Rep. Anthony Brindisi
Rep. Anthony Brindisi

Brindisi passes postal reform bill to protect Postal Service and shore-up funding for critical service

Congressman Anthony Brindisi protected the United States Postal Service and bolstered their viability and sustainability by supporting the USPS Fairness Act. The bipartisan legislation, cosponsored by Brindisi, will end the unfair pre-funding mandate for the USPS, solving the most pressing financial problem facing the agency.

“The Postal Service and the postal workers who deliver our mail nearly every day are critical to our communities,” Brindisi said. “Our postal workers ensure our businesses can stay open, bills can get paid on time, prescriptions are delivered, and much more. This bill, supported by members of both parties, will end an unfair government mandate, protect our postal service, and give them the flexibility they need to maintain the high level of universal service we’ve come to expect.”

Under current law, USPS is the required to pre-fund decades’ worth of health benefits for its future retirees. Since 2007, the mandate is responsible for more than 90 percent of USPS’s financial losses and 100 percent of losses over the past six years.

In 2019, Postmaster General Megan Brennan told Congress the Postal Service could run out of money by 2024. This one-page bill would end the pre-fund requirement and improve the USPS’s financial standing and flexibility.

Local postal workers praised the legislation and Brindisi’s work.

“On behalf of the National Association of Letter Carriers, I want to thank Congressman Brindisi for fighting to preserve and protect the Postal Service, especially in our rural communities,” said Billy Ganey, an Ilion member of the NALC. “The USPS Fairness Act protects our retirement and benefits and gives the Postal Service the flexibility it needs to stay reliable, safe and effective.”

The legislation passed with broad bipartisan support, 309-106.

Brindisi introduces bipartisan bill to expand automobile grants for disabled veterans

Brindisi (NY-22) and Dan Meuser (PA-9), members of the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee, introduced H.R. 5761, the Advancing Uniform Transportation Opportunities for Veterans Act. This bipartisan legislation would increase access to the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Automobile Grant, which is used by our nation’s most severely disabled veterans—often amputees or paralyzed—to purchase a vehicle.

“I am proud to champion this legislation to expand the VA’s Automobile Grant Program so we can further support these veterans who have sacrificed so much for our county,” said Brindisi. “This bipartisan bill will help these Veterans continue to go to work, attend school, visit family and maintain a life of mobility. I will continue to work to ensure that the men and women who bravely fought for our freedoms receive the support they have earned.”

“Veterans, especially those in rural communities, face transportation challenges. Expanding the VA’s Automobile Grant is a meaningful step for the men and women who made great sacrifices in service to our nation,” said Meuser. “We must do all we can to help ensure these veterans with catastrophic injuries can lead fulfilling lives. Access to safe, reliable transportation is essential to their health and wellness.”

This bill would help lessen a financial burden and expand access to transportation for disabled veterans by allowing qualifying veterans to receive a second Automobile Grant, ten years after receiving their first grant. Currently, veterans are only able to receive the grant once-per-lifetime. In fiscal year 2020, an estimated 2,425 veterans will use this benefit, which is valued at $21,488 per grant.

This grant is regularly used in tandem with the Special Adaptive Equipment Grants, which allow veterans to make necessary modifications to their vehicle, such as power steering and lift equipment, to accommodate their disability. Although veterans can only receive a one-time allowance toward the purchase of a vehicle, they can access adaptive-equipment grants multiple times. This legislation would help bring parity to these two important programs.

At a House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs subcommittee hearing, Brindisi questioned veterans service organizations about the importance of this legislation. The bill received support from the American Legion, Paralyzed Veterans of America and Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Additionally, local veterans praised Brindisi’s efforts.

“The VA’s Automobile Grant is an extremely important program that provides eligible veterans with the opportunity to regain some of their independence and mobility within the community where they live,” said Ron Raymer, Navy Veteran and Director of the Madison County Veterans Service Agency. “The nature of the eligible veteran’s disabilities which typically involves amputations and paralysis can leave a veteran with a lack of independence, mobility and self-reliance which can have a devastatingly negative impact on their overall quality of life leading to isolation, depression and having to rely on others for transportation.

“Additionally, many of these eligible veterans are on fixed incomes and cannot often afford the costs associated with the necessary adaptive changes or an accommodating vehicle. With the VA’s automobile grant and the various adaptive equipment options available, the eligible veteran can regain a considerable portion of their independence and self-reliance in a variety of ways which can significantly increase their quality of life, overall health and general well-being.”

The average age of light vehicles in the United States in 2019 was 11.8 years, but this is often less for structurally modified vehicles. To qualify for the grant, a veteran must have one of the following service-connected disabilities:

  • Loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both feet
  • Loss, or permanent loss of use, of one or both hands
  • Permanent vision impairment in both eyes to a certain degree
  • Severe burn injury
  • Diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis

More information on the VA’s Automobile Grant can be found HERE.

