain responses

·     FEMA updates

·     VAWA reauthorization

·     Calling young artists

·     Kilili Time Capsule

·     Opportunities

·     Legislative highlights

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More vaccine on the way

At the present rate, 31,155 people in the Marianas could be fully vaccinated by the end of April. Notice has been received that 11,700 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine are being shipped next week, bringing the total doses of Pfizer vaccine to 42,510. Each recipient needs two doses, 21 days apart for maximum effectiveness. The Marianas will also be receiving 5,000 doses of the Moderna vaccine in April for a total of 17,800 doses. Two doses are also required for Moderna to be effective. April will see arrival of another 400 doses of the one-shot Johnson & Johnson/Janssen vaccine, bringing the total allocation to 1,000 doses. Vaccine distribution data for Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and Johnson & Johonson/Janssen is publicly available on CDC’s website.

Vets Committee hosts new Secretary

On Thursday, VA Secretary Denis McDonough made his first appearance before the House Veterans Affairs Committee. It was my opportunity to get his support for hiring a full-time doctor and a mental health provider to serve veterans in the Marianas. That staffing proposal by VA Pacific Islands Health Care System Director, Dr. Adam Robinson, was the result of language I included in this year’s VA appropriation report directing the Department to increase its medical services to Marianas vets. I also asked Secretary McDonough to keep flexibilities put in place during the pandemic so that veterans in our islands can continue to more easily access programs like the Program of Comprehensive Assistance to Family Caregivers. You can view our exchange here.

VA: Act quickly on Agent Orange

On Wednesday, I joined Rep. Lois Frankel, and 38 of my colleagues in urging VA Secretary Denis McDonough to expedite the process for adding Parkinsonism, Bladder Cancer, and Hypothyroidism to the presumptive list for Agent Orange exposure as required under Section 9109 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021. VA refused to grant presumptive service connection for these conditions despite a 2016 National Academy of Sciences report which found suggestive or sufficient evidence of association. This standard had been enough to add diseases in the past. Thousands of Vietnam War Veterans exposed to Agent Orange and suffering from these diseases will continue to be denied VA health care and disability benefits until the Department takes action.

$880k for Kagman Community Health Center

Kagman Community Health Center will receive $879,125 from the American Rescue Plan Act, it was announced this week. The money will help expand COVID-19 vaccination, testing, and treatment, and provide primary health care services to individuals at higher risk for COVID-19. The funds may also be used by the Health Center for infrastructure improvements to expand operational capacity.

Thanks for EITC, monthly  CTC, TANF

The House Ways and Means Committee Member’s Day on Tuesday was an opportunity to thank my colleagues for including federal payment of the Earned Income Tax Credit for the Marianas in Section 9625 of the American Rescue Plan—and make it permanent. The EITC is worth an estimated $25 million to lower-income, working families in our islands. Although, they will only receive this assistance when the Commonwealth legislature repeals the 100 percent local tax now imposed on any refundable credit. I began working on federal funding for the EITC by introducing H.R. 4309 in 2015 and got the provision added to the HEROES Act last year. I also thanked the Ways and Means Committee for including in the Rescue Plan my request that the Marianas Governor be given the authority to make Child Tax Credit payments monthly, rather than as an annual lump-sum. The monthly payments—$250 or $300, depending on the age of the child—are expected to make it easier for families to have money available to meet the need for food, clothing, and other necessities for their children. Section 9611 of the Rescue Plan provides the Governor with $300,000 to cover the administrative costs, if he decides to make the monthly payments. Your congressional office also negotiated with Ways and Means to give the Marianas access to a $75 million TANF Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund in Section 9201 of the American Rescue Plan. The Marianas does not participate in TANF, Temporary Aid for Needy Families, but I have introduced legislation, H.R. 1773, to make eligibility permanent.

