(Senate - February 07, 2019)

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[Pages S1135-S1138]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []


      By Mrs. FISCHER (for herself and Mr. Van Hollen):
  S. 371. A bill to provide regulatory relief to charitable 
organizations that provide housing assistance, and for other purposes; 
to the Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs.
  Mrs. FISCHER. Mr. President, I rise today to announce the 
reintroduction of the bipartisan, bicameral Building Up Independent 
Lives and Dreams Act, more commonly known as the BUILD Act.
  After the passage of the Dodd-Frank Act in 2010, the Consumer 
Financial Protection Bureau was tasked with creating a single set of 
integrated disclosure forms for mortgage loans. This set of forms, 
created by the TRID rule, was designed to provide a more consumer-
friendly approach to traditional mortgage lenders. Its aim was to 
streamline disclosure requirements in the Truth in Lending Act and the 
Real Estate Settlements Procedures Act into a single set of forms.
  The measure works for most traditional mortgage lenders; however, it 
buried not-for-profit, charitable organizations in mountains of 
paperwork. The weight of the nearly 2,000-page TRID rule is not only 
burdensome but confusing--especially for small lenders and housing 
charities that do not have the funding to hire financial experts.
  The forms present a variety of unnecessary obstacles, including the 
requirement for expensive software with a cost calculator. These costly 
and complex forms are expected of large banks and institutions, and 
they can better afford to hire experts who are well versed on the TRID 
rule, but smaller community-based organizations, like Habitat for 
Humanity, they simply cannot. The overwhelming majority of the more 
than 1,200 Habitat for Humanity organizations across our country are 
faced with limited resources.

