Senate Transportation-HUD Spending Bill Advanced by Key Panel

 Senate Transportation-HUD Spending Bill Advanced by Key Panel

Ranking Member Jack Reed (D-RI) & Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) lead a bipartisan
effort to produce a balanced spending plan for key transportation, housing, and
economic development programs

Under current formula, RI slated to receive about $270 million in federal funding to
enhance the state’s transportation network, as well as $22 million for housing
grants throughout the state;

Reed also includes critical, new lead poisoning prevention resources and reforms

WASHINGTON, DC – In an effort to strengthen our economy and invest in housing and
transportation priorities, the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation,
Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies (THUD) today unanimously
advanced the fiscal year 2017 THUD appropriations bill. Overall, the bill would
provide $56.5 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of
Transportation (DOT) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD),
along with other related agencies and programs.

«This bill moves our nation forward and makes critical investments in transportation
and housing that will yield strong dividends for the American people. The policies
and funding contained in this bill will improve the safety of our roads, connect
more Americans to jobs and housing opportunities, and boost critical lead poisoning
prevention programs nationwide. I wish more of my colleagues supported a more
robust effort to fix our infrastructure and help communities grow the supply of
affordable housing, but this legislation will serve as a critical building block for
economic growth and community development,» said U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI),
Ranking Member of the Senate Appropriations THUD Subcommittee, who worked alongside
Chairman Susan Collins (R-ME) to craft the bill.

For DOT, the bill provides critical federal highway and transit grants, makes
investments in passenger and freight rail safety and infrastructure, and connects
communities across the country. For HUD, the bill funds necessary rental housing
assistance programs, protects affordable housing production, and provides additional
resources targeted to address homelessness. Additionally, to help spur economic
development, the bill includes investments in programs like the Community
Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), which provides federal resources to help
local communities make locally-driven economic development and other infrastructure
improvements that are unique to their needs.

Reed also led the effort to protect low-income families from lead-based paint
hazards by including $50 million in additional funding, as well as a comprehensive
series of reforms to current policies and an expansion of HUD’s oversight and
enforcement capacity.

«Lead poisoning is a preventable tragedy that dramatically impacts a child’s ability
to learn, and has a significant cost for our society. This federal funding, along
with needed reforms included in this bill, will make it easier for parents to
protect their children from lead-based paint hazards that may be present in their
homes,» said Reed, who has been a consistent supporter of lead poisoning prevention
programs throughout his career. Since 1998, Senator Reed has helped secure roughly
$45 million for Rhode Island’s lead poisoning prevention initiatives.

Overall, Senator Reed helped ensure the bill includes key national investments in
several areas, including:

* A total of $43.2 billion is provided for the Federal-Aid Highway
program, which is $905 million more than fiscal year 2016, and honors the funding
level authorized in the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act. Rhode
Island is expected to receive an allocation of $232.2 million in transportation and
highway safety formula grants.

* Transit formula grants are funded at $9.7 billion, which is $386 million
more than fiscal year 2016. These programs provide grants to State and local
governments and transit authorities for investments in roads, bridges, and public
transit systems. Rhode Island is expected to receive an allocation of $38 million
in transit formula grants.

* The bill funds Amtrak at $1.42 billion, $30 million more than fiscal
year 2016. The bill also includes newly-authorized FAST Act grant programs for rail
safety and state-of-good-repair investments across the country, including: $50
million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement grants, $20
million for Federal State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grants, and $15
million for Rail Restoration and Enhancement Grants.

* The bill provides $16.4 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration
(FAA), $132 million more than fiscal year 2016. The bill fully funds the
President’s budget request for the FAA’s air traffic control, contract towers,
aviation safety oversight, and facilities and equipment, as well as more than $1
billion in NextGen modernization efforts.

* TIGER grants are funded at $525 million to support significant
transportation projects in a wide variety of modes, including highways and bridges,
public transportation, passenger and freight railroads, and port infrastructure.
The TIGER program provides an important alternative resource for states and local
governments on top of the traditional formula allocation programs that allow
communities to make transformative investments in their surface transportation
infrastructure, which creates jobs, generates economic development, and improves
safety. To date, Rhode Island has received over $75 million in TIGER grants for a
variety of projects, including: $22.3 million for Quonset/Port of Davisville; $10.5
million for ProvPort; $10 million for the Providence Viaduct; $10 million for the
Apponaug Circulator; and $9 million for a new, state-of-the-art travel plaza and
welcome center at Exit 1 off Interstate 95.

