WASHINGTON, D.C.— Thursday , U.S. Senators Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine applauded Senate passage of bipartisan legislation to fund federal programs critical to Virginia under the Department of Transportation (DOT), Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Department of Commerce (DOC), Department of Justice (DOJ), National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), National Science Foundation (NSF), Department of Agriculture (USDA), and Department of Interior (DOI).
On a bipartisan 84-9 vote, the Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations package that covers funding for Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development (THUD); Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; Commerce, Justice, and Science (CJS); Interior and Environment; and all of their related agencies. Warner and Kaine pushed for many Virginia priorities through the appropriations process and have long pressed the Senate to return to regular budget order to make sure there are no gaps in funding that could cause a government shutdown.
“I’m pleased to see the passage of this bipartisan legislation, which includes significant support for Virginia priorities,” Warner said. “This bill provides much-needed resources for ongoing Chesapeake Bay restoration and cleanup efforts. It also supports investments to the Metro system that are critical to the capital region, and vital funding to support families across the Commonwealth. I’m also pleased that this bill includes my provision to give Congress more clarity on the Department of Justice’s progress on Ashanti Alert implementation. As we move forward, it’s my hope that my colleagues in both the House and the Senate will continue fighting to ensure the Ashanti Alert implementation is a priority for this Administration.”
“Each year, I’m proud to help secure federal funding that will strengthen the economy and improve the lives of Virginians,” Kaine said. “I’m pleased that again, key Virginia priorities we made the case for – like funding to promote a healthy Chesapeake Bay, improve daily commutes, and support economic development in coal communities – were included in the appropriations package passed by the Senate. I hope Congress passes a final appropriations bill quickly so that Virginians benefit from this funding without delay.”
The following list includes many of the provisions Senators Warner and Kaine supported on behalf of Virginia that were included in the appropriations package: These are items that could affect the Eastern Shore.
- Ashanti Alert System:The bill includes a provision supported by both Senators that forces the Department of Justice (DOJ) to provide Congress with a progress report of the Ashanti Alert implementation 30 days immediately after the appropriations bill is signed into law. Additionally, the amendment requires that the DOJ establish a deadline for full implementation no later than 90 days after the enactment of the Ashanti Alert Act, which creates an alert system for missing or endangered adults ages 18-64.
- Broadband Grants:The bill provides $30 million to fund a grant program administered by the Rural Utilities Service that brings critical services to some of the most rural, underserved areas in America. The program provides financing to support new or improved broadband access across rural America and enable telecommunications providers to fill gaps where there is little or no broadband service. Broadband access has become a critical part of basic economic infrastructure for Virginians and is vital for job creation.
- Child Nutrition: The bill provides $23.6 billion for Child Nutrition Programs, including $30 million for school equipment grants and $28 million for Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT). The Summer EBT program helps reach communities in Virginia that face barriers to participation in traditional summer food service programs and reduce rates of food insecurity among children.
- Rural Water Infrastructure:The bill maintains $1.4 billion in water and waste direct loans and $549 million in water and waste grants to support quality of life in rural communities.
- 400 Years of African American History Commemoration:The bill provides $500,000 for the commission to commemorate 400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to English Colonial America at Point Comfort, Virginia and honor four centuries of African American history. The Senators sponsored legislation, which was signed into law in 2018, to establish the commission.
- Chesapeake Bay:The bill provides $76 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership that directs and conducts the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. It also includes $3 million for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, which helps increase public access and the use of ecological, cultural, and historic resources of the Chesapeake region.
- Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF):The bill provides $465 million for LWCF, which has helped preserve forests, trails, wildlife refuges, historic battlefields, and Chesapeake Bay lands and waters in Virginia. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the
- Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG): CDBG helps communities develop projects that meet unique housing, infrastructure, and economic development needs and supports job creation. The bill provides $3.325 billion for CDBG. The bill rejects the President’s proposals to increase rent for public housing residents and protects critical sources of funding for affordable housing such as the HOME program. Senators Warner and Kaine have strongly opposed President Trump’s efforts to cut funding for affordable housing..
- Remote Tower System:The bill provides $9.5 million for the FAA to continue its remote tower systems pilot program at smaller airports. As part of the program, air traffic controllers are able to work remotely, which could help ease capacity and staffing constraints. This would support the Remote Tower Center partnership between Leesburg Executive Airport and Saab Technologies, as well as similar remote tower pilot projects being developed around the country.
- Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT):The bill fully funds the PILT program, estimated to be around $500 million, in order to help local governments offset losses in property taxes due to non-taxable federal lands within their boundaries. In FY2019, Virginia received roughly $5.8 million from PILT, of which the largest recipients were Augusta, Rockingham, Bath, Alleghany, and Craig Counties.
- ·Hemp: The bill provides $16.5 million in new funding to implement the Hemp Production Program, which was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. Senators Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of hemp as an agricultural commodity. The Farm Bill included a provision sponsored by both Senators that removed hemp from the list of controlled substances, allowing Virginia farmers to grow and sell the plant as a commodity for use in agriculture, textile, recycling, automotive, furniture, food, nutrition, beverage, paper, personal care, and construction products. The bill also includes $2 million for the FDA to research and develop policies on CBD.