December 19, 2019

Warner & Kaine Praise Passage of Government Funding Bills

~  Bills to avert a government shutdown head to the President’s desk ~

WASHINGTON – Today, U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner and Tim Kaine (both D-VA) praised Senate passage of two bipartisan, bicameral spending bills to fund federal programs that are critical to Virginia and keep the federal government open through 2020. Following today’s Senate passage, the bills now head to the President’s desk for signature.

“Today I voted to avert another painful government shutdown like the one that hurt thousands of Virginia families earlier this year, during President Trump’s 35-day government shutdown,” said Sen. Warner. “Every year I advocate for much-needed resources to strengthen communities across Virginia and this year is no exception. In this bill, we finally secured health care and pension benefits that our miners have rightfully earned, and successfully pushed for a well-deserved pay raise for our federal workforce and men and women in uniform. This bill also forces the Department of Justice to finally adhere to a firm deadline on the full implementation of the Ashanti Alert system, just to name a few wins for Virginia. With so much critical funding at stake for the Commonwealth, I urge the President to swiftly sign these bills into law.”

“I’m proud many of our efforts to improve the lives of Virginians were included in our final spending package,” said Sen. Kaine. “This bipartisan legislation includes my bill to raise the tobacco age to 21 and a bill I cosponsored to protect the health and pension benefits of retired miners. It also includes significant funding I supported to boost resiliency at military installations at risk from threats like climate change, strengthen rural infrastructure, and support career and technical education. I’m thrilled our colleagues worked together to fund these crucial priorities.”

 

The following list includes many of the provisions Sens. Warner and Kaine advocated for:

400 Years of African-American History Commission: Includes $3.3 million in federal funding for the Commission to honor four centuries of African-American history. The Senators sponsored legislation, which was signed into law in 2018, to establish the Commission and participated in events this year to commemorate 400 years since the first enslaved Africans arrived in English Colonial America at Point Comfort, Virginia. 

Ashanti Alert: Includes a provision supported by both Senators that would require the Department of Justice to provide Congress with a progress report of the Ashanti Alert implementation within 30 days. Additionally, the legislation requires that the DOJ establish a firm deadline for full implementation of the Ashanti Alert Act no later than 90 days after the bill is signed into law.

Tobacco 21: Includes the Tobacco-Free Youth Act introduced by Sen. Kaine and supported by Sen. Warner that would raise the nationwide minimum age to buy all tobacco products, including e-cigarettes, from 18 to 21. Additionally, the bill provides incentives to states to continue inspections and reporting to ensure retailers do not sell tobacco products to those under 21.

Miners’ Benefits: The Senators successfully pushed to include a fix for miners’ health care and pensions, which is headed for insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies. This bill will secure the pensions of 92,000 coal miners and protect healthcare benefits for 13,000 miners across the country – that includes hundreds of retirees in Southwest Virginia who were affected by the recent Westmoreland Coal bankruptcy. The bill also extends funding for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund until the end of 2020 by extending the tax on mining companies that helps fund the program.

Army Corps of Engineers: Provides $7.65 billion for the Army Corps of Engineers, $651.5 million above FY 2019, including $2.5 million for the Norfolk Harbor Widening and Deepening project.

NASA: Provides $22.63 billion in federal funds, an increase of $1.13 billion above the FY 2019 enacted level. The bill also includes $783.9 million for NASA’s aeronautic research to advance aviation technology by cutting air traffic congestion and pollution, improving safety, and introducing new technologies for the future of flight. Aeronautics research at NASA is increasingly focusing on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) Traffic Management, which will improve the integration of drones into our national airspace. Earlier this year, Sen. Warner introduced legislation to boost aeronautics industry innovation, research and development.

