WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), the Ranking Member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, joined with other members of the Appropriations Committee in announcing an Omnibus spending bill to fund the federal government for the remainder of fiscal year 2018. Senator Reed played an important role in crafting key pieces of the bill that will benefit Rhode Island and make critical investments in America’s infrastructure.
“This bill is a win for Rhode Islanders and working families across the country. It provides increased funding for vital transportation, housing, and economic development programs in Rhode Island. I am confident the state will put this increased funding toward fixing our infrastructure, improving mobility, and enhancing economic opportunity and smart growth,” said Senator Reed. “At a time when there’s been far too much Congressional gridlock in Washington, I am pleased Chairman Collins and I were able to provide transportation and housing funding that will result in real improvements.”
The bill provides funding for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and other related agencies that manage many of the programs that build and maintain our nation’s transportation network and support housing and economic development in our communities. Specifically, the bill provides a total of $70.3 billion for fiscal year 2018, $12.649 billion more than in fiscal year 2017, for essential highway, transit, air, rail, and maritime programs, as well as housing, supportive service, and community development programs.
“While we were able to include federal funds to enhance transportation and community development projects in Rhode Island that will help keep our economy moving forward, we still need to do more. I will continue to push for a forward-looking national infrastructure bill that makes necessary, long-term investments in America’s infrastructure, including our roads, bridges, schools, housing, and new technologies,” said Senator Reed, who highlighted several key areas of the bill that will benefit Rhode Island, including:
For DOT, the bill provides a total of $86.2 billion in budgetary resources for transportation infrastructure nationwide, an increase of $9.97 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This funding will allow for transformative projects throughout the country across all modes of transportation, and help address the deferred maintenance backlog in our airport, highway, rail, and transit systems.
• Highway and Transit: The bill provides $47.5 billion for the Federal-aid Highway program, a $3.49 billion increase over fiscal year 2017. As a result of Senator Reed’s efforts, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is expected to receive an allocation of $230 million in highway grants, plus an additional $11.1 million in general funds, for a total of $241.1 million. Separately, the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority (RIPTA) is expected to receive an allocation of $38.8 million in transit grants, plus an additional $643,971 in State-of-Good-Repair grants, $1.7 million in Buses and Bus Facilities funding, and $1 million under the High Density grant program. Additionally, Senator Reed says Rhode Island should receive over $4.8 million in National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) grants and another $1.2 million for truck safety grants. Last year, Rhode Island received an allocation of $231 million in highway grants and $38 million in transit grants.
• Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER): The bill rejects the President’s proposal to eliminate the TIGER program and instead triples TIGER grant funding, providing $1.5 billion in fiscal year 2018. The $1 billion increase over the level provided in fiscal year 2017 marks the largest single-year increase since Senator Reed helped enact TIGER grants as part of the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The TIGER program provides States and local communities with the means to accomplish multi-modal transportation projects that traditional formula grant programs are unable to accommodate. This will help local communities to make transformative investments in their transportation infrastructure in order to improve safety and mobility, fix freight bottlenecks, shorten commutes, expand access to jobs, and generate economic development. Since 2010, Rhode Island has been awarded $108 million in competitive TIGER Grants, including a $20 million grant awarded earlier this month for repairs and upgrades along Route 37 in Cranston and Warwick. This increased funding for TIGER will provide additional opportunities for Rhode Island to compete for federal assistance for major transportation projects.
• Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): The bill provides $18 billion for the FAA, which is $1.59 billion more than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. The bill includes an additional $1 billion in general fund resources for the Airport Improvement Program (AIP), bringing the total funding for this program to $4.35 billion, which will be used to enhance airports’ safety, construction, and noise mitigation, with a preference for small and rural airports, including T.F. Green.
Additionally, Reed secured $50 million in federal funding under the Homeland Security Appropriations title of the bill to begin reimbursing over a dozen airports, including T.F. Green, for post-9/11 capital security improvements that they made at the urging of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Despite TSA’s promise of future reimbursement, the agency made no effort to cover the airports’ costs, prompting Senator Reed to lead a bipartisan group of senators to push for funding.
• Capital Investment Grants: The bill funds the transit Capital Investment Grant program at $2.645 billion, $232 million more than in fiscal year 2017. Bill and report language also reject the President’s proposal to terminate this program and compels DOT to assist project sponsors as they proceed from project development to construction. For the past twenty years, transit ridership has grown twice as quickly as our population, and Capital Investment Grants provide new and improved services on subway, light rail, and bus rapid transit systems through a rigorous discretionary review process.
• Rail: Overall, the bill provides $3.09 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), a $1.2 billion increase over fiscal year 2017. This includes $593 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants, of which $250 million is designated for Positive Train Control implementation. The bill also provides $250 million for Federal-State Partnership for State-of-Good-Repair grants that support capital investment and maintenance projects on Amtrak state-supported routes. The bill also provides $1.94 billion for Amtrak, of which $650 million is for the Northeast Corridor, a $446 million increase over fiscal year 2017.
• Automated Vehicles (AVs): As the era of self-driving vehicles approaches, the bill includes $117 million for research and grants related to the safe deployment of Automated Vehicles. This funding will be used across OST, NHTSA, FMCSA, FHWA, and FTA in order to conduct research and provide grants for demonstration projects. The bill also includes funding to conduct a new joint study between DOT and DOL to analyze the labor impact of AV deployment.
