WASHINGTON, DC – With passage today in the U.S. House of Representatives, Congress is on track to approve a $467.5 billion ‘minibus’ appropriations package of six spending bills this week.   The first batch of appropriations bills will fund a variety of key federal departments, agencies, and programs. The bills are: Agriculture; Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS); Energy-Water; Interior-Environment; Military Construction-Veterans Affairs (Milcon-VA); and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development (THUD). 

Now Senate Republicans who want to join Democrats in actually governing must act and send this spending package to the President to be signed into law ahead of a March 8 deadline.  Then, a second batch of outstanding appropriations bills must be acted on by March 22 to prevent a partial federal government shutdown.

U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Chairman of the Legislative Branch subcommittee, helped include key funding for Rhode Island in the minibus bill. In addition to $122.7 million in federal earmarks for a variety of Rhode Island projects that Reed helped secure, Rhode Island’s senior senator says the fiscal year 2024 minibus appropriations package will direct well over $1 billion to the Ocean State.

“This legislation makes major investments in America and Rhode Island.  It will help grow our economy and support working families.  I’m pleased to include funds to upgrade roads and bridges, improve public health and safety, and help increase the supply of housing.  The bill also delivers federal dollars to feed the hungry, protect our environment, and more,” said Senator Reed. “This is an impactful bill that makes wise investments.  I worked with my colleagues to direct federal funds back to the state to strengthen communities and invest in Rhode Island priorities.  Now that the House has acted, Senate Republicans must join Democrats to finish the job and work together on a bipartisan basis to help drive our economy forward.  I’m committed to getting this bill across the finish line.”

On a national scale, the minibus appropriations package makes substantial investments that will impact Rhode Island, including:

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Related Agencies: $26.2 billion in total funding

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) would receive $22.3 billion and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would get $3.5 billion.  In Rhode Island, USDA funding has helped communities with a variety of programs, from assistance for local farms, tree planting, and growing the state’s food economy to flood prevention and the purchase of new police cars.

This section of the bill will provide millions of dollars to the Ocean State for critical nutrition assistance programs, by fulling funding the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP); the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and Child Nutrition Programs—like the School Lunch program, school breakfast program, and the Summer EBT program—to ensure schools can continue to serve healthy meals to all eligible children.  It also includes Reed’s report language directing USDA to develop a plan to address factors limiting seafood consumption in schools.

Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: $68.53 billion in discretionary funding

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) would get $37.52 billion to help keep Americans safe, uphold the rule of law, and invest in lifesaving DOJ grant programs. The U.S. Department of Commerce would receive $10.8 billion to promote and support American businesses and exports, spur economic development nationwide, and manage critical weather and ocean programs.  The bill provides over $9 billion for the National Science Foundation (NSF) to promote discovery and American competitiveness and also supports space exploration under the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Rhode Island utilizes CJS funding for a wide variety of priorities, including support for law enforcement, the justice system, and the U.S. Attorney’s office, assistance to victims of domestic violence, to research grants for local universities, and economic development grants from the Department of Commerce.

Senator Reed also included a $5 million set aside for a pilot program based on the Collins-Reed Working Waterfront Preservation Act to provide federal grants for projects that preserve and improve infrastructure for fishing and maritime communities.

The overall bill also includes Reed’s language to renew the Undetectable Firearms Act (UFA) for seven years.  The UFA makes it illegal to manufacture, own, or sell a firearm that isn’t detectable by a walk-through metal-detection machine and a scanning device. 

Energy and Water Development: $58.19 billion in total funding for the Department of Energy, Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation, and independent agencies

The bill includes about $50 billion for U.S. Department of Energy programs and over $8.5 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers.  Rhode Island utilizes millions of dollars in funding under this section of the bill for a variety of clean energy research and renewable energy initiatives, grid infrastructure, as well as water infrastructure projects and port, harbor, and waterway maintenance.

Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies: $41.2 billion in total funding

The bill includes federal funding for the U.S. Department of the Interior, including the National Park Service; the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH); and more.

In Rhode Island, this translates to funding for things like the state's national wildlife refuges and national parks; the state’s Clean Water State Revolving Fund and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund (SRFs); beach protection grants; environmental protection measures; Brownfields clean up grants; and forest fire prevention as well as funds for artistic and cultural programs through the NEA and NEH.

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies: $135.25 billion in non-defense discretionary funding and $172.5 billion in mandatory funding, to fulfill our nation’s obligations to our veterans and to upgrade housing for service members and their families

This funding goes to help the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) care for veterans, including medical care, mental health, and telehealth services.  The bill fully funds veterans’ medical care and benefits and delivers historic investments to increase mental health services for veterans, help end veteran homelessness, and support women veterans’ health care. The bill also fully funds the Honoring Our PACT Act to assist veterans exposed to toxic burn pits, and provides funding for veterans cemeteries, disability benefits, and education and workforce initiatives. 

The bill also provides funds for the Department of Defense (DOD) for the planning and construction of several military projects, including $30 million for a new National Guard Readiness Center in North Kingstown and up to $1.9 million in planning and design funds for facility upgrades at the Camp Fogarty Training Site.  It also helps with cleanup of per- and polyfluoroalkyl (PFAS) chemicals.

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies: $106 billion in total funding for Transportation and $70.07 billion for Housing and Urban Development

A former Chairman of the Subcommittee on Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, 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 section of the bill provides critical funding for Rhode Island transportation, housing, and economic development programs.  The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and Rhode Island Department of Housing (RIDOH) utilize this federal funding to upgrade the state’s infrastructure, improve mobility, and enhance economic opportunity and smart growth.

On the transportation side, Senator Reed estimates Rhode Island will receive well over $300 million for federal highways, bridge repairs, and transportation safety programs.  The bill invests in transportation infrastructure, and, when combined with Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) investments, will provide a total of $1.845 billion in RAISE Grants in fiscal year 2024.  Last year, Rhode Island won a $25 million RAISE grant to enhance the heavily trafficked Route 37.  It also sets aside funding to hire more air traffic controllers and rail safety inspectors.  It includes key Airport Improvement Program (AIP) funds to benefit T.F. Green International Airport as well as funds for Amtrak.  The bill will also provide critical funding for the Rhode Island Public Transit Authority’s (RIPTA) capital expenses.

On the Housing side, the bill protects vital rental assistance to help millions of households keep a roof over their head and invests in key programs to help build more housing.  It includes sustained investments in the HOME program and the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which give local governments needed resources to develop their communities, support businesses, create jobs, and ensure the availability of decent, affordable housing.  Senator Reed also led efforts to include funding to address lead poisoning.

Notably, the bill also includes an extension of funding for Community Health Centers, National Health Service Corps, Teaching Health Centers, the Special Diabetes Program, and a temporary increase in Medicare physician reimbursement rates, among other Medicare payment policies through December 31, 2024.

Now that the minibus appropriations bill has been approved by the House, it must also be cleared by the U.S. Senate before it can be sent to President Biden to be signed into law.

Next, Congress must take up and pass the remaining six appropriations bills, which include: Defense; Financial Services and General Government; Homeland Security; Labor-Health, Human Services, and Education (LHHSE); Legislative Branch; and State and Foreign Operations.