Washington Review, November 27, 2020
This week, I signed onto legislation to allow tax credits to rollover for childcare costs and signed onto a bill to keep students safe in schools. I also signed onto to letters to urge the President to have the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) set up drive through COVID-19 testing in New Jersey, include pro-worker and pro-labor provisions in the Fiscal Year 2021(FY21) appropriations package, and demand answers from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about the detention of unaccompanied minors.
I became a cosponsor of H.R. 6958, the COVID-19 Dependent Care Flexible Spending Arrangement Rollover Act of 2020, introduced by Rep. Cynthia Axne (D-IA) and Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN). This bill would allow Dependent Care Assistance Plans (DCAPs) to roll over from 2020 to 2021 to help families save money. Parents have saved money into DCAPs, that help a family pay for childcare. DCAPs are an automatic, pre-tax saving account from an employer that helps parents save for the high cost of childcare. DCAPS can only be spent on childcare costs. Due to the pandemic, these families have not been able to spend this money. According to tax law, any money saved into DCAPs must be spent before the end of 2020. DCAPs accounts don’t rollover – they are a use it or lose it a tax credit. Due to this pandemic, the money in these DCAPs at the end of 2020 will be gone because families have been unable to attend childcare for nearly the entire year. Appropriate childcare is an essential aspect to any child’s development and an equally important aspect of helping parents return to work as in-office schedules become more common again. Allowing families to rollover these tax credits to next year is beneficial to families as well as our economy.
I also signed onto the Keeping All Students Safe Act, introduced by Rep. Con Beyer (D-VA) and Rep. Donald McEachin (D-VA). This bill would make it illegal for any school receiving federal funds to seclude a child or use dangerous restraint practices that restrict breathing. The bill would also prohibit schools from physically restraining children, except when necessary to protect students and staff. Lastly, the bill would better equip school personnel with the training they need to address school-expected behavior with evidence-based proactive strategies. It is important that we equip school workers with the adequate skills to assess and calmly defuse any situations that arise with students. Restricting a student’s breathing or other harmful physical conduct is never appropriate to use on our students.
On Tuesday, I joined colleagues in the New Jersey Congressional delegation in a letter led by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) to the President requesting increased federal resources to help deal with the rising number of COVID-19 cases in New Jersey. Over the past few weeks, cases of COVID-19 have gone up again in New Jersey, with a positivity rate of over 10% for those who have been tested. Although there are still tests available, reports of long-lines at testing centers are surely discouraging some people from obtaining a test. The letter, addressed to the President, requests more federal resources for New Jersey. Specifically, it requests a reopening of FEMA drive through testing sites that were operational during late spring and over the summer. An increase in testing sites would help handle the large influx of individuals who are trying to get tested and would go a long way in helping to keep our communities safe.
The reports of minors being held in DHS and Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) detention centers is one of the most shocking policies of this Administration. That is why I signed onto a letter led by Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX) and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus addressed to acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf demanding answers for the prolonged detention of children. CBP data shows that over 70 children were held in CBP custody for over 72 hours, with some children being held for more than two weeks. In accordance with the law, CBP should have transferred several of these children within 72 hours, making these revelations all the more unacceptable. The letter calls on Mr. Wolf to explain the reason why these children, including 14 children under the age of 5, were held for longer than is legally allowed, and asks for contingency plans to ensure that no children are held in CBP custody this long again.
I also joined Rep. Mark Pocan (D-WI) and Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ) in sending a letter to Congressional Leadership and the chairs of the House and Senate Appropriations Committee urging the inclusion of House-passed pro-labor and pro-worker provisions in the upcoming FY21 Appropriations package. The letter specifically calls on leadership to include already passed House provisions into any final FY21 appropriations agreement. Some of these provisions include prohibiting federal agencies from imposing new union contracts not agreed to through collective bargaining negotiations, blocking regulations which prevent unionized home health workers from using payroll deductions to pay union dues, and prohibiting the Department of Labor and National Labor Relation Board rules that compensate corporations for working condition violations of franchisees and contractors. Additionally, the letter calls for provisions that prohibit the implementation of any rule that would privatize job search functions and other essential services offered through the Employment Service System and provide $12.7 billion in discretionary funding for the Department of Labor to be included. Many workers have been struggling with the economic fallout of COVID-19. It is incumbent upon us to do all we can to ensure the safety and protection of workers and their rights.
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, and in New Jersey, it is imperative we remain vigilant and safe. Please continue to wear a mask in public and practice social distancing when possible. I wish everyone in the 8th District a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. Please exercise caution if meeting with loved ones and take necessary measures to ensure the safety of yourself, your family, and our community. 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.