WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), a member of the Appropriations Committee, released the following statement today after voting in favor of the government funding bill for this year, which provides critical resources for programs important to Missouri families and communities. The bill was signed into law today.
“The government funding bill for this year focuses resources on addressing the major challenges facing our nation. First and foremost, it strengthens our national security with the largest annual defense increase in 15 years, and keeps our promises to those who have served with record-level Veterans Administration funding. With Missouri as an agriculture leader and hub for our nation’s transportation networks, I’m particularly glad to see the bill prioritize resources for infrastructure programs, like rural broadband, that will help our state maintain the competitive advantage our location provides. The bill includes nearly a $2.6 billion increase for health-related programs to combat the opioid epidemic, with a focus on rural areas that have been hit hardest by this crisis. And, as chairman of the subcommittee that funds the Department of Health and Human Services, I’m proud to say we once again provide a substantial increase in medical research funding, which will lead to new breakthroughs that will save lives and lower costs over the long term.
“This bill reflects the priorities I hear most about from Missouri families, and that’s a good thing. However, I remain concerned with the broken process that got us here. With the bipartisan budget agreement in place for the next fiscal year, there is no reason we shouldn’t be able to debate and amend each of the 12 appropriations bills, individually, on the Senate floor. Returning to a regular order process, as I have repeatedly called for, is the best way to make sure every taxpayer dollar is being invested wisely, or not at all.”
Following Are the Missouri Priorities Blunt Secured in the Government Funding Bill:
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies:
- Rural Broadband: The bill provides $600 million for a new rural broadband pilot grant and loan program. The program will target areas that currently lack access to broadband, and includes provisions that prevent overbuilding existing infrastructure. More than 50 percent of rural Missourians still lack access to broadband services. This program will work alongside existing U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) programs to provide Missourians with access to modern, high-speed broadband services. Click here for additional information on Blunt’s efforts to expand rural broadband.
- Agricultural Research: The bill includes $2.75 billion, an increase of $220 million, to support agricultural research conducted by land grant and non-land grant universities and the Agricultural Research Service. The funding will support agricultural research programs at The University of Missouri, Missouri State University, Northwest Missouri State University, Lincoln University, and the USDA ARS facility in Columbia, Mo.
- K-12 Classroom Program: The legislation provides $552,000 for Agriculture in the K-12 Classroom program, which educates students about the source of their food and agricultural career opportunities.
- Water Infrastructure: The bill provides an additional $500 million for USDA Water and Waste grants and loans to address infrastructure needs in rural areas, and directs the secretary to prioritize communities that have the greatest infrastructure needs.
- Secure Rural Schools Program: The legislation reauthorizes the Secure Rural Schools program for two years, providing resources for local schools, infrastructure, and emergency services to Missouri communities that contain U.S. Forest Service land.
- East Locust: The USDA’s Natural Resources for Conservation Service will receive $5.6 million toward completion of the East Locust watershed project.
Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies:
- Regional Innovation: The bill provides a $4 million increase for the Regional Innovation program, which provides operational support for local innovators and entrepreneurs to commercialize new ideas and technologies. These grants, administered by the Economic Development Administration, help translate innovative ideas into local job growth.
- Regional Information Sharing System Program (RISS): The RISS Program, which includes the Mid-States Organized Crime Information Center based in Springfield, Mo., and operating in nine states, is funded at $36 million, a $1 million increase over last year’s funding level. RISS allows law enforcement agencies across the country to successfully resolve criminal investigations, apprehend and prosecute offenders, and ensure officer and public safety.
- Victims of Child Abuse Program: The legislation provides $21 million for the Victims of Child Abuse program, a $1 million increase from the level authorized under Blunt’s Victims of Child Abuse Reauthorization Act. Blunt and U.S. Senator Chris Coons (Del.) introduced the Victims of Child Abuse Act, which was signed into law in 2014.
- Child Protection Improvements Act: This Blunt-backed bill establishes a nationwide criminal history background check system and criminal history review program for organizations that serve children, the elderly, and individuals with disabilities.
- Fix NICS Act of 2017: The funding bill includes the Fix NICS Act, which Blunt cosponsored, to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) to ensure federal and state authorities comply with existing law and accurately report relevant criminal history records to the NICS.
Defense and Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies:
- Blunt, a member of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, secured funding for several Missouri and national defense priorities in the omnibus. More information on the Blunt-backed provisions included in the bill is available here.