  Historically, Habitat for Humanity has built homes for struggling 
families and provided a low- or no-interest loan. The loan amounts are 
typically lower due to the free labor of thousands of volunteers in 
Habitat projects around the world. These loans give Habitat homeowners 
a chance to establish themselves as creditworthy and a fresh start for 
their future.
  There are currently 15 Habitat for Humanity affiliates in Nebraska. 
The chapters in Omaha, Lincoln, Fremont, Grand Island, and Columbus, as 
well as the Sarpy County and Scotts Bluff County chapters have voiced 
their full support for the BUILD Act. I thank them for that.
  These organizations are a constant source of hope for our communities 
across the State, and they make significant contributions to provide a 
hand up for struggling families. The executive director of Habitat's 
Lincoln chapter recently sent my office the story of a local couple who 
became a Habitat homeowner.
  Abdelkarim and Sailwa worked hard to provide for their five sons. 
With help from Habitat for Humanity, the couple was approved for a 30-
year, zero-interest mortgage on their new home. Payments are capped at 
30 percent of their combined monthly income. Now Sailwa can work part 
time, and Abdelkarim pursues his degree from Southeast Community 
College. He is helping to secure his family's future. Their children 
are comfortable in their neighborhood, where they have made new friends 
and attend a local school.
  The executive director of the Lincoln chapter continued, saying: 
``With the ability to focus on our mission, instead of burdensome 
regulatory requirements and expenses, we can help more families build 
strength, stability, and self-reliance through homeownership.
  The BUILD Act will do exactly that. This bill will allow nonprofits 
to use the simpler Truth in Lending, good-faith estimate and HUD-1 
forms, instead of that overbearing, nearly 2,000-page TRID rule. These 
forms were previously used for years.
  Habitat for Humanity's volunteers with financial expertise were once 
able to sit down with the borrower and review each section of the forms 
together. This gave the volunteer an opportunity to teach the new 
homeowner about personal finance and the critical steps he or she could 
take to grow as a financially responsible citizen. With the passage of 
the BUILD Act, volunteers will be able to provide this prudent advice 
once again.
  My office has also been informed that some Habitat chapters lack the 
staffing capacity to comply with the TRID rule. What is more, these 
chapters do not possess the adequate funding needed to purchase the 
required software.
  In Habitat for Humanity chapters in Lincoln, Grand Island, and 
Fremont, they are going to benefit from the passage of the BUILD Act, 
and I think all of us in this body can agree that charitable 
organizations like Habitat for Humanity are a constant source of hope 
for families in need. They should not be hurt because of a preventable 
  By working together and finding commonsense solutions, we can fix 
this. The BUILD Act gained momentum last year and passed the House 
unanimously, but we can push this legislation over the finish line 
during the 116th Congress.
  I thank the junior Senator from Maryland for partnering with me and 
helping to reintroduce this bipartisan legislation. I thank our lead 
sponsors in the House who spearheaded this effort last Congress.
  The BUILD Act would provide that commonsense reform to ensure all 
housing charities are able to provide much needed stability to 
communities without being harmed by overly burdensome regulations.
  The President highlighted a variety of different ways we can work 
together during his State of the Union speech this week, and I believe 
the passage of a bipartisan, bicameral BUILD Act would be an 
encouraging start.
      By Mr. BARRASSO (for himself, Mr. Bennet, Mr. Jones, Ms. Baldwin, 
        Mr. Boozman, Mrs. Capito, Ms. Collins, Mr. Cornyn, Mr. Cramer, 
        Mr. Enzi, Mrs. Fischer, Mr. Gardner, Ms. Hassan, Mr. Hoeven, 
        Mr. Inhofe, Mr. Johnson, Mr. King, Ms. Klobuchar, Mr. Manchin, 
        Mr. Peters, Ms. Smith, Mr. Thune, Mr. Udall, Mr. Wicker, and 
        Mr. Wyden):
  S. 382. A bill to authorize a special resource study on the spread 
vectors of chronic wasting disease in Cervidae, and for other purposes; 
to the Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry.
  Mr. BARRASSO. Mr. President, I have spoken many times in this Chamber 
about human health from my perspective as an orthopedic surgeon. Today, 
I am here to talk about a different crisis that is facing our Nation.
  Earlier today, 24 of my colleagues joined me in introducing a bill to 
combat chronic wasting disease in cervid populations across this 
country. Chronic wasting disease is a terrible degenerative brain 
disease. It affects captive and wild deer, elk, moose, and caribou in 
at least 26 States and several Canadian Provinces. It is highly 
contagious and always fatal.
  In my home State of Wyoming, chronic wasting disease was first 
detected back in 1985. Since then, the Wyoming Game and Fish Department 
has partnered with scientists, State wildlife managers, and Federal 
Agencies to understand how the disease spreads. Many other state 
agencies have forged similar partnerships to study the same things. 
Over the last 34 years, their work has shown that the disease is spread 
by prions, but how these prions actually infect animals remains a 
  The disease can be transmitted through nose-to-nose contact, through

[[Page S1136]]

