On December 18, President Obama signed into law a $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill that will fund the federal government until September 30, 2016. This funding will support many federal programs that build more equitable, healthy, and sustainable communities nationwide. Here’s what the bill contains for smart growth-related programs.
The Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) portion of the omnibus prioritizes funding for programs that support the housing needs of our most vulnerable citizens, as well as infrastructure projects and programs that are essential to growing the nation’s economy and commerce.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
The bill includes a total of $38.3 billion for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development—$2.6 billion more than in fiscal year 2015 and $2.3 billion less than requested by the President.
- The Office of Public and Indian Housing, which is designed to help residents of affordable housing become more self-sufficient and economic independent, is funded at $26.9 billion, $447 million more than in fiscal year 2015, and $1.87 billion less than the President’s request.
- Housing programs to help ensure assistance is provided to the nation’s most vulnerable citizens, are funded at $11.3 billion, $930 million more than in fiscal year 2015, and $202 million below the President’s request. This includes $11 billion is to fund project-based rental assistance, $433 million for Housing for the Elderly, $151 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities, $60 million for the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) program to help end veterans’ homelessness, $30 million for the Rental Housing Assistance program, and $47 million for the Housing Counseling Assistance Program.
- Community Planning and Development programs are funded at $6.65 billion, $173 million more than in fiscal 2015. Within this amount, the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, a flexible funding program that provides communities with resources to address a wide range of development needs, is funded at $3 billion, the same as the 2015 enacted level.
- The HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which provides block grants to states and localities to expand affordable housing, is funded at $950 million, $50 million more than fiscal year 2015.
- Choice Neighborhoods, which provides support for struggling neighborhoods and aid for community revitalization, is funded at $125 million.
- The bill prevents HUD from funding any new livable, sustainable or green program in HUD’s Community Development programs. Since the Office of Economic Resilience (OER) or the Resilience fund are old programs, this policy statement does not impact them.
Department of Transportation
The bill includes a total of $18.7 billion in fiscal year 2016 discretionary appropriations for the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) — $847 million more than in fiscal year 2015, and $5.4 billion below the President’s request. It also provides USDOT with $56.4 billion in “obligation limitation” funding for surface transportation and safety programs.
- The Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grants program, which funds competitive grants for state and local road, transit, port, and railroad construction projects, is funded at $500 million. This is the same as fiscal year 2015 and $750 million less than requested by the president. Funds in the bill would be available until September 30, 2019, and would cover projects including but not limited to highway, bridge, public transportation, passenger and freight rail, and port projects.
- The Federal Railroad Administration is funded at $1.7 billion, $52 million more than in fiscal year 2015. Within this amount, Amtrak grant funding is maintained at $1.4 billion.
- The Federal Transit Administration is funded at $11.8 billion, $870 million more than in fiscal year 2015. This includes $9.3 billion in state and local transit grant funding from the Mass Transit Account of the Highway Trust Fund, to help local communities build, maintain, and ensure the safety of their mass transit systems. It also includes $2.18 billion for FTA’s Capital Investment Grants, such as the New Starts, Small Starts, and Core Capacity Improvements grant programs responsible for funding major transit capital investments, including rapid rail, light rail, bus rapid transit, commuter rail, and ferries.
The Financial Services portion of the Omnibus funds the Treasury Department, the federal judiciary, the District of Columbia, and various independent agencies. The bill provides $23.2 billion in funding – $1.7 billion above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level, and $1.8 billion less than the President’s budget request.
- The Treasury Department, the executive agency responsible for promoting economic prosperity and ensuring the financial security of the United States, is funded at $11.9 billion – $419.9 million above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level, and $1.51 billion less than the President’s request. Included in this provision is $233.5 million for the Community Development Financial Institutions Fund, which was created for the purpose of promoting economic revitalization and community development through investment in and assistance to community development financial institutions.
- In addition the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) established to help stabilize the U.S. financial system, restart economic growth, and prevent avoidable foreclosures, is funded at $40.7 million. This measure also allows the Treasury Department to transfer as much as $2 billion to the Hardest Hit Fund that helps struggling homeowners and terminates the Making Home Affordable program on December 31, 2016.
Tax Extender Amendment
As part of the omnibus spending bill, several tax breaks for businesses and individuals have been made permanent, while others have been extended for at least two years.
- The expired nine percent minimum rate used to calculate the low-income housing tax credit for new buildings that are not federally subsidized ($19 million) has been made permanent.
- The exemption that excludes military housing allowances from an individual’s gross income when determining whether a building qualifies for the low-income housing tax credit based on its residents’ incomes ($83 million), has also been made permanent.
- The inclusion of a regulated investment company in the definition of a qualified investment entity that is not subject to withholding under the Foreign Investment in Real Property Tax Act ($816 million), is an expired real estate benefit made permanent.
- The New Markets Tax Credit program, which is designed to increase the flow of capital to businesses and low income communities by providing a modest tax incentive to private investors, is an expired extender that is reinstated through calendar year 2019 at a cost of $2.6 billion over 10 years.
- Tax provisions such as the Empowerment Zones tax incentives for businesses located in areas designated as “empowerment zones,” is another expired tax provisions that is included in the extenders package, and is extended for 2015 and 2016, with some modifications for 2016.
The Agriculture Appropriations bill included in the Omnibus prioritizes funding to support American farmers and ranchers. The bill also funds important programs such as rural development, food and drug safety, and financial market oversight. In total, the bill provides the U.S. Department of Agriculture with $21.75 billion in discretionary funding – $925 million above the fiscal year 2015 enacted level, and $34 million below the President’s budget request.
- Rural development programs help create an environment for economic growth by investing in basic infrastructure, providing loans for rural businesses and industries, and helping to balance the playing field for buyers in rural housing markets, are funded at $2.8 billion, $368 million above the fiscal year 2015 level and $167 million above the President’s request. The legislation also provides $36.7 billion in loan authorizations for rural communities to address housing, electrification and telecommunication needs.