- Safe Schools and Safe Learning Environments: The bill provides a $22 million increase for the Department of Education to help improve school climates, prevent violence, and provide services in response to serious incidents, and a $25 million increase for the Department of Health and Human Services programs that provides mental health support to schools and school age children. In addition, the bill includes a nearly three-fold increase in Student Support and Academic Enrichment formula grants, which provide flexible funding for all school districts that can be used to support school counselors, school-based mental health services, and other related activities.
- College Affordability and Completion: The bill increases the maximum Pell grant award to $6,095, an increase of $175 or 3 percent, to help make college more affordable. It also continues year-round Pell, which Blunt secured in last year’s bill. The bill also increases resources for TRIO and Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and addresses issues in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program.
- Impact Aid: The bill provides $1.4 billion, an $86 million increase, to provide flexible support to local school districts impacted by the presence of federally-owned land and activities, such as military bases, including Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base.
- 21st Century Community Learning Centers: The bill includes $1.2 billion, a $20 million increase, for grants to states to support academic enrichment activities for students before school, after school, and during the summer.
- Elementary and Secondary Education: The bill prioritizes funding for elementary and secondary education formula grants that go to every school district across the country, and focuses funding toward flexible grants to fund a range of activities, including STEM education, school safety, and more. In March 2017, Blunt held a hearing on STEM education’s role in prepared students for good-paying jobs in 21st century careers.
- Competition in Student Loan Servicing: The bill includes new language promoting accountability, transparency, and competition in student loan servicing. Blunt introduced a bill last year to promote competition amongst student loan servicers. Click here for additional information on education priorities included in the bill.
Energy and Water Development:
- Army Corps of Engineers: The bill includes a $789 million increase for the Army Corps of Engineers, bringing the total funding to $6.827 billion. It includes much-needed resources for navigation projects, and flood and storm damage reduction activities.
- Delta Regional Authority Infrastructure Funding: The bill provides $25 million for the Delta Regional Authority, including $10 million for flood control, basic public infrastructure development, and transportation improvements benefitting communities in southeast Missouri.
Financial Services and General Government:
- Spectrum Repack: The bill provides $600 million for the TV Broadcaster Relocation Fund in this year and $400 million in funding for next year. This funding will ensure that local Missouri broadcast stations are not forced off-air due to channel relocations caused from the Federal Communication Committee’s recent reverse spectrum auction.
- High Intensity Drug Trafficking Areas Program (HIDTA): Midwest HIDTA is located in Kansas City, Mo. and supports HIDTA law enforcement initiatives in six states. The bill funds HIDTA at $280 million, a $26 million increase over last year’s funding level. Blunt supports the HIDTA program, which is an effective and innovative initiative that provides critical assistance to federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies to combat major drug-trafficking organizations across the country.
Health and Human Services:
- National Institutes of Health (NIH): The legislation provides $37.1 billion, a $3 billion increase over last year’s level, for NIH medical research. Blunt previously secured two consecutive $2 billion funding increases for NIH, bringing the three-year total increase to $7 billion under Blunt’s subcommittee chairmanship. Clickhere for more information on the NIH funding included in the bill.
- Alzheimer’s Disease Research: The bill includes $1.8 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research, a $414 million increase from last year’s level. Since Blunt became Labor/HHS subcommittee chair three years ago, Alzheimer’s disease research funding has more than tripled, increasing from $589 million to $1.8 billion.
- Child Care and Development Block Grant: The bill includes a $2.4 billion increase, nearly doubling funding, for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. This funding will help states fully implement the 2014 bipartisan reauthorization of the program, including improving the quality and safety of child care programs. It also includes a $610 million increase for Head Start to help local centers recruit and retain highly-qualified staff, extend their school day and year, and expand Early Head Start for kids from birth to three years of age.
- Human Trafficking: The bill includes $24 million, a $5 million increase above last year’s funding level, for services for victims of human trafficking, including an increase in funding for the National Human Trafficking Resource Center.
- Opioid Epidemic: The legislation includes an additional $2.55 billion for health-related programs targeting the opioid epidemic. With this year’s funding bill taken into account, under Blunt’s chairmanship, funding for opioid-related Labor/HHS programs has increased by nearly $3.3 billion – a 1,228 percent increase – over three years. Additional information on the opioid-related Blunt provisions included in the bill is available here.
