U.S. Reps. Rick Crawford (AR-1), Tim Griffin (AR-2), Steve Womack (AR-3), and Tom Cotton (AR-4) today sent a joint letter to U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Tom Vilsack requesting that USDA extend the Commodity Credit Corporation loan repayment date for farmers affected by the collapse of Turner Grain Merchandising in Brinkley, Arkansas.
In the letter, Arkansas’s congressional delegation urged the USDA’s Farm Service Agency (FSA) to extend the repayment date by at least 180 days for affected farmers, whose losses on outstanding grain purchases could exceed $50 million. Additionally, the letter highlighted the potential impact on the U.S. food base – specifically U.S. rice and soybean crops – as Arkansas produces nearly half of the U.S. rice crop and a significant amount of soybeans. The letters says in part:
“We are writing to request USDA, through the Farm Service Agency (FSA), work to ensure that we do not disrupt a considerable portion of America’s most productive agricultural base because badly-needed funds were tied up in litigation. Specifically, we request the FSA extend the Commodity Credit Corporation loan repayment date for all farmers who are depending on payment from Turner Grain to pay off these loans. We recommend a period of 180 days to give farmers and the agricultural community some sense of assurance. Further, we recommend that the Agency revisit the extension after 90 days to determine if additional time will be needed beyond the current 180 days.”
The letter goes on to request a timely response from Secretary Vilsack and to express the delegation’s willingness to work with USDA to identify other areas of relief for producers.
The full text of the letter can be found here.
Federal contractors, companies that provide goods and services to the federal government, must meet certain non-discrimination, affirmative action, and equal employment opportunity requirements to do business with the federal government. To ensure federal contractors are meeting their obligations, the U.S. Department of Labor’s (DoL) Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) conducts compliance reviews.
Over the last several years, I have met with federal contractors across the country, including in Arkansas, about the challenges they face in dealing with the OFCCP. Among other things, they report a drawn out compliance review process, short deadlines to respond to requests for information, and gaps in communication from the OFCCP. They also brought to my attention the OFCCP’s practice of reaching legal conclusions and issuing notices of violation without giving contractors a chance to present evidence to counter the OFCCP’s findings.
Earlier this year, I questioned Secretary of Labor Tom Perez about the OFCCP’s practices when he testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies. Shortly thereafter, I met with OFCCP Director Patricia Shiu and her staff to discuss my concerns and to share specific examples of the problems that were brought to my attention. In the meeting, I asked Director Shiu to make changes to the compliance review process to make it more efficient and effective.
Following our meeting, I sent a letter to Director Shiu to outline my recommendations. In it, I asked the OFCCP to track the length of every compliance review and use the information to improve the process and reduce the amount of time it takes to complete a review. I also asked the OFCCP keep a record of every request for information that details the nature of the request, including the amount of time the OFCCP gives a contractor to respond. I encouraged the OFCCP to establish a policy for maintaining communication with contractors throughout the compliance review process and recommended that the OFCCP share its preliminary findings with contractors and give them an opportunity to present evidence before reaching legal conclusions and issuing notices of violations. Finally, I suggested that the OFCCP reinstitute an ombudsman, an independent party within the agency to receive and investigate complaints and to work with the OFCCP to resolve them.
As I told Director Shiu, it’s my hope we can work together to address these issues. At the same time, I want to see results. I recognize that, from time to time, there will be friction between the OFCCP and contractors. However, if the goal is compliance, as the OFCCP says it is, then the agency should work with – not against – contractors to ensure they are complying with the law. And if they aren’t, the OFCCP should provide the necessary assistance to contractors to help them achieve compliance.Read More
Americans are empowered when their government works for – not against – them. But as you know, the federal government has faced quite a few scandals as of late, including the IRS targeting scandal, the attack in Benghazi, and the VA scandal. In this week’s policy update, I will discuss the VA scandal and what Congress has done in response to the revelation that some within the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) hid waiting lists of patients from official records.
Earlier this year, news broke that veterans who had bravely served our country were suffering and even dying because they had been kept on secret waiting lists for extreme periods of time to receive care at VA health care facilities. This was done to make it look as if these facilities were performing at a higher level with shorter wait times, so that the employees could receive performance bonuses in some instances.
