WASHINGTON – The $1.1 trillion omnibus appropriations bill passed by the Senate late Saturday night included support for a number of Delaware priorities for which U.S. Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, strongly advocated. The bill now heads to the White House for President Obama's signature.
“This appropriations bill is good for Delaware and good for the country,” Senator Coons said. “This bill invests in the growth of our economy and the strength of our communities. Not only does it directly and immediately save 500 jobs that were in jeopardy in Cigna’s Delaware office, but it supports an array of important Delaware priorities, from manufacturing and job training to public safety, agriculture, infrastructure, and public health.”
“This bill was still a true compromise,” Senator Coons said. “It contained a number of provisions that I did not support and would not have supported had they not been included in such a large and critical bill. While I do not believe they are not in our country’s best interest, neither is another government shutdown or another year with the budget on auto-pilot.”
“Chairwoman Milkulski has my respect and gratitude for ensuring this year’s appropriations process was run fairly, responsibly, and in a bipartisan way that resisted the overwhelming majority of inappropriate policy riders,” Senator Coons said. “With the change in control of the Senate, I am concerned that next year’s appropriations process will be undermined by hurtful policy riders, irresponsible cuts to important programs, and needless partisanship. I remain committed to working with my colleagues to ensure taxpayers’ money is spent wisely, and that Congress prioritizes investments that reflect America’s values and support our nation’s economic growth.”
Throughout the appropriations process, including during subcommittee negotiations, Senator Coons fought for a number of Delaware priorities. Many are highlighted below:
- C&D Canal
Army Corps of Engineers’ Philadelphia District needed an increase of funding to conduct deferred maintenance on the SR 1 Bridge and address the buckling of the Branch Canal Bridge. Senator Coons’ request for a funding increase to $22.4 million was fulfilled.
- Child Advocacy Centers
These centers employ a multi-disciplinary team of trained professionals to conduct forensic interviews of children who have been victims of abuse. These interviews are designed to be admissible in court, preventing children from being re-traumatized by having to tell their stories multiple times. Senator Coons has fought relentlessly to preserve federal funding for this program, successfully fighting the Administration’s proposed 42 percent reduction and winning the full $19 million needed to sustain the program.
- Climate Change and Coastal Management
Coastal management grants are designed to address risks of weather events, hazards and changing ocean conditions to regions and local communities, in order to protect livelihoods, economies and habitats. The bill funds the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Coastal Management Grants to the full $71.1 million level requested by Senator Coons.
- Community Development Block Grants
The Community Development Block Grant helps fund a wide range of activities, including home ownership assistance, housing rehabilitation, public improvements, public services, and economic development projects. Administered by the State Housing Authority, Delaware received more than $6.5 million in grants to help fund crucial housing and community development projects throughout the state. With Senator Coons’ support, the bill includes an increase over the Administration’s request, to $3 billion.
- Community Health Centers
The bill includes a significant increase in funding for community health centers in Delaware and across the country, up this year to $5.1 billion.
- Domestic Violence
For more than 25 years, the Violence Against Women Act and the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act have made substantial progress toward ending the incidence of domestic and sexual violence. Senator Coons fought for the maximum funding possible for this bill in order to stop more of this violence and intergenerational cycle of abuse, winning a slight increase in funding to $430 million.
- Food Inspection
The bill includes $1.016 billion for the Food Safety & Inspection Service, which is $5 million more than FY14 and will fully fund meat and poultry inspectors.
- Job Training
The bill increases funding for grants under the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act to $2.6 billion.
- Senator Coons’ bipartisan bill with Senator Mark Kirk (R-Ill.) to require the President to submit to Congress an updated National Strategic Plan for Advanced Manufacturing every four years was included in this bill.
- The Manufacturing Extension partnership is the only public-private partnership dedicated to providing technical support and services to small and medium-sized manufacturers. MEP centers form a nationwide network of proven resources that enables manufacturers to compete globally, supports greater supply chain integration, and provides access to information, training, and technologies that improve efficiency, productivity, and profitability. This bill increased funding for the MEP slightly to $130 million.
- The Administration’s growing network of manufacturing ‘hubs’ will expand further because of the inclusion of the bipartisan Revitalize American Manufacturing and Innovation Act, of which Senator Coons is a cosponsor and passionate supporter. The bill would establish specialized manufacturing innovation ‘hubs’ around the country, creating thousands of high-paying, high-tech manufacturing jobs while enhancing the United States’ role as the world’s leader in advanced manufacturing. The University of Delaware is currently a finalist to host one of these hubs.
- Senator Coons advocated successfully for additional funding for the NSF’s Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research (EPSCoR) – a federal-state partnership that awards competitive funding to states to increase energy-related research investments. Delaware currently has an active EPSCoR Research Infrastructure Improvement Program grant that funds a partnership between the University of Delaware, Delaware State University, Delaware Technical & Community College, and Wesley College. The bill boosted funding for EPSCoR by $1.7 million to $159.7 million, allowing the program to further assist higher education entities in Delaware and other EPSCoR-eligible states.
- The bill includes language proposed by Senator Coons recognizing the importance of U.S. bio-manufacturing and directing the NSF to increase support for it in its advanced manufacturing portfolio by dedicating at least $15 million to new bio-manufacturing initiatives. The NSF’s $150 million FY15 budget request for advanced manufacturing included only $2 million dedicated to life sciences overall. Senator Coons fought successfully for increased investment to advance U.S. global competitiveness in this field and to support groundbreaking bio-manufacturing research at the University of Delaware.
- Port of Wilmington
The deepening of the Delaware River is critical to the long-term viability of the Port of Wilmington. After successfully urging the Administration to request the full final $35 million needed for the next stage of the project, Senator Coons’ request of the Committee to fully fund the project was fulfilled.
Senator Coons successfully advocated for a $250,000 increase in funding to for the Second Chance Act, which invests in cost-saving strategies that improve public safety and reduce recidivism. The Second Chance program supports effective reentry initiatives like substance abuse treatment for offenders and court diversion programs, which allow offenders charged with minor crimes to keep their records clean after successfully completing community transition programs. In Delaware, these grants enhance the state’s successful Individual Assessment, Discharge and Planning Team, or I-ADAPT program, by increasing the number of assessments and treatment groups available to sex offenders, and helping more offenders participate and track their progress through the program. The bill funds the Second Chance Program at $68 million.
- Sea Grant College Program
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s National Sea Grant College Program supports aquatic animal health monitoring and research. The University of Delaware has been a Sea Grant college since 1976. Senator Coons opposed the administration’s decreased request — an elimination of education and fellowship activities within the program — and funding was kept at its FY14 levels, $62.8 million.
- Veterans Care
- The Delaware Veterans Home is the only facility in the state for the long-term care of veterans, relying heavily on grants from the Department of Veterans Affairs for renovations and building improvements. With Senator Coons’ support, funding for this nationwide grants program was increased from the Administration’s request to $90 million.
- The bill also includes a rare ‘advance appropriation’ for veterans medical services, guaranteeing funding of at least $58.7 billion in FY16, regardless of whether Congress passes a traditional appropriations measure next year.