Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senators Susan Collins (R-ME) and Angus King (I-ME) announced that the Northern Border Regional Commission Reauthorization Act was included in the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill. The final agreement comes after the Senate and House of Representatives worked for weeks to reconcile the differences between each chamber’s version of the 2018 Farm Bill. The legislation, which passed both the Senate and the House of Representatives with overwhelming bipartisan support, was signed into law today.
The Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) funds grants for projects throughout northern and central Maine, as well as northern New York, New Hampshire, and Vermont, spurring economic and community development. In 2018, the NBRC awarded $2.9 million in grants for projects throughout Maine.
“The Northern Border Regional Commission is a critical source of investment for northern and central Maine, helping to grow the economy and create jobs,” said Senators Collins and King in a joint statement. “Our bipartisan bill will continue the NBRC’s work to strengthen communities through projects that support business retention and expansion, infrastructure development, and increased access to high-speed telecommunications.”
Senators Collins and King have long advocated for the NBRC, and introduced the Northern Border Regional Commission Reauthorization Act in March 2018 with Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).
This bipartisan legislation included in the 2018 Farm Bill extends the authorization of the NBRC for five years, increases the authorization to $33 million per year, and makes additional reforms to encourage business retention and expansion in northern Maine and distressed rural communities. The reauthorization will allow the NBRC to attract businesses from outside the United States as well as devote additional resources to encourage renewable energy development in the region.
Additionally, the Northern Border Regional Commission Reauthorization Act will improve the region’s capacity for high-impact community economic development projects. The reauthorization bill will establish a $5 million per year state capacity building grant program that will help develop projects that support business retention and expansion, access to high-speed broadband, critical infrastructure development, and job creation throughout the region.
In 2017, the NBRC awarded $2.2 million for grant projects throughout the state of Maine. The NBRC is a key partner in the multiagency Economic Development Assessment Team (EDAT) – originally requested in March 2016 by Senators Collins and King – supporting economic development strategies and efforts that help pave the way for job growth in a region experiencing economic distress. The January 2017 EDAT assessment highlighted the importance of the NBRC and its potential to leverage federal resources to support the viability of impacted mill communities and help grow Maine’s rural economy.