Congress Passes Omnibus Appropriations Bill that Benefits RI
A senior member of the Appropriations Committee, Reed sees key gains for RI priorities in the bill, including more funding for programs that benefit working families
WASHINGTON, DC – Today Congress approved the $1.15 trillion Fiscal Year 2016 Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations bill, also known as the omnibus, that included many important provisions for Rhode Island families.
U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and Ranking Member of the panel’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Subcommittee, played an important role in crafting key pieces of the bill to help strengthen the economy, create jobs, and make critical investments in America’s future. The THUD section of the bill authored by Reed and THUD Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) provides a total of $57.3 billion – an increase of $3.53 billion over fiscal year 2015 -- for programs that build the U.S. transportation network, support housing programs, and spur economic development.
Throughout the year, Senator Reed played a leadership role in working to reverse the harmful sequester caps and helped pass a bipartisan budget agreement to provide $80 billion in sequester relief over the next two years, evenly split between defense and domestic funding. As a result, the omnibus includes increased investments in education, infrastructure, economic development programs, public safety and national security.
“This bill provides the resources we need to maintain a strong defense and a strong economy. It restores our ability to make critical investments in education, housing, public health, and public safety as well as new resources to strengthen our workforce and grow the middle-class. We were able to include federal funds to boost transportation and community development projects in Rhode Island that will help keep our economy moving forward,” said Reed, who highlighted several key areas of the bill that will benefit Rhode Island, including:
Strengthening Our Transportation Infrastructure
Senator Reed helped increase funds for the Federal-Aid Highway program, resulting in a projected allocation for Rhode Island of $229 million in highway grants and $38 million in transit grants.
Keeping T.F. Green Airport Improvements on Schedule
Senator Reed helped protect core operations of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), fully funding the budget request for air traffic control, safety oversight, and its facilities and equipment. These funds should help keep improvements for T.F. Green Airport on schedule. Reed also included report language directing the Federal Railroad Administration and Amtrak to assess the feasibility of connecting intercity passenger rail services at commercial airports that are adjacent to the mainline of Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor, such as T.F. Green.
Community Development Block Grants (CBDG)
Senator Reed led the effort to restore funding for CDBG and succeeded in providing $3 billion for the program. As a result, Rhode Island should receive over $20 million in CDBG funds in the coming year.
Building Submarines in Rhode Island
Senator Reed led the effort to include $5.32 billion for the Virginia-Class submarine program, including advanced procurement for the two ships planned in 2017.
Confronting RI’s Drug Overdose Epidemic
Senator Reed helped include a provision to provide $7 million to fund anti-heroin task forces within the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program. Rhode Island may compete for competitive grants from this pot of funding for improving drug prevention strategies, including investigations and activities related to stopping the distribution of heroin or unlawful diversion and distribution of prescription opioids. The bill also provides $12 million in funding for residential drug treatment, $13 million for prescription drug monitoring, and $42 million for drug courts and the CDC’s state-based anti-drug program.
Helping the RI Community Food Bank Combat Hunger
Senator Reed included $222 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CFSP) and $54 million for the Emergency Food Assistance Program to assist low-income Americans with food provided through food banks, pantries, and soup kitchens. Last year, Reed successfully inserted language into the Fiscal Year 2015 Agriculture Appropriations bill making it possible for Rhode Island to start participating in CSFP, along with six other states that did not have the program. Thanks to Senator Reed’s efforts, the state will once again receive USDA commodities to distribute directly to Rhode Island seniors and over $100,000 in federal funding to help administer the program.
Assisting Local Law Enforcement
Reed backed key operational grant programs that benefit Rhode Island, such as $476 million for Byrne Justice Assistance Grants; $480 million for Violence Against Women Act programs; $270 million for juvenile justice and mentoring grants; and $187 million for Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) hiring grants. Reed also backed a measure to provide $70 million for programs to improve police-community relations, including the purchase of body-worn cameras for police.
LIHEAP & Weatherization Funding for RI
Reed and Senator Collins led the effort to include $3.39 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), to allow states to provide home energy assistance to low-income households this winter and coming summer. As a result, Rhode Island will likely receive over $23 million in the coming year to help Rhode Islanders from being left out in the cold. He also led efforts to include $2.07 billion for Energy and Efficiency and Renewable Energy programs. This includes $215 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program and $50 million for the State Energy Program.
Improving Our Schools, Preserving Pell Grants, & Making College More Affordable
Senator Reed helped pass a $500 million increase in Title I funding to help schools meet high academic achievement standards. He also helped boost funds for Head Start and special education programs. The bill also provides $22.475 billion for Pell Grants to maintain the maximum discretionary award level at $4,860 for the 2016-2017 school year. Combined with mandatory funding, the total maximum award is estimated to increase by $140 to $5,915. There will be approximately 8.4 million Pell Grant recipients during the 2016-2017 school year, an increase of more than 100,000 students compared to the current school year. This funding level represents a $300 million increase from previous bills. Reed also helped increase funding for the Student Aid Administration by $155 million to support high-quality loan servicing and administration of student aid programs.
