• Brandon Colvin

Trump signs 2021 spending bill, big wins for Alabama

On Sunday night, President Donald Trump signed the $2.3 trillion omnibus spending bill and COVID-19 relief package.


The omnibus spending bill, also known as the federal spending package, has been a major news topic in recent weeks because it includes direct payments to qualifying Americans of up to $600 per adult and child, aid for small businesses, increased weekly unemployment benefits, and vaccine distribution funding. The bill also revives the Paycheck Protection Program loan for businesses.


The omnibus legislation consists of two parts: $900 billion in COVID-19 aid and the remaining amount covers funding of the federal government through September 2021. Only days before signing the legislation, Trump publicly criticized the bill for several perceived shortcomings and tweeted about the bill’s insufficient funding relief for Americans. He argued that citizens should receive $2000 per person instead of $600 as part of the proposed COVID-19 relief aid.


Although Trump signed the bill without changes to relief payments, he issued a statement Sunday evening saying that members of Congress will pursue some of his sought after changes to the bill. On Monday, Democrats in Congress utilized a fast-track procedure to pass a House bill raising the COVID relief aid amount for Americans to $2000 per person. The measure passed in a 275-134 vote and now awaits a vote from the Senate, where Republican opposition may prevent it from reaching Trump’s desk. Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-AL District 7, and Congressman Robert Anderholt, R-AL District 4, were the only two members of Alabama’s Congressional delegation to vote in favor of the measure.


Despite disagreements about the package’s details, leaders from both political parties praised the passage of the legislation. The signing of the bill averts a potential government shutdown since federal spending for 2020 was scheduled to run out this week. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-California, emphasized the boost that individual funding aid would bring to Americans during the holiday season.


"The signing of the bipartisan, bicameral coronavirus relief legislation is welcome news for the fourteen million Americans who just lost the lifeline of unemployment benefits on Christmas Weekend, and for the millions more struggling to stay afloat during this historic pandemic and economic crisis," said Pelosi.


Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, was more succinct, saying, "The compromise bill is not perfect, but it will do an enormous amount of good for struggling Kentuckians and Americans across the country who need help now.”


The passage of the FY 2021 Omnibus Appropriations Bill will provide a significant injection of cash into the American economy. Here’s a breakdown of what is being funded federally in the areas of agriculture, commerce, defense, education, and healthcare. A full breakdown by category can be found here.


Our360 News has also highlighted the contributions of Congresswoman Terri Sewell, Senator Doug Jones, and Senator Richard Shelby for their contributions to the 2021 federal funding package and the impact those contributions will have on the state.


FEDERAL APPROPRIATIONS


Agriculture

  • $23.4 billion in discretionary funding to agriculture, rural development, Food and Drug Administration, and related agencies. $217M increase from FY 2020

  • $3.3 billion for agriculture research programs, including the Agricultural Research Service and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture to help stop crop diseases, improve food safety and water quality, increase production, develop environmentally efficient agricultural practices, and combat antimicrobial resistance. This funding also includes research investments in U.S. land-grant colleges and universities (This includes some HBCUs since many are designated land-grant institutions). $125M increase from FY 2020

  • $3.9 billion is set aside for rural development programs.

  • $1.45 billion for rural water and waste program loans, $620 million in water and waste grants for clean, reliable drinking water systems, sanitary waste disposal systems.

  • $730 million in the expansion of broadband service, including $635 million for the ReConnect program. $80M increase from FY 2020

  • The bill also includes provisions extending the hemp pilot program through Jan. 1, 2022

Commerce

  • $346 billion for Economic Development Administration. $13M increase from 2020.

  • $119.5 million for Public Works Department grants, $37.5 million for Economic Adjustment Assistance grants, and $38 million for the Regional Innovation Program.

  • $48 million for the Minority Business Development Agency to help minority-owned businesses grow and adapt. $6M increase from 2020.

Defense

  • $695.9 billion to the Department of Defense, including $68.7 billion for the Overseas Contingency Operations fund

  • $157 billion for military personnel funding: military pay raise of 3% and increase of 10,300 military personnel. $7B increase from 2020.

  • $107.1 billion in military research and development which includes $2.7 billion in defense medical research

Education

  • $73.5 billion for the Department of Education. $785 million increase from 2020.

  • $16.5 billion for Title I grants to school districts, a $227 million increase from 2020.

  • $14.1 billion for Individuals with Disabilities Education. $186M increase from 2020.

  • $2.1 billion for Title II teacher professional development state grants. $11.3M increase from 2020.

  • $1.2 billion for Title IV Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants. $10M increase from 2020.

  • $10.7 billion for Head Start and $5.9 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grant. Combined $220M increase from 2020.

  • $1.3 billion for Career & Tech Education State Grants. $52M increase from 2020.

  • $1.1 billion for Federal TRIO programs. $7M increase from 2020.

  • $150 increase for the maximum Pell Grant award of $6,495 for 2021-2022.

