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Senate Advances Funding Bills That Make Important Investments in Veterans Health Care, National Security, and Infrastructure

Washington, D.C. — By a vote of 86-5, the Senate passed a bipartisan appropriations “minibus” today that includes the fiscal year 2019 Energy and Water, Veterans Affairs, and Legislative Branch funding bills.  U.S. Senator Susan Collins, a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and the Chairman of the Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, successfully pushed for a number of provisions that were incorporated into the final bill.  The legislation now awaits further consideration by the House of Representatives.

“As a senior member of the Appropriations Committee and a Subcommittee chairman, I am pleased that the Senate voted to advance these three funding bills, putting Congress on the path to pass all 12 Appropriations bills through regular order,” said Senator Collins.  “This appropriations minibus includes a number of important provisions that will support veterans, strengthen our national defense, and improve our infrastructure.  The broad support this legislation received reflects the hard work by Committee members to craft bipartisan bills that make smart investments in our nation’s priorities.”

Some of the highlights of the legislation include:

  • $860 million for Veterans Affairs’ Caregiver Program.  This program, which supports caregivers of post-9/11 veterans, will be expanded in the coming years to include pre-9/11 veterans and their caregivers.  As a member of the MilCon-VA Subcommittee, Senator Collins advocated for the additional caregivers funding in the final bill.
  • $270 million for Veterans Affairs’ Office of Rural Health.  In addition to this funding, which is an increase of $20 million over the amount requested by the administration, the Appropriation Committee’s report on the legislation includes a provision Senator Collins authored to sustain continuity of care for rural veterans through provider agreements, based on the highly successful ARCH program, to ensure veterans in rural areas maintain convenient access to health services close to their homes. 
  • $161 million for Portsmouth Naval Shipyard (PNSY) infrastructure.  Senator Collins strongly advocated for these much-needed improvements, which will ensure that PNSY can efficiently dock both Los Angeles-class and Virginia-class submarines to conduct their maintenance, support the requirements to execute Los Angeles-class service life extensions in the years to come, and expand an outdated warehouse facility that will help the shipyard receive, inspect, and distribute submarine components for worldwide fleet support.  The legislation provides $110 million for the Dry Dock #1 Superflood Basin Improvement, $39.7 million to extend Dry Dock #1’s Portal Crane Rail, and $11.6 million for DLA’s Consolidated Warehouse Addition.
  • $251 million for the Weatherization Assistance Program.  This funding, including $248 million in grants and $3 million technical assistance, helps low-income families make energy efficiency improvements that significantly lower their heating and cooling costs.
  • $80 million for wind energy research.  Of this funding, $30 million is designated for prioritizing early stage research on materials and manufacturing for offshore-specific activities and the Department of Energy is directed to support offshore wind demonstration projects, two provisions that Senator Collins championed.
  • $20 million for the Northern Border Regional Commission.  This funding includes a $5 million increase over the previous year for the commission, which promotes regional coordination and invests in job creation efforts and economic development in distressed counties in Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York. This amount includes no less than $4 million to support initiatives to address the decline in forest-based economies throughout the region. Senator Collins is an original cosponsor of S. 2508, the Northern Border Regional Commission Reauthorization Act of 2018.
  • $50 million for small, remote, or subsistence navigation.  The funding will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to make improvements to small ports and harbors.
  • $2.2 million for Army Corps of Engineers projects in Maine.  The funding includes $1.05 million for disposal area monitoring, $1 million for project condition surveys, $100,000 for inspection of completed works, and $30,000 for surveillance of Northern Boundary Waters.