Oregon senators list more elements of year-end funding package approved by Congress
Oregon senators list more elements of year-end funding package approved by Congress
By: KTVZ News Sources
WASHINGTON (KTVZ) -- Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, D-Ore., announced Friday critical investments in housing, health care, mental health, education, and transportation services across the state as part of the year-end funding package just approved by Congress.
The legislation passed in the Senate and also was passed Friday by the House, sending it on to be signed into law by President Biden.
"At a time when Oregon's working families are struggling with the high costs of everything from rent to prescription drugs to gas and groceries, it's critical that our country prioritizes quality, affordable health care, housing, and education-and that’s exactly what this funding package does," Merkley said. "We’re delivering major investments that will support affordable housing, health care, research, and education, which will have a huge impact on families in every corner of our state and nation."
"I’m happy the policies I’ve championed to make housing, education and health care more affordable in Oregon and nationwide have made it into this year’s government spending bill," Wyden said. "Oregon families will benefit from increased investments in affordable housing programs– particularly in rural communities– as well as critical investments to improve child, maternal and mental health care. I’m also proud to see Congress invest in our children’s future by making education more accessible and investing in career and technical training. I’ll keep up the fight in the Senate to help Oregon families thrive in today’s economy and for future generations."
Merkley is the only Oregon member of Congress from either chamber since Senator Mark Hatfield to serve on the Appropriations Committee, which wrote the bill and is considered to be one of the most powerful on Capitol Hill. He joined the committee in 2013 so that Oregon would have a strong voice in decisions about the investments our nation should be making.
Key elements that will benefit Oregon families in the funding bills include:
Affordable Housing: As rural and urban communities across Oregon continue to experience housing crises, the bill includes an increase for affordable housing programs for some of Oregon’s most vulnerable people-low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities, including $14.907 billion for housing unit-specific rental assistance. The bill also protects funding for housing programs that benefit the elderly and people with disabilities.
Rural Housing: The Self-Help Homeownership Opportunity Program (SHOP) and Rural Capacity Building Program received $13.5 million and $6 million, respectively. SHOP provides funds for non-profit sweat-equity homebuilders, such as Habitat for Humanity, to cover land purchases and infrastructure costs. The Rural Capacity funds are intended to build the capacity of rural low-income housing non-profits by providing training, information, technical assistance, and financing.
HUD-Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing: The program received an additional $50 million to provide rental assistance vouchers for homeless veterans, along with case management and clinical services. This increase will provide additional rental vouchers for veterans experiencing homelessness, and when combined with prior year appropriations and available unleased vouchers, has the potential to eliminate veteran homelessness based on the most recent complete data available. These vouchers have been critical to reducing veterans' homelessness by 55.3 percent since 2010.
Homeless Assistance and Prevention: The bill includes $3.6 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, a $50 million increase that will benefit organizations across Oregon. Within that funding, rapid rehousing programs for victims of domestic violence received an additional $52 million; homeless youth programs received $107 million; and Emergency Solutions Grants—particularly important to the Portland metro area—received $290 million to support street outreach, emergency shelter, homelessness prevention, and rapid re-housing assistance.
HOME Investment Partnerships Program: The bill includes $1.5 billion for the program to provide states and localities with flexible resources to respond to their affordable housing challenges, including rental housing and paths to homeownership for low-income families.
Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation: The program, also known as NeighborWorks America, received $166 million. The national nonprofit offers support for affordable housing and community development through public-private partnerships.
Community Development: The bipartisan bill includes $3.3 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Program. This program funds vital housing rehabilitation, supportive services, public improvements and economic development projects in communities across Oregon and the nation while encouraging local investment.
Rural Health: The bill includes critical investments in health care access and delivery in rural areas, including $145 million for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program and $12.5 million for State Offices of Rural Health, including the Oregon Office of Rural Health. The bill also includes $5 million to establish an Office of Rural Health at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—language based off Senator Merkley’s Rural Health Equity Act and a bipartisan priority he led the charge in championing.
Nursing: The bill includes $300 million to support current nurses in Oregon and across the country and address the nursing workforce shortage. Merkley led 40 senators in a letter to the committee leaders to push for an increase in federal funding for nursing workforce development programs, which support nurses at all levels of education, training, and retention.
Reproductive Health Care: The bill includes funding for reproductive health care programs, including nearly $300 million for the Title X Family Planning Program and $101 million for teen pregnancy prevention.
