WASHINGTON, DC – Congress approved a major appropriations package for the coming fiscal year and a continuing resolution to keep much of the rest of the federal government operating into December, and U.S. Senator Jack Reed, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee, says the bipartisan agreement will benefit Rhode Island.

The measure, which President Trump signed today, will fund national security priorities and make important investments in education, health care, economic development, working families, veterans, scientific research, and navigation and flood control projects.

Earlier this month, the U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate both approved the Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act, a $147 billion package that bundles three of the dozen fiscal year 2019 appropriations bills.  And this week, Congress also passed a second “minibus” appropriations bill totaling $854 billion to fund the U.S. Departments of Defense; Health and Human Services; Labor; and Education for the year.  The bill included language to keep the rest of the federal government operating through December 7, 2018.  The bills passed in advance of the start of the new fiscal year on October 1st, marking the first time years that Congress has approved so many full-year funding bills this early.

Senator Reed helped craft and pass both spending packages, which will increase funds to support our troops, assist working families, boost funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), improve access to childcare and good schools.  Another four appropriations bills are waiting in the wings, nearly complete but stalled in a Senate-House conference committee due to House Republicans’ insistence on several “poison pill” legislative add-ons.

“These crucial funding packages make important investments in protecting our country, strengthening our economy, expanding opportunity, and advancing innovation,” said Senator Reed.  “As these measures are signed into law, Congress needs to wrap up work on the four other funding bills that are being held up by House Republicans.  If we get these bills done, we will have fully funded 87% of the federal government by the start of the fiscal year.”

Reed highlighted some key victories for Rhode Island in the package:

National Defense

The fiscal year 2019 Department of Defense Appropriations Act provides $606.3 billion for the base budget of the Department of Defense, with record levels of funding for research and development, Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (DEPSCoR) program that helps Rhode Island entities conduct science and engineering research. 

Labor, Health and Human Services and Education

The fiscal year 2019 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) Appropriations Act provides about $179 billion in discretionary budget authority – $1 billion more than the fiscal year 2018 level, $10.7 billion more than President Trump’s budget request.  Notable increased investments include:

• Child Care:  Provides $5.27 billion, $2.42 billion more than fiscal year 2017 and $2.27 billion more than the president’s fiscal year 2019 budget request, for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).

• College Affordability:  Provides $2.4 billion more than fiscal year 2017 levels for a range of investments that make college more affordable.  This starts with a total increase in the Pell Grant maximum award of $275 over two years, $175 in fiscal year 2018 and an additional $100 in fiscal year 2019, as well as continued funding for Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants and Federal Work Study, two campus-based aid programs the President’s Budget proposed eliminating or sharply reducing.

• National Institutes of Health:  Provides a $5 billion boost over fiscal year 2017 levels for additional medical research.

• Opioids & Mental Health:  Provides $3.78 billion in Health and Human Services for programs addressing opioids and mental health, an increase of $2.7 billion over 2017.  This includes: $1.9 billion in enhanced state grants to address the opioid epidemic and mental health; $350 million for opioid overdose surveillance and prevention at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, as well as enhancement of State Prescription Drug Monitoring Programs; $495 million to improve access to opioid and substance use disorder treatment in rural and underserved areas; and $100 million to address the needs of children who are affected by parental substance use.

• Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): Provides $3.69 billion for LIHEAP, a $50 million increase.  In the previous fiscal year, the state received nearly $27 million in federal LIHEAP funding to help low-income Rhode Islanders with their energy bills.

 Additionally, Senator Reed backed several key measures in the bill that would directly benefit Rhode Island, including funding for education-related programs and initiatives such as Title I, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), and Head Start. 

 Federal Title I funds help schools -- particularly those with concentrations of economically disadvantaged students -- meet high academic achievement standards. Last year, Rhode Island schools received an estimated $52.3 million in Title I funding, serving 36 school districts.  The bill also includes $10 million for Statewide Family Engagement Centers, which Senator Reed backed to help schools across the nation effectively engage families and communities.

The IDEA is a law that makes available a free appropriate public education to eligible children with disabilities throughout the nation and ensures special education and related services to those children.  In FY 2018 Rhode Island will have received an estimated $49 million in IDEA funding, supporting nearly 20,000 students in Rhode Island’s public schools.

