Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Albio Sires (8th District of New Jersey)
This week, I reintroduced the Collaborative Academic Research Efforts (CARE) for Tourette Syndrome Act to research the cause, prevention, and early detection of Tourette Syndrome. I also joined my colleagues on the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure in passing two vital infrastructure bills out of committee to be taken up by the full House. In addition, I cosponsored a number of bills addressing funding for abandoned oil well cleanup, urban tree planting, and a program to ensure the continuity of health insurance coverage for pregnant and postpartum women and infants.
This week, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, of which I am a member, passed H.R. 1915, the bipartisan Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act and H.R. 3684, Investing in a New Vision for the Environment and Surface Transportation (INVEST) in America Act. The INVEST in America Act will deliver $343 billion dollars for roads, bridges, and safety, $109 billion for transit, and $95 billion for freight and passenger rail. The Water Quality Protection and Job Creation Act would invest $50 billion to modernize our country’s wastewater infrastructure. New Jersey would receive $7.3 billion in highway funding, in addition to funds to connect pedestrians with transit, improve roadway safety, construct a ferry terminal, and improve drainage systems and traffic signals. Both bills are crucial to improving the lives of New Jersey residents and the 8th District, and will bring much-needed upgrades to the state’s infrastructure.
On June 1, I reintroduced H.R. 3679, the Collaborative Academic Research Efforts (CARE) for Tourette Syndrome Act of 2021. Tourette syndrome affects approximately 3 million Americans, including 20,900 children in New Jersey, according to the New Jersey Center for Tourette Syndrome and Associated Disorders. Through the CARE for Tourette Syndrome Act, the Secretary of Health and Humans Services would award grants to establish new Centers of Excellence to research the cause, early detection, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment for Tourette syndrome. In addition, the Secretary would create a system to collect and share data on the neurological disorder, in order to improve the coordination of research across centers. This important legislation could lead to breakthroughs in research which would improve the lives of those with Tourette syndrome.
This week I cosponsored H.R. 2415, The Orphaned Well Cleanup and Jobs Act, introduced by Rep. Teresa Leger Fernandez (D-NM). This bill would authorize $7.25 billion over ten years in grant funding for abandoned well cleanup on state and private lands, $400 million for cleanup on public lands, and $300 million for cleanup on Tribal lands. It would also strengthen regulatory safeguards on public lands to prevent future abandoned wells, in part by requiring operators to pay an annual fee for idled wells.
I also cosponsored the Ocean-Based Climate Solutions Act, introduced by Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ). The legislation protects and restores blue carbon ecosystems; promotes offshore wind energy and research while prohibiting new offshore fossil fuel activity; promotes climate-ready fisheries and eliminates fishing subsidies in trade agreements; establishes a climate and fisheries research and management program; and establishes a manufacturers fee on virgin single-use plastic production.
I joined the Saving Hazardous and Declining Environments (SHADE) Act, introduced by Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ). This bill would create a grant program to plant trees in formerly redlines areas graded “hazardous” or “declining” by the Home Owners’ Loan Corporation. Redlining was a discriminatory housing policy that is the practice of systematically denying resources to predominantly minority neighborhoods in order to prevent investment in those places. A 2020 study found that of 108 urban areas, nearly all formerly redlined areas were up to 12.6 degrees hotter than non-redlined areas, partly a result of a lack of tree shade. The grant program would be set up under Department of Housing and Urban Development, and would greatly benefit many of the urban communities in New Jersey.
I also signed on to H.R. 3522, the Residential Energy and Economic Savings (TREES) Act, introduced by Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA). This bill would help homeowners lower energy costs, increase tree canopy un underserved communities, and help mitigate climate change through tree planting. Specifically, this bill would create a grant program at the Department of Energy to provide $50 million in funding to plant a minimum of 300,000 trees annually in residential areas through 2026, and would prioritize low-income communities and areas with low tree canopy. Similar to the SHADE Act, this program aims to incentivize local governments to improve green spaces and expand urban forests.
I joined on to The IMPACT to Save Moms Act, introduced by Rep. Janice Schakowsky (D-IL). This bill would create a payment project to address clinical and nonclinical factors in payments for maternity care, and would focus on addressing racial and ethnic disparities in maternal health outcomes. It would also develop strategies for ensuring continuity of health insurance coverage for pregnant and postpartum women, including: presumptive eligibility for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) when a pregnant woman’s application for such programs is being processed; automatic reenrollment in Medicaid/CHIP for people who remain eligible for coverage after pregnancy; and measures to prevent any disruptions in coverage during pregnancy, labor and deliver, and up to one year postpartum.
Finally, I cosponsored H.R. 3829, the Transportation Equity Act, introduced by Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-FL). This legislation re-establishes the Advisory Committee on Transportation Equity, which the Trump administration dissolved in 2018, to help ensure that transportation policies and investments are equitably serving all communities. The committee would be comprised of community, academic and government stakeholders to advise the Secretary on policies to promote transportation equity through community engagement and interagency collaboration. The 8th District is a transportation hub, and this legislation will ensure that transportation services are accessible and efficient for all members of our community.
I joined my colleagues in a letter to the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) requesting the speedy approval and implementation of New Jersey’s County Option Pilot Program through CMS. This program would apply to seven counties in New Jersey, including Essex and Hudson counties. Through a process of “provider assessments,” hospitals in the seven counties would receive an additional $375 million in Medicare reimbursements, and counties would see an estimated $27 million increase in the county budget. This program would ensure that hospitals are able to provide essential services to low-income and underinsured patients.
Current Washington D.C. Office Status
My staff continue to work remotely during this time. Please know we continue to monitor our phone system, so while we are unable to speak directly with you, we manage all voice messages left. If you reached out to us through phone or e-mail, please expect an e-mail response. Be sure to check your spam or junk folders for a response from our office. We appreciate your understanding as we all navigate working through the pandemic.
Vaccines are now available to all individuals 12 and older who live, work, or study in New Jersey. Each of the state’s six megasites are now offering walk-in vaccinations, so you do not need an appointment prior to your visit. These megasites are:
- Atlantic City Convention Center, 1 Convention Boulevard, Atlantic City
- Bergen County at 1 Racetrack Drive, East Rutherford
- Burlington County at 400 Route 38, Moorestown
- Gloucester County at Rowan College of South Jersey, 1400 Tanyard Road, Sewell
- Middlesex County at the New Jersey Convention and Exposition Center, 97 Sunfield Ave. Edison
- Morris County at 301 Mount Hope Ave., Rockaway
You can find additional vaccination sites here.
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.
Open Enrollment has been extended through the end of 2021. 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 a health care plan, be sure to visit the site.