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Washington Review, May 4, 2021

May 4, 2021
Washington Review

This week, I joined my colleagues in submitting funding requests for the next fiscal year during what is known as the appropriations process. These requests are sent to the House Committee on Appropriations as they craft this year’s funding bill which will include programs that impact millions of Americans. This newsletter will focus entirely on a few of the funding requests I prioritized this year. I led letters requesting funding for Central America and the Merida Initiative in Mexico, in addition to a letter with Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) to fund a grant program that assists states with vital infrastructure projects.  

Appropriations

Subcommittee on Agriculture

Rep. Gwen Moore (D-WI) led a letter supporting the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). We requested the Subcommittee on Agriculture provide $7 billion for WIC to expand program access and benefit levels. WIC is a nutrition program that supports low-income mothers and young children who have, or are at risk for developing, nutrition-related diseases and disorders. Participants benefit not only from food, but also nutrition education, breastfeeding education and support, and referrals to medical and social services.

Subcommittee on Financial Services and General Government

I also joined a letter led by Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) requesting $15.4 billion for the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), for the purposes of enforcement and modernization. The IRS performs an essential government function of tax collection, and protects taxpayer rights, while ensuring all Americans pay their fair share. Too frequently, the wealthiest Americans have gotten away with paying too little, while middle and lower-income families bear a greater tax burden. A modernized IRS will allow the agency to fairly and effectively enforce tax laws, while improving the taxpayer experience.

Rep. Abigail Spanberger’s (D-VA) bipartisan letter urges the Subcommittee to significantly increase funding for the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) within the U.S. Department of the Treasury. FinCEN strengthens U.S. national security and combats money laundering and other illicit uses of the financial system that fuel international terrorism, cybercrime, corruption, human rights abuses, and the illegal trafficking of persons, drugs, weapons, wildlife, and more.

Subcommittee on Homeland Security

I joined Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Majority Leader Hoyer (D-MD) in a letter to the Subcommittee on Homeland Security requesting $405 million for the Assistance to Firefighter Grant (AFG) program, and $405 million for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant program, both of which I have long supported. The SAFER program provides resources to career and volunteer fire departments across the country and allows them to hire new firefighters. Thousands of fire stations rely on this program to maintain their staffing levels and improve firefighter safety. The AFG program funds training and equipment for fire departments and is especially critical for departments with aging equipment and inadequate training.

Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education

Community health centers play a key role in the public health of New Jersey’s 8th District which is why I requested funding for the Community Health Center Program, led by Rep. Diana DeGette (D-CO). This letter to the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education requests sufficient funding for community health centers, which continue to provide high-quality, affordable primary care to underserved communities across the country. Health centers are the main source of care for over 30 million Americans, and their importance to their communities has only grown during the last year. They are central to communities combatting opioid addiction, providing HIV/AIDS preventative treatment, and addressing maternal care. Congress must continue to ensure these health centers remain adequately funded in the next fiscal year.

Additionally, I joined Rep. Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) in requesting funds for COVID-19 Pandemic Response Centers of Excellence. This letter to the Subcommittee for $100 million for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund (PHSSEF) to establish a COVID-19 and Pandemic Response Centers of Excellence Program within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Additionally, it includes language directing the HHS secretary to give at least $10,000 in these funds to 10 different academic institutions, and includes language directing the HHS secretary to use these Centers of Excellence to study the response to COVID-19, requires a level of preparedness for future pandemics, and provides mental health services for frontline healthcare workers.

One of my biggest priorities is ensuring funding gun violence prevention and research. This is why I joined Rep. David Price (D-NC) and over 130 of my colleagues in a letter requesting $50 million for gun violence research through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH). The national epidemic of gun violence demands urgent action to keep our communities safe, and research into gun violence prevention research is a useful tool to investigate and employ evidence-based interventions.

Rep. Andre Carson (D-IN) led a letter supporting the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We requested $46.1 billion to expand research opportunities at NIH. The importance of NIH’s work has become more apparent over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, and as pandemic-related disruptions begin to dissipate, the United States must renew its investments in medical research, maintain its global leadership in biomedical research, and prepare for future pandemics. NIH-funded research has in past years led to breakthroughs in new therapies transforming patient care for diseases like cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, and some forms of cancer. Federal funding has made these research breakthroughs possible, and Congress must support continued funding in these critical medical investments.

As a former mayor, I know how important the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program is which is why I joined a letter, led by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), requesting $4.2 billion for the program. The CDBG program provides flexible funding for states to address affordable housing and economic development. It is a unique and valuable resource for communities to utilize when addressing poverty and economic insecurity.

Furthermore, I supported funding for the Preschool Development Grant Birth through Five (PDG B-5) program, led by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX). This letter requests the Subcommittee to fund $500 million for this program that affirms the importance of early learning. Funding would support state and local investments in their early learning systems, which 49 states have taken advantage of since funding initially started in 2018. Federal funding would also help states ensure their early learning programs don’t weaken as a result of constraints related to the pandemic. It is imperative that we continue supporting our investment in early childhood learning.

Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment

Among my other priorities was a letter requesting funding for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (SRFs) and Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, led by Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA). We requested that the Subcommittee on the Interior and Environment provide $5 billion for the Clean Water SRF, and $3 billion for the Drinking Water SRF which support local investments in water infrastructure. Investment in water infrastructure is imperative to ensuring waterways are protected, maintained, and upgraded. Unfortunately, these efforts have largely been underfunded for several years, which is why investment in this critical infrastructure must be prioritized.

Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations

My letter on Central America urges the prioritization of robust funding to the region to address the root causes of migration from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, such as poverty, inequality, impunity, insecurity, and lack of economic opportunity. My bipartisan Merida Initiative letter includes recommended language that requires a comprehensive review of the impact of U.S. assistance provided under the Initiative and a plan to restart high-level bilateral security dialogues with the government of Mexico.

Rep. Chrissy Houlahan’s (D-PA) letter calls for the Subcommittee to provide robust funding for the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (Global Fund). The PEPFAR and Global Fund has long bolstered the United States’ standing and cooperative relationship with the world, working to strengthen health systems to mitigate disease outbreaks globally, and driving progress in combatting tuberculosis and malaria.

Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development

My letter with Rep. Malinowski to the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development requested $1.5 billion for Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) Grant funding. This program provides grants to states for critical infrastructure projects and highlights the importance of funding for the Northeast Corridor. Specifically, we requested that an equitable portion of this funding be awarded to urban, transit-oriented projects, particularly along the Northeast Corridor. The Northeast Corridor is the one of busiest transit corridors in the country, but has infrastructure that urgently needs to be upgraded and maintained. The BUILD grant program will assist states in funding these much-needed projects and I am proud to lead the efforts to get this program the funding it requires.

 

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 16 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.