The root of the problem was a disconnect between those performing care and the leadership of the department – oftentimes coming from VA supervisors themselves. These supervisors were instructing their subordinates to hide information, so that reports to their own superiors would be more favorably received. Furthermore, oftentimes when the employees spoke out, the supervisors meted out retribution. Finally, a few brave whistleblowers came forward to express their concerns, and Congress and the VA began to take action.
Rewarding VA employees for delaying and denying care for tens of thousands of our veterans is indefensible - our nation owes no greater debt of gratitude than the one we owe them, and these reports highlight minimally a breach of competence and, perhaps, criminal activity within the VA. We need the truth, and I commend my colleagues on the House Veterans’ Affairs Committee for their dedication to getting to the bottom of this as soon as possible. After some investigation, the House and Senate began developing a plan of accountability to address the needs of our veterans.
The goals for the proposal were to get veterans the care they need when they need it and to make it possible to remove those bad actors within the VA. There were those who argued for veterans to have a greater ability to have their VA benefitscover private care. Still others wanted more funding to go to the VA, so that they could expand rapidly the facilities and personnel needed for timely care. A mix of these two options made it into the agreement between Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chairmen Bernie Sanders (Senate) and Jeff Miller (House), and Congress passed the legislation in the last week of session before the August district work period.
The final legislative compromise, the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, was signed into law on August 7, 2014, by President Obama. The law addresses the problems at the VA by allowing veterans to leverage private care to fulfill their health needs, holds high-level employees in the VA accountable for underperformance or corruption, increases congressional oversight through the Congressional Commission on Care, and provides for the hiring of additional medical staff within the VA to increase its ability to care for veterans. I am hopeful this will jumpstart the efforts to get the VA back on track.
I am also hopeful that newly-confirmed Secretary of Veterans Affairs Robert A. McDonald will undertake steps to turn around the embattled department from within. In his previous posts, he was known as an innovative thinker, and I am confident he will produce results to deliver quality and timely care to our veterans.
While this legislation and new leadership address problems at the VA on a national level, I know that individual veterans need assistance resolving a problem within the VA from time to time. Should this apply to you or someone you know, please reach out to one of my district offices in Rogers (479-464-0446), Fort Smith (479-424-1146), or Harrison (870-741-6900) so we can do our best to help.
We owe the greatest amount of respect and gratitude to our veterans for their selfless service to our nation – this starts with ensuring they can access the timely and quality care they have earned. I will continue to work with my colleagues to address the systemic issues at the VA and change its culture to fulfill our promise to our veterans.
U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman today joined Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3) to announce that the Rogers Municipal-Carter Field Airport will receive a $3.3 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to continue the rehabilitation of the airport’s apron, which will include over 230,000 square feet of new pavement.
“Over the past few years, we’ve seen incredible population and job growth in Northwest Arkansas,” said Pryor. “These resources will allow Rogers to meet the demands of a rapidly growing region while ensuring that the airport can continue to deliver passengers and cargo safely to and from the airport.”
“The airport in Rogers plays a critical role in the economic growth of Northwest Arkansas. It’s necessary that the transportation infrastructure meets the needs of region’s booming business activity so we can continue to benefit from development and commerce,” Boozman said.
“As more and more people make Northwest Arkansas their home for their families and businesses, we must ensure our transportation infrastructure keeps pace and can support our growing population. This grant will enable the Rogers Municipal-Carter Field Airport to make necessary upgrades to meet the demands of the region, allowing both our population and our economy to continue to grow,” said Womack.
This funding is supported by the FY14 omnibus appropriations bill, which was signed into law in January.
U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman today joined Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3) to announce that the Fort Smith Regional Airport will receive a $4.9 million grant from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The funding will be used to shift a taxiway and complete the final stage of airport construction.
“Today’s grant announcement is great news for Fort Smith. This funding will allow the airport to make much-needed infrastructure upgrades so they can meet FAA safety standards and continue to support the region’s growing business and transportation needs,” Pryor said.
“This is exciting news for my hometown of Fort Smith. The investment will help meet the demands placed on the Fort Smith airport and support growth and commerce in the region,” Boozman said. “It’s important that we continue to seek improvements to our transportation system so area businesses and industries can remain competitive in this global economy.”
"These funds will allow Fort Smith to make smart, essential improvements to its airport," said Womack. "Developing our transportation infrastructure is key to the continued growth of the city's and our state's economies."
This funding is supported by the FY14 omnibus appropriations bill, which was signed into law in January.
