Higgins Announces House Approval of 2021 Budget Legislation
Congressman Brian Higgins (NY-26) announced the House of Representatives approved a legislative package providing funding for fiscal year 2021. The legislation includes four bills including appropriations for: State-Foreign Operations, Agriculture-Rural Development-FDA, Interior-Environment, and Military Construction and Veterans Affairs. The new federal fiscal year begins October 1, 2020. Additional appropriation bills are scheduled for a vote next week.
Higgins said, “This is a challenging time for our nation. This legislation provides a level of stability with commitments to invest in the American people, our priorities and a stronger future. Still, the Senate must act with urgency on this budget funding as well as the emergency resources our communities and families need in midst of this pandemic.”
Below are highlights of the legislative package important to Western New York:
Military Construction, Veterans Affairs (VA), and Related Agencies
Kids Korner: Includes language offered by Congressman Higgins supporting a two-year extension of childcare services at VA facilities. The Buffalo VA Kids Korner program provides free childcare while veterans attend medical appointments.
Veteran Programs: $104.8 billion in discretionary funding for VA programs – $12.3 billion more than the current enacted level.
Veteran Healthcare: $90 billion for VA medical care – an increase of $9.8 billion above the current enacted level. This includes: $10.3 billion for mental health care services. $1.9 billion for homelessness assistance initiatives, $661 million for care services for women, $504 million for opioid abuse recovery and prevention, and $313 million for suicide prevention outreach
Electronic Medical Records: $2.6 billion to continue modernization of electronic medical records to ensure that Veterans’ medical data will be able to be transferred between the VA, Department of Defense and the private sector.
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies
Great Lakes: Funds the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative at $335 million, a $15 million increase over FY20. GRLI funds have supported restoration of the Buffalo River and other projects across Western New York. The legislation also includes language provided by Higgins urging a focus on “Areas of Concern,” with the goal of refocusing efforts on the Scajaquada/Niagara River Area of Concern, and it encourages efforts to address harmful algal blooms.
Clean Water: $1.638 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund and $1.26 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, supporting local investments in water infrastructure, an increase from the President’s budget.
Historic Tax Credits: Provides $136 million for the National Park Service’s Historic Preservation fund, which among other programs administers the Historic Tax Credit, a program which makes many of WNY’s redevelopment projects possible. The President’s budget proposed to cut the program to just $40.67 million.
National Heritage Areas: $74.292 million for the Heritage Partnership Program which helps to support the Erie Canalway Heritage Corridor and the Niagara Falls National Heritage Area. The legislation also waives the local match for FY21. The President proposed to eliminate this funding.
Environmental Justice: $15 million for Environmental Justice activities, an increase of $4.8 million, or 47 percent, above the 2020 enacted level more than five times above the President’s budget request.
Arts: $170 million each for the National Endowment for the Arts and National Endowment for the Humanities. The President’s budget proposed eliminating both programs.
Agriculture, Rural Development, FDA, and Related Agencies
Immunotherapy Clinical Trials: Includes language offered by Congressman Higgins urging the Food and Drug Administration to provide guidance for immunotherapy-based combination clinical trials in order to help doctors better select optimal treatment options for their patients, as well as expedite regulatory review of novel regimens. This is relevant for the researchers at Roswell Park where dozens of clinical trials are taking place at any given time, and their Center for Immunotherapy is doing cutting-edge research on the latest life-saving immunotherapies.
Biomedical Research: $70 million to accelerate medical product development as authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act.
Provides $68.277 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The demands on the program have grown due to the pandemic.
$25.131 billion in mandatory funding for the Child Nutrition Program – an increase of $1.516 billion over the current enacted level. This bill also includes language extending waivers to feed children through the 2020-2021 school year despite the pandemic.
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
Pandemic Response: $10.018 billion in emergency funding for coronavirus preparedness, response, and relief globally; including $2.5 billion for Global Health, $750 million for the Global Vaccine Alliance
Disability Rights: $15.5 million for disability rights – an increase of $3.5 million above FY 2020.
LGBT Rights: Provides $6 million for the Protection of LGBTI Persons, under USAID – an increase of $1 million above FY 2020.