Crist Shepherds Major Wins for Veterans, Environment, Pinellas Families In Latest Appropriations Funding Package

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Washington, DC, July 31, 2020 | comments

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) released the following statement on House passage of the FY’21 minibus Appropriations package (H.R. 7617), consisting of the Defense; Commerce, Justice, Science; Energy and Water Development; Financial Services and General Government; Labor-HHS-Education, and Transportation-HUD funding bills.

“With passage of this Appropriations package, the People’s House continues its work to protect servicemembers and veterans, safeguard American families, improve local communities, and protect our environment,” said Rep. Crist. “For my neighbors in Pinellas, this legislation includes $14 million in funding to fight red tide, and $55 million to protect our coastal communities from storm damage, while taking care of seniors and lifting up small businesses and underserved Black and Brown communities.

“I am excited that the legislation includes $30 million for Veteran Treatment Courts that provide treatment instead of jail time for Veterans facing the criminal justice system. Veterans who use medical marijuana to treat their injuries should also not be denied federal employment or lose their jobs. With this bill, we press federal agencies to eliminate that barrier to being hired or holding a federal job.”

The package, which passed by a vote of 217-197, now heads to the Senate for consideration. It is the second Appropriations “minibus” package to pass the House this month.

Included in the legislation is a three percent pay raise for our troops, grants to carry out police reform and prevent violence against women and communities of color, future-focused investments in clean energy and infrastructure, $196.5 billion for public health and emergency response activities to battle the pandemic, and critical funding for roads, bridges, transit and affordable housing.

As a member of the powerful Appropriations Committee, Congressman Crist was able to secure the following provisions –

For Pinellas families and small businesses:

  • $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.
  • $3.5 billion for Community Development Block Grants with a focus on aging-friendly home modifications grants. Modifications like installing grab bars and ramps, widening doors, and making bathtubs walk-in empower seniors who wish to age in their own homes safely and affordably - policy is similar to Crist’s Senior Accessible Housing Act.
  • $103 million for the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders Program to help returning citizens receive employment and training they would otherwise find difficult to obtain as they reenter society.
  • $100.5 million for YouthBuild, to help mitigate the Pinellas car theft problem and provide training and employment to underserved, at risk young adults.
  • $107.2 billion for the Department of Transportation to tackle traffic congestion on routes like U.S. 19 in Pinellas Park by including millions in grants for transportation planning and billions in investments for highway and transit construction and improvement.
  • Recognition of Port Tampa Bay’s regional and international importance to commerce, and the need to keep the port fully functional and maintained.
  • Requirements making it easier for small businesses to work on classified programs, like those found at U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM) and U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
  • $30 million to fully fund the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation program for folks in need of marrow or cord blood transplants.
  • $2.5 million for trauma-informed foster care to break the cycle of abuse and neglect for vulnerable children.
  • $20 million for Alzheimer’s research to support breakthroughs in care and treatments that will one day lead to a cure.
  • $275 million for libraries, making it easier and more accessible for people to work and learn from home and by providing reliable internet to those without it.
  • A record $47 billion in funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), including an additional $5 billion to support COVID-19 vaccine and treatment research.
  • $4.5 billion for Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to support COVID-19 vaccine and treatment development while investing in the fight against coronavirus through funding of our public health departments, labs, and accelerated vaccine production.

For the Environment:

  • $14 million to address red tide and other harmful algae blooms.
  • Prevents drilling and seismic testing off Florida’s coasts, including in the eastern Gulf.
  • $2 million for Regional Ocean Partnerships, similar to legislation introduced by Congressman Crist to support ocean and coastal health.
  • $55 million for shore protection projects to preserve coastal habitats and protect Floridians, communities like Pinellas, and local economies from storm damage.
  • Fully funds Everglades restoration at $250 million to protect and restore this iconic ecosystem.

For Veterans and Servicemembers:

  • $30 million for Veteran Treatment Courts to give Veterans in need access to treatment instead of jail time.
  • Language to encourage the protection of 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, by asking the Office of Personnel Management bring their hiring guidelines in compliance with state cannabis laws. The provision closely mirrors Crist’s Fairness in Federal Drug Testing Under State Laws Act.
  • $33.3 billion for Defense Health Programs, including $512.5 million for cancer research and $175 million for the psychological health and traumatic brain injury research program.
  • Oversight protections for military families moving to new bases, through a new Defense Department contract that will coordinate moving belongings safely and securely.
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