WASHINGTON, DC – Once again, U.S. Senator Jack Reed’s leadership post on the Appropriations Committee is paying major dividends for Rhode Island by directing millions in additional federal funding to address the state’s priorities. 

Today, the U.S. Senate voted 71-23 to advance a major appropriations package and send it to the President to be signed into law.

Senator Reed, the Ranking Member of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, announced that the THUD appropriations bill he co-authored with Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME), and helped shepherd through a divided Congress, includes over $700 million in federal funding for Ocean State transportation, housing, and economic development programs.  Notably, Reed successfully secured $50 million in federal assistance for bridge repair and replacement projects in Rhode Island. 

“This appropriations package will help improve Rhode Island’s infrastructure and makes critical investments in highways, bridges, airports, public housing, and other public assets that benefit citizens and businesses alike.  This bill will put people to work upgrading our infrastructure.  It will enhance safety, reduce congestion, and help the state attract private investment to drive our economy forward,” said Senator Reed

Overall, the fiscal year 2020 THUD bill provides $74.27 billion in appropriated budget authority – $3.2 billion more than fiscal year 2019 – rejecting the Trump Administration’s proposal to cut more than $15.8 billion from critical public safety, affordable housing, community development, and infrastructure programs.

As a result of Reed’s committee leadership, Rhode Island will receive a significant boost in transportation, housing, and economic development funding.  Reed says the state should receive an estimated $296 million for roads and bridges and over $44 million for public transportation.

“This bipartisan bill provides critical investments to improve our transportation and housing infrastructure and connect more Americans to jobs and opportunities,” said Senator Reed.  “Improving our roads, bridges, and public transportation is a smart investment that better serves all Americans.  This bill will help reduce congestion while boosting economic growth, expanding commerce, and enhancing safety and mobility.”

A 2019 report by TRIP, a nonprofit transportation research group, estimates that driving on roads in need of repair costs Rhode Island motorists $620 million a year in extra vehicle repairs and operating expenses – $823 per motorist.

Highlighting the high percentage of deficient bridges in Rhode Island, Reed stated: “The wear and tear on our bridges is real.  For too long they’ve been neglected and we simply can’t afford to delay needed repairs.  RIDOT is taking needed steps to fix the state’s deficient bridges.  This bill provides a $50 million boost to support that effort.” 

Reed also criticized the Trump Administration for not doing more to invest in America’s infrastructure, stating: “Infrastructure is key to smart growth and future economic development.  But for too long, the Trump Administration has dragged its feet on a major infrastructure bill and failed to invest in major, forward-looking infrastructure projects.  I urge President Trump to work with Congress on this and a good start would be to have an actual written, coherent, and long-term economic strategy that includes improving infrastructure on a national scale.”

For U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) programs, the bill provides $49 billion in FY 2020 – $12.4 billion more than President Trump’s budget request.  The bipartisan THUD bill resoundingly rejects President Trump’s proposals to decrease the availability and amount of rental assistance for hundreds of thousands of Americans who would otherwise struggle to afford a place to live. The bill also sustains or increases investments in the Public Housing Capital Fund, Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and HOME programs, which provide local governments needed resources to develop their communities, support businesses, create jobs, and ensure the availability of safe, decent affordable housing.

“The THUD bill provides needed investments to expand affordable housing opportunities and offers a strong, bipartisan blueprint we can build from.  We need to improve public housing and ensure it is providing families in need with healthy and safe homes while also creating more affordable housing opportunities for families.  These are smart investments that will help more Americans prosper and communities thrive,” continued Reed.  “I am committed to maintaining strong support for programs such as the Public Housing Capital Fund, CDBG, and HOME, which are critically important to boost additional affordable housing and economic development.  Lastly, I’d take the President’s claim to be concerned about homelessness more seriously if his budget hadn’t sought to drastically slash programs to help the homeless.  The good news is we rejected those severe cuts in this bill on a bipartisan basis, but the bad news is the Administration will likely try again to underfund effective programs, leading to increased poverty and homelessness in communities nationwide.”

Highlights of the bill include:

Department of Transportation: $86.1 billion in total budgetary resources, including $24.8 billion in discretionary funds for critical transportation projects.

•  Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grants:  The bill includes $1 billion for BUILD grants, previously referred to as Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants.  Since 2010, Rhode Island has been awarded over $150 million in competitive TIGER/BUILD grants, including a $25 million grant awarded in November 2019 to repair the Washington Bridge’s westbound span.

