While he no longer chairs the U.S. House Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) Appropriations Subcommittee, U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart, R-Fla., helped craft the THUD funding bill that cleared Congress this week as lawmakers looked to avoid another federal shutdown.
Diaz-Balart weighed in on what the THUD Appropriations Subcommittee, now chaired by U.S. Rep. David Price, D-NC, put together.
“Last year, our nation saw historic levels of funding to revitalize and repair our nation’s aging infrastructure,” Diaz-Balart said on Thursday night. “This year, we further that investment and build on the progress we made towards improving our roadways, bridges, airports, transit systems, and for the first time, our seaports.”
Diaz-Balart pointed to more than $290 million for infrastructure improvement projects which includes $93 million the top 15 container ports, which includes three ports in the Sunshine State: PortMiami, Port Everglades and the Port of Jacksonville. The funding also includes $3.25 billion for the states in highway grants, $900 million for the Department of Transportation’s BUILD grant program “helping localities fund infrastructure they might not be able to otherwise without federal dollars" and $1 billion “for NextGen investments to modernize air traffic control" and another $500 million for airport infrastructure grants.” The proposal also includes $700 million for transit infrastructure grants, $2.55 billion for Capital Investment Grants and $255 million for Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements grants.
“As the top Republican of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee, I am proud of this legislation, which funds vital infrastructure and housing programs. I am particularly proud of the nearly $300 million we have included specifically to improve our nation’s seaports,” the South Florida Republican said. “Over the past year I heard from so many port authorities in Florida, and across the nation, on the need for a dedicated port funding pool. For the first time, the legislation delivers just that, and will have a direct benefit on our state, and our local ports. $93 million will go towards the top 15 container ports, which includes PortMiami and Port Everglades, with priority given to projects which address a critical issue facing both ports – fumigation fees. I will continue to be a champion for our ports and look forward to building on this program in the future.
“Beyond ports, this bill continues the strong levels of funding for BUILD grants, Capital Investment Grants, and Airports and Highway Grants, allowing localities like those in Collier, Hendry, and Miami-Dade Counties to compete for federal money to upgrade and expand their facilities. In fact, our area has already reaped the benefits of these programs in the previous year, and I am confident we will continue to see investments made in our communities this year. Over $800 million is included for Transit Infrastructure Grants, including $350 million for Bus and Bus Facilities Grants that support our local public bus systems. Again, Miami-Dade County received two grants from this program last year and will hopefully see further dollars in the coming year,” Diaz-Balart added.
Turning to housing, the funding bill backed by the THUD Subcommittee included $3.3 billion for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), $1.25 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program which “provides incentives for private sector and non-profit development of affordable housing" and $22.5 billion in public housing vouchers. The proposal also included $2.6 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, almost $400 million for housing for persons living with HIV/AIDS, more than $675 million for Housing for the Elderly and $184 million for Housing for Persons with Disabilities.
“In housing, the bill prioritizes funding for our most vulnerable populations, helping the elderly, disabled individuals, veterans, and those living with HIV/AIDS. Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) and the Home Investment Partnership Program, which allow municipalities to expand access to affordable housing, continue to see strong funding levels. I recognize the importance of ensuring our neediest individuals receive the housing and care they need, and I will continue to support these programs,” Diaz-Balart said.
With the budget now headed to President Donald Trump, Diaz-Balart tipped his cap to U.S. Rep, Nita Lowey, D-NY, who chairs the full House Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Rep. Kay Granger, R-Tex., the top Republican on it.
“I congratulate Ranking Member Granger and Chairwoman Lowey for their tireless work on this bill. It is because of their willingness to negotiate in good faith that we were able to reach this bipartisan agreement. I look forward to continue working with them and our Appropriations colleagues as we begin the FY2020 process, to fund critical programs families rely on,” he said.