Despite President Donald Trump’s order to end negotiation over new pandemic relief legislation, Delegate Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) said yesterday he believes there will be an agreement, because the need for aid to individuals, businesses, and states and territories is not going away.
“The House has already passed—twice—legislation with a billion dollars for the Commonwealth and our municipal governments, with more food aid, unemployment assistance, and stimulus payments for families in need, with an extension of the Payroll Protection Program to help businesses and non-profits get through the economic crisis,” Sablan said. “Federal Reserve Bank Chairman Jerome Powell said Tuesday that the risks of Congress pouring too much stimulus into the economy are far lower than the risk of not doing enough. Although government spending is adding to an already sky-high federal budget, lawmakers should act. I completely agree with Chairman Powell that, until the pandemic is under control, the situation will just get worse. The President and his allies in the Senate cannot ignore that reality.”
With the President’s decision to walk away from relief negotiations and attention increasingly focused on the Nov. 3 election, the pace of legislative activity has slowed. But Sablan is eager to get back to legislative work when election season is over, he said. Funding for the federal government ends on Dec. 11 and another spending bill will be needed, providing opportunities to help the Marianas. The current, stop-gap continuing resolution included the Marianas in the Pandemic EBT program, which means $12 million to $16 million in new food aid for households with school-age children.
“I also look forward to completing the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes my provisions that will help small businesses, STEM education, and military spouses in the Marianas,” he said. Sablan’s amendments to the NDAA will expand access to Small Business Administration resources for Marianas business owners, make the Marianas eligible for the Department of Defense’s STARBASE education program, implement his Military Spouse Career Education Act, and include the Marianas in the nationwide AMBER Alert program.
His chief concern remains making more services available to veterans in the Marianas. Two bills now waiting the President’s signature advance that goal. One, the Vet Center Eligibility Expansion Act, includes a Sablan amendment that requires the VA report on how it will provide Vet Center services in the Marianas. The second, the Whole Veteran Act, Sablan also amended to make sure alternative therapies, such as massage and yoga, offered to other veterans also are available to Marianas veterans.
“The pandemic highlights how very hard it is to be forced off-island for health care services,” Sablan said. “We want to save veterans that hardship and get them the resources they need right here in the Marianas.”
Sablan said the continuing push for equity with states in Medicaid and other federal programs will be at the top of his agenda in the 117th Congress, which begins in January 2021. Democrats are expected to retain majority control. (PR)