Appropriations Committee approves FY18 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill

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Appropriations Committee approves FY18 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies bill

Thu, 07/27/2017 - 2:35pm -- tim

Vermont Business Magazine The fiscal year 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) Senate Appropriations bill provides a total of $60.058 billion in discretionary budget authority – $2.41 billion more than in fiscal year 2017 and $12.130 billion more than the President’s budget request. Additional resources are provided to prevent and end homelessness among veterans and youth, as well as to maintain existing rental housing assistance for nearly 5 million households nationwide. The bill also directs investments to improve the safety and efficiency of our transportation networks, which serve as the backbone of our economy, and meets the everyday needs of America’s businesses, commuters, and families.

Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, said:

“This bill maintains our critical commitment to transportation and housing.  By providing funding for our roads, bridges, and transit systems, we help connect more Americans to jobs, reduce congestion, and make it easier to bring goods to market.  This means greater opportunity and economic growth.  While making smart transportation investments, this bill blocks bad policy by barring the Trump Administration from pursuing an unwise scheme to privatize to our air traffic control system.  Meanwhile, the bill maintains support for rental assistance, as well as key programs like CDBG and HOME, which are critically important to families and communities.  While the bill uses available resources wisely, it still falls short because of the artificial budget caps imposed by the Budget Control Act.  Indeed, the funding provided in this bill is still less in nominal terms than it was in 2010. Simply put, we need a need a new deal on the budget."

Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said:

“I applaud Chairman Collins and Ranking Member Reed for the bipartisan bill they put together.  It provides much-needed investments in infrastructure and housing that our country, including Vermont, so desperately needs — from restoring funds for TIGER grants, Amtrak, and programs like HOME and CDBG, this bill rejects the shortsighted budget that was put forward by President Trump. 

“While the Chair and Ranking Member did a good job with the resources provided to them, the fact remains that the allocation for this bill is 12 percent below the level it was in fiscal year 2010, and we cannot “Make America Great Again” with these kinds of cuts. We MUST reach a bipartisan agreement to lift the irresponsible and reckless caps set in place by the Budget Control Act.  The appropriations process cannot produce responsible legislation to fund the priorities of our government if we do not reach such an agreement.”  

Key Points & Highlights

This bill provides funding for the Department of Transportation (DOT), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and other related agencies.  These agencies manage many of the programs that build and maintain our nation’s transportation network, and support housing and economic development in our communities. 

For DOT, the bill provides: critical federal highway and transit grants that help commuters get to work safely and efficiently; rail and freight safety investments that protect communities and allow their businesses to get their products to market; and aviation and intercity passenger rail funding to connect families across the country. 

For HUD, the bill funds necessary rental housing assistance programs, initiatives to address lead-based paint hazards, and additional resources targeted to victims of domestic violence and youth experiencing homelessness. The bill rejects the President’s proposal to eliminate rental assistance for hundreds of thousands of households through attrition and also rejects proposed administrative reforms to HUD’s rental assistance programs that would increase rent burdens on already financially-burdened tenants and allow the Secretary of HUD to broadly waive key statutory and regulatory provisions that serve as protections for tenants.

The bill restores critical housing production and economic development programs, which were proposed for elimination in the President’s budget request. This includes sustained investments in the HOME program and the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), which give local governments the resources they need to develop their communities, support businesses, create jobs, and ensure the availability of decent, affordable housing.  

Department of Transportation

  • Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER): The bill rejects the Administration’s proposal to eliminate the TIGER program and provides $550 million in fiscal year 2018, $50 million more than the level provided in fiscal year 2017.  The TIGER program provides States and local communities with the means to accomplish multi-modal transportation projects that traditional formula grant programs are unable to accommodate.  This will help local communities make transformative investments in their transportation infrastructure to improve safety and mobility, fix freight bottlenecks, shorten commutes, expand access to jobs, and generate economic development.
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA): The bill provides $16.720 billion, which is $313 million more than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $594 million more than the President’s budget request.  The bill rejects the President’s proposal to reduce the workforce, eliminate the Contract Weather Program, consolidate offices and leases, prevent the construction of new facilities, and privatize air traffic control.  The bill also places a high priority on the modernization of our aviation system and provides a total of $1.1 billion for NextGen across the operations, facilities and equipment, and research, evaluation, and demonstration activities.  These investments will improve the productivity, safety, and efficiency of our national airspace for the benefit of the entire aviation community and the traveling public.
  • Highway and Transit:  The bill’s funding levels are consistent with increases included in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act.  These funding levels include $44.97 billion for the Federal-Aid Highway program, which is $968 million more than fiscal year 2017.  The new funding levels also include $9.7 billion for transit formula grants.  These programs provide grants to States and local governments for investments in roads, bridges, and public transit systems. States are struggling to keep pace with the $800 billion maintenance backlog on the federal-aid highway system, and Americans waste 5.5 billion hours per year in traffic on congested roads.  These programs offer the basic funding structure for repairing, replacing, and building new roads, while supporting options for relieving congestion through transit funding.

