Congressman Serrano's 2014 Accomplishments
Happy New Year!
2014 was a year of many successes and I am proud to share with you some highlights of my accomplishments as your Representative in Congress during the past year. Some of these achievements are the result of or build on my work over the years. Others were the result of new efforts that I will continue working on in the new Congress.
My priorities were expanding access to economic opportunities, protecting consumers, ensuring access to quality health care, promoting a safe and clean environment, and fighting for a better quality of life for all Bronxites.
Recently, Congress reconvened for the start of the 114th Congress. It is an honor and a privilege to represent the Bronx in Congress and I look forward to continue working on behalf of our community’s best interests in the upcoming year.
I look forward to continue serving you in 2015.
Jose E. Serrano
Congressman Serrano’s 2014 Highlights
Roundtable Discussion on Workforce and Job Development in the Bronx
In July 2014, Congressman Serrano hosted a roundtable discussion on how to transform workforce and job development in the Bronx in conjunction with the New York City Office of Workforce Development. The meeting brought together numerous stakeholders, including employers, educators, training providers, labor unions, and government agencies to discuss how to improve existing workforce development strategies in the Bronx, how to ensure better opportunities and training for Bronx residents, and how to attract new and emerging industries to the Bronx.
Increased Funding for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund
As Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee, Congressman Serrano increased funding for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund by $4 million, to a level not seen since 2010, when Democrats were last in charge. The Fund provides access to capital for economic development, affordable housing, health care, and small business projects in underserved areas. This program has had a huge positive impact on many communities across America, including the Bronx. It has helped invest more than $167 million dollars in the South Bronx, and each dollar of government funding is leveraged with more than $13 dollars of privately raised funds.
Renewal of the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program to Expand Access to Capital
As part of his efforts to expand access to capital for Community Development Financial Institutions, Congressman Serrano also fought for the renewal of the CDFI Bond Guarantee Program, which will make available an additional $750 million in funding for bigger, longer-term projects in underserved areas. This new and innovative program, which is also administered by the CDFI Fund, has helped greatly expand the economic development resources and financial resources available in underserved areas, adding to the numerous programs dedicated to help places like the Bronx that Congressman Serrano has fought for over the years.
Increased Funding for Women’s Entrepeneurship and Small Businesses
Congressman Serrano also worked to increase funding to promote women’s entrepreneurship and the development of small businesses. Thanks to his effort, funding for the Women’s Business Centers program and for the Small Business Development Centers (SBDC’s) program, within the Small Business Administration, was increased to $15 million and $115 million respectively. The Bronx has the largest share of women small business owners in the nation and this funding will help them succeed.
Postal Service 6 Day Mail Delivery Saved
Congressman Serrano successfully offered an amendment with Congressman Tom Latham (R-IA) to the fiscal year 2015 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill to preserve a 6 day mail delivery by the Postal Service. Without this provision, the Postal Service would have stopped delivering mail on Saturdays, which would have hurt seniors, businesses and postal employees in the Bronx and other parts of the country.
Increased Funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission
Congressman Serrano fought to increase funding for the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) in the FY2015 Appropriations Financial Services and General Government Subcommittee bill to ensure there is a strong ‘cop on the beat’ to protect retirees and investors, regulate the market, and prevent another economic meltdown. Thanks to his efforts, the SEC received a total funding increase of $150 million.
Smartphone Theft Prevention Act Introduced in Congress
To help consumers better protect themselves when their cell phones are lost or stolen, Congressman Serrano introduced the Smartphone Theft Prevention Act in the House of Representatives. Attorney General Schneiderman and NYPD Commissioner Bratton joined Representative Serrano in March 2014 to announce the legislation and endorse the Congressman’s efforts in New York City. Because of these efforts, smart phone manufacturers have taken steps to start implementing this technology on all smartphones.
Health and Food Security
Anti-Hunger Empowerment Act
Over the years, Congressman Serrano has been a strong advocate of ending hunger insecurity in the Bronx and throughout the nation. He is the sponsor of the Anti-Hunger Empowerment Act, which would expand access to nutritional assistance by establishing a Beyond the Soup Kitchen Pilot Program to provide grants to non-profits and anti-hunger feeding groups. He will be reintroducing this legislation during the 114th Congress. In 2014, he also co-sponsored the Community Gardening and Nutrition Act of 2014 (H.R. 4084). This bill seeks to develop a new program that would support community gardens in order to expand access to fresh food in hunger insecure communities.
