Congressional Roundup: Afghan visas, river money, FORWARD Act

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It’s June 19, 2021. Here’s a roundup of what’s been going on lately with New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation

Congressional dome. Credit/Wikimedia Commons

Shaheen seeks to improve Afghan Special Immigrant Visa program

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services and Foreign Relations Committees, introduced new bipartisan legislation with Joni Ernst (R-IA), Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) to provide immediate improvements to the Afghan Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program. The legislation would increase the number of authorized visas by 20,000, remove extraneous paperwork requirements and improve the program’s efficiency ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan.

The SIV program has been critical to American national security and the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. It allows the U.S. to fulfill its promise to the Afghans who supported and saved the lives of American service members and diplomatic personnel. The SIV program is the only path to ensuring the safety of Afghan allies that were integral to the U.S. mission.

“The U.S. cannot renege on its commitment to the Afghans who’ve risked their lives to support U.S. efforts in Afghanistan. They must not be abandoned as the U.S. withdraws our troops from Afghanistan and the threat of persecution from the Taliban intensifies. They need our help,” said Shaheen. “The Special Immigrant Visa is a proven and well-vetted pathway to safety for these Afghans, but serious improvements are needed to uphold the integrity and improve the efficiency of the program. Increasing the number of authorized visas and removing cumbersome requirements that leave folks in limbo are essential to provide for those who’ve worked alongside our troops. I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort to ensure we fulfill the promise of safety for the brave Afghans whose service has been critical to our missions.”

Kuster touts money for Merrimack River

Recently, U.S. Representative Annie Kuster (D-NH-02), a member of the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry, visited a site along the Merrimack River to discuss a recently awarded $6.8 million USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service grant to protect source water, revitalize wildlife habitats, and boost climate resilience within the Merrimack River watershed.

In April, the Merrimack River Watershed Council received $6,857,745 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Natural Resources Conservation Service’s Regional Conservation Partnership Program. The funding will enable a multi-year, landscape-scale project to conserve and protect source water areas along the Merrimack River watershed, revitalize habitats for vulnerable fish and wildlife species and boost climate resilience. The Merrimack River serves as a drinking water source for over 600,000 people across New Hampshire and Massachusetts and is one of the most at-risk watersheds in the nation for the development of land and threats to water quality, according to the U.S. Forest Service.

“The Merrimack River is a treasure for New Hampshire – not just for its scenic beauty and outdoor recreation opportunities, but more importantly for its drinking water supply for our communities and its ecological importance for wildlife,” said Kuster. “It’s critical we invest in the protection of our lands and forests, and this federal grant will enable our conservation partners to do just that. I look forward to amplifying this success story of public and private investment in drinking water source protection, wildlife habitat, and climate resiliency.”

Hassan co-introduces FORWARD Act

U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined Senators Chris Coons (D-DE), Steve Daines (R-MT), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Todd Young (R-IN) introduced The Furthering Our Recovery with American Research and Development, or FORWARD Act, which aims to provide expanded tax support for American companies that invest in the research and development of new products and technologies.

“We must ensure that American companies remain at the forefront of innovation, especially as we emerge from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Hassan. “This bipartisan bill will help create jobs by expanding critical R&D tax incentives for startups and small businesses. I will keep working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to strengthen support for innovative American businesses.”

The bill text is available here. A one-pager on the bill is available here.