o   Capital Investment Grants:  The bill funds the transit Capital Investment Grant program, which includes New Starts, at $2.13 billion.  Bill and report language reject the Administration’s proposal to terminate this program, and compels DOT to assist project sponsors as they proceed from project development to construction. For the past twenty years, transit ridership has grown twice as quickly as our population, and Capital Investment Grants provide new and improved services on subway, light rail, and bus rapid transit systems through a rigorous discretionary review process. 

o   WMATA: The bill provides $150 million in WMATA capital funding, equal to fiscal year 2017 and the President’s budget request.  The bill also requires the Secretary of Transportation to ensure that WMATA is making progress on safety corrective actions.

  • Rail: The bill provides $210 million to support safety and operations at the Federal Railroad Administration, $8 million less than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and $11 million more than the President’s budget request.  This funding level will support recent increases in staffing for rail safety inspectors and fully funds the Automated Track Inspection Program, a key program that prevents derailments using advanced data and analytics.  The bill sustains investments into tank car research and other ongoing crude-by-rail safety initiatives.  The bill also funds Amtrak and grant programs for rail safety and state of good repair across the country:
  • Amtrak: The bill rejects the Administration’s proposal to eliminate long-distance routes and provides Amtrak with the fully-authorized level of $1.6 billion, $105 million more than fiscal year 2017. These additional resources will help Amtrak sustain a rail system that serves over 31 million passengers in over 500 communities throughout 46 states. Amtrak is a key connection for intercity travel, both in isolated rural areas with few travel options and in urbanized megaregions where air and highway travel are congested.  Funding Amtrak at the authorized level will help to address the substantial state of good repair backlog on the Northeast Corridor, replace aging rolling stock, and bring stations across the country into ADA compliance so that all passengers can ride easily and safely.
  • Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement: The bill provides $92.5 million, $24.5 million more than fiscal year 2017 and $67.5 million more than the President’s budget request, to support implementation of positive train control, station improvements, and rail grade crossing projects.
  • Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grants: The bill includes $26 million to upgrade aging infrastructure, a key concern on Amtrak’s network.
  • Rail Restoration and Enhancement Grants: The bill provides $5 million to connect more communities to better service on the national rail network.

Department of Housing and Urban Development & Related Agencies

  • Public Housing: The bill includes $6.445 billion to support the operation and capital management of the nation’s 1.1 million public housing units, an increase of $104 million from fiscal year 2017 and $1.9 billion more than the President’s budget request.
  •  Of this amount, the Public Housing Capital Fund includes $1.945 billion, $4 million more than fiscal year 2017 and $1.3 billion more than the President’s budget request, which proposed to nearly eliminate this necessary resource. This level of funding will enable public housing agencies to perform routine maintenance and address short-term capital needs in public housing communities in order to help ensure the more than 2.6 million public housing residents have access to decent, safe, and sanitary housing.
  • The bill also provides $4.5 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund, $100 million more than fiscal year 2017 and $600 million more than the President’s budget request.  This funding level will allow public housing agencies to address a majority of the estimated capital needs for 2017 and preserve this critical affordable housing stock for low-income Americans.
  • Choice Neighborhoods: The bill rejects the Administration’s proposal to eliminate this important affordable housing redevelopment program and instead provides $50 million to support more than 30 neighborhood revitalization grants.  These additional resources will allow communities to take on transformation initiatives that will redevelop severely distressed public or HUD-assisted housing and leverage private investment.  This level of funding is $88 million less than fiscal year 2017. Choice Neighborhoods builds on the successes of HOPE VI, which facilitates partnerships among local agencies, organizations, and businesses to address local issues that span housing, including crime, access to jobs, and good schools.

·         CDBG: The bill rejects the President’s budget request to eliminate CDBG and provides $3 billion for fiscal year 2018, equal to the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. CDBG helps communities develop projects that meet their unique housing, infrastructure, and economic development needs and supports job creation in urban and rural communities across the country.  CDBG funding 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.

·         HOME: The bill sustains funding for the HOME program, providing $950 million for fiscal year 2018 and rejecting the President’s budget request to eliminate this program. The HOME program helps states and local governments increase housing affordability through the building, buying, or rehabilitating of affordable housing that is then made available for rent or homeownership. This level of funding will support the production of approximately 24,000 affordable housing rental and homeownership units, and provide rental assistance for nearly 7,400 families in fiscal year 2018.

  • Youth Homelessness: The bill includes $55 million in the Continuum of Care program to address youth homelessness, including $5 million in technical assistance resources to support the design and implementation of housing and service interventions for youth. This level of funding is $12 million greater than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level and builds on the more than $85 million in combined investments provided since fiscal year 2016.  This funding will allow Continuum of Care grantees to develop and evaluate new housing and supportive service interventions for youth experiencing homelessness. The bill also continues to waive third-party documentation requirements for youth in order to rapidly connect those experiencing homelessness to HUD housing and supportive services. Additionally, the bill continues investments in the Family Unification Program by providing an additional $20 million to support 2,500 new rental assistance vouchers for youth aging out of foster care.

