e-News 10/13/17

e-News 10/13/17

  • Happening Right Now: Visiting Puerto Rico
  • House Oks Puerto Rico, USVI, Texas, Florida, Western Wildfires Assistance
  • Salute: Members of the New Jersey National Guard and NJ State Police
  • Whistleblower Protection Act
  • Salute: Boonton’s Fred Zimny is Olympic Rings of Gold Winner!
  • Salute: Long-time volunteer Howard Squire of the Ayres/Knuth Farm


Happening Right Now: Visiting Puerto Rico

As this eNews is released, I am on the island of Puerto Rico with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan.  We’re there to see first-hand the destruction wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria, to check on the pace of recovery and assess what it will take to help our fellow citizens rebuild their lives.

Of course, our thoughts and prayers have been with the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, also damaged by the hurricanes.  The two major hurricanes devastated the power grid, wireless cell phone service, the transportation network and threatened health and medical assistance for thousands of residents.

  • Over a thousand small Puerto Rican towns are still stranded without water!
  • Housing has been devastated.  Thousands of Puerto Ricans are living in temporary shelters.
  • Less than 10% of the island has power!  Hundreds of temporary generators have been installed.  Many more are en route to the island.
  • 860 out of 1,100 retail gas stations are open. Adequate fuel stocks are available now, but distribution issues persist due to debris on the roads. 
  • Just 21% of cell towers are operational. 64% of the Puerto Rico population live in areas where wireless coverage is available for voice and text messages.
  • 65 of 67 hospitals are open. Of those open hospitals, 36 connected to grid power and another 29 on generator power
  • The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates that it hasremoved 6.2 million cubic yards of debris and waste to help facilitate rebuilding.  

To keep up to date on the recovery, please click here

To be clear, the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are American citizens.  When any American is in need, we will respond.  And this is a time when we here in Congress will respond because that is our responsibility.

I have two other missions on this trip:

  • I want to commend the firefighters and first responders - many form the mainland - who daily are rushing into harm’s way to save people. It just makes you thankful for who they are and what they do.
  • I also want to reassure the people of Puerto Rico that while their recovery will be long and hard, this Congress will work with the Administration and state and local governments to ensure that, if more assistance is needed, it will be available.

This week, the House took another step toward ensuring life-sustaining aid will continue to flow to our disaster zones:

House Oks Puerto Rico, USVI, Texas, Florida, Western Wildfires Assistance

Yesterday the House passed my legislation to provide $36.5 billion in emergency funding for hurricane and wildfire relief and recovery (H.R. 2266) on a vote of 353-69. The bill will now move to the Senate for approval.

The legislation fully funds the emergency requests submitted to Congress by the administration.

It includes $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), $576.5 million for wildfire efforts, and $16 billion for debt relief for the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which now needs additional funds to make necessary insurance claims payments to individuals.

In addition, the bill includes a provision for the Disaster Nutrition Assistance Program (DNAP) that enables low-income residents in Puerto Rico to receive the same emergency nutrition assistance that other hurricane-affected states receive.

The legislation also includes $4.9 billion for Community Disaster Loans (CDL) to help address local government challenges by providing funding for municipal services such as police and fire protection, trash collection and the operation of local schools.

Millions of Americans have had their lives disrupted by destructive hurricanes and by raging wildfires in the West. We will continue to be with them every step of the way, delivering the federal support they will need throughout this recovery process.

This emergency funding legislation addresses urgent, short-term, immediate priorities and provides assistance that will help our fellow Americans in their time of greatest need.

The Senate must now do its part.  I am urging my Senate colleagues to approve this legislation as soon as possible, so these funds can be used immediately to assist those individuals, families, businesses and communities that need it most.

The text of the legislation can be found here.

Salute: Members of the New Jersey National Guard from West Essex and New Jersey State Police– all helping with emergency response in Puerto Rico.

Whistleblower Protection Act

A few years ago, Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick, a psychologist at the VA Medical Center in Tomah, Wisconsin, was fired after he questioned the over-medication of veterans being treated at the facility. On the day of his termination, Dr. Kirkpatrick committed suicide. 

With my support, the House this week passed legislation (S. 285) to provide new protections for whistleblowers who face retaliation by agency managers.

  • Adds protections for probationary period whistleblowers that are retaliated against.
  • Ensures federal employees have better training so they understand federal whistleblower protections and their rights to not be retaliated against.
  • Sets minimum disciplinary standards across all agencies for retaliation.
  • Makes retaliating against a VA employee by accessing their medical file – something we know happens all too often – a prohibited personnel action so that supervisors can be punished accordingly.
  • Requires the VA to come up with a plan to restrict unauthorized employee access to medical files so they cannot be used as a means of retaliation.

Dr. Kirkpatrick’s tragic story is one of the many examples why Congress must do more to protect whistleblowers against retaliation from their superiors. This legislation, the Dr. Chris Kirkpatrick Whistleblower Protection Act of 2017, cuts to the heart of these issues.  I hope the President signs this bill into law as soon as possible!

Salute: Congratulations and thank you to Boonton’s Fred Zimny whowill receive the “Rings of Gold” award from the United States Olympic Committee tonight in Colorado City. The prize recognizes an individual dedicated to helping children develop their Olympic or Paralympic dreams, ad reach their highest athletic and personal potential.  As the U.S. junior national team coach, Zimny has introduced the luge to more than 20,000 kids nationwide in almost 30 years.

Salute: To long-time volunteer Howard Squire of the Ayres/Knuth Farm Foundation.  The farm is the oldest continuously farmed property in Morris County and our community thanked him last weekend in Denville!

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