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Washington Review June 1, 2021

Jun 1, 2021
Washington Review

Last week, President Biden released his budget for the next fiscal year. Included are several key priorities, including investments in health research and public health, affordable childcare for low and middle-income families, free, universal pre-school, investments in teachers and historically underfunded public schools, funding for housing assistance, and jobs training.

I cosponsored several pieces of legislation, including a bill to fund energy efficiency projects, and fund research into drugs for ALS, and signed onto two letters urging an investigation into the Wild Horse Adoption Incentive Program at the Bureau of Land Management, and a request to fund the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

The President's Budget

Education

Through the American Families Plan, the President’s budget directs funds for universal, high-quality preschool for all three- and four-year-olds, regardless of a family’s income. It also provides two years of free community college, and directs $36.5 billion for Title I schools, to provide historically under-resourced schools with essential funding to deliver a quality education to their students. The budget also increases the Pell Grant award by $1,475, the largest-ever one-time increase in the grant’s history, and invests in teachers by improving teacher training and support for staff.

Children and Nutrition

In addition to the Biden administration’s focus on education, the budget provides for direct support for low and middle-income families through affordable child care and establishes the creation of a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program, bringing the United States into the 21st Century as one of the last countries in the world to guarantee paid parental leave. The budget also directs funds to nutrition assistance and expanded access to healthy meals for students in an effort to drastically reduce child food insecurity. Lastly, the budget expands tax cuts for lower and middle-income families through the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.

Housing

The budget proposes to provide $30.4 billion for Housing Choice Vouchers, expanding vital housing assistance to 200,000 more families with a focus on those who are homeless or fleeing domestic violence. In addition, it provides a $500 million increase for Homeless Assistance Grants to support more than 100,000 households—including survivors of domestic violence and homeless youth, helping prevent and reduce homelessness. The budget also supports access to homeownership for underserved borrowers through the Federal Housing Administration’s (FHA) mortgage insurance programs. FHA is a crucial source of mortgage financing for first-time and minority homebuyers.

Job Training

The President’s plan would ensure that the best, diverse minds in America are put to work creating the innovations of the future while creating hundreds of thousands of quality jobs today. American workers would build and make things in every part of the Nation, and they would be trained for well-paying, middle-class jobs using evidence-based approaches such as sector-based training and registered apprenticeships

Health

The budget includes a major investment of $6.5 billion to launch Advanced Research Project Agency for Health (ARPA-H), which would provide significant increases in direct Federal research and development spending in health. With an initial focus on cancer and other diseases such as diabetes and Alzheimer’s, this major investment in Federal research and development would drive transformational innovation in health research and speed application and implementation of health breakthroughs. The budget also directs $8.7 billion in discretionary funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—the largest budget authority increase in nearly two decades—to restore capacity at the world’s preeminent public health agency and rebuild international capacity to detect, prepare for, and respond to emerging global threats. Also included is a historic investment of $10.7 billion in discretionary funding in the Department of Health and Human Services, an increase of $3.9 billion over the 2021 enacted level, to support research, prevention, treatment, and recovery support services, with targeted investments to support populations with unique needs, including Native Americans, older Americans, and rural populations. Finally, the budget directs $621 million specific to the Department of Veterans Affair's Opioid Prevention and Treatment programs.

Cosponsored Legislation

Last week, I cosponsored H.R. 425, to Reauthorize the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant Program, sponsored by Rep. Greg Stanton (D-AZ). This bill reauthorizes the program for five years and provides $3.5 billion annually. Grants can be awarded to state and local governments, and used to assist local efforts to reduce fossil fuel emissions and conserve energy.

I also cosponsored the Accelerating Critical Therapies (ACT) For ALS Act, introduced by Rep. Mike Quigley (D-IL). This bill establishes a new grant program through HHS for new research into drugs for ALS as well as clinical trials for ALS. Additionally, this legislation creates a new center within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), to facilitate access to investigational therapies for neurodegenerative diseases.

Finally, I cosponsored the Lymphedema Treatment Act of 2021, introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-IL). This legislation would require Medicare Part B to cover physician-prescribed compression therapy items that are used to treat lymphedema.

Letters

I joined a bipartisan group of colleagues in a letter to Interior Secretary Haaland led by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), which urges the immediate suspension of, and investigation into, the Bureau of Land Management’s Adoption Incentive Program for wild horses and burros. On May 15, 2021, the New York Times reported that some people adopting horses through this program have been collecting program payments and then sending or selling their adopted horses to slaughter auctions once they have received the money. These actions go against the spirit of the adoption program, which is a herd management tool meant to find safe homes for wild horses while protecting the habitats on which they have lived. This letter also urges stronger federal protections against slaughter, and requests that the Department of Interior’s authority to enforce violations through penalties and other measures be clarified.

I also signed a bipartisan letter led by Rep. Angie Craig (D-MN) to House Leadership asking them to work with the Small Business Administration (SBA) to replenish the Restaurant Revitalization Fund (RRF) immediately. This letter requests House leadership to replenish the $75 billion worth of funds in the RRF as soon as possible, so that the hardest hit restaurants get the assistance they need to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis.

Foreign Affairs

This week I joined Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and dozens of my colleagues in a letter to President Biden and Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas urging they use the Temporary Protected Status (TPS) program help more vulnerable populations across the globe. The Biden administration recently granted TPS for Venezuela, Burma, and Haiti.

I also joined Rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA) and over 120 of my House colleagues, as an original cosponsor, to introduce the Reproductive Rights are Human Rights Act. The legislation directs the State Department to permanently include reviews on the status of reproductive rights in its annual human rights reports. In 2017, the Trump administration abruptly removed all subsections on reproductive rights from the reports as part of a coordinated effort to undermine the legitimacy of sexual and reproductive rights as human rights.

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.

Vaccination Efforts

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

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.