MIL-OSI USA: THIS WEEK IN CONGRESS – October 01, 2021

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

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Biden signs insular FMAP extension 

Last night, President Biden signed into law the continuing resolution keeping the federal government funded through December 3. Also tucked into Section 3105 of the bill is an extension of the current, very favorable matching rates for insular area Medicaid – 83 percent federal/17 percent local. Without the extension the matching rates (the FMAP) would have reverted to 55 percent federal/45 percent local, increasing by millions of dollars the Commonwealth’s cost of providing Medicaid services to 38,000 people in the Marianas. The FMAP extension follows on last month’s decision by the Biden administration to provide $64,0101,000 to the Marianas for Medicaid in fiscal year 2022, which begins today. This is an increase of over $2 million from fiscal 2021. Our next goal will be to keep the FMAP extension in legislation we will pass before December 3 to fund the federal government for all of fiscal 2022

$93.7m loan to Marianas forgiven

Also, included in the continuing resolution signed into law Thursday night is language (Section 1601) that completely cancels the $93.7 million debt the Commonwealth took on for a Community Disaster Loan from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. After Super Typhoon Yutu Governor Torres asked me for a change in federal law that would allow him to get the loan to fund government operations. Community Disaster Loans are capped by law at $5 million and are only available to municipalities, not a state-level government like the Commonwealth. I did include the necessary statutory change, allowing the Governor to borrow, in Section 311 of the fiscal 2021 omnibus appropriation, Public Law 116-260, enacted in December 2020. FEMA had already provided the Governor with $5,000,000 and he quickly borrowed $88,734,930 more. Given how shaky our economy is, however, I did not want the people of the Marianas saddled with so much debt. I was able to include forgiveness language in the Homeland Security appropriation for FY22 earlier this year, but that spending bill has not yet passed the House. With the same language included in the continuing resolution this week, however, the Marianas debt is now completely cancelled.

$2.1m for insular energy projects

The Northern Marianas is receiving $2,119,748 in FY 2021 Energizing Insular Communities program funds, the Interior Department’s Office of Insular Affairs announced Monday. Grant funds will go towards six high-priority energy projects:

  • $645,000 for the design of the Commonwealth Utilities Corporation’s 2.5MW Solar & PV Battery Storage Facility
  • $370,680 for CNMI Energy Task Force Planning and Coordination
  • $328,236 for Solar Light Systems on Public Buildings and Pathways project on Tinian
  • $299,996 for CUC’s Distribution Automation Pilot project
  • $260,500 for the Commonwealth Port Authority’s cool roof system and LED lighting upgrades at the Saipan International Airport
  • $215,336 to continue the Energy Efficient/Energy Star Appliance Rebate program.

We continue to increase funding for this important program with the goal of reducing the costs of electricity for Marianas households and businesses by reducing reliance on expensive imported fuels. Although the Trump administration tried to cut funding, Congress appropriated $8.5 million in FY21, up from $6.3 million in FY20. The House has already approved $15.5 million for FY22 in line with the Biden administration recommendation to increase the Energizing Insular Communities program by $7 million. 

How to safely reopen schools

Like schools throughout America, the Marianas Public School System is using the $160 million received from the American Rescue Plan to help students stay healthy in school and to make up for learning losses that have occurred during the pandemic. To see how successful those efforts are nationwide, I held a hearing Wednesday in my Early Childhood, Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee. The superintendent of one of the nation’s largest school districts, as well as education policy and public health experts, testified on how the American Rescue Plan funds can be used most effectively. PSS has put the money toward summer learning programs and hired more teachers to work with students needing additional support. PSS is also installing new ventilators in each classroom to help prevent virus particles from accumulating.

$962k for Marianas AmeriCorps

Congratulations to AmeriCorps in the Northern Mariana Islands on their receipt of a $961,849 grant! This award will enable greater flexibility to increase living allowances for volunteers and open up possibilities for new programs while ensuring the maintenance of existing ones. Americorps places volunteers across the country to help communities, especially in times of crisis. If you’re interested in serving with Americorps, look here to learn more about available opportunities.

$1.7m for compact impact

The Northern Marianas is being allocated $1,652,879 in FY 2022 compact impact funding assistance, Interior’s Office of Insular Affairs announced Thursday. The Commonwealth must now submit a proposal for using the compact impact funding by December 1, 2021. Congress provides this money to the Pacific insular areas and Hawaii to help defray health, education, social, and infrastructure costs associated with hosting migrants from the freely associated states of Palau, the Marshall Islands, and the Federated States of Micronesia. FAS citizens can live, study, and work throughout the United States under terms of the Compacts of Free Association. In 2018, the Census Bureau estimated the number of FAS migrants in the Northern Marianas at 2,431, a decrease from 2,660 in 2013.

2022 FAFSA now open

Marianas students needing financial aid for college next fall can now begin filing their Free Application for Federal Student Aid, FAFSA, which opened October 1. With the enactment of my Simple FAFSA Act last year, students with prior drug convictions can now apply for aid. New and returning students attending college between July 1, 2022, and June 30, 2023, should complete the FAFSA as soon as possible. Consult your high school counselors or college financial aid officers for school-specific deadlines and assistance. Students and parents may complete the FAFSA form online at FAFSA.gov and through the myStudentAid mobile application.

$12-16M for Marianas food aid

The Marianas will have an additional $12 to $16 million in food aid for families with school-age children thanks to legislation enacted. The continuing resolution with the new Pandemic EBT funding was signed into law on Thursday.

$30.5 million for food stamps

How best to use the new food stamp funding I included for the Marianas in the 2014 Agricultural Act is still being decided.

House will vote on NMI Submerged Lands bill

Today, the House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 670, my bill conveying three miles of submerged lands to the people of the Northern Mariana Islands.  Ours is the only U.S. coastal jurisdiction that does not have ownership of the submerged lands off its coasts.

Grants:

Jobs:

Public Comments:

THIS WEEK

NEXT WEEK

The House is in recess for the Committee Work Week.

MIL OSI USA News