animal waste, or through carcasses of infected animals. Some studies 
have suggested that prions can remain in affected soil for up to 16 
  Well, there is a lot we still don't know about the disease, including 
the risk to humans. Chronic wasting disease is a type of transmissible 
spongiform encephalopathy, like bovine spongiform encephalopathy and 
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease.
  There are a number of diseases I studied in medical school from a 
human standpoint that now seem to be affecting animals as well.
  There have been no reported cases of this chronic wasting disease in 
humans as of this time, but the Centers for Disease Control takes the 
risk of human infection quite seriously. The CDC developed a list of 
things people can do to reduce their own risk of consuming meat from an 
infected animal. Across the country, many people rely on meat they 
harvest from deer, moose, and elk to feed their families. For them 
hunting is not a recreational activity but an important part of their 
way of life.
  Hunting also contributes tens of billions of dollars in economic 
activity each year. Those dollars fund important wildlife research and 
habitat conservation and contribute nearly 10,000 jobs in Wyoming 
alone. Dollars derived from the sales of tags or hunting licenses and 
hunting equipment are used by State wildlife agencies to carry out 
important monitoring, management, and conservation work.
  If this disease persists and we cannot instill confidence in the 
public that the risk can be controlled, hunting will decrease. Fewer 
licenses sold means less money for our wildlife agencies, which means 
less research. So we need to act now.
  Chronic wasting disease threatens the iconic deer, elk, and moose 
herds that roam our State. It is a threat to our western heritage, but 
it is not just a western problem. Chronic wasting disease has found its 
way to Alabama, New York, and Pennsylvania. After finding the disease 
late last year, the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency now requires 
hunters to check in their deer at physical locations to check for 
infection. The Muley Fanatic Foundation in Wyoming, which does 
fantastic work, told me there is no bigger threat to our big game 
populations than the spread of chronic wasting disease.
  The bill is being introduced today. Senator Jones from Alabama is on 
the floor and is going to speak next. The bill we have introduced today 
requires the Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health 
Inspection Service and the U.S. Geological Survey to work with the 
National Academies of Science to answer some important questions about 
chronic wasting disease. They will review gaps in current scientific 
knowledge about transmission. They will review where Federal and State 
best management practices can better align, and they will review the 
areas at greatest risk for new infections.
  State wildlife managers need answers to these questions so they can 
coordinate prevention and control efforts among their States and so 
they can target their research to fill in any gaps in current 
  Chronic wasting disease is not a new threat, but it is one that has 
fundamentally changed our efforts to manage and conserve wildlife. 
Unchecked, this disease can truly be catastrophic for wildlife and for 
local economies. Across our Nation, whole industries are built around 
wildlife, tourism, wildlife watching, and deer and elk farming.
  I believe this bill and this research can make a real difference. So 
I am glad that so many of my colleagues agree and have cosponsored this 
  Mr. JONES. Mr. President, first, I would like to thank my colleague 
from Wyoming for his work today and for his work on this very, very 
important issue of chronic wasting disease and prevention. This is an 
issue of great importance not only to Alabama but to 26 other States--
from Wyoming to Tennessee, Alabama, and Mississippi. This is an issue 
which, if we fail to act, will result in an environmental and economic 
  Chronic wasting disease, or CWD, is truly a terrible, contagious 
neurological illness that affects all deer, elk, and moose populations 
nationwide. It is a disease that is as bad as it sounds. It functions 
