Bill to Fund Key Transportation and Housing Programs across the U.S. and Maine Clears Appropriations Committee Unanimously

The FY19 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Bill provides $71.4 billion for DOT, HUD, and related agencies, a $1.1 billion increase.

Washington, D.C.—U.S. Senator Susan Collins, the Chairman of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, announced today that the Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations bill she co-authored with Senator Jack Reed to advance transportation infrastructure development, housing assistance, and community development.  The bill was advanced by a vote of 31-0 and will now be considered by the full Senate.

 

The FY 2019 THUD Appropriations Act provides $71.4 billion in discretionary spending for the U.S. Department of Transportation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and related agencies.  The bill is $1.1 billion above FY2018 enacted levels.

 

“This bipartisan bill is the product of considerable negotiation and compromise.  I worked closely with Ranking Member Jack Reed in drafting this bill, and we received input from 70 Senators with more than 800 requests, all of which we carefully evaluated,” said Chairman Collins.  “The funding in this legislation will allow us to invest in our nation’s infrastructure, while fully funding the renewal of housing assistance for low-income seniors and other vulnerable populations, such as teenagers and veterans who are homeless.”

 

The funding bill includes a number of important programs to improve our nation’s transportation and housing infrastructure, continue to modernize our air traffic control system, and maintain rental assistance and community development programs.  Some of the programs that are particularly important to Maine include:

 

Transportation

 

  • BUILD Grants. The bill provides $1 billion for BUILD Grants, previously known as TIGER, and requires at least 30 percent of the funding to benefit rural areas like Maine.  Maine has received a TIGER grant award each year, totaling more than $133 million, since it was established in 2009.

 

  • Highways. The bill provides $49.3 billion for critical highway infrastructure, an increase of $3.3 billion above the FAST ACT authorized level.  $800 million of this increase is targeted to bridges in rural areas.

 

  • Essential Air Service. The bill provides $175 million in discretionary spending combined with $140 million in mandatory “overflight fees” to support existing communities.  Maine communities that receive EAS funding include Augusta/Waterville, Bar Harbor, Presque Isle/Houlton, and Rockland.

 

  • State Maritime Academies. The bill provides $40.2 million for State Maritime Academies as well as an additional $300 million for special purpose vessels to be used as training school ships. This will benefit Maine Maritime Academy by providing additional training capacity.

 

  • Passenger Rail. The bill provides $50 million to improve safety of state-supported passenger rail service, including the Downeaster.

 

Housing and Urban Development

 

  • Community Development Block Grants. The bill provides $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program, which helps state and local governments promote economic development and job creation.

 

  • Funding set-aside for youth homelessness. The bill includes $80 million to support comprehensive efforts to end youth homelessness in urban and rural areas, as well as $20 million for new Family Unification vouchers target to youth exiting foster care and at risk of homelessness.

 

  • Housing Vouchers for Homeless Veterans (VASH). The bill includes $40 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers to reduce veterans’ homelessness. Since the program was first established in 2008, Maine has received 238 vouchers to support homeless veterans.

 

  • Increased funding for lead grants. The bill includes $260 million to combat lead hazards, $30 million above last year’s level. These grants will help communities protect children from the harmful effects of lead hazard poisoning. The bill also includes a new program to fund intensive interventions in communities with high incidences of lead poisoning and older housing stock, for which several cities and towns in Maine would be eligible.

 

  • Housing for the Elderly. The bill includes $51 million for the development of new housing units for seniors.  Additionally, the bill includes $10 million for grants for home modifications to enable low-income seniors to “age-in-place’ and remain in their own homes, which is modeled after a program of the Bath Housing Authority.
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