MIL-OSI USA: Washington Review: May 9, 2022

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Source: United States House of Representatives – Congressman Albio Sires (8th District of New Jersey)

To begin the appropriations process for fiscal year 2023, I shared my funding requests with the House Appropriations Committee. These requests assist the Appropriations Committee in drafting appropriations bills which ultimately fund the government. This year, I led letters requesting funding to address the root causes of irregular migration and support democracy programs in Cuba, as well as co-led a letter with Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) to request robust funding to address the humanitarian and refugee crisis in Venezuela. This summary highlights a few of the funding requests I prioritized this year.

Health

This year, I continued to strongly advocate for Community Health Center Funding by joining Rep. Diana DeGette’s (D-CO) letter asking for robust funding for these important community health resources. Community health centers provide essential, high-quality care and reduce barriers to accessing health care across the District. Throughout the pandemic, community health centers have been invaluable to supporting the health needs of our community.

I also joined Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN), and other members, in requesting $2.5 million for the Public Health Education and Research Program on Tourette Syndrome. Tourette Syndrome affects apparently 3 million people across the country, and greater research is needed to advance our understanding, improve diagnosis, and support those with Tourette Syndrome. I continue to lead legislation to advance Tourette Syndrom research to benefit the lives of all those Americans impacted by this condition.

Unfortunately, cancer rates are high for those living in New Jersey, although cancer research has improved diagnosis and treatment to save lives. Greater funding for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), supports the work of scientists and doctors who are exploring cancer’s causes, new treatments, and early screening. I joined Rep. Brian Higgins (D-NY) in requesting $7.766 billion to support the hard work of NCI.

As a member of the Mental Health Caucus, I have long supported providing additional resources to youth mental health programs to support the mental health needs of our community. Unfortunately, there are many children without access to mental health resources living in our district. Those children may be struggling mentally after the pandemic, and it is important to provide these resources for them. I signed onto Rep. Grace Napolitano’s (D-CA) letter to requesting an increase in funding for key programs, including $150 for the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative (NTSI), $244 million for Project AWARE, and $64 million for mental health awareness training.

The pandemic has proven the need to address the social determinants of health in order to better protect and improve the health of our communities. Social determinants of health include built environment, community safety, access to health care, and other factors which directly and indirectly affect your health status. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) created the Social Determinants of Health Program to study the impact of social determinants of health and factor them into general policymaking in order to improve health outcomes. I joined Rep. Nanette Diaz Barragan (D-CA) in requesting $153 million for this important program.

Lastly, I joined Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) in support of funding for Title X family planning. Title X is the only federal program dedicated to providing family planning services to low income communities. Title X Service Grants support families in having healthy pregnancies and the desired number and spacing of children. My colleagues and I requested $512 million to continue supporting Title X services. 

Energy and Natural Resources

This year, I signed onto a letter led by Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) to request $1.2 billion for the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account. Superfund sites are contaminated areas which require emergency and long-term cleanup of hazardous materials. This program is particularly important to New Jersey, as New Jersey has one of the highest number of Superfund sites in the country.

As we work to address climate change, a key area of focus must be finding ways to answer to U.S.’s energy needs while moving toward renewable resources. I joined Rep. Eric Swalwell’s (D-CA) letter to request appropriators provide $4 billion to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) to advance America’s energy strategy, research and development, and deployment of new programs to improve energy efficiency.

Additionally, I supported Peter Welch’s (D-VT) request for funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This program assists low-income families and seniors with home heating costs. This support is essential to keeping our community safe in winter months when energy costs surge.

I also supported Rep. Donald Beyer (D-VA) request to fully fund the endangered species functions of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services (USFWS) and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS). Ensuring the survival of endangered species keeps ecosystems in balance and prevents environmental degradation. I was happy to support the hard work of USFWS and NMFS to protect threatened and endangered species and support ecosystems across the U.S.

Community Safety and Family Support

I joined Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA), in sending a letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies, requesting full funding for the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) Program. CASA advocates are appointed by judges to advocate for the best interests of the most vulnerable child victims of abuse or neglect. CASA programs across the country provide trained and supervised citizen-advocates to assure that the needs and rights of these children are met. Funding to protect the most vulnerable children in our population will always be warranted.

I signed a letter led by Rep. David Price (D-NC), asking the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies Subcommittee to provide $60 million in funding for gun violence research in FY 23. Specifically, the letter asks for $35 million for gun violence research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; and, $25 million for research carried out by the National Institutes of Health. Gun violence is one of the ultimate harms and tragedies plaguing our society, we must commit the resources needed to stop these senseless killings.

