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Washington Review, July 9, 2021

Jul 9, 2021
Washington Review

This week, I cosponsored several important pieces of legislation to prevent bullying in schools, improve climate literacy, incentivize the use of sustainable fuel, improve housing equity and accessibility, invest in girls’ civic education globally, recognize the contributions of immigrants, and expand the program to provide visas to our Afghan allies as the U.S. withdraws from Afghanistan. In addition, I joined a letter to urge the Appropriations Committee to invest in training a more diverse education workforce and a letter to House and Senate leadership to request reimbursement for the National Guard’s expenses during their time in Washington D.C.

Cosponsored Legislation

This week, I cosponsored the Safe Schools Improvement Act, introduced by Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA). This bill would help schools and school districts develop and improve anti-bullying and anti-harassment initiatives using existing funds. It is important that we provide the needed resources to create effective programs as LGBTQ student face higher rates of bullying and harassment at school.

I also cosponsored H.R. 2310, the Climate Change Education Act, introduced by Debbi Dingell (D-MI). This bill would create a Climate Change Education Office within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Office of Education that would be responsible for administering a grant program to state and local agencies, institutions of higher education, and professional associations. Specifically, the bill authorizes $50 million per year through 2026 for NOAA to administer grants to state departments of educators wishing to incorporate climate change education into their state education systems, and for climate mitigation and adaptation work. Climate change is an increasingly urgent issue, and this bill will ensure that students graduate from high school with greater climate literacy.

I joined H.R. 3440, the Sustainable Skies Act, introduced by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL). This bill would create a new tax credit specifically aimed at incentivizing the production and use of Sustainable Aviation Fuel (SAF), which can reduce emissions by up to 80% compared to conventional jet fuel. Through this legislation, SAFs that achieve 50% or greater reduction in Green House Gas (GHG) emissions compared to conventional jet fuel would be eligible to receive a tax credit of at least $1.50 per gallon and could be scaled up to $2.00 per gallon depending on the fuel’s GHG reductions.

I also signed onto H.R. 1661, the Girls Leadership, Engagement, Agency, and Development (LEAD) Act, introduced by Rep. David Trone (D-MD). The Girls LEAD Act would direct the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to jointly report to Congress a strategy to strengthen the participation of adolescents, particularly girls, in democracy, human rights, and governance. If passed, this legislation would empower a generation of leaders around the world.

I joined two important pieces of legislation to improve housing equity and accessibility. The Fair and Equal Housing Act, introduced by Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), would include “sexual orientation” and “gender identity” as protected characteristics under the Fair Housing Act, which currently mandates non-discrimination for housing on the basis of race, color, religion, national origin, sex, familial status, or disability, but does not include sexual orientation or gender identity. Adding these protected characteristics breaks down barriers to access for LGBTQ individuals. Additionally, the Fair Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA) for Seniors Act, introduced by Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA) would adjust the federal benefits programs for seniors to the Consumer Price Index for the Elderly (CPI-E). The CPI-E annually indexes a .2% cost of living adjustment greater than the current formula. This would increase payments to seniors for social security, VA benefits, and supplemental security income (SSI).

I also joined H.Res.505 to provide special immigrant visas to Afghan allies. This resolution, introduced by Rep. William Keating (D-MA) calls for the U.S. government to protect the Afghan citizens who bravely served alongside the Armed Forces of the United States by providing adequate resources for the special immigrant visa program established under the Afghan Allies Protection Act of 2009. In addition, the resolution recognizes that there is a short period of time to protect countless Afghan civilians and the need to fund this program.

Finally, I cosponsored H.Res.510, Recognizing the month of June as “Immigrant Heritage Month.” The annual resolution, introduced by Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) celebrates the accomplishments and contributions immigrants and their children have made in the United States.

Letters

This week, I joined a letter to the Chairs and Ranking Members of the Appropriations Committee, led by Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ) to call for a $9 billion investment to train, equip, and diversify the education workforce. In addition, this letter also urges for the funding to address teacher shortages, improve teach preparation, strengthen pipelines for teachers of color, invest in educator leadership, and help current educators earn in-demand credentials.

I also signed onto a letter to House and Senate Leadership led by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-IL) to request that any future relief packages include funds to reimburse the National Guard for their time spent in Washington, D.C. The National Guard’s total expenses for their time spent guarding the Capitol amount to over $300 million. This is a sizeable amount for the National Guard and reimbursing these funds will allow the National Guard to continue their recruitment and training as usual.

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:

  • Burlington County at 400 Route 38, Moorestown (until July 23)
  • 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.