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Courtney Statement On The 2018 Omnibus Spending Measure

March 22, 2018
Press Release

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2) applauded the bipartisan passage of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, an omnibus spending measure that funds the federal government for the remainder of FY2018, by a vote of 256 to 167.

“This bill marks the end of a year-long process to secure a bipartisan deal to fund the federal government, and end the persistent threat of looming government shutdowns,” said Courtney. “This deal is great news for both Connecticut’s defense industry and our overall economy. The bill contains strong support for all of Connecticut’s defense manufacturing priorities, including my amendment to authorize the Navy to sign an agreement with Electric Boat and its partners to build up to 13 Virginia-class submarines under the next block contract. This will help meet urgent national security needs and further expand on the growing impact that submarine construction is having in our state.

“The agreement also includes large investments in public education and contains funding to combat the opioid crisis, support community health centers, and veterans. I am very pleased that this bill rejected many of the ideological riders and harmful cuts proposed by the Trump administration. I hope this bill will now serve as a model for bipartisan compromise going forward, particularly as we begin the budget process for FY 2019 in a few short weeks.”

Some of the highlights of the bill include:

Strong support for Connecticut’s Defense Sector

The agreement supports the construction of two Virginia class submarines in 2018 and includes the Courtney Amendment adopted in the House defense bill earlier this year that allows the Navy to build up to 13 new attack submarines in the next five years where industrial base capacity exists. The measure also fully funds the Columbia class submarine, 90 F-35s, and a range of shipbuilding, aircraft and helicopter programs important to the state.

Investments to Combat the Opioid Crisis

The funding bill includes approximately $4 billion in new investments in substance abuse treatment, prevention and law enforcement with a new focus on the states like Connecticut that have the highest mortality rates when awarding federal grants.

Community Health Center Funding Increase

This bill includes an increase of $135 million for Community Health Center-based mental health and substance abuse services.

Investments in Workforce Development and Training Programs

The bill includes $145 million for apprenticeship grants, a $50 million increase in this commitment to programs originally authorized by the Fitzgerald Act of 1937. The bill also supports $2.8 billion in workforce development authorized by the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), an $80 million overall increase to programs that have seen measurable, sustained success in eastern Connecticut. Additionally, the bill increases Job Corps funding by $15 million to a total of $1.7 billion.

Support for Homeless Veterans

This bill includes $40 million for new vouchers in the HUD-VA Supportive Housing program that combines rental assistance and comprehensive case management for veterans.

Increasing Investments in Infrastructure

The bill signals a strong federal investment in infrastructure projects by tripling the TIGER Grant Program from $500 million to $1.5 billion. Recently, this program has been used to help fund improvements along the New England Central Rail freight line across eastern Connecticut. Further, the bill provides a total of $1.98 billion for road and bridge projects eligible under the Surface Transportation Block Grant Program.

Support for Long Island Sound and Aquaculture

The bill increased funding for the EPA’s critical Long Island Sound Program by 50% for a total of $12 million. This program is used to combat acidification and water quality issues in Long Island Sound, as well as improve shoreline and estuary resiliency. In addition, the bill provides a $3 million increase for a total of $76.5 billion for Sea Grant--a program that Congressman Courtney has championed.

Community Development Block Grants Increase

The bill provides $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), a $400 million increase to this vital program that supports locally-driven activities including housing rehabilitation, infrastructure improvements, and community development. Since 2016, Courtney has highlighted the availability of this funding for repairs and testing on homes with crumbling foundations through the CDBG program, which funds Connecticut’s Small Cities grants.

Increasing Support for K-12 Education Programs

The bill makes major investments in K-12 education programs, including providing a massive $700 million increase to $1.1 billion for the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant Program--funding that provides schools with the flexibility to create well-rounded curricula for their students. The bill also provides $1.2 billion in funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers. This program provides after-school programming in high-need communities like Norwich and Windham. In addition, the bill increases Magnet Schools funding to $400 million--the first increase this program has seen in years.

Support for Student Loan Borrowers

The bill reaffirms the federal government’s commitment to Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF), providing $350 million to address eligibility concerns for the program. The bill also directs the secretary to conduct outreach to borrowers who may be eligible for PSLF. Additionally, the bill increases the maximum Pell Grant award by $175, to $6,095 for the new school year and increases funding for Federal Work-Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Programs--both slated for cuts in the President’s Budget and the Republican Higher Education Act rewrite in the House.

Invests in affordable housing development

The bill includes a 12.5% increase in Connecticut’s Low-Income Housing Tax Credit allocation for four years, a vital component of new and rehabilitated affordable housing developments. The bill also increases the number of families eligible for units in Housing Credit-funded projects.