Washington Review, April 2, 2021
This week, I signed onto legislation holding polluters financially responsible for cleanup efforts at Superfund sites, providing a pathway to citizenship for undocumented essential workers, allowing marijuana-related businesses to access banking services, and incentivizing doctors to serve in rural communities. I also signed on to letters urging stronger support for breastfeeding mothers and infants, and affordable housing support in the Build Back Better infrastructure package.
Among the pieces of legislation that I cosponsored this week are:
H.R. 944, the Physician Shortage Reduction Act, introduced by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV), would incentivize specialty physicians to work in rural communities experiencing a shortage of specialty physicians. Specifically, this legislation would forgive student loans in return for a commitment to practice in rural areas for six years. For each year of service, the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) would pay one-sixth of the principal payment and interest on eligible loans up to $250,000. This incentivization would bring quality care access to many rural communities.
The SAFE Banking Act, introduced by Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D-CO), would reform federal cannabis laws and allow marijuana-related businesses in state with some form of legalized marijuana and strict regulations to access the banking system. Current laws restrict legitimate licensed marijuana business from accessing banking services and products, even as 47 states and the District of Columbia have legalized some form of recreational or medical marijuana, including CBD. This legislation also provides protections from money laundering laws, which will help root out fraud and illicit activity.
The Superfund Reinvestment Act, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), would reinstate the “polluter pays” taxes that fund the Superfund Trust Fund. Approximately half of all New Jersey residents live within 3 miles of a superfund site, and the industrial polluters responsible for creating these hazardous sites should bear the financial costs of cleanup efforts. This legislation would reinstate polluter pays taxes, which expired in 1995, and ensure responsible parties pay for the consequences of their pollution.
The CLEANUP Act, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), would amend the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) to include petroleum in the definition of hazardous substances and include inland oil spills under CERCLA’s existing definition.
H.R. 1909, the Citizenship for Essential Workers Act, introduced by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), provides a pathway to legal residency and citizenship to undocumented essential workers. There are an estimated 5.2 million undocumented immigrants working in jobs that have been designated essential during the COVID-19 pandemic, which is 3 out of 4 undocumented workers in the United States.
This week I joined multiple letters, including:
A letter to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary, Xavier Becerra, led by Rep. Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Rep. Roybal-Allard (D-CA), urging HHS to strengthen guidelines for the Women’s Preventive Services Initiative (WPSI) for breastfeeding support and supplies. WPSI provides comprehensive lactation support, supplies, and counseling to ensure breastfeeding mothers have the help and resources they need. This support includes education and breastfeeding equipment and supplies which produce positive health outcomes for breastfeeding moms and infants.
A letter to the Biden administration, led by Senator Jeff Merkley and Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), urging the President to include at a minimum the following key affordable housing infrastructure programs, which are supported by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, in the Build Back Better infrastructure package: guarantee Housing Choice Vouchers for all eligible Americans and convert the funding status from annual appropriations to mandatory spending; $70 billion to address the Public Housing repair backlog; $45 billion for the National Housing Trust Fund per year, of which $26 billion should be reserved for permanent supportive housing for people experiencing homelessness.
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.
Open Enrollment has been extended through May 15th. 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 health care, be sure to visit the site. Open enrollment is open from November 1, 2020 to May 15, 2021.
With cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise across the country, and in New Jersey, it is imperative we remain vigilant and safe. Please continue to wear a mask in public and practice social distancing when possible. As always, please exercise caution if meeting with loved ones, and take necessary measures to ensure the safety of yourself, your family, and our community. Working together, we can help slow the spread of this virus. 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. Together we can get through this.