Economic Development Administration: Includes $333 million for the Economic Development Administration (EDA), $30 million above FY 2019. Last year, Virginia received 12 EDA grants totaling $3.97 million. A majority of these funds went to the Commonwealth Center for Advanced Manufacturing (CCAM) to support the construction for an expansion to house the CCAM Apprentice Academy, including classrooms, administrative support, a break room, and a high bay training area.

Richmond International Airport Reimbursement: The Senators successfully pushed for the inclusion of $40 million in federal funds to help reimburse airports that purchased security screening equipment following the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Richmond International Airport spent almost $4 million in 2005 to protect passenger safety and was promised federal reimbursement, which it has yet to fully receive. The airport is expected to receive $734,314 from this tranche of funds, bringing total reimbursement to date to $2,386,522, more than halfway to the $4 million the airport was owed.

Census: Provides $7.56 billion in new discretionary funding, $1.4 billion above the President’s budget request, to enable the Bureau to effectively prepare for and conduct a thorough and accurate 2020 Decennial Census. The Senators introduced legislation to oppose efforts by the Administration to include politically motivated questions to the census that would curb participation.

FBI Headquarters: Provides no federal funds for the Trump Administration to follow through on their hasty and controversial proposal to rebuild the current FBI headquarters building without a proper and full analysis. Sens. Warner and Kaine have for years worked to secure funding for a new FBI headquarters to replace the current, deteriorating J. Edgar Hoover building in Washington, which was built in 1974. In 2017, the Trump Administration abruptly backed away from plans to possibly move the FBI headquarters to Virginia, announcing instead in February 2018 plans to demolish the existing FBI headquarters in Washington and build a new facility in its place.

OPM-GSA Merger: The bill does not provide funding for the Administration’s proposal to merge the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) with the General Services Administration (GSA). Earlier this week, Congress blocked the Trump Administration from executing their proposed merger without first providing Congress and the public transparency on the rationale behind the move, backed by sound, independent analysis of the potential costs and benefits. This mirrors an effort pushed by Sens. Warner and Kaine to prevent the federal workforce from being subjected to continued political attacks and increased political interference by the Trump Administration.

Election Security: Includes $435 million for a new round of election security grants ahead of the 2020 elections. The manager’s package included critical language specifying that the grants be used for the purchase of election equipment that uses paper ballots, the conduct of post-election audits, cybersecurity training of election officials, and other cyber-security related improvements.

VA leases: Includes a provision to urge the General Services Administration to expedite the lease procurement projects for new VA medical clinics – which includes an outpatient clinic in Hampton Roads run by GSA and an outpatient clinic in Fredericksburg run by the VA that Sen. Warner has continuously pushed to get open and operational to ease the wait times for Virginia veterans.

Defense Community Infrastructure Program: The bill provides $50 million for the Defense Community Infrastructure Program, which allows DoD to work with state and local governments to address critical infrastructure improvements affecting resiliency of our military installations.

MilCon: Includes nearly $500 million in funding for 11 military construction projects across the Commonwealth.

  • Fort Belvoir: Provides $60 million for a Secure Operations and Administration Facility. 
  • Joint Base Langley-Eustis: Provides $55 million for an Advanced Individual Training Barracks Complex.
  • Naval Station Norfolk: Provides $79.1 million for a Mariner Skills Training Center.
  • Portsmouth Shipyard: Provides $48.9 million for Dry Dock Flood Protection improvements.
  • Quantico: Provides $70 million for a Wargaming Center.
  • Dam Neck Annex: Provides $12.7 million for a SOF Demolition Training Compound Expansion.
  • Defense Distribution Depot Richmond: Provides $98.8 million for an Operations Center.
  • Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story: Provides $32.6 million for the construction of a SOF Operations Support Facility and $13 million for a SOF Training Facility. 
  • Pentagon: Provides $8.6 million for a backup generator and $20.1 million for a control tower and fire station.

