WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), the first Delaware Senator in more than four decades to serve on the critical Appropriations Committee, secured funding for key economic development priorities, including support for transportation infrastructure, small businesses, disaster relief, advanced manufacturing, housing, and research and development in the remaining appropriations bills for fiscal year 2019, which passed the Senate and House yesterday with strong, bipartisan support. President Trump signed the legislation into law today.
“I am pleased that this appropriations bill provides critical investments in our communities and the small businesses, innovators, and families that keep our state and country strong and vibrant,” said Senator Coons. “This bill supports programs that boost economic development, help families secure safe and affordable housing, support our first responders, and ensure our communities can recover if disaster strikes. It also includes critical infrastructure funding to keep our airports and rail systems running smoothly and to improve our roads, bridges, and highways. These investments will boost our local economies and help create jobs in Delaware. I’m also pleased that this bill provides a well-deserved 1.9 percent pay raise for federal civilian employees.”
Support for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI)
The bill provides $250 million for the CDFI Fund to promote economic and community development in low-income communities, equal to the fiscal year 2018 enacted level and $236 million more than the President’s budget request.
Support for the Small Business Administration (SBA)
The bill includes $715 million for the SBA, $15 million more than fiscal year 2018. Within this amount, the bill funds SCORE at $11.7 million, Small Business Development Centers at $131 million, and Women’s Business Centers at $18.5 million. The bill also increases the cap on SBA’s 7(a) loan program to $30 billion, $1 billion above the current level.
Support for Community Development Block Grants
Senator Coons fought for $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program. CDBG funding supports homeownership, housing rehabilitation, public improvements, and economic development projects while encouraging additional local investment. Every $1.00 of CDBG funds leverages an additional $4.09 in other funding. CDBG makes its way into local economies through an extensive network of local organizations and remains a necessary resource for families and communities. In Delaware, CDBG funding helped residents in Pinetown and Georgetown address long-standing housing rehabilitation and infrastructure development issues, made home ownership possible for New Castle County residents through the Housing Choice Voucher Program, and helped struggling homeowners tackle essential repairs that allowed them to stay in their homes.
Support for Transportation Infrastructure
Senator Coons fought for $1.94 billion in funding for Amtrak, $300 million for Federal-State Partnership for State of Good Repair grants, and $255 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) grants. This funding will help keep passenger rail operating safely and efficiently throughout the Northeast Corridor, as well as throughout the country. Senator Coons also fought for $4.1 billion for the Airport Improvement Program and $46 billion for the Federal-Aid Highways Program. The Airport Improvement Program has funded many upgrades in the past few years at a number of airports throughout the state. Funding for the Federal-Aid Highways Program supports Delaware highway systems by providing financial assistance for construction, maintenance, and operations.
Senator Coons also fought for $1 billion for the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program, formerly known as TIGER grants. While President Trump had proposed eliminating the BUILD grant program, the Appropriations Committee has strongly supported it. The BUILD grant program is extremely popular, helping fund a wide variety of infrastructure projects through a competitive grant process. This program helps state and local governments pay for new highways and bridges, public transit projects, railways, and port infrastructure; and finances innovative shovel-ready projects to improve the U.S. transportation system. Delaware has received BUILD grants that have been used to design and build the Newark rail station, improve the Port of Wilmington, and build the new Claymont station. The most recent BUILD grant awarded to Delaware will be used to improve the intersection of US 9, Airport Road, and Sand Hill Road in Georgetown.
Support for FEMA
Senator Coons advocated strongly for $11.69 billion to fund the Federal Emergency Management Agency, $7.23 billion of which will be directed toward the Disaster Relief Fund. The bill includes strong support for state and local first responders and emergency management personnel, providing a total of $3.27 billion for grant and training programs, including $700 million for the nation’s fire services, $350 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants, and $350 million for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants, which directly helps local fire departments increase the number of trained firefighters available in their communities. Additionally, the bill provides $512 million for State Homeland Security grants, $100 million each for Port and Transit Security grants, and $250 million for pre-disaster mitigation.
Support for Commerce
Senator Coons advocated strongly for $15 million to fund the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Manufacturing USA program. In Delaware, a consortium of companies and universities led by the University of Delaware received an award from the Manufacturing USA Institute known as NIIMBL to lead the country’s first manufacturing innovation institute focused on biopharmaceutical manufacturing.
Senator Coons also fought for $140 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), rejecting the administration’s proposal to eliminate the program. MEP is the only public-private partnership dedicated to providing technical support and services to small and medium-sized manufacturers. Delaware’s MEP operates through Delaware Technical Community College in partnership with the U.S. Department of Commerce, NIST, the Delaware Office of Economic Development, and the Delaware State and local Chambers of Commerce. Senator Coons leads the Manufacturing Jobs for America (MJA) campaign in the Senate to rally bipartisan support for legislation that would help manufacturers grow and create jobs. Further, Senator Coons also pushed hard to appropriate funds for the Economic Development Administration (EDA) at $304 million, as well as EDA’s Regional Innovation Strategies Program, which was funded at $23.5 million.
Senator Coons believes that the $3.8 billion included for the upcoming Census is very important. Fiscal year 2019 is a critical year for the 2020 decennial census, as field operations start up. Data collected by the decennial census is essential to drawing congressional districts and also helps distribute more than $450 billion annually in federal funds to states and localities. Moreover, hosts of programs that focus on the protection of civil liberties and economic development depend on accurate census data. Senator Coons will continue to fight for robust funding as the Census draws near.
Support for HOME Investment Partnerships Program
Senator Coons secured $1.25 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. The HOME program serves as the only federal block grant program for state and local governments designed exclusively to produce affordable housing for low-income families. Since 1992, the HOME program has created more than 1.27 million affordable homes and helped provide direct rental assistance to more than 337,000 low-income families. The program provides a flexible resource to meet communities’ highest priority affordable housing needs like tenant-based rental assistance, rehabilitation of affordable rental and ownership housing, and construction of affordable housing. The program also has an exceptionally broad reach, serving urban, suburban, and rural communities and providing vital resources for seniors, persons with disabilities, the homeless, and veterans. The Delaware State Housing Authority leveraged HOME funding to repair and save affordable rental properties in Millsboro and in Dover. The City of Wilmington and New Castle County governments used HOME funding to build a new affordable senior housing at Sacred Heart Village II, and New Castle County put HOME funding to work to preserve affordable housing for seniors in Newark.
Support for Other Housing Programs
Senator Coons also fought for increased funding for Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance at $11.7 billion, Section 8 Tenant-Based Rental Assistance at $20.6 billion, and Homeless Assistance Grants at $2.64 billion, which is $123 million above the fiscal year 2018 level. This funding allows Delaware’s housing community to implement an innovative program to serve all homeless families with temporary safe shelter accommodations. It also allows them to provide case management support and temporary financial assistance to help families obtain and remain in stable housing.
Support for Science
The bill supports numerous programs that Delaware’s university communities rely on to enhance local economic development and conduct their ongoing research. Senator Coons fought for strong funding for both the National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), including programs like NASA Space Grant Program that benefits science and engineering students throughout Delaware. Senator Coons also fought for strong funding for the Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) at both NSF and NASA. These programs ensure that research funding is relevant and available to all areas of the country. Delaware is one of the 27 states and territories that qualify for NSF and NASA EPSCoR funding.
Support for federal employees
The bill includes a well-deserved 1.9% pay adjustment (cost-of-living adjustment) for federal civilian employees.