much like mad cow disease.
  Senator Barrasso gave all of the scientific words. He has a little 
bit more training in that than I do. So I will just call it what it 
is--mad cow disease and neurological disorders.
  It attacks an animal's nervous system and, over time, renders the 
animal weak and emaciated, with little control over its body. The 
disease has a fatality rate of 100 percent. Every single animal that 
contracts this disease dies. It is highly communicable, spreading not 
only through physical contact but also through contaminated 
environments where infected animals have been.
  The jury is still out on whether chronic wasting disease may be 
transmitted to humans, but the Centers for Disease Control and 
Prevention recommend against consuming animals contaminated with the 
disease. In 2017, a Canadian study documented transmission through 
consumption of contaminated meat to a nonhuman primate. Clearly, this 
is something to be very concerned and cautious about because of the 
clear and concrete evidence that it could be transmitted to humans.
  The fact is, the disease is spreading, and it is spreading fast. Even 
if it does not pose an immediate health threat to humans or at least a 
documented health threat right now, it poses a serious significant 
financial threat to Alabama and many other States.
  The total annual economic contribution of deer hunting to the U.S. 
economy is close to $40 billion. In fact, as a hunting company, if it 
were a publicly-traded company, it would fall in the top 100 on the 
Fortune 500 list.
  The hunting industry in Alabama generates $2.6 billion every year for 
the State's economy, and according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife 
Service, deer hunting alone generates nearly $2 billion or roughly 80 
percent of that amount. Obviously, this makes deer hunting sound like a 
very big business, and it is. It is a big business in Alabama, and it 
is a big business across the country.
  But make no mistake. It is more than just that. It is more than just 
an economy. It is more than money that comes into our community. Any 
hunter in Alabama will tell you that hunting is not only a time-honored 
tradition and a recreational pastime. It is in our State and in so many 
others a way of life.
  Hunters in Alabama will also tell you about the devastating effect 
that CWD can have in the State of Alabama. They use the word 
``disaster,'' and they are not exaggerating.
  Chronic wasting disease is spreading throughout the country, and it 
is closing in on Alabama. Cases have already been confirmed in southern 
Tennessee and northeastern Mississippi. A study out of the University 
of Tennessee in Knoxville on the projected impacts of chronic wasting 
disease in Tennessee has predicted a nearly $100 million total loss to 
that State alone.
  We are thankful currently that no deer in Alabama have yet tested 
positive for CWD, which is a testament to the hard work being done by 
groups like the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural 
Resources, but State agencies alone cannot address this problem. Their 
budgets are already strained by the activities that they currently 
undertake to monitor and manage the disease as well as the many other 
fine programs they manage in my State and elsewhere.
  Adequate resources must be devoted to studying the transmission of 
this disease and developing strategies for its containment. If it 
doesn't happen, then CWD, or chronic wasting disease, in Alabama and in 
other States not yet affected becomes not a question of if but when.
  That is why today, along with Senator Barrasso from Wyoming and 
Senator Bennet from Colorado, we are proud to introduce the Chronic 
Wasting Disease Transmission in Cervidae Study Act.
  Once again, I want to commend Senator Barrasso, in particular, as the 
chairman of the Environment and Public Works Committee for his 
leadership in this space. I know he cares deeply about Wyoming's 
wildlife population, but clearly he cares about the population and 
conservation efforts throughout the country.
  Despite its widespread prevalence, very little is known about CWD and 
how it is transmitted. Our bipartisan

