Funds for Veteran Treatment Courts and Red Tide Prevention Among Crist Priorities Included in Massive Government Appropriations Bill

Washington, DC – U.S. Representative Charlie Crist (D-St. Petersburg) released the following statement after several Crist-championed priorities were included in H.R. 133, a $2.3 trillion legislative package consisting of all twelve FY’ 2021 appropriations bills and additional measures. This completes the fiscal work of the 116th Congress, keeps the government working for you, and protects Pinellas residents from a government shutdown through September 30, 2021.

The bill, which passed the House overwhelmingly tonight, also features $900 billion in bipartisan, bicameral COVID relief and is expected to pass the Senate later this evening.

A member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, Congressman Crist has been working since the spring on this funding package, which included the following key provisions for Pinellas families, veterans, and servicemembers:

  • $25 million for Veteran Treatment Courts to give veterans in need access to treatment instead of jail time, supporting Crist’s Veteran Treatment Court Act, which was signed into law in August.
  • $13 million to research red tide and other harmful algae blooms, an increase of 30% from last year;
  • $1 million for a new program aimed at detecting and monitoring harmful algae blooms like red tide in the Gulf of Mexico so we can better prepare for and respond to algae outbreaks;
  • Continued funding for Community Health Centers like those Clearwater, Largo, and St. Pete through 2023, to provide low- and no-cost healthcare for neighbors in need;
  • $12.84 billion to fully fund the United States Coast Guard, including a 3% pay raise for Coasties and investments in Coast Guard infrastructure and equipment;
  • $15 billion for Save Our Stages grants for live venue, theatrical, museum, and performing arts organization operators, providing much need relief for the local live music and art venues that make our community so unique;
  • $270 million in base funding plus a historic $3 billion emergency COVID allocation for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, which provides affordable, accessible capital to low-income families, communities of color, and small businesses typically shut out by big banks. This includes $8.5 million for the Small Dollar Loan Program, a promising effort championed by Rep. Crist that aims to replace predatory lending.

“I’ve always believed a budget is a statement of our priorities as a nation, and for me there is no bigger priority than hearing from my neighbors in Pinellas on what matters most to them and delivering on those issues. While this bill brings home major wins to families, veterans, and servicemembers from Clearwater to Pinellas Point, we know we must bring an end to this pandemic and build back better for our country and our communities,” said Rep. Crist. “With this bill, we take steps to protect our natural environment by tackling red tide and safeguarding our shores. We provide funding for veteran treatment courts, and provide a 3% pay increase for servicemembers, including Coasties stationed right here in Pinellas. We provide historic investment in minority- and women-owned small businesses, and secure community health centers for years to come. This bill is not perfect, and I wish it went further for people struggling during the pandemic. But I’m proud that Congress set differences aside and came together on this bipartisan legislative package for the people.”

Additional Crist priorities included in the package:

  • $7 million to Tampa International Airport as part of $30 million in reimbursements to airports like TPA that purchased explosive detection equipment after 9/11 to keep passengers safe;
  • $50 million for shore protection projects to preserve coastal habitats and protect Floridians and local economies from storm surge;
  • $3.45 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;
  • $167.5 million for the National Endowment of the Arts, funding that will help support the arts community in St. Pete and across Pinellas that have been particularly hard hit by the COVID-19 pandemic;
  • $5 million for veterans to access clinical trials at National Cancer Institutes, like Tampa’s own Moffitt Cancer Center;
  • $100 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;
  • $97 million for YouthBuild, to help mitigate the Pinellas car theft problem and provide training and employment to underserved, at-risk young adults;
  • $87 billion for the Department of Transportation to tackle traffic congestion like 34th Street in Pinellas Park by including millions in grants for transportation planning and billions in investments for highway and transit construction and improvement;
  • $2.5 million for Regional Ocean Partnerships, similar to legislation introduced by Congressman Crist to support ocean and coastal health;
  • $31 million to fully fund the C.W. Bill Young Cell Transplantation program for folks in need of marrow or cord blood transplants;
  • Extension of the solar tax credit for two additional years, consistent with the intent of Crist’s Sunshine Forever Act, along with investments in solar energy research and development to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy and keep Florida running on sunshine;
  • Forcing a re-examination of Federal Aviation Administration lax oversight over the airline industry. Crist first rang alarm bells in 2018, successfully ordering a Government Accountability Office study over whether FAA’s kinder, gentler “Compliance Philosophy” was putting passengers at risk. 

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