Veterans: Provides $91.9 billion in funding for the VA, an increase of $5.4 billion above FY19. The bill would increase funding to several Veteran Health Administration priority areas, including $1.5 billion for electronic health record modernization, $9.4 billion to increase mental health services for veterans, and $221.7 million for suicide prevention programs. It includes $1.9 billion for homelessness programs such as $380 million for the Supportive Services for Veterans and Families program and $408.3 million for the Housing and Urban Development-VA Supportive Housing (HUD-VASH) Program, which provides assistance to homeless veterans.

Agent Orange: The bill also provides $153.6 million to fund the VA’s implementation of the Blue Water Navy Vietnam Veterans Act, legislation sponsored by the Senators and signed into law to get veterans benefits for illnesses related to toxic herbicide Agent Orange, including those who were stationed on ships off the Vietnamese coast, also known as Blue Water Navy veterans. The bill also includes language to force the Administration to explain the delay in expanding the presumptive list, a cost estimate for adding new diseases, and the date the VA plans to implement the decision. This week, Sen. Warner spoke on the Senate floor urging the Trump Administration to reverse its decision to block an expansion of approved Agent Orange–related conditions that qualify a veteran for benefits.

Gold Star Families: This legislation corrects one of the many unintended consequences of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017 – legislation forced through by the GOP that, among other things, treats military and VA survivor benefits as trusts or estates, subjecting the benefits of many military families to a much higher tax rate. The Senators introduced legislation earlier this year to make sure surviving families aren’t unfairly penalized, and pay back those families that had to incur this unjust tax hike.

Shipbuilding: The bill provides over $13 billion in VA Shipbuilding priorities such as: Ford-class aircraft carrier construction ($2.27 billion), aircraft carrier overhaul ($650 million), and Virginia-class ($8.32 billion) and Columbia-class ($1.82 billion) submarine construction. The bill also provides over $13 billion for ship repairs.

Federal Employee & Military Pay Raise: Provides a 3.1 percent pay raise for federal civilian employees and our military. Sens. Warner and Kaine successfully pushed to override President Trump’s request for a punitive, across-the-board pay freeze for the federal workforce.

Animal Protection: The bill provides $1 million to ensure stronger enforcement of the Horse Protection Act to stop the cruel practice of horse soring, a $295,000 increase above FY 19. Sen. Warner introduced and Sen. Kaine cosponsored the bipartisan PAST Act to end horse soring, and both Warner and Kaine introduced legislation to protect domestic violence victims and their pets.

Chesapeake Bay Program: Includes $85 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, an increase of $12 million over fiscal year 2019. The Chesapeake Bay Program coordinates Chesapeake Bay watershed restoration and protection efforts, and the majority of its funds are passed through to the states and local communities for on-the-ground restoration. The Senators wrote to congressional appropriators urging them to include significant increased funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program in the final spending bill. The bill also includes $3 million for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, an increase of $1 million over FY 2019. The Senators introduced legislation to reauthorize the highly successful Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails program run by the National Park Service.

Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF): Provides $495 million for LWCF, an increase of $60 million over FY 2019. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the Virginia outdoors industry supports approximately $21.9 billion in annual consumer spending and 197,000 direct jobs. The bill also includes $2.42 million for land acquisition around Petersburg National Battlefield, which is a direct result of the Senators legislation to complete the expansion that was signed into law by President Obama. Additionally, the bill includes $1.36 million for land conservation efforts around the George Washington Memorial Parkway.

Virginia Tribes: Includes $1.281 million for the New Tribes program, an increase of $161,000 over FY 2019. Last year, the Senators successfully secured federal recognition for Virginia’s six tribes.

National Park Service: Provides $3.37 billion for the Park Service, an increase of $154 million from FY 2019. This includes $1.15 billion for bridge repair and replacement, $70 million for nationally significant federal transportation assets, and $100 million for the Appalachian Development Highway System. In 2018, more than 25.8 million individuals visited Virginia’s 22 National Parks. Senator Warner has sponsored legislation, cosponsored by Kaine, to address the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Park Service, half of which is transportation needs.