Vote Against $8.6 million in SNAP Funding Cuts
Early in the year, Congressman Serrano voted against $8.6 billion in cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in the 2014 FARM Bill. These cuts have been detrimental to the millions of individuals who depend on SNAP funding for nutrition assistance. More than 47 million people rely on SNAP, including 380,000 in the Bronx. The majority of recipients are children, the elderly, the disabled and working families below the poverty line.
Funding for Bronx and Harlem Rivers’ Cleanup
For almost two decades, Congressman Serrano has been the champion of efforts to clean up the Harlem and Bronx Rivers and to expand greenways along both waterfronts. Over the years, he has secured more than $40 million in funding for these efforts. Thanks to his work, Bronx residents have witnessed a dramatic transformation of these local natural treasures over the years. In 2014, Congressman Serrano obtained $4.4 million in funding for the Urban Waters Partnership Program, which helps revitalize and restore urban waterways across the United States, including both the Harlem and Bronx Rivers.
Congressman Serrano also participated in the groundbreaking ceremony of the Bronx River House at Starlight Park last year, which construction was in part financed with funds secured by Congressman Serrano. This new facility will be built next to the Bronx River and will feature a boat house, a nature classroom, and a multipurpose community room. It will also serve as the new headquarters of the Bronx River Alliance.
Center for Sustainable Energy’s New Home Inaugurated
In October 2014, Congressman Serrano helped inaugurate the Center for Sustainable Energyat the Bronx Community College Center’s “Snow Hall.” The construction of the new Center was made possible thanks to Congressman Serrano’s efforts in Congress to secure more than $5 million in funding for the Center’s creation and development.
Soundview Park Salt Marsh Restoration Project Completed
The Soundview Park Salt Marsh Restoration project was successfully completed in 2014. This important project was partly made possible thanks to Cogressman Serrano’s and Congressman Joseph Crowley’s efforts to secure federal funds by earmarking $4.5 million from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, 50 percent of the total money needed to restore Soundview Park’s wetlands.
Funding for Hunts Point Area Resilience Against Future Weather Events
Congressman Serrano advocated to secure federal funding for the Hunts Point area under the Rebuild by Design program, which will ensure resiliency and protect the people, businesses, and infrastructure of the Hunts Point Peninsula – including the region’s most important food distribution center. This area would be at risk in future weather events, and this funding will create sustainable upgrades to protect this community. Thanks to his advocacy, the area received $20 million investment and the City was able to secure an additional $25 million in federal funds for parallel efforts.
Funding Fordham Plaza Reconstruction Project
Phase 2 of the Fordham Plaza reconstruction project began in August of 2014. The new Fordham Plaza will provide commuters with more public transportation options and help relieve traffic in one of the City’s busiest areas. Federal funding from the Department of Transportation TIGER grant program has been instrumental in making this project a reality. Congressman Serrano advocated on behalf of TIGER grant program funding for this project.
$750,000 Grant for Pedestrian Safety in the Bronx
Congressman Serrano ensured that the NYC Department of Transportation received a $750,000 federal grant for the Pedestrian Wayfinding Program in the Bronx. Pedestrian wayfinding signs help both residents and tourists find important points of interest and transportation options in the Bronx.
Immigration and Civil Rights
Members of New York City Congressional Delegation Ask the Department of Justice for Investigation of Eric Garner Case
This past August, Congressman Serrano joined several other members of the New York City delegation to ask the Department of Justice for a federal investigation into the death of Eric Garner and into the NYPD’s 'broken windows' policing strategy.
US-Africa Leaders Summit and African Immigrants
As the United States and African nations prepared for the first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit earlier this year, Congressman Serrano and Congresswoman Yvette Clarke led 35 of their colleagues in sending a letter to President Barack Obama calling for the concerns of African immigrants to the United States to be part of the discussion at the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit. The letter highlighted the negative effects that the United States’ immigration policies have on African immigrants and pointed out the importance of migration for the region’s future development, growth, and prosperity.
Youth, Women and Children
Amicus Brief in Support of Peggy Young v. UPS
In 2014, Congressman Serrano signed onto an amicus brief in support of Peggy Young v. UPS that was sent to the United States Supreme Court by numerous members of Congress. The brief argued that the law requires employers to accommodate pregnant employees. Congressman Serrano was also an original cosponsor of H.R. 1975, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, which seeks to make it illegal for employers to not properly accommodate pregnant employees.
