In this issue:
FY17 budget highlights
Bill introduced extending Palau Compact
Tinian selected for Air Force divert airfiled
USCIS Director provides update on CW processing
UCGC program offers glimpse of cadet life
WESPAC scholarships available
Opportunites - Federal grants, jobs for and in the Marianas
Highlights in the Legislative Program
FY17 budget highlights.
President Obama sent his Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposal to Congress on Tuesday. This is the final set of spending priorities the President will submit before ending his time in office. From the hundreds of pages of explanations, legislative language, and allocation tables we have selected a few items of key interest to the Northern Mariana Islands:
Education: Funding increase for NMI schools. Last year’s reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act made only one change to the Title I program that supports students from low-income families: my proposal to increase funding for the Northern Marianas and the U.S. territories of American Samoa, Guam, and the Virgin Islands. The increase is contingent in an overall increase in Title I funding, which the President has now proposed for FY17. If the President’s request for $15.36 billion, $450 million over the 2016 enacted level, is approved, then funding for the Marianas Public School System will go up from about $6.8 million this year to $11.2 million in 2017, a $4.4 million increase for our students.
Healthcare: Equal treatment under Medicaid. A long-sought goal of insular areas— getting the same funding as U.S. states for Medicaid coverage of low income persons—is part of the President’s budget proposal. The budget removes the cap on funding, which is currently about $5.5 million per year for the Northern Mariana Islands, although the Affordable Care Act has tripled that through 2019. And the President proposes a gradual increase in the share of Medicaid costs covered by the federal government as territories modernize their Medicaid programs. Currently, insular areas cover 45 percent, the federal government 55 percent. But in some states the federal percentage is as high as 74 percent.
Extending the Compact with Palau: $273 million over ten years. The President’s budget includes the funding necessary for the extension of the Compact of Free Association with Palau. (See story below.)
Air Force land lease in NMI: $9 million. The Air Force included $9,002,000 in its military construction budget request to lease 7.1 hectares of land in support of the divert activities and exercises initiative. (See story below.) While not specified in the budget, the land will be identified during negotiations with the Commonwealth, which are expected to begin this summer. According to a Navy real estate survey, the cost to acquire the land by fee is $3.2 million, but the budget reports the Air Force is prepared to lease the property at a higher cost in order to conform to the Covenant agreement to acquire only the minimum real property interest necessary to meet mission requirements.
Office of Insular Affairs: Funds increased to address economic challenges. The President’s budget adds funds for insular area energy security, protection of natural and cultural resources, and adaptation to climate change:
- Technical assistance, primarily for climate resilience projects: +$5.6 m.
- Maintenance assistance to improve school facilities: +3.9 m.
- Invasive species control under the Coral Reef Program: +$1 m. (corresponding $500,000 reduction in Brown Tree Snake Control)
- Empowering insular communities to cut residential energy costs: +$2 m.
- Compact Impact program remains unchanged at $3 million.
Clean Water and Drinking Water funds cut. A change we have been able to include in every appropriation bill since FY10 has raised water and sewer infrastructure funding for the Marianas from under $1 million in 2009 to over $6 million every year since. But for FY17 the President has recommended cutting nationwide funding for the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water funds from $2.3 billion to $2 billion. If the President’s proposal is enacted, funds for the NMI would be reduced from this year’s $6.5 million to $5.9 million.
Community Development Block Grants hold steady. Although the President proposed reducing the Community Development Block Grant from $3 billion to $2.8 billion, he did not change a $7 million set-aside for the insular areas. So annual funding for the Marianas would be unchanged. CDBG pays for neighborhood revitalization projects such as the Kagman Community Park, which has just gone out to bid.
Inflation increase added for Section 8 vouchers. Nationally, and in the Northern Marianas, demand exceeds funding for this low-income housing assistance. While the President has proposed an additional $765.5 million over the FY16 level, the new money only covers increases in rental costs, and will not open the program to more families.
Full funding for WIOA. The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act was drafted in the Education and the Workforce Committee, where I sit. But funding for training and skills development the Act authorizes lagged last year. For FY17, the President has returned the WIOA formula grants to the full amount we authorized. In the NMI, WIOA’s Youth, Adult, and Dislocated Worker programs are currently receiving $1.39 million.
To see the President’s Fiscal Year 2017 Budget in full, go to the Office of Management and Budget website.
Bill introduced extending Palau Compact.
This week I introduced legislation, approving the agreement between the United States and the Republic of Palau to extendPalau’s Compact of Free Association through 2024. The U.S. and Palau signed the agreement on September 3, 2010. Overfive years later, however, Congress has yet to approve the extension, which provides annually decreasing amounts of financial assistance to our island neighbor. The U.S. also helps with postal, weather, and civil aviation services, and offers continued access to a limited number of federal grant programs. Instead, Congress has been meeting the financial aspects of the extension on a year-by-year basis. This is no way to treat a friend. Fortunately, President Obama does include the costs of the Compact extension in his FY17 budget proposal; and with introduction of my legislation, H.R. 4531, Congress may finally confirm the importance of our relationship with the Republic of Palau.