Healthcare

  • Provides funding to the following HHS agencies and related funds:

  • $24.7 billion in discretionary funds for the Administration of Children and Families.

  • $42.9 billion to the National Institutes of Health.

  • $7.9 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

  • $2.8 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund.

  • $6 billion for the SAMHSA, $7.5 billion for the HRSA.

  • Includes funding for several HHS programs including:

  • $5.9 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant

  • $114 billion for SNAP, which is a $46 increase from last year.

  • $2.4 billion for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS program.

  • $745 million for the Community Services Block Grant.

  • $10.7 billion for Head Start.

  • $62 million for the Office of Minority Health.

  • Expanded access to telehealth services in Medicare to allow beneficiaries to receive mental health services via telehealth, including from the beneficiary’s home.

  • Extends TANF prgram through September 30, 2021.

Nutritional Appropriations:

  • $114 billion for SNAP, which is a $46M increase from 202.

  • $25.118 billion for Child Nutrition Program


Appropriations impacting Alabama


Senator Richard Shelby


Senator Richard Shelby, R-AL, Alabama’s most senior Congressional leader and chairman of the Senate Committee on Appropriations and its subcommittee on defense, played a major role in influencing what appropriations were included in the omnibus bill. Shelby’s contributions to the legislation directly impact the industries of healthcare, aerospace, defense, and agriculture among others.


Senator Shelby’s office has released an extensive list of Alabama-related appropriations that he supported. The following figures are an abbreviated compilation, by category, from Senator Shelby’s press release.


Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies:

  • $175 million for Watershed and Flood Prevention Operations which helps expand irrigation agriculture projects in Alabama.

  • $1.5 million for the establishment of a center of excellence for Animal Health and Agro-Bio Defense science, which Auburn University supports through the development of the National Bio and Agro-Defense facility.

  • $1 million for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to develop research, outreach partnerships with academic institutions to study and promote seafood safety, which will benefit ongoing research at the Dauphin Island Sea Lab.

  • $5 million for Rural Development to coordinate with Southeastern universities on a pilot program to develop innovative rural wastewater treatment solutions for communities with untreated sewage issues, such as the Black Belt region of Alabama.

Science

  • $6.5 billion for space exploration to NASA, which includes $2.6 billion for the Space Launch System (SLS) program and $850 million for the Human Landing System, both of which are managed by Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville

Energy and Water Development:

  • $50 million for the operations and maintenance of Donor and Energy Transfer Ports, which benefits the Port of Mobile.

  • $5 million for the Regional Sediment Management Program, which benefits research conducted at the National Water Center in Tuscaloosa related to enhancing forecasting capabilities and coastal resilience.

  • $6.2 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to continue research on the impact of reduced lock operations on riverine fish, which is in collaboration with Auburn University.

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies:

  • $42.9 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to increase and build on the $350 million that Alabama universities received in FY20 for medical research.

  • $6.56 billion for the National Cancer Institute (NCI),

  • $45 million to the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIHMD) for chronic disease centers, which supports research at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB).

  • $586.8 million for Clinical and Translational Science Awards (CTSAs) which continues funding for a $50 million CTSA award at UAB.

  • $1.68 billion in funding for Community Health Centers which will help fund 126 community health centers in rural areas across Alabama.

  • $350 million in grant funding for Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education which will increase Pediatric residencies at Children’s & Women’s Hospital in Mobile and Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham.

  • $185 million for industry recognized apprenticeship grants, allowing Alabama’s Community College system to work directly with employers for enhanced training

  • $440 million for charter schools, which continues to fund University Charter School in Livingston, Alabama, and could potentially expand charter schools throughout the state.

Defense / Homeland Security / Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies:

Impacting the Wiregrass region:

  • $1.2 billion for flight training at Fort Rucker to address the Army pilot shortages

  • $717.9 million for Future Vertical Lift research, which will accelerate the development of helicopters flown at Fort Rucker, and an additional $90.5 million to accelerate the Future Long Range Assault Aircraft.

Impacting North Alabama:

  • Army Research – $13.9 billion, an increase of $1.4 billion from FY20, for investments in transformational technologies to address modern and future Army warfighting needs.

  • Missile Defense – $10.46 billion for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA), which is located in Huntsville

  • Cyber – $430 million to support the Department of Defense’s 5G program.

Impacting Anniston:

  • $125 million for Hydra rockets, which are built in Anniston and fired from Army and Marine Corps helicopters.

  • Funding for Army vehicles overhauled and maintained at Anniston Army Depot (ANAD), including:

  • $968 million to continue upgrading and modernizing the M1 Abrams tanks;

  • $1.1 billion for Stryker vehicle upgrades;

  • $463 million for Paladin Integrated Management artillery vehicles; and

  • $188 million for a Demilitarization Facility at Anniston Army Depot.