[[Page S1137]]

legislation tasks the USDA and the Department of the Interior to work 
with the National Academy of Sciences to conduct a review of the 
existing science, how it is spread, and current best-management 
practices in order to get a better handle on what we already know about 
the disease and its transmission.
  More specifically, this legislation will allow us to identify the 
most effective techniques for prevention, surveillance, and management 
of the disease. It will also enable us to get a better understanding of 
the total economic cost of CWD to our State economies, to wildlife 
agencies, to landowners, and to hunters.
  A review conducted under this legislation will allow us to gather 
essential data that will enable us to conduct better research into the 
future and to better formulate our policy goals in order to mitigate 
and manage this devastating disease.
  Like many Alabamians, I love spending time outdoors, taking in the 
breathtaking nature and wildlife of my State. Alabama is a gorgeous 
State with an incredibly diverse array of fauna and wildlife. It is an 
amazing place. I am also a pretty avid hunter, and, in fact, this 
weekend is the last weekend for deer season in my State, and I am 
hoping to get out there this Sunday, the very last day, for the last 
deer hunt of the season as this season comes to a close. This has 
really been a cherished pastime for me and my youngest child, my son 
Christopher, for many, many years.
  Taking action to find a solution to stop the spread of CWD will help 
to ensure that countless other outdoors men and women--because women 
are a big part of the hunting population in the State of Alabama--can 
continue to enjoy this tradition.
  We have to do everything we can to combat what is truly an 
existential threat to the deer hunting industry in my State and around 
the country. Our legislation is an essential step forward in protecting 
the health of our wildlife, protecting the health of our environment, 
and, ultimately, protecting the way of life for millions of hunting 
  Thank you, Mr. President.
      By Mr. CARDIN (for himself and Mr. Van Hollen):
  S. 416. A bill to amend the Higher Education Act of 1965 to amend the 
process by which students with certain special circumstances apply for 
Federal financial aid; to the Committee on Health, Education, Labor, 
and Pensions.
  Mr. CARDIN. Mr. President, I would like to bring the Senate's 
attention to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) 
Fairness Act of 2019, common sense legislation I am introducing with my 
colleague from Maryland, Senator Van Hollen today. This legislation 
seeks to eliminate a barrier that potential college students with 
difficult personal and financial circumstances face when applying for 
Federal financial aid that too often has left them without a path 
forward to earning a college education and joining the middle class.
  This body has worked to improve the college application process for 
students and their families over the last several years and 
successfully lobbied the Department of Education to allow students and 
their families to submit their FAFSA application in October and utilize 
prior prior-year tax data. These changes provide future college 
students and their families with several months to submit their 
financial information instead of a short time frame between January and 
February to meet State and institutional-based deadlines for need- and 
merit-based financial aid programs. These steps have made it easier for 
students to sit with their families and make informed financial 
decisions on which college or university will provide the highest 
quality yet least expensive college education.
  Despite our work, a number of our students are being left behind and 
cannot take advantage of these changes. Many of these students face 
difficult personal and financial situations. For instance, some have 
left home due to abusive family environments; others may have parents 
who are incarcerated. Still others may be unable to locate their 
parents. All of the students in these circumstances are unable to fill 
out the FAFSA application. Rather than fill out one universal Federal 
financial aid application form, a potential college student must 
contact each institution she or he is applying to and undergo a 
``dependency override'' process before a college or university will put 
together an estimated financial aid package for the student. Under this 
process, a student applying to one university in my State of Maryland, 
for instance, must submit nine different pieces of financial 
information, a personal statement, and references to verify their 
independent status. These students, often first generation students 
unfamiliar with the process for applying to school, may give up on the 
dependency override process and fail to finish the college application 
process or leave significant Federal financial aid on the table.
  Mr. President, I think it is unfair that we place additional burdens 
on these students. We should not make opening the door to a brighter 
future harder than it is already. In Maryland, we know that access to a 
high-quality, yet affordable, education is the key to success and 
increasingly required for entry into the middle class. Regardless of a 
student's background or the circumstances that he or she has fought to 
overcome, it is my belief that this Congress should work to ensure 
maximum access to higher education.
  The FAFSA Fairness Act would seek to correct this inequity for some 
of our most vulnerable students. If enacted, my legislation would allow 
students in these difficult personal and financial circumstances to 
fill out a FAFSA form as a ``provisional independent'' student and 
receive a provisional determination of their Federal financial aid 
award from the Department of Education. The colleges that the student 
applies to would receive notification of the student's special 
circumstances and conduct outreach to inform the student of the process 
for completing a dependency override. After a student has completed the 
dependency override form, the school would provide the student with a 
final financial aid award package that includes Federal, State, and 
institutional need- and merit-based aid so the student could bargain 
shop for the best financial aid award package between multiple schools. 
After such students have been admitted to college, this legislation 
would allow them to remain focused on their classwork instead of annual 
recertification of their independent status by maintaining the 
dependency override decision for as long as they remain in school or if 
the university is made aware of new information about their status. My 
legislation would provide students with a pathway to complete the 
FAFSA, one of the first steps towards applying to college and obtaining 
a foothold in the middle class. It also provides students with an 
opportunity to identify the colleges and universities that match up the 
best with their financial situation and educational goals.
  I am proud to lead this Senate effort with my colleague from Maryland 
and appreciate the work of our delegation, especially U.S. 
Representatives Elijah E. Cummings, C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, and John 
P. Sarbanes, who are introducing a companion bill in the U.S. House of 
Representatives. I urge my Senate colleagues to join in this effort to 
help some of our most vulnerable and disadvantaged students achieve 
their dream of higher education despite their difficult family and 
financial circumstances.
  Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that the text of the bill be 
printed in the Record.
  There being no objection, the text of the bill was ordered to be 
printed in the Record, as follows:

                                 S. 416

       Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of 
     the United States of America in Congress assembled,


       This Act may be cited as the ``FAFSA Fairness Act of 


       Section 483 of the Higher Education Act of 1965 (20 U.S.C. 
     1090) is amended--
       (1) in subsection (h)(1), by inserting the following before 
     the semicolon: ``, including the special circumstances under 
     which a student may qualify for a determination of 
     independence''; and
       (2) by adding at the end the following:
       ``(i) Provisional Independent Students.--
       ``(1) Requirements for the secretary.--The Secretary 

[[Page S1138]]