Healthy Food Financing Initiative: Includes $5 million for USDA’s Healthy Food Financing Initiative (HFFI), an increase of $4 million over FY 2019. The program closely follows Sen. Warner’s efforts in the Senate to eradicate food deserts and increase access to healthy, nutritious foods.

Mine Safety and Health Administration (MHSA): Provides $17.18 million for MSHA, which will work to prevent death, illness, and injury from mining and promote safe and healthy workplaces for miners in Virginia. There are approximately 3,000 coal miners employed in Virginia.

Appalachian Regional Commission: Includes $175 million for the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC), an increase of $10 million over FY 2019. Last fiscal year, ARC supported 32 projects in Virginia totaling $8.2 million in federal investment. This investment has been matched by nearly $20.5 million in state, local, and private investments. This funding helped create and retain 950 jobs in the region last year.

Hemp: The bill provides $16.5 million in new funding to implement the Hemp Production Program, which was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. 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. Senators Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of hemp as an agricultural commodity and they successfully secured Virginia’s inclusion in a pilot to develop a crop insurance program for industrial hemp.  

Job Corps: After the Administration’s failed attempt to close the Flatwoods Jobs Corps Program in Coeburn, Va., the bill secures $1.7 billion in federal funding, an increase of $25 million, to support the Jobs Corps program, the nation’s largest career technical training and educational program for at-risk youth that also supports locations in Marion and Monroe. Sens. Warner and Kaine sent a letter to the Secretaries of Labor and Agriculture calling on the Trump Administration to reverse plans to close the Flatwoods facility and introduced legislation to prevent the Administration from using any federal funding to close Jobs Corps facilities across the country.

Secure Rural Schools Program: Extends for two years the Secure Rural Schools program that provides funding for public schools and Virginia communities located near or within the George Washington and Jefferson National Forests. In the last fiscal year, 51 Virginia counties received a combined $1.34 million in SRS payments

Preschool Development Grants. Provides a $25 million increase for Preschool Development Grants for a total of $275 million. These grants will improve coordination of existing early childhood care and education programs. Virginia received a $9.9 million Preschool Development Grant in January 2019 and received $17.5 million for four consecutive years (FY 14-FY 17).

TRIO Program: TRIO programs help low-income and first generation students get into and complete college. The bill provides $1.1 billion for TRIO programs, a $30 million increase from FY19. During the 2018-19 school year, Virginia’s TRIO programs served more than 14,500 students with more than $17 million in federal resources.

HBCU & MSIs: Provides $93 million in critical funding to strengthen Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs). This bill would provide money for the five HBCUs in Virginia to make campus improvements and strengthen financial management, academic resources and endowment-building capacity. Earlier this month, Sens. Warner and Kaine successfully pushed to get the FUTURE Act signed into law to restore  $255 million in federal funding for these critical institutions.

Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants: Includes $50 million for Distance Learning and Telemedicine Grants. In November 2019, Virginia received $1.1 million through this program. The funding was awarded to the Appalachian Agency for Senior Citizens, the University of Virginia (UVA), George Mason University, and the Community Memorial Hospital. The Community Memorial Hospital, for example, will use the funds to provide medical services via interactive video conferencing equipment to four sites in Mecklenburg County and will benefit approximately 11,000 residents. 

Rural Broadband Grants: Includes $550 million for the ReConnect Pilot Program rural broadband grants, a program established by USDA last year to expand broadband infrastructure and service in rural communities. In the first round of ReConnect Pilot Program investments in 2019, USDA invested nearly 3.8 million in high-speed broadband infrastructure that will create or improve rural e-Connectivity for more than 1,250 rural households, two volunteer fire departments, and four educational facilities in Mecklenburg County.     

The Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Reauthorization: Includes a Warner-led provision that would reauthorize for another ten years the research institute established by the Affordable Care Act that provides independent evidence on the effectiveness, benefits and harms of different treatment options for a condition.

