Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the fiscal year 2018 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The bipartisan bill makes investments in infrastructure, provides funding for economic development projects, and helps to meet the housing needs of the nation’s most vulnerable individuals and families.
The bill reflects a total allocation of $60.06 billion in discretionary spending – $2.4 billion above the current funding levels, and $12.1 billion above the President’s request. The bill disregards much of the President’s proposal to eliminate or underfund key programs – including TIGER, the Community Development Block Grant, and the HOME program – supported by virtually all the Committee members. Instead of cutting these proven programs, the bill makes over $800 million worth of programmatic reductions and eliminations, while continuing to fund critical infrastructure, housing and community development programs.
Department of Housing and Urban Development
The bill provides $40.2 billion in discretionary appropriations for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, an increase of $1.4 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.
- Nearly 5 million vulnerable families and individuals are provided with housing assistance through HUD rental assistance programs. To ensure all families and individuals currently served by these programs continue to receive assistance, this bill provides needed increases in funding. Included in the bill is: $21.365 billion for Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8), $1.07 billion above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level; $6.45 billion for Public Housing, $103.5 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level; $11.5 billion for Project-Based Section 8 Rental Assistance, $691 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level; $573 million for Housing for the Elderly Program (Section 202), $70.6 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level, and $147 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities (Section 811), nearly $1.0 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.
- In an effort to reduce and end homelessness, the bill provides $2.45 billion for homeless assistance programs and includes provisions to improve the department’s delivery of housing and services to address vulnerable populations, including veterans, youth, and survivors of domestic violence. The bill includes $20 million for the New Family Unification Program, to prevent youth exiting foster care from becoming homeless, and an additional $55 million is provided for grants and technical assistance to test comprehensive efforts to end youth homelessness in urban and rural areas. The bill also provides $25 million for Rapid Re-housing assistance for survivors of domestic violence, and $40 million for new HUD-VASH vouchers.
- To eliminate hazardous exposure to lead and protect children from the harmful effects of lead hazard poisoning, the bill increases funding to $160 million for lead abatement grants. This is $15 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.
Community Planning and Development
The bill provides $6.85 billion for Community Planning and Development programs, $47 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level.
- The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which provides communities with resources to address a wide range of development needs, is not eliminated, as request by the President. The CDBG program is funded $3 billion, which is equal to the level provided in fiscal year 2017.
- HOME Investment Partnerships Program (HOME), which provides block grants to states and localities to expand affordable housing, is funded at $950 million, which is equal to the level provided in fiscal year 2017.
Department of Transportation
The U.S. Department of Transportation is funded at $19.47 billion for fiscal year 2018. This is $978 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. Priority is placed on programs to improve the safety, reliability, and efficiency of the transportation system.
- The bill does not eliminate funding for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program as requested by the President and the House Appropriations Committee. Instead, the bill increases funding to $550 million – $50 million more than fiscal year 2017 funding level. TIGER is a proven program that funds competitive grants for state and local road, transit, port, and railroad construction projects. “Last year, 585 applicants from all 50 states and territories requested nearly $9.3 billion in assistance, demonstrating the need for and popularity of this program. Only 40 of these applications could be funded” said Senate Appropriations Chairman Susan M. Collins in her opening statement.
- The bill fully funds the highway, transit, and safety programs authorized by the FAST Act and funded through the Highway Trust Fund. This includes $45 billion for the Federal-aid Highways Programs. In addition, the bill continues to grant State Departments of Transportation permission to repurpose old, unused earmarks for important infrastructure projects.
- The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is funded at $1.97 billion, $122 million above the fiscal year 2017 enacted level. This includes $1.6 billion for Amtrak for the Northeast Corridor and National Network, continuing service for all current routes. The bill also provides $250.1 million to fund FRA’s safety, operations, research and development activities. The Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvement Grants Program is funded at $92.5 million, of which $35.5 million is for initiation or restoration of passenger rail. The Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair Grants program is funded at $26 million and the Restoration and Enhancement Grants program is funded at $5 million.
Overall, the bill is a great step to ensure that key infrastructure, transit and housing programs will be funded accordingly, and will continue to serve the nation’s most vulnerable citizens.