Brindisi: Mental health care for our farmers and in rural communities needs to be above party politics

Brindisi’s bipartisan Seeding Rural Resilience Act received the endorsement from the bipartisan, bicameral Problem Solvers Caucus. Brindisi and fellow Problem Solver Congressman John Katko (NY-24) introduced the legislation last year to fight to increase mental health care options for producers and rural communities across the country.

“I am thrilled the Problem Solvers Caucus has endorsed my Seeding Rural Resilience Act,” said Brindisi. “Whether it’s low prices, a trade war or Mother Nature, much of a farmer’s bottom line is out of their control, and that uncertainty can add to daily stresses. Our bill will help eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health in our rural communities and ensure all farmers have better access to mental health care. Mental health for our farmers and in our rural communities needs to be above party politics and I am hopeful we can get this bill done.”

The legislation received the caucus’ endorsement when at least 75 percent of the 48-member caucus agreed to support the bill. The Problem Solvers Caucus is led by New York Congressman Tom Reed (NY-23) and New Jersey Congressman Josh Gottheimer.

“I am proud that the Problem Solvers Caucus has endorsed the Seeding Rural Resilience Act, bipartisan legislation I introduced alongside Reps. Brindisi and Craig to improve mental healthcare for farming families,” said Katko. “With the current rate of suicide in rural communities 45 percent higher than it is in urban areas, this legislation will improve awareness of mental illness in rural areas and expand access to quality mental healthcare by establishing suicide prevention training programs in rural communities.

“I thank the Problem Solvers Caucus for supporting this measure and look forward to continuing our work to pass meaningful and bipartisan legislation to improve mental healthcare for our nation’s rural communities.”

From 1999 to 2016, suicide rates grew in nearly all 50 states. New York’s 22nd Congressional district has a higher rate of suicide than the state average, and according to the Center for Disease Control, the suicide rate is 45 percent higher in rural areas than in urban areas.

The bipartisan legislation would:

  • Implement a farmer-facing employee training program that requires the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide voluntary stress management training to Farm Service Agency, Risk Management Agency and National Resources Conservation Service Employees.
  • Form a partnership between the Department of Health and Human Services and USDA to create a $3 million PSA campaign to increase public awareness of farm and ranch stress and destigmatize mental health care in rural communities.
  • Direct the Secretary of Agriculture to work with state, local and nongovernmental stakeholders to collaborate and determine best practices for responding to farm and ranch mental stress.

The companion bill in the Senate is sponsored by Senators Jon Tester (MT) and Chuck Grassley (IA).

Brindisi announces six-figure grants to boost senior volunteer programs in Madison and Broome counties 

Brindisi announced more than $100,000 in grant awards to the Retired and Senior Volunteer Programs in Madison and Broome counties. The federal dollars, awarded through Senior Corps, will go to the Madison County Office for the Aging and Catholic Charities of Broome County.

“Older Americans make vital contributions to our Upstate communities, and these grants will help Madison and Broome county seniors continue their important work,” Brindisi said. “RSVP programs encourage civic engagement and allow seniors to use their skills and knowledge to make our communities better for everyone. I’m glad we could secure this funding for our district.”

RSVP is one of the largest volunteer programs in America for people aged 55 and older. The grants awarded in Madison and Broome counties will keep RSVP’s services available to area children, families and seniors. Volunteers at the Madison County Office for the Aging and Catholic Charities of Broome County mentor local children, assist in natural disaster relief and strengthen the local workforce with job readiness training.

“This grant will allow us to continue providing much-needed services and keep our aging population healthy,” said Madison County Office for the Aging RSVP Director Annette Clark. “It’s been shown that volunteering keeps people healthier longer, so when members of our community can continue to volunteer, it’s a win-win situation all around.”

“Catholic Charities has served families in Broome County for more than 80 years, and this grant will help us continue our mission,” said Lori Accardi, executive director of Catholic Charities of Broome County. “We are grateful to have Congressman Brindisi’s continued support for our work and know this grant award will go a long way in promoting civic engagement in Broome County.”

Brindisi has championed the concerns of older americans during his time in Congress. In January, he introduced the Gray New Deal, a comprehensive policy platform to address the legislative priorities of Older Americans.

Brindisi calls for coronavirus response coordinator and additional resources to address growing emergency

Brindisi issued the following statement in response to the growing threat of coronavirus:

“Keeping Americans safe is my top priority. The emerging global threat of the coronavirus requires a thoughtful, comprehensive, and bipartisan response. Public safety needs to be above politics. I am calling on the Administration to appoint a coronavirus response coordinator, in addition to emergency funding, to ensure communication and collaboration across government and international agencies. America is home to the greatest researchers and scientists in the world. By working together, our country can lead the response to this global threat. This is a global issue and it will take coordination across governments to keep Americans safe at home and abroad.”

The coronavirus outbreak began in China in January 2020 and has infected more than 80,000 people and killed nearly 3,000 people. The World Health Organization declared the virus a global health emergency Jan. 30, 2020. U.S. Health and Human Services announced a public health emergency the following day Jan. 31, 2020. The first American servicemember was diagnosed with coronavirus this week.

