Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.), top Democrat on the Environment and Public Works Committee, voted to approve a $1.3 trillion legislative package funding the federal government through fiscal year 2018. The bipartisan appropriations bill approved by Congress today included $3.3 billion to begin addressing the opioid crisis, $2.8 billion to rebuild our nation’s VA hospitals, important first steps to protect our communities from gun violence and a number of provisions that will directly benefit Delaware.
“The final spending bill for fiscal year 2018 is a rejection of President Trump’s budget proposal that sought to undermine environmental protections, failed to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure and ignored the needs of our veterans, families and communities,” said Senator Carper. “While no compromise legislation is ever perfect, the package passed today takes important steps to address bipartisan priorities, including funding efforts to battle the opioid crisis that’s afflicting far too many families, giving our veterans the care that they are owed and taking initial steps to keep our families safe from gun violence. Delaware may be a small wonder, but this bill delivers a number of big wins for families and communities across the First State.”
The $1.3 trillion omnibus legislation approved by Congress earlier today included a number of provisions that will directly benefit Delaware:
$5 million to implement the Delaware River Basin Conservation Act
- In 2016, Senators Carper and Coons, along with then-Congressman John Carney, passed legislation that created a federal program to ensure that the Delaware River Basin – which provides drinking water to more than 16 million people, contributes $25 billion annually in economic activity and supports 600,000 local jobs – stays clean and healthy. The $5 million that the Delaware delegation was able to secure in the omnibus will provide federal, state and local partners the resources necessary to protect this vital resource.
Passage of the FARM Act
- This bipartisan bill, introduced by Senators Carper and Coons and included in the omnibus, will provide much-needed clarity for Delaware’s hardworking farmers, while also ensuring the necessary data is available to protect our environment and keep the public informed.
Funds to Fight the Opioid Epidemic
- The final bill includes $3.3 billion in funding to combat the opioid crisis plaguing countless communities and address mental health issues. This includes $75 million for the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training (BHWET) Program, an increase of $25 million, that the Nemours/A.I. DuPont Hospital for Children and other organizations across the country utilize to improve and expand access to substance use disorder and mental health treatment services.
Taking an Important First Step to Protect our Communities from Gun Violence
- Included in the final bill is the “Fix NICS Act,” common sense legislation to improve the background check program for anyone purchasing a firearm, holding federal agencies and states accountable for their proper use of the background check system. The final bill also expands the ability of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct research into gun violence for the first time in 20 years.
Protecting the Chesapeake Bay Program
- The final bill protects all $73 million in annual funding for the Chesapeake Bay Program, despite President Trump’s proposed budget zeroing out funding for the program. The Chesapeake Bay Program has maintained a regional partnership to restore and protect this vital environmental and economic resource since 1983.
Investing in Delaware’s Highways
- The bill includes nearly $2 billion in additional funding for the Federal Highway Administration to begin rebuilding our crumbling roads, highways and bridges. Delaware will receive an additional $8.5 million from these funds, including $2.4 million specifically for the Wilmington area.
Continuing the Success of the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act
- Senator Carper’s Diesel Emissions Reduction Act, first signed into law in 2005, and received $75 million in funding, $15 million more than in 2017. The Diesel Emissions Reduction Act is one of the nation’s most cost-effective clean air programs, replacing or retrofitting heavy-duty diesel vehicles and engines with modern technology. The EPA estimates that total lifetime emission reductions achieved through DERA have saved over 450 million gallons of fuel and created up to $12.6 billion in health benefits. With Delaware sitting at the end of “America’s tailpipe,” and 90 percent of Delaware’s air pollution being created in other states, Delaware residents see outsized health gains from national clean air programs.
Reauthorizing EPA’s Brownfields Cleanup Program
- This bipartisan legislation, sponsored by Senator Carper, reauthorizes the Environmental Protection Agency’s Brownfields program providing grants across the nation to assist states, tribes, and local governments with assessing and cleaning up contaminated sites and to put them back into productive use. Since the program started, Delaware has received $11 million in grants, including funding to revitalize the Wilmington riverfront and the South Wilmington Wetland Restoration and Conservation Project.
Caring for Our Veterans
- Veterans Affairs hospitals will receive $2.8 billion to rebuild and begin to address the $12 billion backlog of code violations and deficiencies. $1 billion will go toward minor construction projects and projects on the VA’s list of critical needs. An additional $685 million will go toward nearly clearing the backlog of construction needs for State Veteran long-term care homes.
Investing in Our Children
- The omnibus includes a $2.37 billion increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program to improve child care for low-income working families. It also increases the Pell Grant maximum award for students requiring financial aid to attend college and increases amount of Pell Grant funds available to students who are the children of fallen law enforcement officers, firefights, EMS workers and fire police. Thousands of Delawareans are eligible for federal Pell Grants each year and in 2015, more than 17,000 students used Pell Grants at Delaware institutions.
Insulating our Elections from Foreign Interference
- The appropriations bill includes $380 million for election security grants to help states protect their election systems by upgrading election technology, improving cybersecurity training, and helping to prevent future cyberattacks. The funding ensures that each state will receive a minimum of $3 million with additional funds provided based on the population of each state. Delaware's 1,600 voting machines are among the oldest in the nation and have outlived their expected lifespan.