       ``(A) enable each student who, based on the special 
     circumstance specified in subsection (h)(1), may qualify for 
     an adjustment under section 479A that will result in a 
     determination of independence under such section and section 
     480(d)(1)(I), to complete the forms developed by the 
     Secretary under subsection (a) as an independent student for 
     the purpose of a provisional determination of the student's 
     Federal financial aid award, but subject to verification 
     under paragraph (2)(E) for the purpose of the final 
     determination of the award;
       ``(B) upon completion of the forms developed by the 
     Secretary under subsection (a), provide an estimate of the 
     student's Federal Pell Grant award, based on the assumption 
     the student is determined to be an independent student;
       ``(C) ensure that, on each form developed under this 
     section, there is a single and easily understood screening 
     question to identify an applicant for aid who wishes to 
     provisionally apply for independent status under sections 
     479A and 480(d)(1)(I); and
       ``(D) specify, on the forms, the consequences under section 
     490(a) of knowingly and willfully completing the forms as an 
     independent student under subparagraph (A) without meeting 
     the special circumstances to qualify for such a 
       ``(2) Requirements for financial aid administrators.--With 
     respect to a student accepted for admission who completes the 
     forms as an independent student under paragraph (1)(A), a 
     financial aid administrator--
       ``(A) shall notify the student of the institutional process 
     and requirements for an adjustment under sections 479A and 
     480(d)(1)(I) that will result in a determination of 
     independence under such sections within a reasonable time 
     after the student completes the forms developed by the 
     Secretary under subsection (a) as an independent student for 
     the purpose of a provisional determination of the student's 
     Federal financial aid award;
       ``(B) may make an adjustment under sections 479A and 
     480(d)(1)(I) for a determination of independence in the 
     absence of conflicting information;
       ``(C) shall provide a final determination of the student's 
     Federal financial aid award to the student in the same manner 
     as, and by not later than the date that, the administrator 
     provides most other provisionally independent students their 
     final determinations of Federal financial aid awards, or 
     during the award year in which the student initially submits 
     an application, whichever comes sooner;
       ``(D) shall, in making a final determination of the 
     student's Federal financial aid award, use the discretion 
     provided under sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I) to verify 
     whether the student meets the special circumstances to 
     qualify as an independent student;
       ``(E) in accordance with paragraph (B), may consider as 
     adequate verification that a student qualifies for an 
     adjustment under sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I)--
       ``(i) submission of a court order or official Federal or 
     State documentation that the student's parent or legal 
     guardian is incarcerated in any Federal or State penal 
       ``(ii) a documented phone call with, or a written statement 

       ``(I) a child welfare agency authorized by a State or 
       ``(II) a Tribal child welfare authority;
       ``(III) an independent living case worker; or
       ``(IV) a public or private agency, facility, or program 
     serving the victims of abuse, neglect, assault, or violence;

       ``(iii) a documented phone call with, or a written 
     statement from, an attorney, a guardian ad litem, or a court 
     appointed special advocate, documenting that person's 
     relationship to the student;
       ``(iv) a documented phone call with, or a written statement 
     from, a representative of a program under chapter 1 or 2 of 
     subpart 2 of part A; or
       ``(v) submission of a copy of the student's biological or 
     adoptive parents' or legal guardians'--

       ``(I) certificates of death; or
       ``(II) verified obituaries;

       ``(F) if a student does not have, and cannot get, 
     documentation from any of the designated authorities 
     described in subparagraph (E) of whether a student may 
     qualify for an adjustment under sections 479A and 
     480(d)(1)(I) that will result in a determination of 
     independence, may base the verification and final 
     determination on--
       ``(i) a documented interview with the student that is 
     limited to whether the student meets the requirements, and 
     not about the reasons for the student's situations; and
       ``(ii) an attestation from the student that they meet the 
     requirements, which includes a description of the approximate 
     dates that the student ended the financial or caregiving 
     relationship with their parent or legal guardian, to the best 
     of the student's knowledge;
       ``(G) retain all documents related to the adjustment under 
     sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I), including documented 
     interviews, for the duration of the student's enrollment at 
     the institution and for a minimum of 1 year after the student 
     is no longer enrolled at the institution; and
       ``(H) shall presume that any student who has obtained an 
     adjustment under sections 479A and 480(d)(1)(I) and a final 
     determination of independence for a preceding award year at 
     an institution to be independent for a subsequent award year 
     at the same institution unless--
       ``(i) the student informs the institution that 
     circumstances have changed; or
       ``(ii) the institution has specific conflicting information 
     about the student's independence.''.