Maternal and Child Health: The bill includes over $1.33 billion for programs to improve maternal and child health, including $324 million specifically to combat this country’s maternal mortality crisis and $8 million in new funding to increase training and support for Certified Nurse Midwives with a focus on practitioners working in rural and underserved communities.
Mental and Behavioral Health Care: The bill includes $1.01 billion for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant—an increase of $150 million—to improve mental health services in all 50 states. Oregon benefited from over $22 million in program funding in years prior. The bill includes over $600 million for suicide prevention programs, including $501.6 million in funding for 9-8-8, the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline.
Medical Research: The bill includes a $2.5 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health, totaling $47.5 billion in the fight against cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, ALS, and other devastating diseases. The bill also includes funding to further research and provide a more comprehensive understanding of COVID-19, including susceptibility and long COVID.
Community Health Centers: The bill includes $1.86 billion in funding to support ongoing efforts to increase accessibility of medical services through community health centers. These centers serve a vital role in ensuring access to primary care for rural and underserved communities.
Rebuilding our Public Health System: Bolstering our public health infrastructure is a matter of both public health and national security, and this bill includes a $760 million increase for the CDC to continue to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic and prepare for future public health challenges. The bill also includes $965 million, an increase of $120 million, to improve and expand the Strategic National Stockpile, which is critical to ensuring that doctors, nurses, and other health care providers have the equipment and resources they need in the event of another public health emergency.
Education Research: The bill includes $807 million for the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to support innovation, research, and evaluation in education, including evaluating strategies to combat learning loss from the COVID-19 pandemic. Merkley led 19 senators in a letter to the committee advocating for this investment; the University of Oregon continues to be one of the top IES grant recipient institutions in the nation.
Child Care and Early Education: The bill includes over $20 billion to support access to child care and early education nationwide, including over $8 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, a 30% increase, $12 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start, and $315 million for preschool development grants to build or enhance preschool program infrastructure.
Migrant and Seasonal Farmworker Education: The bill includes over $52 million for programs for migrant students and seasonal farmworkers. Through this program, higher education and non-profit organizations can receive funding to give migrant and seasonal farmworkers and their children the opportunity to attend higher education or earn their GED. Oregon State University, Chemeketa Community College, Portland Community College, Treasure Valley Community College, and community-based organizations in Oregon receive funds through this program.
Accessible Education: The bill includes $15.15 billion, nearly a $1 billion increase, for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) state grants program, including funding to assist states in providing a free, appropriate education for children with disabilities and provide support services for over 7.6 million students nationwide, including those participating in early intervention and preschool programs.
Student Support: The bill includes $1.2 billion for TRIO, a suite of eight educational programs that supports students from first-generation college students and individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds; as the first person in his family to graduate from college, Merkley knows firsthand the value of this type of support and has been a fierce advocate for the funding. The bill also includes a $500 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award, the cornerstone of student financial aid, which would increase the total maximum Pell grant award to $7,395 for the 2023 – 2024 school year. This is the largest increase in the maximum Pell grant award since the 2009 – 2010 school year.
Career Training: The bill includes $2.2 billion, a $100 million increase, for Career, Technical and Adult Education, which supports the workforce and economy by training young people to fill in-demand, twenty-first century jobs.
Community Services Block Grants: The bill includes $804 million for the program which provides critical support for rural Oregon communities, an increase of $34 million. Merkley led 30 Senators, including Senator Wyden, in a letter to the committee pushing to preserve and increase funding for the program.
Community Service: The bill funds AmeriCorps VISTA volunteers at $103 million; Senior Corps programs at $237 million; and State AmeriCorps grants at $557 million.
Capital Investment Grant Program: The bill includes nearly $2.210 billion for the program, which provides funding for major transit investments that support sustainable transportation and reduced congestion in cities like Portland, Eugene, and Salem.
RAISE Grants: The program received an $800 million investment for FY23, in addition to $2.5 billion available in FY23 from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This critical transportation grants program has helped fund projects across Oregon, such as over $13 million for the McGilchrist Complete Street Improvements in Salem.
Essential Air Service and Contract Towers: Merkley and Wyden secured $354,827,000 for the Essential Air Service. The Essential Air Service program supports flights between the City of Pendleton and Portland International Airport, a vital connection to support economic development across Eastern Oregon. Additionally, the bill provides $187.8 million for FAA Contract Towers. There are six contract towers across Oregon, and this funding ensures their continued operation.