• U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD): The bill provides $980 million for MARAD, which is critical to the U.S. maritime industry. This is a $457 million increase over fiscal year 2017 and includes an additional $30 million to accelerate capital improvements at the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy; $250 million to fully fund the replacement of one of the six state maritime academy training school ships; and $107 million to fully fund the final decommissioning of the N/S Savannah. Additionally, the Small Shipyard grant program is funded at $20 million, a $10 million increase over fiscal year 2017. Senator Reed rescued this program, which has been critical in helping small Rhode Island shipyards to compete. As a result of Senator Reed’s efforts, small, local Rhode Island shipyards, like Blount Boats, Senesco Marine, J. Goodison, and Newport Shipyard, have received $5.2 million in competitive grants to make capital improvements intended to help create maritime jobs, increase economic activity, and improve their building, service, and maintenance capabilities.
Housing and Urban Development
For HUD, the bill provides nearly $42.7 billion in discretionary appropriations to meet the housing needs of low-income, disabled, and older Americans, shelter the homeless, and prevent vulnerable citizens from becoming homeless. This is an increase of $3.8 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. The bill restores critical housing production and economic development programs, which were proposed for elimination in the President’s budget request. This includes $1.36 billion for the HOME program, $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), which provides local governments with resources to develop their communities, support businesses, create jobs, and ensure the availability of decent, affordable housing, $187.6 million for the construction of housing for the elderly and persons with disabilities, and $230 million for lead-based paint hazard remediation.
• Public Housing: The bill includes $7.3 billion to support the operation and capital management of the nation’s public housing infrastructure.
• Community Development Block Grants (CDBG): The bill provides $3.3 billion for CDBG, an increase of $300 million from fiscal year 2017. This will result in approximately $16.8 million for Rhode Island in fiscal year 2018. CDBG funding can be used to address a variety of needs, from revitalizing distressed areas to supporting small businesses, removing blight, or assisting seniors with home repairs. Last year, Rhode Island received over $15 million in CDBG funding, and Senator Reed expects the 10 percent overall increase for the program to boost the state’s allocation by a corresponding amount in 2018.
• HOME: The bill provides $1.362 billion for the HOME program, which helps states and local governments to increase housing affordability through the building, buying, or rehabilitating of affordable housing that is then made available for rent or homeownership. This year’s allocation is a $412 million increase over fiscal year 2017. Last year, Rhode Island received $5 million under this program. The majority of Rhode Island’s allocation is used to support existing rental housing assistance units. Without this increase in funding, nearly 50 families would have lost their rental assistance, or the state would have been forced to carry the financial burden.
• Preventing and Ending Homelessness: The bill includes $2.5 billion for homeless assistance programs and includes several provisions to improve HUD’s delivery of housing and services to address particularly vulnerable populations, including veterans, youth, and survivors of domestic violence. This includes $270 million for Emergency Solutions Grants, an additional $80 million for targeted resources for youth experiencing homelessness, and $50 million for new rapid rehousing projects, which will serve victims and survivors of domestic violence. This total level of funding is $130 million more than the fiscal year 2017 bill. Additionally, to lead the coordination of federal homeless assistance programs, the bill also includes $3.6 million for the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) and extends the authority for USICH from October 1, 2018 to October 1, 2020.
• Elderly Housing: The bill includes $678 million for the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program, an increase of $175.6 million from fiscal year 2017. This funding will meet the renewal needs of this program as well as provide $105 million for the construction of over 760 new affordable housing units for low-income seniors.
• Housing for People with Disabilities: The bill includes $229.6 million for the Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities program, $83.4 million more than in fiscal year 2017. This funding will meet the renewal needs of this program as well as provide $82.6 million for the construction of 1,840 new affordable housing units for low-income people with disabilities. Additionally, the bill provides $505 million for the Section 811 Mainstream Voucher program, an increase of $385 million from fiscal year 2017, to renew existing housing assistance for persons with disabilities, as well as create more than 40,000 new vouchers.
• HUD-VASH Vouchers: The bill rejects the President’s proposal to eliminate new resources for this program and instead includes $40 million to provide 5,100 new incremental rental vouchers for veterans experiencing homelessness. HUD-VASH is a collaborative program that combines rental assistance for homeless veterans with case management and supportive services through the Veterans Administration.
• Lead-Based Paint Hazards: The bill provides $230 million for grants from the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, $85 million above fiscal year 2017 and – fully funding a key priority for Senate Democrats championed by Senator Reed. This includes up to $185 million for lead hazard remediation activities and $45 million to address other health hazards, including radon and mold, in low-income housing. This funding will support lead-based paint hazard reductions in up to 12,950 additional units, providing safer homes for nearly 45,950 low-income families and individuals, including over 11,960 children under the age of six. In 2017, the City of Providence received $3.4 million from the Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration grant program. This funding will produce 230 lead safe units and provide healthy homes interventions in 140 units. In 2016, Rhode Island Housing also received $3.4 million from the Lead Hazard Reduction Demonstration grant program, which will produce 250 lead safe and healthy units.
• Choice Neighborhoods Initiative: The bill includes $150 million for Choice Neighborhoods, $12.5 million above fiscal year 2017 and a new historic high for the program. Choice Neighborhoods is a critical resource for community-led transformation and a key tool for State and local governments to redevelop severely distressed HUD-assisted housing.
• Family Self-Sufficiency (FSS): The bill provides $75 million for FSS, consistent with fiscal year 2017 levels. Bill language is also included, which continues eligibility for Section 8 project-based residents who would otherwise be excluded from the program. Last year, Rhode Island received $970,000 to support more than 20 FSS coordinators throughout the state.
• HAVEN Act: The bill includes $4 million to implement a pilot program that Senator Reed created through the HAVEN Act that supports repairs and modifications, such as the installation of wheelchair ramps, to the homes of low-income veterans or veterans with disabilities.