The $10.1 billion for Head Start represents a $250 million increase over last year.  Rhode Island annually receives nearly $28 million to serve nearly 2,000 children in Head Start preschool programs and over 650 infants and pregnant mothers in Early Head Start programs.

At Senator Reed’s behest, the bill includes an additional increase of $25 million for adult education to ensure that adults have foundational skills they need to succeed as workers and lifelong learners.  Since 2017, adult education funding has been increased by $60 million. 

The bill also includes increased funding for medical research, which, in addition to leading to cures, will benefit Rhode Island’s hospitals and universities, and provide resources to address health issues faced by the elderly community such as Alzheimer’s disease, which saw a $425 million increase for research.

The bill also includes new funding to implement Reed’s newly enacted law, the Childhood Cancer Survivorship, Treatment, Access, and Research (STAR) Act by funding childhood, adolescent, and young adult cancer survivorship research, in addition to biospecimen research in these populations to help lead to breakthroughs in the least-studied childhood cancers.

Senator Reed also successfully worked on a bipartisan basis to secure $242 million for the Institute for Museum and Library Services (IMLS), a $2 million increase.  IMLS supports programs for museums and libraries that encourage innovation, provide life-long learning opportunities, promote cultural and civic engagement, and improve access to a variety of services and information.

Reed, a cosponsor of the Maternal Health Accountability Act of 2017 (S. 1112) which would help reduce maternal mortality rates, also helped include a new $50 million initiative to address the rising rates of maternal mortality.

Energy and Water, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations Act

The Fiscal Year 2019 Energy and Water Development and Related Agencies Appropriations bill resoundingly rejects the Trump Administration’s proposal to slash funding for energy, science research, and water infrastructure and provides a total of $43.7 billion to upgrade water infrastructure and flood-control projects and addresses regional ports and waterways.

The bill includes nearly $100 billion in total discretionary budget authority for military construction and to help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs support veterans’ services and deliver high-quality medical care.

The bill will require all U.S. Senate candidates to file electronic campaign finance reports, which Senator Reed has voluntarily done for years.

Senator Reed, along with U.S. Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) included a total of $257 million for Weatherization Assistance Programs (WAP) in the bill.  Through grants to states working with community partners, WAP has successfully weatherized 7.4 million low-income homes, helping low-income families reduce their energy bills by upgrading insulation and making energy-saving improvements to heating, cooling, and electrical systems.

Senator Reed also successfully included provisions directing the U.S. Department of Energy to coordinate energy storage efforts across the Department to maximize efficiency and expand vital research initiatives.

The measure also recommends a significant increase in the Army Corps of Engineers Continuing Authorities Program (CAP), which provides help to address environmental restoration, small harbor infrastructure, and flood control issues throughout the country, including in Rhode Island, bringing funding up to $66 million.  The bill also includes language from Reed urging the Army Corps of Engineers to consider natural infrastructure options such as shellfish reef and natural vegetation in projects to promote resiliency and reduce damage from coastal erosion, storm surge, and flooding.  

Other Rhode Island-focused projects funded by the bill include:

Fox Point Hurricane Barrier - $2,335,000 for operation and maintenance of the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier in Providence, Rhode Island, which protects downtown Providence from hurricanes and storm surges.

Woonsocket Local Flood Protection - $1,424,000 for operation and maintenance of the Woonsocket Local Flood Protection Project along the Blackstone River, including controlled releases from the Woonsocket Falls Dam.

Block Island Harbor of Refuge - $2,550,000 for maintenance dredging of the Block Island Harbor of Refuge entrance challenge and anchorage.

Great Salt Pond, Block Island - $350,000 for maintenance dredging of the entrance channel for Great Salt Pond on the west side of Block Island.

Reed noted the inclusion of $366 million – a $13 million increase - for the Advanced Research Projects Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), a federal program that specializes in funding high-risk, high-reward projects in renewable energy and efficiency.  Brown University is currently using $3.8 million in competitive federal grant funding from ARPA-E to design and build new energy systems that turn the energy of the tides into clean, renewable electricity.

Reed also helped include $20 million in funding for the DOE Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR), which has been critically important to supporting basic research and research collaboration at academic institutions in Rhode Island.