Public Health Data Modernization: The bill includes funding Sen. Kaine has fought for to shore up our public health data infrastructure to expedite identification and response to public health threats. The legislation provides $50 million to modernize public health data systems at CDC.

Funds Childhood Disease Research: Provides $12.6 million for the Gabriella Miller Kids First Pediatric Research Program to conduct pediatric cancer and disease research. The Senators worked to enact the legislation authorizing this program, named for 10-year-old Gabriella Miller of Loudoun County, who passed away from cancer in October of 2013.

Gun Violence Research: Includes $25 million for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institute for Health (NIH) to support firearm injury and mortality prevention research for the first time in 20 years, with the potential to identify interventions to help save lives. The Senators introduced legislation earlier this year to fund firearms safety and gun violence prevention research at the CDC.

BUILD Infrastructure Grants. Provides $1 billion for competitive transportation grants through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) program, formerly known as “TIGER” grants. Virginia has previously used these grants for projects including I-95 Express Lanes, I-564 connector from Norfolk International Terminals at the Port of Virginia, I-64 Delta Frames Bridges in Rockbridge County, the Pulse bus-rapid transit system in Richmond, and Northstar Boulevard in Loudoun County near Dulles.

WMATA: Includes the full federal funding of $150 million for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to fund critical capital investment and safety projects. In May, the Senators introduced legislation to renew the federal funding commitment to Metro, provide critical safety reforms, and strengthen oversight of WMATA. 

UAS Research: Provides $24 million for unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) research. Drone research will benefit applications like disaster response, search and rescue efforts, infrastructure inspection, package delivery, and countless others. The Virginia Tech Mid-Atlantic Aviation Partnership (MAAP) is an FAA-designated test site for unmanned aircraft systems. One key project at MAAP has been drone-delivery technology, and Virginia Tech has been the site of some of the most significant testing in the country. The program has received money in the past and will benefit from this continued funding.

Remote Tower System:  Includes the Senators’ amendment to provide $7 million for the Federal Aviation Administration to continue its remote tower system pilot program at smaller airports. This includes the Remote Air Traffic Control Tower at Leesburg Executive Airport, the first of its kind in the United Sates, which has been run as a partnership between Leesburg Airport and Saab Technologies. As part of the program, air traffic controllers are able to work remotely, which could help ease capacity and staffing constraints. There are also similar remote tower projects being planned across the country. 

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): The bill includes Sen. Kaine’s request to direct the Department of Education to remove bureaucratic hurdles the Department created for student loan borrowers in accessing the Temporary Expanded Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) and also directs the Department to improve outreach to borrowers who have been denied TEPSLF and PSLF. The Senators have urged the U.S. Department of Education to take steps to improve PSLF and recently called on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to provide greater oversight of the program.

Contingent “Gig” Workers: Directs the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) to provide an annual supplement to the Current Population Survey to allow for collection of data on contingent and alternative work arrangements every two years and data on other topics related to the labor force in alternate years. Sen. Warner has continued to push the federal agency to conduct further research on the contingent workforce and introduced bipartisan legislation to test and evaluate innovative portable-benefits models for independent workers.

New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC): Extends New Markets Tax Credit through 2020 to help increase the flow of private dollars to distressed and underserved areas. Sen. Warner introduced legislation earlier this year to direct more NMTC investment in rural areas across the Commonwealth.

Brand USA: The bill reauthorizes the Brand USA Program through 2027, which is a highly effective public-private promotion program which drives important foreign tourism to the Commonwealth. In 2018, we had over 1.1 million international tourists visit the Commonwealth, who spent $2 billion in our economy. The Senators cosponsored the Brand USA Extension Act earlier this year and Sen. Warner spoke at the VA-1 Tourism Summit about the issues facing Virginia’s booming tourism industry, including the need for Brand USA reauthorization.  

 

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