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US Sens. Warner and Kaine applaud Senate passage of appropriations bill

U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) are applauding the May 19 Senate passage of bipartisan legislation to fund the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and military construction and facilities, according to a news release from their offices.

On a bipartisan vote of 89-8, the Senate voted to approve Fiscal Year 2017 appropriations legislation for Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) and Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD). The bill now heads to the House of Representatives for consideration, their offices said.

Sen. Warner was quoted as saying, “While this bill is not perfect, it was crafted in a bipartisan process and provides essential funding for transportation, housing and improving veterans’ services. It includes the full federal commitment of $150 million in capital funding for Metro, and the Virginia and Maryland delegations were also able to secure additional funding for the Federal Transit Administration to continue playing a strong oversight role when it comes to Metro safety. I am pleased that it includes continued funding for research into unmanned systems, which is one of my top priorities as we work to leverage Virginia-based innovations and research to create more investment and jobs in the Commonwealth. And as a former Governor, I am a strong supporter of the programs and services funded through Community Development Block Grants in Virginia’s rural and urban communities.” 

Kaine was quoted as saying, “This bipartisan bill provides support for critical infrastructure and transportation needs across Virginia, including funding for improved oversight of WMATA. It also makes important investments in military installations and veterans’ health across the Commonwealth, while also protecting long-standing programs that provide stable, affordable housing and protects individuals from discrimination. I’m also encouraged by the inclusion of emergency supplemental funding to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, which will continue to be a public health challenge as we move into the summer months. It is my hope that the House swiftly passes its own version of this bill so we can come together on a path forward.”

The following list includes many of the provisions Sens. Warner and Kaine advocated for on behalf of Virginia that were included in the appropriations bill:

Military Construction: Provides over $137 million dollars in new construction throughout the Commonwealth.  The bill funds over $59 million on two projects at Joint Base Langley Eustis, $64 million for the 2nd phase of project in Fort Belvoir, $8 million for Information Technology facilities at the Pentagon and $6 million for a maintenance shop in Dublin, Virginia.  Both Senators will continue to advocate for these projects, and more, when the Fiscal Year 2017 Defense Authorization hits the Senate floor.

Veterans Affairs: Provides $9.5 billion in new funds for fiscal 2017 that would be combined with the $63.3 billion in advance funds provided in the fiscal 2016 omnibus. The bill would provide funding to several VHA priority areas including: $734.6 million the 9/11 Caregiver program,  $535.4 million for women-specific health care, $320 million for the Supportive Services for Veterans and Families program, which provides assistance to homeless veterans,  $47.3 million for the Veterans Crisis Line, the VA’s toll-free suicide hotline. $19.1 million for the National Center for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The bill also eliminates co-pays for naloxone through the VA, a lifesaving drug that reverses opioid overdoses and increases education to veterans on how to prevent opioid overdose.

WMATA: The bill includes the full federal funding of $150 million for Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) capital improvement. Warner and Kaine previously urged Senate appropriators to fund WMATA at authorized levels.

Federal Transit Administration (FTA): During debate over the bill, Warner and Kaine successfully offered an amendment to add an additional $2.5 million for FTA to conduct WMATA safety oversight.

Rail Safety: This bill includes $1.7 billion for the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA). This funding includes $199 million for Positive Train Control (PTC) implementation for commuter railroads and state-supported Amtrak routes. Following the fatal May 2015 derailment of a train traveling from Washington, D.C. to New York, Warner and Kaine called for increased funding for Positive Train Control, which can prevent such derailments. The bill also sustains investments into tank car research and other ongoing crude-by-rail safety initiatives.

Amtrak: This bill includes $1.42 billion for the rail system that serves over 31 million passengers in over 300 communities throughout 46 states. This funding is a $30 million increase from the FY 2016 level.

TIGER Grants: The TIGER program distributes grants on a competitive basis to state and local governments for investments in roads, bridges, public transit, ports and passenger and freight railroads and has successfully funded innovative projects that leverage federal dollars with local resources for transformative transportation projects across the country. The bill includes $525 million for the TIGER grant program, a $25 million increase over FY 2016. Since 2009, TIGER has provided nearly $4.6 billion to 381 projects, including $72 million for projects in Virginia. 

Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) Program: This bill includes $3 billion for the CDBG program, which provides block grant funding for local governments to improve housing and living conditions and expand economic opportunities for low and moderate income Americans. The grants can be used to address a variety of needs, from revitalizing distressed areas to supporting small businesses, removing blight or assisting seniors with home repairs.

Community Development Loan Guarantee Program: The bill includes $300 million for the Community Development Loan Guarantee program, which supports economic development projects, housing rehabilitation, and the rehabilitation, construction, or installation of public facilities for the benefit of low-to-moderate income persons or to aid the prevention of slums. The City of Norfolk was recently awarded a $19 million loan guarantee through this program that will allow the city to leverage its CDBG block grant funding in a way that will maximize its impact in priority development areas.

HOME Investment Partnership Program: The bill sustains funding for the HOME program, providing $950 million to support the production of approximately 34,000 affordable housing units and rental assistance for nearly 8,000 families in fiscal year 2017.  The HOME program helps states and local governments increase housing affordability through the building, buying or rehabilitating of affordable housing that is made available for rent or homeownership.

Family Unification Program: The bill includes $20 million in new funding for housing vouchers to keep youth and families in the child welfare system together.  It also contains provisions requested by Senator Kaine designed to improve the program for youths transitioning to adulthood from foster care.

DATA Act: In May 2014, President Obama signed Sen. Warner’s bipartisan legislation to standardize federal spending data and ensure it is made available online. The bill includes $2 million for DATA Act compliance at the Department of Transportation.

Unmanned Systems: The bill appropriates $18.4 million for unmanned aerial systems (UAS) research. The amount includes $10 million for the Center of Excellence in Mississippi, which has a partnership with the Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) test site located at Virginia Tech. The remaining $8 million will is discretionary funding for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to promote and support UAS research.

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): The bill funds the FAA at $16.4 billion, $512 million more than FY 2016.  The bill fully funds President Obama’s budget request for the FAA’s air traffic control, contract towers, aviation safety oversight, facilities and equipment, and more than $1 billion NextGen modernization efforts.
Zika: The bill also includes $1.1 billion in emergency funding that will allow us to take critical steps in response to the Zika virus at home and abroad, such as accelerating vaccine development efforts and controlling the mosquitos that spread Zika. Warner and Kaine have been calling for additional funding to respond to the Zika threat since February.


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