Biden waives unemployment local match

President Biden has approved the Commonwealth’s request for a waiver of the local share of the Lost Wages Assistance program for the unemployed in the Marianas. President Trump created the Lost Wages Program administratively last year, after the Republican controlled Senate refused to extend federal unemployment benefits nationwide. The Commonwealth was unable to use the money, however, because it required a 25 percent local match. Governor Torres asked for a waiver; President Trump would not provide it. So, $7,721,288 in federal funds sat idle. On Monday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced President Biden had decided to approve the Governor’s request. The Commonwealth estimates 8,500 individuals will now be eligible for this additional cash assistance.

Addressing pandemic learning loss

As Chairman of the Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee I called a hearing Thursday to examine how COVID-19 has impacted our school children and discuss strategies for how to reopen classrooms safely and address learning loss equitably. Section 2005 of the American Rescue Plan, which had zero Republican support, is providing an estimated $160 million for the Marianas Public School System to keep teachers and staff paid and allow for a safe return to school. But the pandemic has made visible and made worse the disparities in educational resources across our country and these must now be addressed.

More payout from $56m waste fund

Another $5,693,217 from the $56 million Marianas solid waste fund I included in the Super Typhoon Yutu recovery bill, U.S. Public Law 116-20, is now available for use, the $9m for Marianas CIP

The Northern Marianas is receiving $9,082,000 in Capital Improvement Project grant funding, Interior’s Build back insular infrastructure 

President Biden and Congress are developing a major national infrastructure and investment plan and I want to be sure the needs of the insular areas are understood and included, because our quality of life and economic success are closely tied to having first-rate infrastructure. The five insular Governors gave an overview of infrastructure conditions in their jurisdictions at the Natural Resources Committee hearing I chaired on Wednesday. Historically, insular governments have struggled to build and maintain public utilities, roads, and ports, in part because of limited finances. The Commonwealth Utilities Corporation alone estimates needing over $800 million to modernize power, water, and wastewater systems. We also need to upgrade our sole hospital and the health clinics in Rota and Tinian. But building back better will take more than money. We will have to commit to building to standards that are sustainable and environmentally sound. Because our climate is changing, the insular areas are repeatedly dealing with powerful storms, sea level rise, and the deterioration of the coral reefs that protect our shores. We are going to have to design and build with that new reality in mind.

Future of America’s Public Lands

“Building Back Better” in America’s Public Lands was also the topic of discussion in the Subcommittee on National Parks, Forests, and Public Lands Commonwealth is REAL ID compliant

The Commonwealth is certified compliant with REAL ID Act requirements, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced today. Commonwealth REAL ID driver’s licenses and identification cards may be used for air travel, and entry to Federal facilities, military bases and nuclear power plants. REAL ID Act enforcement begins October 1, 2021. Persons without REAL ID cards will have to provide another acceptable proof of identity such as a passport, when traveling. 

New I-129CW & 129CWR forms

Businesses petitioning for CW workers or required to file the semiannual report for CW-1 employers will have to file the newly revised editions of those documents beginning April 19. Older versions will not be accepted. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services announced the new More time for certain responses

The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is continuing flexibilities announced March 30, 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The agency will consider responses to certain requests and notices issued March 1 through June 30, 2021 received within 60 calendar days after the due stated in the document before taking any action.  This applies to Requests for Evidence (RFE), Continuations to Request Evidence (N-14), Notices of Intent to Deny, Notices of Intent to Revoke, Notices of Intent to Rescind, Notices of Intent to Terminate regional investment centers and Motion to Reopen an N-400 pursuant to 8CFR 335.5, Receipt of Derogatory Information After Grant.  Additionally, Form I-290B, Notice of Appeal or Motion or Form N-336, Request for Decision in Naturalization Proceedings received within 60 calendar days from the date of issuance of a decision and the decision was made from March 1, 2020 through June 30, 2021. 

OPPORTUNITIES

Grants:

LEGISLATIVE HIGHLIGHTS

THIS WEEK

The House was in recess for Committee Work Week.

NEXT 

WEEK

The House is in recess for the District Work Period.

MIL OSI USA News