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Washington Review, May 7, 2021

May 7, 2021
Washington Review

This week, I attended the groundbreaking of a critical infrastructure project in Hoboken, took part in a Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing reaffirming the Good Friday Agreement, and joined a letter regarding the Pinelands Commission and several pieces of legislation.

Events

On Thursday, I joined Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Marcia Fudge, Governor Phil Murphy, Lt. Governor Sheila Oliver, Senator Cory Booker, and Hoboken Mayor Ravi Bhalla at the groundbreaking for the Hoboken Flood Resilience Project at Pier A in Hoboken. This project was developed to improve physical, ecological, economic, and social resilience in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy. HUD awarded $230 million to New Jersey for this project across Hoboken, Weehawken, and Jersey City; this project will address flooding from major storm surges, high tides, and heavy rain. Thursday’s groundbreaking marks the start of construction on the first phase of the project, which will upgrade some of Hoboken’s infrastructure, including parts of the sewer and stormwater lines. I was honored to speak at the groundbreaking of this vital infrastructure project and commend HUD and our local leaders for getting this project off the ground.

Also on Thursday, I attended an event in Newark with Secretary Fudge, Newark Mayor Ras Baraka, and Newark Housing Authority Executive Director Victor Cirillo at the Newark Housing Authority where there is currently a vaccination pop-up site. This program launched on April 29, 2021 in partnership with the Newark Housing Authority and St. James Health, which is a Newark-based Federally Qualified Health Center. This pop-up clinic is making vaccinations more accessible to Public Housing Authority developments and residents. Local leaders in Newark have launched a campaign to provide residents with transportation and resources to get to vaccination sites, and bring vaccines directly to Newark residents. I strongly encourage all eligible residents to get their vaccine as soon as possible, and do their part to make our communities safer.

Hearing

On Wednesday, I attended a Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Energy, the Environment, and Cyber hearing about reaffirming the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland. The Good Friday Agreement is the result of multi-party peace talks held in 1998 between the British and Irish governments, after decades of violent conflict between Unionists, who wanted to remain part of the United Kingdom, and Irish nationalists who desired a unified Ireland. Specifically, this peace agreement set out a framework for a devolved government and arranged for the transfer of powers over local governance from London to Belfast in Northern Ireland. Though violence largely subsided after this agreement, tensions persist. Brexit added to these divisions in Northern Ireland, and in March 2021, violence and rioting erupted in several cities and towns in Northern Ireland. I spoke about my experiences when I visited Northern Ireland and the importance of ensuring that the level of peace achieved through the Good Friday Agreement is not broken.

Cosponsored Legislation

This week, I cosponsored H.R. 2766, the Families Belong Together Act, introduced by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX), which would provide a path to citizenship for families separated under the Trump administration's family separation policy. This legislation also authorizes funds for government-appointed counsel and to locate families eligible for parole and family reunification in the United States. These families deserve to be reunited in the United States and provided citizenship, resources, care, and a commitment that family separation will never happen again.

I also cosponsored H.R. 2030, the College Transparency Act, sponsored by Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL). This bill would overturn the ban on student-level data collection in the Higher Education Act, and reform the current postsecondary data system. Specifically, this bill would create a secure, privacy-protected student level data network within the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), and accurately report on student outcomes including enrollment, completion and post-college success across colleges and programs. In addition, this bill would streamline federal reporting requirements for postsecondary institutions, and require a website to ensure the data are transparent, informative, and accessible for students, parents, policy-makers, and employers.

Letter

I joined several members of the New Jersey Delegation in a letter to Interior Secretary Deb Haaland, asking her to promptly fill the open federal seat on the Pinelands Commission. The Commission is a 15-member board that consists of seven members appointed by the New Jersey Governor, seven county representatives, and one federal representative. The federal seat has been left unfilled since March 2017. The Commission works to ensure the protection of cultural resources through land-use, development, and natural resources protection programs. It is imperative the seat be filled to allow the full board to operate as structured.

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.