• Federal Highway Administration (FHWA):  The bill provides $49.26 billion for critical highway infrastructure, of which $2.1 billion is from discretionary appropriations.  Of the total discretionary increase, $1.15 billion is dedicated to a bridge program that will provide risk-based grants to states to address bridges in poor condition.  Senator Reed noted that under this formula, Rhode Island will receive an extra $50 million for bridge repair and replacement.  With this funding and other increases, the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is estimated to receive nearly $296.5 million for roads and bridges for the fiscal year. 

• Transit:  The bill includes a total of $12.9 billion in transit funding, of which Rhode Island will receive an estimated $44.15 million to support capital and state of good repair investments for commuter rail and RIPTA service.  Reed’s efforts to boost the high density transit funding program will result in an extra $1.3 million for RITPA.  The bill also provides $75 million in competitive funds for the Low-No Emissions Bus Grant programs to help transit agencies convert their fleets to lower emission, clean transportation alternatives.  Further, $338 million is allocated to Buses and Bus Facilities grants that will secure an additional $1.3 million for RIPTA and allow the state to compete for additional funding.  In November 2019, RIPTA received a funding award of over $8 million under the Buses and Bus Facilities Program for new bus hubs at the University of Rhode Island and the Community College of Rhode Island.

•  Airports:  The bill provides $17.6 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to enhance air safety and upgrade infrastructure.  This level of funding will allow runway improvements at T.F. Green to remain on schedule.  In May, Senator Reed announced a new $30 million Airport Improvement Program (AIP) grant to the Rhode Island Airport Corporation (RIAC) for safety and efficiency improvements at T.F. Green Airport.  The bill will also provide additional funding and authority to beef up FAA’s aircraft certification and safety programs, which have come under significant scrutiny after the Boeing 737 Max crashes in late 2018 and early 2019.

•  Amtrak:  The bill rejects President Trump’s proposal to cut Amtrak’s funding by 52 percent and instead includes $2 billion for Amtrak, continuing service for all current routes.  At Reed’s request, the bill includes $100 million for the acquisition of new passenger rail cars to replace Amtrak’s outdated fleet and $5 million to help Amtrak Police acquire new radios to improve communication inside stations and on board trains. 

•  Rail Funding:  The bill provides $325 million for CRISI (Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements) grants and $200 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grant grants.  CRISI grants can be used for a broad range of eligible activities that address safety and infrastructure needs, including deployment of railroad safety technology, such as Positive Train Control, and capital projects, such as stations or platforms, rail line relocation or improvement, highway-railway grade crossing improvement projects, and planning and environmental work.  In 2019, RIDOT received $2.8 million CRISI grant for planning an Amtrak stop at T.F. Green Airport and a $12.5 million Federal-State Partnership grant to renovate Providence Station.  In 2018, the Quonset Development Corporation secured $3 million CRISI for freight-rail enhancements and expansion.

•  MARAD:  The bill provides $225 million for port infrastructure development grants, $20 million for the Small Shipyards grant program, and $9.7 million for the Marine Highways grant program. Over the last three years, Reed has helped Rhode Island shipyards land over $1.6 million through the small shipyard grant program to support marine jobs and shipyard infrastructure improvements around the state.

Department of Housing and Urban Development: $49 billion

Preserving Affordable Rental Housing: The bill provides more than $45 billion to preserve the nation’s affordable housing for low-income HUD-assisted households currently served through the Section 8 Tenant-Based Rental Assistance, Public Housing, Project-based Rental Assistance programs, and other assisted rental housing programs. This level of funding is an increase of more than $2.2 billion from fiscal year 2019 and an increase of more than $4.25 billion from the President’s budget request.

For Rhode Island, this means nearly $259 million is provided in federal rental assistance to house low-income residents, over half of which are elderly or have disabilities. This includes:

• $183 million for the Section 8 Project-based Rental Assistance program serving 15,700 units across the state and housing more than 21,500 residents.  This represents a projected $25 million increase over last year’s level of funding to preserve this important affordable housing public-private partnership program. 

• $93.57 million for the Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA), a $3.1 million above FY 19.

• $58 million for the operation and capital maintenance of Rhode Island’s 8,800 public housing units.

• $6.85 million for more than 1,200 low-income elderly households.

• $4 million for nearly 500 low-income persons with disabilities.

Overall, the bill provides $4.8 billion to preserve and expand affordable housing opportunities for low-income renters and homeowners and support local economic development projects through the HOME and Community Development Block Grant Programs.

