Wednesday morning, Senate and House Appropriations Committee leaders completed “lengthy and intense negotiations” on an appropriations bill to fund the federal government through September 30.
Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy serves as Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee; he took the position in January 2017.
“This bill is the result of intense negotiations, tough choices, and good-faith compromises. This bill resoundingly rejects the Trump budget’s attack on Vermont priorities and rural America. It invests in Lake Champlain, rural broadband and infrastructure. It makes landmark investments to address the opioid crisis. It provides new funding for farm-to-school programs and supports organic farming and small dairies. It is not the bill I would have written on my own, but it is a bill that reflects Vermont’s values, and delivers for our state in ways only possible when Vermont has a front-and-center seat at the negotiating table,” said Leahy.
The bill must now pass both the House and the Senate and be signed into law by the President.
Senator Leahy’s office provided Vermont highlights in the appropriations bill.
- More than $14 million is secured for the cleanup and research of the Lake Champlain Basin, which includes:o
- $8.4 million for the Lake Champlain Basin Program – a $4 million, or 90 percent, increase over fiscal year 2017. These funds address water quality challenges in Lake Champlain, particularly in managing phosphorus runoff. Leahy has long been a champion of the Lake Champlain Basin Program.
- $5.5 million for sea lamprey control – a $2 million increase over fiscal year 2017.
- $65 million for the National Sea Grant Program – Sea Grants help the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) partner with the University of Vermont for research and management of fisheries, water quality, invasive species control and other efforts for Lake Champlain and its surrounding watershed. This increase will ensure that Vermont receives at least $1 million in Sea Grant funding for the University of Vermont, which is a Sea Grant Institute due in large part to Leahy’s efforts.
COMBATTING THE OPIOID EPIDEMIC:
- The bill includes $3.3 billion total across several federal departments and agencies to combat this national epidemic across several departments and agencies, including:
- $32 million for Anti-Heroin Task Forces (AHTF) grants – a $22 million, or 220 percent, increase over fiscal year 2017. Leahy created this program in 2015, and the Vermont State Police have received $2.7 million in AHTF grants since 2015 to continue its aggressive work to combat opioid addiction in Vermont.
- $1 billion for a new State Opioid Response Grant program, under which Vermont will receive a minimum of $4 million, negotiated by Leahy
- $130 million for a new Leahy-backed Rural Communities Opioids Response to help rural communities at the highest risk for substance use disorder.
- $5 million in discretionary funding for the Farm-to-School program, which brings fresh, local food to schools across the country and was authored by Leahy. The program is currently supported by $5 million in mandatory funding; this reflects the first time the program has also been supported by discretionary funds.· $3 million for the ACER Access and Development Program, an increase of $2 million over fiscal year 2017, to support and enhance the growth of the maple syrup industry.
- $12 million for the National Organic Program, an increase of $3 million over fiscal year 2017, to provide sufficient resources for enforcement and oversight to keep pace with the growing organic industry.
- $600 million to expand access to high-speed broadband in remote, unserved rural areas, a $534 million increase over fiscal year 2017.
- $18 million for the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC), an $8 million increase over fiscal year 2017. The NBRC supports development in economically distressed norther border counties in Vermont, New Hampshire, Main and New York, like Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. Included in this funding is $3 million for the development of markets for new wood products.
- Rejects the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate the Rural Economic Area Partnership (REAP) Zone program. REAP Zones promote revitalization and community development in rural areas, like the Northeast Kingdom in Vermont.
- $34 million for the Rural Business Development Grant (RBDG) Program, a $10 million increase over fiscal year 2017. RBDG invest directly in rural communities to help residents start or expand businesses. These grants are used for job training, business development, technical assistance and strategic community development.
- $47 million for the Rural Housing Voucher Program, an increase of $5.6 million over fiscal year 2017. This will help ensure that rural communities in Vermont and across the U.S. maintain access to affordable housing.
- $3.64 billion for LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program), a $250 million increase over fiscal year 2017 and the highest funding level for the block grant since fiscal year 2011. The President’s budget proposed to eliminate LIHEAP. This will secure an estimated $1.39 million in additional funds for Vermont for a total of $20.4 million in LIHEAP funds in fiscal year 2018.
- $97 million for the Historic Preservation Fund, $13 million for Save America’s Treasures, and $5 million in new Historic Revitalization Grants to revitalize historic properties of national, State and local significance in order to restore, protect and foster economic development in rural villages and downtown areas.
- $1.5 billion for the TIGER program, a $1 billion increase over fiscal year 2017 levels. Vermont has received more than $30 million through the TIGER program to improve its infrastructure.
- $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program, an increase of $300 million over fiscal year 2017. This increase will ensure approximately $7.7 million in grants to help Vermont invest in rural infrastructure and housing.
- $1.4 billion for the HOME program, rejecting the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate the program. This will result in approximately $4.3 million in funding to help Vermont invest in affordable housing.
- $40 million for the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (NCPTSD), rejecting the Trump Administration’s proposal to eliminate the Center, which is headquartered in White River Junction, Vt.
- An additional $5 million to help veterans suffering from the effects of toxic exposure, like the members of the Vermont National Guard who were exposed to fumes from burn pits in Iraq and Afghanistan.
THE VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN ACT (VAWA) AND CRIME VICTIMS FUND:
- $492 million for programs – an $8.5 million increase over fiscal year 2017 levels and the highest funding level ever for VAWA administered by the Justice Department’s Office on Violence Against Women. This includes $35 million for transitional housing and $40 million for rural domestic violence programs, which are both Leahy-authored programs. Leahy is the author of the 2013 legislation that strengthened and reauthorized VAWA.
- Leahy also included first-time funding of $50 million for the Department of Housing and Urban Development to support new rapid rehousing projects to serve victims and survivors of domestic violence.
- More than $4.4 billion for the Crime Victims Fund, a $1.8 billion increase, a fund supported by penalties and fines that supports victims services and compensation.