·         Victims and Survivors of Domestic Violence: In November 2016, HUD finalized its rule on the requirements set forth in the Violence Against Women Act of 2013, which expanded housing protections beyond public housing and Section 8 to include all HUD-assisted housing programs, and required communities to develop emergency transfer plans to assist victims and survivors of domestic violence. The bill includes $25 million in new targeted funding to help communities provide housing resources for victims fleeing domestic and dating violence, and experiencing homelessness. This level of funding will make grants available to nonprofits and local governments for rapid re-housing projects, supportive service projects, and coordinated entry activities through HUD’s Continuum of Care program in order to assist more than 3,750 survivors of domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking in fiscal year 2018.

  • Lead-Based Paint Hazards:  The bill includes $160 million for the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes. This funding level is $30 million more than the President’s budget request and $15 million more than the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This overall funding level will support lead-based paint hazard reductions in up to 11,200 units, providing safer homes for nearly 40,000 low and very-low income families or individuals, including over 10,300 children under the age of six.
  • Self-Help and Assisted Homeownership Opportunity: The bill rejects the Administration’s proposal to eliminate this account and maintains the fiscal year 2017 funding level of $54 million for SHOP, the Section 4 Program, the Rural Capacity Building Program, and the Home Rehabilitation and Modification Pilot Program for Disabled or Low-Income Veterans.  These programs help low-income families afford homes, improve both rural and urban nonprofits’ abilities to assist their communities, and rehabilitate and modify the homes of low-income or disabled veterans to make them more accessible, among other things.
  • NeighborWorks America: The bill rejects the President’s budget request to provide only wind-down funding for NeighborWorks in fiscal year 2018 and instead provides $140 million, equal to the fiscal year 2017 funding level. This funding will: support and maintain 39,000 jobs; develop 12,000 new affordable rental housing units to increase the existing portfolio of 156,000 units; provide financial and housing counseling to 110,000 individuals; assist 22,000 new homebuyers in the their first purchase of a home, and preserve homeownership for 10,000 families. 
  • U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH): USICH, the only federal agency tasked with preventing and ending homelessness, is funded at $3.6 million, equal to fiscal year 2017 and more than $3 million greater than the President’s budget request, which proposed to completely eliminate the agency.  Established under the Reagan Administration as part of the landmark McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act of 1987, then expanded as part of the Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing Act of 2009, USICH has worked across the federal government and private sector to coordinate homeless assistance nationally. The bill eliminates the sunset date, which would require the agency to cease operations October 1, 2018.

Reed Amendment

Committee Republicans Thursday rejected an amendment offered by Ranking Member Reed introduced to increase investments in transportation and housing programs by $7.725. These investments are critical to meeting the nation’s infrastructure, affordable housing, and economic development needs, while also creating and sustaining jobs in communities across the country. The amendment was the latest in a push by Committee Democrats to demand investments in the American people. The Democrats’ proposal would ultimately increase defense spending in fiscal year 2018 by $54 billion above post-sequester spending caps, mandated by the Budget Control Act, and provide an equal increase in non-defense programs – a budget and policy approach known as “parity.” The text and breakdown of the Reed Amendment can be found HERE. 

Highlights in the Reed Amendment rejected by Committee Republicans included:

  • $1 Billion for TIGER: The amendment would increase funding for TIGER to a total of $1.55 billion, allowing communities to make transformative invest­ments in their surface transportation infrastructure, which creates jobs, improves efficiency, and generates economic development. This increased investment would help 60 more communities across the country make the necessary transportation investments to remain competitive in the global economy and would create 13,000 additional jobs.
  • $2 Billion for Bridge Replacement and Improvement Driving a Growing Economy (BRIDGE) Program: The amendment would create a discretionary grant program with $2 billion in funding to repair or replace bridges on the National Highway System, with a priority on bridges in states with an especially high percentage of bridge area in poor condition.  The current backlog of structurally deficient bridges nationwide is $123 billion, and this funding will be directed to the states in most need, and will create or sustain 26,000 jobs.
  • $1.525 Billion for Public Housing Capital Fund: The amendment would enable public housing agencies to address $3.4 billion in necessary capital repairs, including routine maintenance, necessary rehabilitation and accessibility upgrades in the nation’s 1.1 million public housing units in 2018.

·         $1.270 for HOME: The amendment would restore the HOME program to a historically high funding level and help states and local governments to newly construct and rehabilitate approximately 57,000 affordable housing units and to provide rental assistance to more than 17,000 low-income and working families.

Source: WASHINGTON (THURSDAY, July 27, 2017) –  Leahy