Tinian selected for Air Force divert airfield.
Miranda A.A. Ballentine, Assistant Secretary for Installations, Environment, and Energy, called on Wednesday to inform me of the decision to select Tinian for the U.S. Air Forces’ divert activities and exercises in the Northern Mariana Islands. I made the case for citing on Tinian in my 2012 response to the Air Force’s Draft Environmental Impact Statement. The divert airfield will be used for training and will give the Air Force a backup in case planes cannot use Andersen field on Guam. Saipan was considered and the Air Force also looked at dividing its activities between Saipan and Tinian. Specifics of the Tinian-only plan are not yet fully available. I look forward to learning more once the final environmental impact statement is released this spring; and I will continue to listen to the voices of constituents and the Commonwealth government as the details of the Tinian-only plan emerge.
USCIS Director provides update on CW processing.
Initial processing of the 2,800 Commonwealth-only (CW) worker applications, expiring December 31, 2015, is finished, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Leon Rodriguez reported to me this week. Of these, 805 received Requests for Evidence and processing will resume as soon as additional supporting documents are received from employers. In his letter, Director Rodriguez also confirmed that the rule, allowing CW workers to continue working for up to 240 days while a timely-filed petition is pending, will take effect on Tuesday, February 16. Workers whose CW petitions have been delayed may resume working on that day.
UCGC program offers glimpse of cadet life.
Since the 1950s, thousands of high school students have discovered the United States Coast Guard Academy by attending the Academy Introduction Mission (AIM) program. AIM is exclusively for students preparing to enter their senior year of high school. Immerse yourself in Academy tradition and cadet life during this six-day program in New London, Connecticut. There are three AIM sessions scheduled for July 2016. The Academy has a limited amount of funds to provide scholarships for students with legitimate financial need. Students with demonstrated financial need may receive a scholarship for tuition, travel, or both. Information and application materials are available online at http://www.cga.edu/admissions.aspx?id=88. The application period ends April 1, 2016.
WESPAC scholarship available.
The Western Pacific Regional Fishery Management Council is offering three scholarships for academic years 2016-2017 and 2017-2018. These scholarships aim to help build the capacity of the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam, and American Samoa to sustainably manage their fisheries through the employment of their own people. The scholarships are available to graduate students and undergraduate students entering their junior or senior year at the Hawai’i Institute of Marine Biology at the University of Hawai’i, the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, Hawai’i Pacific University, or the University of Guam. Applicants must be U.S. citizens or nationals with strong ties to the Northern Marianas, Guam, or American Samoa. Completed application and letters of recommendation are due by February 29, 2016. To learn more, click here, call (808) 522-5341, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Opportunities - Federal grants, jobs for and in the Marianas:
Smart Supervision: Reducing Prison Populations, Saving Money, and Creating Safer Communities – The FY 2015 Smart Supervision Program seeks to improve supervision success rates and reduce crime, which would in turn reduce admissions to prisons and jails and save taxpayer dollars. Funds can be used to implement evidence-based supervision strategies and to develop innovative strategies to improve outcomes for probationers. Current closing date is April 11, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281427.
Swift, Certain, and Fair Sanctions/Replicating the Concepts Behind Project HOPE – The Bureau of Justice Assistance is seeking applications from states, localities, and tribes that are interested in implementing or enhancing a Swift, Certain, and Fair Sanctions program model. This program furthers the Department’s mission by providing resources for state, local, and tribal governments to establish or enhance programming focused on modifying and reducing criminal behavior and enhancing public safety. Current closing date isApril 11, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281426.
Justice Reinvestment Initiative: Maximizing State Reforms – BJA, in a public/private partnership launched the Justice Reinvestment Initiative in 2010 as a multistaged process in which a jurisdiction reduces unnecessary incarceration, increases the cost-effectiveness of its criminal justice system and reinvests savings into high-performing public safety strategies. Current closing date is April 11, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281428.
Second Chance Act Reentry Program for Adults with Co-Occurring Substance Abuse and Mental Disorders – Second Chance Act Programs are designed to help communities develop and implement comprehensive and collaborative strategies that help individuals make a successful transition from prison, jail, or juvenile residential facilities to the community. Current closing date is March 30, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281473.
Intellectual Property Enforcement Program – The Intellectual Property Enforcement Program, administered by BJA, is designed to provide national support and improve the capacity of state, local, and tribal criminal justice systems to address IP criminal enforcement, including prosecution, prevention, training, and technical assistance. Current closing date is March 28, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281450.