- Rural Health Care: The bill provides $290.8 million, $135 million above last year’s level, for rural health programs. The bill focuses resources toward programs to improve and expand access to affordable health care in rural communities, and provides much-needed resources to help rural communities combat the opioid crisis.
- Delta States Network Grant Program: The bill includes $14 million for the Delta States Network Grant Program. That funding includes $4 million, an increase of $2 million, for the Delta Region Community Health Systems Development (DRCHSD) program. The $2 million increase will continue to provide funding and technical assistance to help underserved rural communities identify and better address their health care needs and to help small rural hospitals improve their financial and operational performance. In December 2017, Pemiscot County Memorial Hospital in Hayti, Mo., and Iron County Hospital in Pilot Knob, Mo., were selected to participate in the DRCHSD program.
- Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentives: The bill includes $75 million, a $37 million increase over last year’s level, for payments to states to incentivize improved performance in finding permanent homes for children in foster care through adoption or legal guardianship. This program has faced a funding shortfall in recent years, preventing states from receiving the full amount earned. This increase will cover all prior year costs and part of the current year costs to pave the way to stay current on payments in coming years.
- Mental Health: The legislation provides $1.5 billion, $306 million above last year’s funding level, for mental health programs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Within this total, the bill provides $723 million for the Mental Health Block Grant, $100 million for new grants to Certified Community Behavioral Health Centers that meet the standards set forth in the Excellence in Mental Health and Addiction Treatment Expansion Act, and $25 million for mental health programs to address school safety.
- Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Program (SAFER) and Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG): The bill provides $350 million each for the SAFER program, which provides funding to hire firefighters, and the AFG program, which provides equipment to firefighters. This represents a $5 million increase over last year’s funding levels for each program. Last year, and in previous years, Blunt sent a letter to the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee advocating for the SAFER and AFG programs.
- Ste. Genevieve National Historic Park Designation Act: Blunt’s legislation to establish the Ste. Genevieve National Historic Park and designate it as a unit of the National Park Service (NPS) is in the funding bill.
- Superfund: The bill includes $1.15 billion, a $66 million increase, for Superfund to help clean up the nation’s most polluted sites.
- Water Infrastructure: $2.9 billion for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Loan funds, an increase of $600 million, which help states and localities improve water infrastructure.
- Veterans Employment Training (VETS) Programs: The legislation provides $295 million, an increase of $16 million above last year’s funding level, for VETS programs. VETS funding provides employment services for veterans and eligible spouses, transitioning service members, wounded warriors, and disabled veterans. In addition, the bill funds and authorizes the HIRE Vets program, which was created under Blunt’s HIRE Vets Act, to recognizes employers for their investments in recruiting, employing, and retaining our nation’s veterans
- Rural Training Initiative: The bill includes $30 million for a new dislocated worker training initiative. The initiative provides reemployment and training assistance to dislocated workers in rural areas of the country hit hardest by the recession and recovering more slowly.
- Apprenticeship Opportunities: The legislation provides $145 million, an increase of $50 million, or 53 percent, for training programs that utilize the flexible and effective apprenticeship model.
- Workforce Training Programs: The bill includes $2.8 billion, an increase of $80 million above last year’s funding level, to help states and localities to meet unique job training and reemployment needs.
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies:
- Federal-Aid Highways Program: The bill provides $2.5 billion in additional funding for the Federal-aid Highways Program, bringing the total to $47.5 billion.
- Federal Railroad Administration: The bill provides a $1.3 billion increase for the Federal Railroad Administration, bringing the total to $3.1 billion.
- TIGER Grants: The bill includes a $1 billion increase from last year’s funding level for TIGER grants, also known as National Infrastructure Investments, bringing the total to $1.5 billion. TIGER grants have funded critical infrastructure projects in Missouri, including the replacement of the Champ Clark Bridge over the Mississippi River in Louisiana, Mo., and the replacement of the Route 47 Bridge over the Missouri River in Washington, Mo.
- Contract Towers: The bill fully funds the contract tower program at $165 million, which benefits small airports in Missouri, including Joplin. The program supports approximately 250 airports across the country.
- Bus Funding: The bill provides $1.147 billion, about a $400 million increase, for transit formula grants and the bus/bus facilities program. Senator Blunt has been a strong advocate for transit funding that will benefit rural communities in addition to metropolitan areas. This funding will benefit the bus transit systems in Kansas City and St. Louis, but also entities such as OATS that provides transportation services throughout rural Missouri.