Congressional Roundup: Pride Month, Upskilling, Wounded Warriors

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It’s June 4, 2021. Here’s a roundup of recent news from New Hampshire’s Congressional Delegation.


Chris Pappas on Sept. 12, 2020 at the 2020 Queen City Pride Festival. Photo/Andrew Sylvia

Pappas marks LGBTQ+ Pride Month

Congressman Chris Pappas (D-NH), Co-Chair of the Congressional LGBTQ+ Equality Caucus and New Hampshire’s first openly gay member of Congress, released the following statement, outlined several legislative priorities, and previewed plans to celebrate Pride throughout the First District:

“After more than a year of isolation, social distancing, pain, and loss, Pride 2021 could not have arrived at a better time to let us celebrate the importance of being together and of being ourselves,” said Pappas. “As a gay person growing up in New Hampshire, I wasn’t always sure there would be a place for me. But Granite Staters welcomed me for who I am, and I could not be more proud to serve in Congress and fight for equality for LGBTQ+ individuals in New Hampshire and across the country. I look forward to participating in Pride events throughout the district in the coming month and continuing to advocate for legislation in Congress like the Equality Act to create a more just, inclusive future. I encourage everyone to get out and celebrate Pride however you choose.”

Pappas is an original co-sponsor of the Equality Act, which prohibits discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in areas including public accommodations and facilities, education, federal funding, employment, housing, credit, and the jury system.

In March, Pappas co-introduced the Gay and Trans Panic Defense Prohibition Act  which would ban the use of “gay panic” and “trans panic” defenses in federal court. Pappas has also introduced legislation to support LGBTQ+ veterans by amending the VA’s definition of “minority group member” to explicitly include lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Veterans.

Pappas and his staff will visit Pride events throughout the district this month including the City of Manchester and Somersworth Pride Flag raising, and engage in digital and social media events to raise awareness and amplify more LGBTQ+ voices.

Hassan promotes upskilling bill

U.S. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Todd Young (R-IN), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), and Tim Scott (R-SC) recently reintroduced legislation that would expand educational assistance programs to help ensure that employers have the tools to hire and retrain workers. The Upskilling and Retraining Assistance Act would increase the amount of tax-free educational assistance that employees in workforce development programs can receive from their employers, and would modernize the program to cover expenses for tools and technology that are required for educational programs.

“To recover from this pandemic, we must invest in helping to ensure that workers have the skills that they need for today’s jobs. I’m glad to be working closely with my Republican and Democratic colleagues and business leaders to do exactly that by making it easier for employers to invest in their employees,” said Hassan. “This legislation would make it easier and more affordable for businesses in New Hampshire and across the country to both invest in their employees and meet their workforce needs. This long overdue change would help make sure that workers and businesses can thrive in today’s 21st century economy.”

“In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and our ever-changing workforce needs, the expansion of Section 127 is a critical tool for employers to recruit and retain talent while building an educated workforce,” said Paul LeBlanc, President of Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU). “SNHU is committed to advancing social and economic mobility, and the modernization of this bill is an important mechanism for removing barriers to opportunity and increasing access to education for America’s workers.”

Many businesses offer educational and training opportunities to assist their workforce in upskilling and retraining, but right now the tax code only allows employers to pay up to $5,250 for educational programs for their workers without workers having to pay taxes on these benefits. This cap has not changed since 1986. It is currently far below the cost of most higher education programs and does not cover the costs of tools and technology required to complete an educational program.

The Upskilling and Retraining Assistance Act would update the tax code by enacting an emergency expansion of the tax exclusion from $5,250 to $12,000 for the next two years. It would also expand the tax exclusion to cover the cost of education-related tools and technology, including hand tools, construction equipment, computers and software, and other items related to the costs of a worker completing their education program.

Read the one pager and bill text on the Upskilling and Retraining Assistance Act here and here.

Kuster seeks Wounded Warrior Applicants

Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH) announced that her office is seeking to hire a wounded warrior or medically retired veteran for a full-time, two-year position in her district office through the Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program administered by the House of Representatives.

“Our Granite State servicemen and women represent the best New Hampshire has to offer, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to hire one of our nation’s veterans through the Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program,” said Kuster.

The Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program was established by the House of Representatives to provide employment opportunities for wounded or disabled veterans within member offices.

The program is limited to veterans who meet all of the following requirements: Honorably discharged, released from active duty within the last five years, terminal pay grades at or below E-5 or O-3, 20% or greater service-connected disabilities (waived if you have a Purple Heart). Veterans who are in receipt of a 20-year or Temporary Early Retirement Authorization (TERA) retirement are not eligible for the program.

Interested veterans should go to https://www.usajobs.gov/ and search “Wounded Warrior Fellowship Program” for more information and guidance on how to apply. The application is open now through September 30, 2021, or until the position is filled.

 

About this Author

nathan-graziano

Nathan Graziano

Nathan Graziano lives in Manchester with his wife and kids. He's the author of nine collections of fiction and poetry. His most recent book, Fly Like The Seagull was published by Luchador Press in 2020. He's a high school teacher and freelance writer, and in his free time, he writes bios about himself in the third person. For more information, visit his website: http://www.nathangraziano.com