This month, as I travel around the district and hear Arkansans’ thoughts on important issues facing our country, I want to take the time update you on issues on which Congress has been working. This week, I want to talk about legislation that will strengthen the U.S. labor force and keep American businesses competitive.
In 1998, Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act of 1998 (WIA) to consolidate and improve employment, training, and vocational rehabilitation programs in an effort to align the skills of American workers with the needs of our businesses. President Bill Clinton signed WIA (P.L. 105-220) into law on August 7, 1998.
As you might imagine, the global economy and the needs of American companies have changed dramatically since that time, yet our workforce-development and job-training programs have failed to keep pace.
Last month, the House and Senate came together and reached agreement on H.R. 803, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA). The bill represents a bipartisan, bicameral agreement to streamline workforce-development and job-training activities and eliminate duplicative programs. It also improves transparency and accountability within the programs. President Obama signed the WIOA into law on July 22, 2014, enacting the first reforms to our workforce system in 15 years.
At a time when Congress has not been able to agree on much, I am pleased we were able to set aside our differences and work together to craft a bill that makes much-needed reforms to address the workforce skills gap and to better prepare American workers for today’s jobs. But I will be the first to admit that it’s not enough. We must do much more to grow our economy and get Americans back to work.So far this congress, the House has passed 43 broad-ranging jobs bills to do just that, but the Senate refuses to consider them. I realize the Senate doesn’t agree with everything we do in the House, but the House-passed bills aren’t “take-it-or-leave-it” offers. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid should give senators a chance to amend and vote on the bills. Then, the House and Senate can convene a conference committee, where members from both chambers come together to work out the differences between the bills and reach an agreement. That’s how the legislative process is supposed to work. Read More
Congressman Steve Womack (AR-3) today released the following statement after supporting the passage of H.R. 5230, a bill which makes supplemental appropriations to address the current immigration crisis on the southwestern border for the fiscal year ending September 30, 2014, and the passage of H.R. 5272, a bill which establishes prohibitions for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program:
“It’s disappointing that these bills, which address the 50,000 unaccompanied minors that have come here illegally this year alone and make critical immigration reforms, will join hundreds of others waiting for consideration by the Senate, which is – again – unwilling to take action and is already home for August recess. The root of this crisis is our open border. It has been exacerbated by President Obama’s refusal to enforce America’s immigration laws. Unfortunately, it will only get worse until we address the loopholes that allow these unaccompanied minors to stay here and provide the resources necessary to boost our border’s security and quickly process, adjudicate, and reunite these children with their families – in their home countries where they belong. I will continue to work with my House colleagues to find and pass thoughtful, conservative solutions to appropriately address this crisis and the many other challenges facing our nation.”
Congressman Steve Womack represents Arkansas’s Third Congressional District and serves on the House Appropriations Committee and the Defense, Financial Services and General Government, and Labor-Health and Human Services subcommittees.
U.S. Senators Mark Pryor and John Boozman today joined Congressmen Tim Griffin (AR-2) and Steve Womack (AR-3) to announce that five Arkansas fire departments will receive nearly $700,000 from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program (AFG) to purchase equipment, training materials, and vehicles.
“Whether it’s providing life-saving turnout gear or vehicles, this program is critical to keeping Arkansas first responders safe on the job,” Pryor said. “I’m proud to support our first responders who do so much to keep our families and property safe.”
“These funds will provide our firefighters with the appropriate tools, resources and training they need to protect Arkansas families and communities and be better prepared to respond to emergencies,” Boozman said.
“As our firefighters work to protect our communities, this investment in communications technology and other needed equipment will help ensure our firefighters are better prepared to respond when life is threatened,” said Griffin.
“These grants are welcomed news for Arkansas’s brave firemen and women. They will provide essential training and equipment to help ensure our firefighters’ safety as they put themselves into harm’s way to protect ours,” Womack said.
The fire departments receiving funding are as follows:
The Assistance to Firefighters Program of the Federal Emergency Management Agency is supported by the omnibus appropriations bill and provides fire departments and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) organizations with the tools and resources necessary to protect the health and safety of the public and emergency response personnel. During Fiscal Year 2013, DHS AFG Program awarded approximately $288.8 million directly to local fire departments and EMS organizations.