Drought Contingency Planning Grants for Fiscal Year 2016 – The objective of this FOA is to invite states, Indian tribes, irrigation districts, water districts, and other organizations with water or power delivery authority to leverage their money and resources by cost-sharing Drought Contingency Planning with Reclamation to build resilience to drought in advance of a crisis. Current closing date is April 11, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281448.
Community-based Restoration Program Coastal and Marine Habitat Restoration Grants – Proposals submitted under this solicitation will be primarily evaluated based on their ability to demonstrate how the proposed habitat restoration actions will help recover threatened and endangered species listed under the Endangered Species Act and sustain or help rebuild fish stocks managed under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act. Current closing date is May 6, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281357.
NOAA Sea Grant Aquaculture Research Program 2016 – Applicants must describe how their proposed work will rapidly and significantly advance U.S. aquaculture development in the short term (1-2 years after project completion). Current closing date is May 12, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281438.
FY16 Flood Mitigation Assistance – This program makes available federal funds to state, local and tribal governments to implement and sustain cost-effective measures that reduce or eliminate risk of flood damage to buildings insured under the National Flood Insurance Program. Current closing date isJune 15, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281474.
FY16 Pre-Disaster Mitigation – This program provides federal funds to state, local and tribal governments to implement and sustain cost-effective measures designed to reduce the risk to individuals and property from natural hazards, while also reducing reliance on federal funding from future disasters. Current closing date is June 15, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281453.
HOPE VI Main Street Grant Program – These grant funds can be used to revitalize an historic or traditional central business district, or Main Street, by building new affordable housing or reconfigure obsolete or surplus commercial space (or extremely substandard, vacant housing) into affordable housing units. Current closing date is April 12, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281471.
Summer Jobs and Beyond: Career Pathways for Youth – The purpose of this program is to provide employment-related services to eligible youth who are new entrants to the workforce, including those with limited current or past work experience. The program will provide youth with work experience opportunities, including summer and year-round part-time job opportunities, and exposure to career pathways in in-demand job sectors. Current closing date is March 25, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281342.
Environmental Education Local Grants Program – EPA is seeking grant proposals from eligible applicants to support locally-focused environmental education projects that promote environmental stewardship and help develop knowledgeable and responsible students, teachers, and citizens. Current closing date is April 8, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281449.
Fiscal Year 2016 Recovery Implementation Fund – The FWS Ecological Services Program provides Federal financial assistance on a competitive basis to States, other Federal agencies, landowners, educators, non-profit organizations, researchers, and other partners to secure information about endangered, threatened or candidate species, to aid in the recovery of these species, to avert listing of species pursuant to the Endangered Species Act, and to help conserve the ecosystems upon which these species depend. Current closing date is July 31, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281338.
Fiscal Year 2016 Candidate Conservation Action Funds – Financial assistance is available to secure candidate and other at-risk species information or undertake restoration actions that will help avert federal listing of species. The purpose is to provide a means by which the ecosystems upon which candidate and at-risk species depend may be conserved, to provide a program for the conservation of these species. Current closing date is July 31, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281344.
Telehealth Network Grant Program – The primary objective of the TNGP is to demonstrate how telehealth programs and networks can improve access to quality health care services in rural, frontier, and underserved communities. TNGP networks are used to: (a) expand access to, coordinate, and improve the quality of health care services; (b) improve and expand the training of health care providers; and/or (c) expand and improve the quality of health information available to health care providers, and patients and their families, for decision-making. Current closing date is April 8, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281424.
Institutes for Advanced Topics in the Digital Humanities – Through these programs, NEH seeks to increase the number of humanities scholars using digital technology in their research and to broadly disseminate knowledge about advanced technology tools and methodologies relevant to the humanities. Current closing date is March 15, 2016. For more information, go to http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=281355.
Highlights in the Legislative Program:
On the floor
H.R.3016 – VA Provider Equity Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
H.R.3106 – Construction Reform Act of 2016 (Agreed to by voice vote)
H.R.677 – American Heroes COLA Act of 2015 (Agreed to by voice vote)
H.R.3234 – VA Medical Center Recovery Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
H.R.2915 – Female Veteran Suicide Prevention Act (Agreed to by voice vote)
H.R.3894 –To amend title 10, United States Code, to require the prompt notification of State Child Protective Services by military and civilian personnel of the Department of Defense required by law to report suspected instances of child abuse and neglect (Agreed to by voice vote)
H.R.3293 – Scientific Research in the National Interest Act (Passed, 236-178)
H.R.3442 – Debt Management and Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2015 (Passed, 267-151)
H.R.2017 – Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act of 2015 (Passed, 266-144)
H.R.757 – North Korea Sanctions and Policy Enforcement Act of 2016 (Concurred in the Senate amendment, 408-2)
H.R.4531 – To approve an agreement between the United States and the Republic of Palau, and for other purposes
The House is in recess for the District Work Period.