Washington Review, November 14, 2020
This week, I wrote an op-ed about the future of the Gateway Project, including the Hudson Tunnel Project, and its significance to the 8th District. I cosponsored legislation to protect the rights of students with disabilities, and to protect students from sexual abuse in schools. I also signed onto a letter to promote colorectal cancer screening and spoke with Colombian President Ivan Duque on the phone.
On Thursday, I wrote an op-ed about the Gateway Project, outlining the path forward and reiterating its importance. For years I have been a champion of the project, because it is crucial for the Northeast Corridor, the entire economy of the northeastern U.S., and the transportation of people to and from their jobs daily. Unfortunately, the current Administration did not take the Gateway Project seriously. They blocked funding for personal political reasons and did not treat the potential consequences of not restoring the tunnels with the seriousness it deserves. Thankfully, the Project has a clear path forward now. During the 116th Congress, as part of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I secured a provision in H.R. 2 that would provide $10 billion in funding for Projects of National and Regional Significance, such as Gateway. I also worked for provisions in that bill that would make the Gateway Project part of a broad nationwide climate resilience effort. Now that there is a President-Elect who understands the seriousness of our nation’s infrastructure, and the importance of the Gateway Project to the entire Northeast Corridor. I look forward to working with the incoming Administration on advancing the project. You can read my op-ed here.
I cosponsored H.R. 8187, the Protection and Advocacy in Education Act, introduced by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA). This legislation would help to ensure the rights of students with disabilities are upheld by providing Protection and Advocacy Systems (P&As) direct funding for their education work. The P&A system is a congressionally mandated, state-implemented program that provides legal and advocacy support to people with disabilities to help them gain access to health care, employment, housing, transportation, financial benefits, and education to protect them from abuse and neglect. While 30% of P&A cases are focused on individuals with disabilities in education settings, there is currently no dedicated funding for education P&A work. This bill would help fix that loophole and ensure that students with disabilities have the proper resources they need to protect themselves.
I also cosponsored H.R. 8396, Jenna Quinn Law, introduced by Rep. Susan Wild (D-PA). This bill would authorize federal grants to eligible entities for increasing evidence-based training on sexual abuse prevention education and reporting to teachers, school employees, students, caregivers, and other adults who work with children. The bill would also ensure these grant recipients coordinate with local educational agencies to train student, professionals, and volunteers who work with students on sexual abuse prevention, recognition, and reporting. Education is a crucial part of any childhood and we need to ensure that our children are safe in school.
Recently, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a draft national coverage determination to deny Medicare coverage for blood-based colorectal cancer screening tests. That is why I signed onto a letter led by Rep. Donald Payne (D-NJ) addressed to CMS urging the agency to reverse their decision and ensure that blood-based colorectal cancer screenings are covered by Medicare. Colorectal cancer is the third leading cancer related death in the United States and is also the third most common type of cancer in men and women. With this cancer having such a prevalent grasp in our society we need to be giving people access to screenings so they can check on the status of their own health. Blocking access to these screenings through Medicare, in the midst of a global pandemic, illustrates the lack of seriousness the current Administration gives to our nation’s health.
On Thursday, I spoke with Colombian President Ivan Duque to reinforce the strong bilateral relationship between the United States and Colombia. President Duque and I reaffirmed our commitment to maintaining a close, collaborative, and mutually beneficial partnership. Additionally, we discussed the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in both countries, Colombia’s ongoing efforts to expand it’s state presence into rural areas of the country, and the need for continued regional and global cooperation to address the ongoing political and humanitarian crisis in Venezuela. Now more than ever it is crucial that we remain engaged with our neighbors.
On November 1, 2020, Open Enrollment for health care plans began in New Jersey. 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 January 31, 2021.
With cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise across the country, it is imperative we remain vigilant and safe. Please continue to wear a mask in public and practice social distancing when possible. 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.