Congressman Steve Womack is currently seeking highly motivated college students to serve as interns in his Washington, D.C. office, as well as his district offices in Rogers, Fort Smith, and Harrison, for the following session:
Fall 2014: August 11, 2014– December 12, 2014
A congressional internship is a rewarding experience, and both Washington, D.C., and district office interns will work closely with Congressman Womack’s staff and constituents while learning the inner workings of the United States Congress and about issues affecting Arkansans. Those interested in political science, government, public policy, business, and social work are encouraged to apply.
Internship requirements and application materials are available at: http://womack.house.gov/constituentservices/internships.htm
College students who are interested in interning in the Washington, D.C. office should submit a completed application to:
Congressman Steve Womack
c/o Chelsea Taff
College students who are interested in interning in the Rogers, Harrison, Fort Smith, or Harrison offices should submit a completed application to:
Congressman Steve Womack
c/o Intern Coordinator
3333 Pinnacle Hills Parkway, Suite 120
Rogers, AR 72758
Or via fax to: (479) 464-0063
For more information, please call (202) 225-4301.
U.S. Representatives Bob Goodlatte (VA-6), Jim Costa (CA-16), Peter Welch (VT-AL), and Steve Womack (AR-3) released the following statement today in response to comments made by White House advisor John Podesta regarding the Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS):
“Recent comments by a White House advisor implying a future increase in the ethanol mandate run counter to the position expressed by a majority of the House of Representatives. The EPA’s proposal for 2014, which included a reduction in the amount of ethanol blended into the fuel supply, was a positive step forward and acknowledged that the mandate is unworkable, detrimental to the environment, and price distorting to feedstock industries throughout the country. If these comments accurately represent the administration’s intentions, this would be a significant step backwards for American consumers and businesses. We urge EPA Administrator McCarthy and the Obama Administration to carefully consider the concerns of a majority of House lawmakers and take action to reduce the burden of the RFS for 2014.”
218+ House Members have either signed onto a letter or a bill calling for reform of the Renewable Fuel Standard.
1119 Longworth HOB
Washington, DC 20515
Congressman Stephen A. Womack, 57, is a native of Russellville, Arkansas. After attending K-10 in Moberly, Missouri, Womack’s family returned to Arkansas in 1973, and he graduated from Russellville High School in 1975. Womack earned a Bachelor’s degree from Arkansas Tech University in 1979 and, after graduation, was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in the Arkansas Army National Guard.
In the fall of 1979, Steve relocated to Rogers where he and his father established KURM Radio, and he served as station manager from 1979-1990. In August of 1990, Steve accepted an assignment with the University of Arkansas Army ROTC program and served as Executive Officer of the program for six years. In 1996, Steve was hired as a financial consultant with Merrill Lynch.
On November 3, 1998, Steve was elected Mayor of Rogers and served in that capacity for twelve years. During his tenure, the City of Rogers experienced exponential economic growth, adding $1 billion in new development with major improvements to the city’s infrastructure, retail services, and quality of life amenities.
Steve also served on numerous boards and commissions in Northwest Arkansas serving as Chairman of the Northwest Regional Planning Commission, Chairman of Rogers United Way, board member of the Rogers-Lowell Chamber of Commerce, and the Rogers Parks Commission. A former Rotarian, Steve is also a Paul Harris Fellow.
In the Army National Guard, Steve served in a variety of command and staff assignments, including command of 2nd Battalion, 153rd Infantry, 39th Separate Infantry Brigade. Following the tragic events of 9-11, Steve’s battalion was mobilized for duty with the Multi-National Force and Observers (MFO), Sinai, Egypt in 2002. It marked the first time in the history of the 39th Brigade that a battalion was deployed overseas. It was also the first time in the MFO history the US Battalion mission was conducted by a pure National Guard unit. Steve’s task force received praise from the highest levels of civil and military leadership around the world and is credited with convincing Army leadership of the capabilities and readiness of the Army Guard.
Steve retired with over thirty years of service from the Arkansas Army National Guard October 31, 2009, at the rank of Colonel. His decorations include the Legion of Merit, the Meritorious Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, and the Global War on Terror Expeditionary and Service Medals, and the Arkansas Distinguished Service Medals. Steve was inducted into the Arkansas Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame in 2011.
In the House, Steve serves on the Appropriations Committee and the Defense, Financial Services, and Labor-Health and Human Services subcommittees. Steve is also on the Whip Team, House Energy Action Team (HEAT), and various caucuses.
Steve has been married to his wife, Terri, for 29 years, and they have three grown sons and two grandsons, Liam and Kaden.