Brindisi fights for upstate defense installations and pushes for clear strategy to deal with emerging threats from China during key committee hearing; Rome Lab and the defense industry across our region play a critical role in keeping our country safe & they need the resources to do that

Brindisi, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, championed Rome Lab and other Upstate national defense priorities during a committee meeting. Brindisi brought the needs and concerns of Upstate New York directly to Secretary of Defense Mark Esper.

Brindisi said he grilled Esper on the Administration’s budget and their plan to address emerging threats from China, national security concerns, and research and development of critical national defense installations across the region.

“Rome Lab and the defense industry across our region play a critical role in keeping our country safe,” Brindisi said. “As a member of the House Armed Services Committee, it is my job to fight for their priorities and work with the Administration to strengthen our national security. Whether it is quantum research, or other emerging technologies, our district will continue to lead the nation in research and development. We need a budget that funds these critical projects.”

Brindisi questioned the Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on military readiness and how they will keep America at the cutting edge of quantum science and artificial intelligence. Brindisi voiced concerns about funding of quantum research, artificial intelligence, and counter-unmanned aircraft systems. Brindisi, a staunch defender of the mission at Rome Lab, spoke about the critical work being done in the Mohawk Valley.

“As you know, our adversaries are also constantly evolving to beat our counter-UAS systems and are often able to hold our troops at risk” said Brindisi. “It is critical that we expedite the development and acquisition of counter-UAS technologies wherever possible. Our DoD Lab base has done a great job developing critical counter-UAS technologies to mitigate these threats by fielding them as soon as possible.”

Brindisi continues to use his place on HASC to advocate for Rome and the defense mission across Upstate. In the Fiscal Year 2020 National Defense Authorization Act Brindisi fought for a $8 investment for a Quantum Innovation Center at Rome Lab and an additional $5 million for quantum science research. In total, the mission at Rome Lab will receive nearly $18 million in crucial investment. The Fiscal Year 2019 NDAA authorized $14.2 million in additional funding for security upgrades at Rome Lab. Brindisi, a longtime champion of the mission at Rome Lab, previously testified before the House Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee in support of this project.

Brindisi announces six-figure housing grant for Utica Municipal Housing Authority

Congressman Anthony Brindisi (NY-22) announced a $239,520 Housing and Urban Development grant awarded to the Utica Municipal Housing Authority. The grant is a part of HUD’s Resident Opportunity & Self Sufficiency Service Coordinator program.

“We need to make sure everyone in our community has a roof over their head and is on the path toward self-sufficiency,” Brindisi said. “These important dollars will help people in public housing across Utica can get the help they need to get back on their feet.”

According to HUD, the ROSS program is designed to assist residents make progress towards economic self-sufficiency. These grant dollars are used to hire Service Coordinators who assess the needs of public housing residents and connect them with supportive services.

Local officials praised Brindisi for his work.

“On behalf of the residents of the Perretta Twin Towers and Marino-Ruggiero Apartments, the Utica Municipal Housing Authority would like to thank Congressman Anthony Brindisi for his help in securing the Resident Opportunities and Self-Sufficiency Program grant,” said Robert Calli, executive director of the Utica Municipal Housing of Utica. “The ROSS program will enable the housing authority to hire a service coordinator who will link our elderly and disabled residents with services they need to live independently and with dignity.

“Our ROSS program is emblematic of our commitment to enhance the quality of life of the people we serve. During Congressman Brindisi’s public service tenure, he has universally prioritized the health, safety, and well-being of his constituents and the award of this ROSS grant is yet another example of his passion and commitment to the people of our community.”

On Dec. 17, 2019, Brindisi voted to fund the ROSS program at $35,000,000 as part of the overall government funding package signed by President Donald J. Trump.

January highlights

  • Jan. 8: Brindisi continues fight against Spectrum with new warning on debt collection; wants people being contacted by collection firm to call his office and demands Consumer Financial Protection Bureau probe Spectrum’s deal with collector
  • Jan. 9: Brindisi introduces legislation to crack down on illegal drug cartels
  • Jan. 13: Brindisi joins town of Vernon officials and residents to demand state provide answers and address drinking water quality in Vernon Center; results of recent testing shows chloride levels in excess of recommendations of state Department Of Health
  • Jan. 15: Brindisi touts Rome Lab’s Quantum Research during Armed Services Committee Hearing on emerging threats from China
  • Jan. 15: Brindisi votes to expand protections for older americans amid rising age discrimination
  • Jan. 16: Brindisi champions upstate veterans and introduces Chuck Osier Burial Benefits Act
  • Jan. 23: Amid emerging national security threats, Brindisi, industry leaders and defense advocates discuss future of mission at Rome Lab and  Mohawk Valley economy
  • Jan. 24: Brindisi presents World War Two and Korean War Veteran Hugh Aikens with military service medals including Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Silver Star
  • Jan. 29: Brindisi: One veteran life lost to suicide is too many, the VA needs to do more to address mental health issues for our veterans

By martha

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