•  HOME Investment Partnerships Program: The bill rejects the President’s proposal to eliminate the HOME program – the only federal program solely dedicated to affordable housing production and preservation – and instead provides $1.35 billion, $100 million above fiscal year 2019.  These investments will help states and local governments leverage an additional $9.8 billion in public and private investment in order to produce and preserve approximately 32,000 affordable housing units, as well as to provide rental assistance to an additional 10,000 low-income households in fiscal year 2020 and create and preserve nearly 24,000 jobs.  In FY 2020, Rhode Island will receive $6.2 million, $200,000 more than last year. This funding will build on Rhode Island’s progress of adding 158 new affordable housing units in the state’s inventory, preserving 727 homes through refinancing and substantial rehabilitation work in fiscal year 2018.

•  Community Development Block Grant (CDBG): Rejecting President Trump’s proposal to eliminate the CDBG program, Reed worked to increase funding to $3.425 billion, $125 million more than last year.  This should result in approximately $16.8 million for Rhode Island, $300,000 above FY2019.  Senator Reed included $25 million for a pilot housing program authorized under the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act.  The new program helps communities most affected by the overdose epidemic to provide stable, temporary housing for individuals recovering from substance use disorders.  Rhode Island’s SUPPORT Act allocation is estimated to be just over $1 million.

•  Section 202 Housing for the Elderly: A total of $90 million is provided for the construction of new housing for the elderly. This will be an opportunity for the state to compete for these resources to address the anticipated increase in Rhode Island in persons 65 or older over the next ten years.

•  Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities: A total of $40 million is provided for the development of new housing units for persons with disabilities.

•  Homeless Prevention: To help prevent homelessness nationwide and assist families and individuals experiencing homelessness, the bill provides $2.8 billion in homeless assistance grants ($178 million above the President’s budget request) to help communities design and implement local solutions to end homelessness, of which $290 million is for Emergency Solutions Grants (ESG), $80 million is for targeted interventions for youth experiencing homelessness, and $50 million will support the rapid rehousing of survivors of domestic violence.

•  HUD-VASH Vouchers: The bill rejects the President’s proposal to eliminate new resources for this program and includes $40 million to provide 5,100 new incremental rental vouchers for veterans experiencing homelessness.  Providence, North Providence, Pawtucket, Tiverton, Bristol, and West Warwick Housing Authorities administer a combined 254 VASH vouchers for veterans experiencing homelessness in Rhode Island. The bill also includes Reed’s language directing the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH) to improve the coordination between DoD, the VA, the Department of Labor, and HUD in order to prevent the transition of exiting service members into homelessness.

•  Lead-Based Paint Hazard Remediation: While the prevalence of elevated lead blood levels in children entering kindergarten has dropped dramatically, according to Kids Count, each year, about 600 kindergartners across the state have blood lead concentrations above the Center for Disease Control standard.  To address lead-based paint and other environmental hazards in the home, the bill includes $290 million for grants awarded by the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes, $11 million more than fiscal year 2019.  Much of the funding for these grants is targeted toward communities, like many in Rhode Island, that have the greatest need for lead abatement assistance.  Because of Reed’s work to fund these programs, Rhode Island Housing was awarded $7.8 million in a new High Impact Neighborhoods Demonstration grant competition and almost $600,000 in Healthy Homes funding this year and is now working to produce 340 lead safe units and provide healthy homes interventions in another 118 units.  The City of Woonsocket was also awarded a $4 million Lead Hazard Reduction Grant in fiscal year 2019 in order to make approximately 200 low-income housing units safe from lead hazards.

Reed also included a $45 million set-aside for the remediation of lead-based paint and other environmental hazards in public housing. Between fiscal years 2017 and 2019, the Pawtucket Housing Authority received $1 million, Woonsocket Housing Authority received $1 million, and Providence Housing Authority received $974,000 under this program.

•  NeighborWorks America: To continue its investment in NeighborWorks America programs nationwide, the bill includes $158.5 2 million.  Rhode Island-based affiliates of NeighborWorks America have received over $1.1 million over the last two years in grants which leveraged $46 dollars for every dollar invested.  These resources helped to provide housing and counseling services to nearly 3,000 families and individuals, assist almost 150 new homeowners with their purchases, and create or maintain over 200 jobs.

The THUD bill is included in a “minibus” spending package, which combines eight fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills – Labor, Health & Human Services, & Education; Agriculture; Energy & Water; Interior & Environment; Legislative Branch; Military Construction & Veterans Affairs; State & Foreign Operations; and Transportation-HUD – into one spending package to fund these agencies through the remainder of the fiscal year, which ends on  September 30, 2020.

Another “minibus” appropriations bill that includes Defense; Commerce, Justice, & Science; Financial Service & General Government; and Homeland Security will be considered and passed separately today in order to fund the rest of the federal government.                    

The bills must then be sent to the President to be signed into law.