I joined Majority Leader Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), in a letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on Homeland Security to provide funding for the Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) and the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant programs. Specifically, the letter requests $405 million for the AFG program and $405 million for the SAFER program. These grant programs allow our local fire stations to hire more personnel, upgrade equipment, and better prepare to continue protecting our communities.

I also joined Rep. Kim Schrier (D-WA) in requesting $100 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). This funding requests supports the storage and distribution of emergency food to communities in need, as well as improves the programs ability to identify opportunities to increase supplies. TEFAP has proven essential to distributing food in times of crisis and serving as a nutritional safety net for those in need.

Housing and Transportation

As a former mayor, I know the impact that Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) can have on improving housing options in our District. This year, I joined Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) in requesting $4.2 billion for this program which will help improve neighborhoods across the country. Similarly, Community Services Block Grants (CSBG) provide funds to address and alleviate poverty and support low-income areas. I joined Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) in requesting $800 million to fund the CSBG program.

I also signed onto a request led by Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-OH) to provide $2.5 billion for Home Investments Partnerships Funding, known as HOME. The HOME program is designed to provide low-income individuals and families with affordable housing by funding state and local government initiatives to construct or rehabilitate rental housing. Beneficiaries of this program are at or below 60% of the median area income and would otherwise struggle to find housing that they can afford. Additionally, I joined Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (D-NY) request for $31.6 billion to fund Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers. Housing choice vouchers allow for low income and the elderly to choose suitable and safe housing while receiving federal housing assistance.

New Jersey’s 8th District is an important transportation hub where many of our residents and others depend on rail transportation. I joined Rep. Seth Moulton (D-MA) in requesting $1.1 billion for the Northeast Corridor and $2.2 billion for Amtrak’s national network. New Jersey is an integral part of the Northeast Corridor, and this funding will support reliable passenger rail service.

Foreign Affairs and Global Health

This year, I lead a letter to House appropriators to request robust funding to sustain the U.S. – Mexico Bicentennial Framework, formerly known as the Merida Initiative. The Bicentennial Framework is a critical partnership dedicated to confronting drug trafficking and strengthening the rule of law in Mexico. This letter recommends that the committee directs funding toward combating transnational criminal organizations, strengthening forensic capacity and justice sector institutions and protecting human rights as areas of mutual interest to the U.S. and Mexico.

My letter on Cuba requests $30 million for democracy programs to support the Cuban people. The protests against Cuba’s authoritarian regime last year displayed the resilience of the Cuban people and their unflinching desire for freedom. We must answer their call for freedom with funding to the democracy programs of the State Department and USAID which play a critical role in fostering the conditions for an eventual transition to democracy.

I continued to lead the call for robust, targeted assistance to Central America to address the root causes which force migrants to leave their home countries. This funding would be in line with President Biden’s goals of building security and prosperity in partnership with the people of Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. Central America is facing a multitude of crises, including the COVID-19 pandemic, droughts, hurricanes, food shortages, community violence, and severe poverty. The previous administration’s failure to provide assistance to Central America undermined years of progress in the region.  To support our neighbors, we must provide targeted assistance, which benefits the people of Central America, not corrupt government officials.

I also joined Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL) in leading a letter requesting robust funding to address the crisis in Venezuela. Venezuela is the second largest refugee crisis, with much of its population living abroad as refugees or internally displaced. Those in Venezuela face massive shortages of food and medicine, extreme poverty, and worsening unemployment, all of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. Our letter requests that funding be prioritized to this urgent humanitarian crisis.

Despite the warnings of epidemiologists and scientists, the world proved to be woefully unprepared for the COVID-19 pandemic. I joined Rep. Ami Bera (D-CA) in requesting additional funding for global health security and pandemic preparedness efforts. This request would give the necessary funds for CDC Global Health Security activities and Rapid Response Reserve Fund, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Global Health Security activities and Emergency Reserve Fund, and Department of Defense Biological Threat Reduction Program to help secure the world from another fast-spreading disease outbreak.

I also continued to advocate for robust funding for PEPFAR and the Global Fund for AIDS, Tuberculosis, and Malaria by joining a letter led by Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA). PEPFAR, or the President’s Emergency Fund for AIDS, has been critical in the global fight against AIDS by providing antiretroviral treatments and health services for families and orphans. The Global Fund has also been a partner in the fight against AIDS, as well as infectious diseases, such as Tuberculosis and Malaria which affect millions around the world.

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