* A total of $10 million is provided for the Small Shipyard Grant Program,
a $5 million increase above fiscal year 2016. After funding for the program lapsed
for two years, Senator Reed successfully led the effort to include $5 million in
fiscal year 2016 to restart the program, which has helped shipyards across Rhode
Island recapitalize and become more competitive. Over the years, Rhode Island
shipyards have received $4.2 million in grants from this program.

* The bill provides $2.3 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, including
an additional $40 million in federal resources to implement a variety of new housing
and services interventions for youth experiencing homelessness. This funding will
allow Continuum of Care grantees to develop and evaluate new housing and supportive
services interventions for youth experiencing homelessness, and builds on the more
than $42 million provided in fiscal year 2016 aimed at improving program oversight,
research, and federal collaboration for initiatives targeting youth experiencing
homelessness. The bill also continues the authority to allow HUD to participate in
the existing Performance Partnership Pilot (P3) along with the Departments of
Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Justice, to develop innovative,
cost-effective, and outcome-based strategies aimed at disconnected youth.

* The bill provides $6.6 billion to support the operation and capital
management of the nation’s public housing stock. This funding includes $1.925
billion for the Public Housing Capital Fund billion, $25 million above fiscal year
2016. This increase will allow PHAs to address lead-based paint hazards in Public
Housing units, including the performance of abatements, interim controls, and risk
assessments in units where children under the age of 6 reside. The bill also
provides $4.7 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund, $175 million more than
fiscal year 2016, to allow PHAs to address a majority of the estimated capital needs
for 2017 in the nation’s more than 1 million public housing units.

* $950 million for the HOME program to create affordable housing
opportunities for low-income households. This level of funding will help States and
local governments produce approximately 34,000 affordable housing units and provide
rental assistance to nearly 8,000 families. This assistance will protect an
estimated $4.9 million in grants to the Cities of Pawtucket, Providence and
Woonsocket, and Rhode Island Housing in FY 2017.

* The bill includes $80 million for the Choice Neighborhoods initiative, a
critical resource for community-led transformation and leveraging private investment
at the local level. It is a key tool for State and local governments to redevelop
severely-distressed public or HUD-assisted housing to bring comprehensive
neighborhood revitalization to devastated areas. The bill also limits new
implementation grant awards to applicants who have previously been awarded planning
grants, which, for the state of Rhode Island, includes NeighborWorks Blackstone
River Valley, in coordination with the Woonsocket Housing Authority and the
Providence Housing Authority.

To help prevent lead poisoning, Senator Reed authored several key provisions of the
bill that will:

* Require HUD to amend and align its blood lead level standard for
children under the age of six with the level recommended by the U.S. Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention.

* Increase the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes’ grants to
$135 million, which would be the highest funded level since the 2010 enacted level.
This amount is $25 million more than fiscal year 2016 and the President’s budget
request. This increase in resources will produce lead-based paint hazard reductions
in over 1,750 units, and provide safer homes for over 6,200 additional low and
very-low income families and individuals.

* Provide $25 million to public housing agencies (PHAs) to address
lead-based paint hazards in Public Housing units. This funding will allow PHAs to
conduct abatements, interim controls, and risk assessments in units where children
under the age of 6 reside.

* Double the staffing resources for the Office of Lead Hazard Control and
Healthy Homes’ Enforcement Division to improve enforcement of HUD’s lead-based paint
regulations in public housing.

* Increase HUD’s oversight and quality assurance of physical inspections
in public and multifamily housing to ensure that PHAs and homeowners are complying
with documentation and inspection requirements for lead-based paint hazards in those

* Require HUD to issue clarifying guidance to PHAs on current and
prospective lead regulations to help ensure that HUD-assisted units meet HUD’s
lead-safe standards, and encouraging PHAs to improve tenant awareness and education,
and train their maintenance and property management staff on safe inspection and
abatement practices.

* Allow for «zero bedroom dwellings,» which include studios and efficiency
apartments, to be treated the same as all other housing units, making them eligible
for grants to address lead-based paint hazards. This ensures that children under the
age of 6 living in assisted units are afforded the same protections as those
children living in other types of assisted units.

* Direct the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to review HUD’s
policies, procedures, and processes for oversight and enforcement to ensure that
PHAs comply with lead-based paint regulations. This study will analyze existing
federal programs, determine whether gaps exist in compliance and enforcement of
HUD’s lead-based paint regulations, and provide recommendations.

The measure is scheduled for consideration by the full committee on Thursday, April
21. After it is approved by the Appropriations Committee it may go to the Senate
floor for consideration by the full U.S. Senate.