UPDATE: Crist Boosts Funding for Community Development & Secures Wins for Medical Marijuana Patients in FSGG Bill

Washington, D.C. - U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) announced a major new investment for small businesses and homeowners in low-income communities, along with key provisions for medical marijuana patients, in the FY’21 Financial Services and General Government Appropriations bill. It passed the full Committee today and is expected on the House floor in the coming weeks.

“This year’s Financial Services and General Government bill helps some of the most vulnerable within our communities,” said Rep. Crist. “I’m proud that the legislation includes historic levels of funding for Community Development Financial Institutions that say ‘yes’ to Pinellas small businesses – even as the big banks are saying ‘no’. This money gives Black business owners, women business owners, and veteran business owners, who are serving and sustainably developing our communities, additional access to capital they need to grow and expand. For veterans in Pinellas and across the country, this bill also aims to help protect your legal access to medical marijuana without jeopardizing your federal job. Those who served our country should never be shut out from federal employment opportunities for legally treating their service-connected injuries with marijuana.”

The bill includes $275 million for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, including $10 million for the Small Dollar Loan Program – funding which will provide affordable, accessible capital to low-income families, communities of color, and small businesses typically shut out by big banks and financial institutions. These levels of funding will especially help women-, minority-, and veteran-owned small business. Through his role on the Financial Services and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee, Congressman Crist continues to fight for equality in access to capital, recently speaking in support of Black owned business on the House floor.

Crist was also able secure two major wins for medical marijuana businesses and patients. At Crist’s request, the legislation includes policy language asking the Office of Personnel Management to bring their hiring guidelines in compliance with state cannabis laws with the aim of protecting veterans and other federal employees who use marijuana in states like Florida where it is legal, from being denied employment or terminated from their jobs for testing positive for cannabis. The policy is similar to Crist’s Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act, legislation the Congressman introduced on a bipartisan basis to protect veterans’ cannabis treatment options while securing their ability to be gainfully employed by the federal government – the largest employer of veterans.

Additionally, he secured inclusion of language similar to the intent of the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which provides legally operated cannabis businesses access to safe and secure banking by barring the federal government from taking action against financial institutions who provide services to cannabis businesses. The bill passed the House in September and is awaiting action in the Senate. Without access to financial institutions, cannabis businesses have to operate as cash-only, putting small businesses at risk, while making it harder to pay taxes and prevent money laundering.

 “With cannabis policy evolving in many different forms on the state and local level, my provisions take meaningful steps toward protecting those who use cannabis or serve those businesses – but is by no means the final step,” said Crist. “There can be no doubt that there is more to be done when it comes to protecting federal employees and banks who are in compliance with their state’s laws, but directives from the Appropriations Committee are impactful while flexible in the ever-changing landscape of cannabis policy.” 

Lastly, the Appropriations funding bill also includes $500 million to secure American elections by modernizing voting equipment, improving cyber security, and conducting post-election audits. The bill also includes language tackling fraud that targets vulnerable seniors, homebuyers, and taxpayers.

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