WASHINGTON — On a bipartisan 84-9 vote, the Senate approved the Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations package Thursday that offers many benefits to the Commonwealth.
The legislation will fund federal programs critical to Virginia under the Department of Transportation, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Commerce, Department of Justice, National Aeronautics and Space Administration, National Science Foundation, Department of Agriculture, and Department of Interior.
Here's a breakdown of the provisions Senators Mark Warner and Tim Kaine supported on behalf of Virginia:
Ashanti Alert System:
The bill includes a provision supported by both Senators that forces the Department of Justice to provide Congress with a progress report of the Ashanti Alert implementation 30 days immediately after the appropriations bill is signed into law.
The bill provides $30 million to fund a grant program that brings critical services to some of the most rural, underserved areas in America. The program provides financing to support new or improved broadband access across rural America and enable telecommunications providers to fill gaps where there is little or no broadband service.
The bill provides $23.6 billion for Child Nutrition Programs, including $30 million for school equipment grants and $28 million for Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT).
Rural Water Infrastructure:
The bill maintains $1.4 billion in water and waste direct loans and $549 million in water and waste grants to support quality of life in rural communities.
400 Years of African American History Commemoration:
The bill provides $500,000 for the commission to commemorate 400 years since the arrival of the first enslaved Africans to English Colonial America at Point Comfort, Virginia and honor four centuries of African American history. The Senators sponsored legislation, which was signed into law in 2018, to establish the commission.
The bill provides $76 million for the Chesapeake Bay Program, a regional partnership that directs and conducts the restoration of the Chesapeake Bay. It also includes $3 million for the Chesapeake Bay Gateways and Watertrails Network, which helps increase public access and the use of ecological, cultural, and historic resources of the Chesapeake region.
The Chesapeake Bay Foundation’s Federal Executive Director Jason Rano issued this statement about this being included in the passed fiscal bill:
“Increasing investment in the Bay Program is essential as we move toward the 2025 deadline to have programs and practices in place that will restore water quality in local rivers, streams, and the Chesapeake Bay.
We thank the Senate for increasing funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, particularly Senators Van Hollen and Cardin, as well as Interior-Environment Subcommittee Chairwoman Lisa Murkowski and ranking Democrat Tom Udall. We’re also grateful to Senators Gary Peters and Rob Portman for their leadership.
As the House and Senate work to reconcile spending differences, CBF will work with the region’s Congressional delegation to enact the $85 million investment passed by the House.”
National Park Service:
The bill provides $2.56 billion for operations of the National Park Service. In 2017, more than 24 million individuals visited Virginia’s National Parks.
Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF):
The bill provides $465 million for LWCF, which has helped preserve forests, trails, wildlife refuges, historic battlefields, and Chesapeake Bay lands and waters in Virginia. According to the Outdoor Industry Association, the Virginia outdoors industry supports approximately $21.9 billion in annual consumer spending and 197,000 direct jobs.
Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG):
CDBG helps communities develop projects that meet unique housing, infrastructure, and economic development needs and supports job creation. The bill provides $3.325 billion for CDBG.
In 2018, Congress passed and the President signed into law the Thomasina E. Jordan Indian Tribes of Virginia Federal Recognition Act of 2017, legislation introduced by Senators Warner and Kaine that granted federal recognition to six Virginia tribes: the Chickahominy, the Eastern Chickahominy, the Upper Mattaponi, the Rappahannock, the Monacan, and the Nansemond. The appropriations bill provides $1.281 million to continue to help Virginia tribes access the federal resources available to them after their successful, decades-long effort to secure federal recognition. It also includes an additional $11.5 million for delivery of health care services for Virginia tribes.
The bill provides $16.5 million in new funding to implement the Hemp Production Program, which was authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill. Senators Warner and Kaine have been strong supporters of hemp as an agricultural commodity. The Farm Bill included a provision sponsored by both Senators that removed hemp from the list of controlled substances, allowing Virginia farmers to grow and sell the plant as a commodity for use in agriculture, textile, recycling, automotive, furniture, food, nutrition, beverage, paper, personal care, and construction products. The bill also includes $2 million for the FDA to research and develop policies on CBD.