Congressional Roundup: Central America, SVOG Grants, VA Cemeteries

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It’s June 22, 2021. Here’s a roundup of some recent news from New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation

New bill aims to support Central American Women and Children

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and U.S. Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Senators Susan Collins (R-ME), Todd Young (R-IN), Chris Coons (D-DE) and Rob Portman (R-OH) introduced the Central American Women and Children Protection Act to address the protection and safety of women and children in El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala. The bipartisan legislation seeks to decrease and deter violence against women and children in the Northern Triangle and provide victims a path to the support and shelter they need. The bill would also enhance the performance and capacity of justice system officials in Central America, including police, prosecutors and courtroom personnel, to provide a coordinated and victim-centric response to crimes of violence against women and children.

“Women and children in Central America are among the most vulnerable populations in the Northern Triangle, facing alarming rates of crime, violence and impunity,” said Shaheen. “The Central American Women and Children Protection Act provides important resources to strengthen criminal justice systems in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador. The bill helps combat and prevent violence against women and children, ensure survivors have the resources they need and bolster social and economic development in these nations. Advancing the rights of women around the world is key to achieving global stability and prosperity, and will continue to be one of my top priorities as a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.”

Text of the legislation can be found here.

Action needed on Shuttered Venue Operators Grants

Congressman Chris Pappas (NH-01), a small business owner and Co-Chair of the House Small Business Caucus, joined more than 200 Members of Congress in a bipartisan letter to Administrator Isabel Guzman of the Small Business Administration urging immediate action to stabilize and improve the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, which is intended to provide emergency assistance grants to venues that were unable to operate during the pandemic.

The implementation of the SVOG program has been plagued by technical challenges and delays. Since launching in April, the SBA has approved roughly 400 grants as of June 14 – out of 14,000 applications.

In New Hampshire, only one business that applied for the SVOG program has received grants.

The program, which is administered by the SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance, was originally created as part of the Economic Aid to Hard-Hit Small Businesses, Nonprofits, and Venues Act last December. The program includes over $16 billion in grants to shuttered venues, and also received additional funding from the American Rescue Plan Act earlier this year. Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, with the maximum amount available for a single grant award of $10 million.

U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH) joined a bipartisan push led by U.S. Senators John Cornyn (R-TX) and Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) to Small Business Administrator Isabella Casillas Guzman urging her to disburse SVOG funding to struggling live entertainment venues as soon as possible.

“The Save Our Stages Act, now the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program, was created to prevent widespread closures of venues that have been devastated by the loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. As supporters of the SVOG program, we urge you to take immediate action to ensure that the relief reaches eligible applicants without further delay,” said the Senators. ““Bureaucratic process cannot stand in the way of getting these desperately needed funds out the door.”

Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act re-introduced

U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, reintroduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation to ensure all members of Reserve components and the National Guard are eligible to be buried in state veterans’ cemeteries, so long as their service was terminated under honorable conditions. Senators John Hoeven (R-ND), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Kevin Cramer (R-ND) are cosponsors of the bill in the Senate.

Currently, only certain service members who meet national eligibility standards are allowed to be buried if cemeteries receive federal grant funding – including the New Hampshire State Veterans Cemetery in Boscawen. Shaheen and Pappas’ bipartisan bill, the Burial Equity for Guards and Reserves Act, corrects that by prohibiting the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) from conditioning such grants on a cemetery’s compliance with existing eligibility criteria for burial.

“Guard members and Reservists sign up to serve like all of their fellow service members across the military branches. It’s unacceptable that the VA currently prohibits many of them from being buried in a state veterans cemetery. Service on behalf of our nation should be rewarded with honorable burials – period,” said Shaheen. “I’m proud to lead this bipartisan effort to make sure that citizens who volunteer in defense of our nation are rightfully honored by state veterans’ cemeteries. I’ll continue to be a vocal advocate for New Hampshire’s veterans in the Senate, ensuring they receive the benefits and recognition they deserve after putting their lives on the line for our country.”

“National Guardsmen and Reservists take the same oath to defend this country as their Active Duty counterparts do, and we must make sure that they receive the respect and reverence that they deserve,” said Hassan. “It makes no sense that state veterans cemeteries are, as a condition of receiving federal money for improvements, barred from interring many National Guard members and Reservists.  This bipartisan bill would open eligibility for burial in state veterans’ cemeteries for all service members, and I urge my colleagues in the Senate to pass this long overdue bill.”

Full text of the bill is available here.