Impacting Mobile’s shipbuilding industry:

  • One additional Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship with increased medical capabilities, as well as $50 million to explore autonomous proficiencies for existing EPF ships.

  • An additional $500 million for LHA-9, an amphibious assault ship.


Congresswoman Terri Sewell


Congresswoman Terri Sewell sponsored several pieces of legislation that were included in the appropriations bill as well. In an official release from her office, Sewell described the importance of the federal spending packing, saying, “This legislation includes additional funding for issues important to the 7th Congressional District, including health care, wastewater infrastructure, civil rights historic preservation, and our HBCUs.”

Much of Sewell’s contribution to the bill focused on increasing healthcare access and quality for citizens. Her sponsored legislation included the following:

  • H.R. 1052, the Physician Assistant Direct Payment Act, allows physician assistants to be directly compensated by Medicare in order to expand their role as medical providers in underserved communities. Not only will this increase access to health care in underserved communities, but it also saves money.

  • H.R. 8892, the Rural-Urban Physician Workforce Act of 2020, helps rural and urban hospitals partner to help produce the next generation of doctors and meet our community’s health care needs.

  • H.R. 1763, the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act, is partially included in the bill. The adds 1,000 new medical residency slots in 2021, increasing the number of trained doctors to meet growing demand. It will also help provide hospitals and health centers the tools they need to increase access, lower wait times for patients and create a pipeline of qualified medical professionals to serve Americans’ health needs. This is the first addition of residency slots since 1997.

  • Sewell’s H.R. 1680, the New Markets Tax Credit Extension Act, to extend the New Markets Tax Credit for five years, at an allocation level of $5 billion. The NMTC spurs private investment in low-income rural communities and urban neighborhoods by providing tax credits for private investments made in underserved communities.

  • H.R. 5156, the Carbon Capture and Sequestration Extension Act, expands incentives for businesses across a range of industries to invest in state-of-the-art technologies to lower carbon emissions from existing power plants by extending the 45Q tax credit for carbon capture.


Senator Doug Jones


Senator Doug Jones, D-AL, who is completing his final term in Congress and rumored to be a top pick for U.S. Attorney General, also made significant contributions to the spending package on behalf of his constituents in Alabama. Jones’ office has issued a press release detailing which of his legislative efforts made their way into the final bill. The following is an abbreviated list of Jones’ contributions.

  • Eviction moratorium extension – The provision to create a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, introduced by Senator Jones and included in the CARES Act, has been extended until January 31, 2021

  • $1+ Billion In Loan Forgiveness for HBCUs – Forgiveness granted for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) with loans under the federal Capital Financing Loan Program

  • $1.7 billion for HBCUs and minority-serving institutions – Senator Jones joined his colleagues this summer in calling for additional funding for HBCUs

  • Simplifying the FAFSA form – The package includes Senator Jones’s legislation to finish simplifying the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, an ongoing effort he has led with Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.)

  • Restores Pell Grants for Incarcerated Individuals – Ends the 26-year ban on incarcerated individuals qualifying for Pell grants;

  • $12 billion for Community Development Financial Institutions – Senator Jones introduced legislation to increase these funds to help low-income and minority communities weather the economic crisis

  • $20 billion for Economic Injury Disaster Loans – Senator Jones cosponsored legislation to increase these loans for small businesses in low-income communities

  • $15 billion in funding for live venues – Senator Jones cosponsored legislation to provide assistance for live venues, independent movie theaters and cultural institutions;

  • Tax treatment of PPP loans – Senator Jones cosponsored legislation to exempt PPP loans from being included in taxable income

  • Expanded PPP eligibility – Senator Jones joined his colleagues in calling for 501(c)(6) nonprofits, including local newspapers and broadcasters, to be eligible for PPP loans

  • $2 million to implement the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act – Senator Jones’ original legislation to help solve civil rights cold cases was signed into law in 2019


Congressman Robert Aderholt, the dean of Alabama’s House delegation, also worked to influence appropriations in the omnibus legislation as a senior member of the House Committee on Appropriations and the ranking member of its Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice and Science. In a statement from his office, Anderholt celebrated the bill’s “important support for small businesses that have been hurt during this pandemic,” and the provision of “another round of direct payments to the American people that will help us get through this difficult time and help to shore up our economy.”


Congressman Gary Palmer, R-AL District 6, released a statement via his office as well, highlighting the inclusion of his work to support families through revised FSA standards. He praised the bill’s “safeguards against fraudulent unemployment claims, and [extension of] the length of time for states to utilize the funding they received in the CARES Act that was set to expire on December 30th.”


The offices of Congresswoman Martha Roby, R-AL District 2, whose term ends in January, and Congressman Bradley Byrne, R-AL District 1, did not release press statements regarding the omnibus appropriations bill. Likewise, Congressman Mike Rogers, R-AL District 3, who was recently diagnosed with COVID-19 and Congressman Mo Brooks, R-AL District 5, did not release official statements referencing the federal spending legislation.




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