$2.5 Million in Funding for New Juvenile Defense Program
As a member of the House Appropriations Committee, Serrano fought to include $2.5 million in funding for a new juvenile indigent defense initiative that will develop newer and more effective models for the defense of juveniles in the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice Science Subcommittee bill. Currently, many minors who come into contact with our justice system have little access to counsel, despite there being a constitutional right to representation. In addition, many public defender offices are understaffed and overworked, especially in areas involving juvenile defense. This can have serious consequences for those minors and their families. This funding will provide grants to create well-resourced model offices with sufficient training to effectively represent indigent juveniles. Our system of justice should not only protect those who have the money to do so- it should provide fair representation to all, regardless of income.
Funding for Projects in the Districts
Hundreds of Millions of Dollars in Federal Funding Announced in 2014
During the year, Congressman Serrano announced hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding to help finance a number of initiatives in the Bronx. These funds have not only allowed many important local projects to become a reality, they have also helped improve the local economy. Congressman Serrano was instrumental in securing a significant share of this funding through his role as a Member of the House Appropriations Committee.
Some of the federal funding announced by Serrano in 2014:
-Millions of dollars in health grants, including funding to help local residents enroll in the Affordable Care Act
-Funding to boost the sustainable energy industry and promote a clean environment in the Bronx
-Funding for transportation projects
-Funding to expand higher education opportunities available in the district
-Funding to expand housing for homeless people and underserved individuals in the district
-Funding to help the areas in the district affected by Superstorm Sandy
-Funding for community development financial institutions (CDFI’s), which promote economic development by providing financial support to small businesses and other local initiatives
Arts & Historic Preservation
Testimony in Support of Establishing the National American Latino Museum
Congressman Serrano testified before the New York City Council Committee on Cultural Affairs, Libraries, and International Intergroup Relations in support of establishing theSmithsonian National American Latino Museum and passing key legislation in Congress (H.R. 1217 in the House of Representatives and S. 568 in the U.S. Senate) to designate the Arts and Industries Building in Washington, DC as the future site of the museum.
Efforts to Hold the USPS Accountable in Sale of Historic Properties
As part of ongoing efforts to hold the U.S. Postal Service accountable in the sale of historic properties, Congressman Serrano ordered reports that were release in April 2014 that showed that the agency is failing to follow the law in the preservation and sale of historic post offices. Serrano also introduced legislation to ensure the postal office complies with the law. Congressman Serrano plans to introduce the bill again in the 114th Congress.
New Beginning in US-Cuba Relations
During his 24 years in Congress, Congressman Serrano has consistently advocated for a change in U.S.-Cuba relations and an end to the Cuban embargo. Throughout the years he has introduced numerous pieces of legislation to end or modify what he considers an ineffective and misguided foreign policy, including the Cuba Reconciliation Act and the Baseball Diplomacy Act. On December 17, 2014, both nations announced plans to begin normalizing relations and the release of Alan Gross and others in Cuba and 3 Cuban prisoners in the United States. Congressman Serrano praised the historic announcement.
Vieques and Culebra Provisions in FY2015 Spending Bill
Congressman Serrano inserted two provisions into the annual Defense Appropriations bill that became law in December 2014. The provisions require the Department of Defense to submit reports of its plans for the final clean up of the islands, a full list of the types of explosives that were used over the years, and a description which of these ammunitions remain . A longtime advocate of a full environmental restoration of Vieques and Culebra, Congressman Serrano was concerned that the clean up was falling behind schedule and that information was lacking.
Borinqueneers Bill Becomes Law
Congressman Serrano strongly supported awarding the Congressional Gold Medal the “Borinqueneers”, the 65th Infantry Regiment of the U.S. Army, and was a strong supporter ofThe Borinqueneers Congressional Gold Medal Act, H.R. 1726. After passing both chambers of Congress, President Obama signed the bill into law on June 10, 2014.
$2.5 million in Funding for Status Plebiscite
Congressman Serrano worked hard for the inclusion of $2.5 million in funding for Puerto Rico to resolve its status in the House Appropriations Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (CJS) bill for fiscal year 2014. This funding will allow Puerto Rico to conduct the first federally sponsored plebiscite on its status in the 115 years that Puerto Rico has been a part of the United States.