Improving Preschool Programs in RI and Expanding Access to Quality, Affordable Childcare
Reed helped provide $250 million to continue support for Preschool Development Grants. At this level of funding, Rhode Island is slated to receive about $6 million to support and expand pre-K programs in Rhode Island. Senator Reed also supported $2.76 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), a $326 million increase. As a result, Rhode Island should be eligible to receive over $17 million in federal child care subsidies from the Child Care and Development Fund.
Coastal Management & NOAA Resources in RI
Senator Reed backed critical funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to begin building a new Ocean Survey Vessel for NOAA and $1 million to conduct a planning and design study that will evaluate the feasibility of utilizing the pier at Naval Station Newport for NOAA vessels. Naval Station Newport is currently home to the Fisheries Survey Vessel Henry Bigelow and hosts visiting NOAA vessels. Reed also helped include $75 million for Coastal Zone Management Grants (that support CRMC), $64 million for Sea Grant, $61 million for Habitat Restoration (including $10 million for Coastal Ecosystem Resiliency grants), $32 million for Ocean Exploration (which supports the Okeanos Explorer and partnerships with URI’s Inner Space Center), $29.5 million for Integrated Ocean Observing Systems, $26.6 million for NOAA ocean education programs, $9 million for Marine Aquaculture (under Sea Grant), and $6.3 million for NOAA aquaculture.
Energy, Water Projects in RI
Reed backed $5.99 billion for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, including funding for operation and maintenance of water resources projects in Rhode Island, such as Fox Point Barrier ($2,636,000); Woonsocket Flood Control Project ($499,000); Block Island Harbor of Refuge ($350,000); and Great Salt Pond, Block Island ($350,000).
Restoring Narragansett Bay & Neighboring Watersheds
Senator Reed included $5 million to benefit the Southeast New England Program (SNEP) for Coastal Watershed Restoration. The series of federal grants will contribute to the restoration, protection, and preservation of the Narragansett Bay Watershed and other surrounding watersheds in the southeast New England region. Senator Reed led efforts to establish and fund the SNEP for Coastal Watershed Restoration in fiscal year 2014.
Clean Water Infrastructure Projects for RI
Reed led efforts to include $1.394 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $863 million for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which help create jobs and provide clean water to communities throughout the country by supporting water infrastructure modernization projects. As a result, Rhode Island should receive at least $9.4 million through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund (CWSRF) and $8.8 million through the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (DWSRF), for a total of $18.2 million in clean water financing for water quality protection projects and enhancements.
Strengthening RI Manufacturing
Senator Reed advocated for the inclusion of $964 million for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), which helps provide technical resources to promote the global competitiveness of U.S. manufacturers and aspiring start-ups. NIST’s Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP) and Advanced Manufacturing Technology Consortia (AMTech) will help manufacturers accelerate development and adoption of cutting-edge manufacturing technologies for making new, globally competitive products. These funds could provide additional support to groups like Providence-based Polaris MEP.
Increasing Opportunity & Strengthening RI’s Workforce
Senator Reed helped deliver over $5 billion for innovative programs to improve our workforce, including programs like Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Grants to states to provide job training skills and assistance to low-skilled adults, dislocated workers and low-income youth with barriers to employment, as well as Job Corps and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
Reed led efforts to include a pot of $500 million for TIGER grants to support significant transportation projects. States can compete for TIGER grants for a variety of transportation projects, including highways and bridges, public transportation, passenger and freight railroads, and port infrastructure.
Lead-Based Paint Monitoring and Removal
The bill includes funding for critical federal programs at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The CDC’s Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program is the only federal program that provides funding for states and local health departments to conduct surveillance of where, how, and when children are exposed to lead will receive $17 million. HUD’s Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes helps protect children from health and safety hazards related to lead-based paint and other home hazards. It will receive $110 million for this program.
Supporting Public Libraries
Senator Reed led the effort to include $230 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services including $182.94 million for the Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). This is in addition to the $27 million Senator Reed secured for the Innovative Approaches to Literacy Programs to support effective school library programs and literacy initiatives to ensure that disadvantaged children have books at home.
Lastly, Reed noted that he helped successfully beat back attempts to add several partisan policy riders to the bill, such as those that would have weakened Wall Street reform, eliminated protections for clean air and water, and interfered with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) ability to protect consumers.
Reed stated that instead of passing an omnibus appropriations bill at the end of the year, Congress should get back to “regular order” and focus on passing the dozen appropriation measures included in the bill separately, with individual attention, debate, and votes on each major section.
The House passed the bill by a vote of 316-113, and it was then approved by the full U.S. Senate on a vote of 65-33. The bill heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.