Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) applauded job creating provisions of the Consolidated Appropriations Act and the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act, which the Senate approved by a vote of 65-33:
“This measure gives Connecticut businesses tools to innovate, create jobs, and drive economic growth that will ripple across our state – my top priorities in the Senate. Listening to business owners throughout Connecticut, I fought for permanent tax credits for research and development, tax deductions for equipment purchased by small businesses, and support for renewable energy manufacturers – all hugely important to Connecticut businesses. These successes are an important next step to business growth and jobs – but requiring more support and progress in the future.
“For transit users, there are deductions for employer-provided commuter benefits up to $250 per month, along with significant funding for safety advances such as Positive Train Control and rail-grade crossing improvements. Jobs, economic growth, and national security will be fueled by significant funding for Connecticut manufacturers’ vital submarines, Joint Strike Fighter, and helicopter programs. Connecticut families can count on an Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit that better reflect the cost of living today and provide more spending money that, in turn, fuels economic growth.
“And the bill provides tax incentives for hiring veterans and the long-term unemployed, restaurant and retail facility improvements, and business investment, as well as robust funding for job training, community development, and economic revitalization.
“This bill also finally extends access to health care for the brave first responders who put their own health at risk in the days and weeks after 9/11. There was no limit to their bravery over those weeks, and there should be no limits to their access to health care today.”
- Gives Veterans the Care They Deserve – The bill includes $163 billion in total discretionary and mandatory funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) for fiscal year 2016. The bill provides $71.4 billion in discretionary funding for the VA, a $2.2 billion increase over the Senate Republican committee mark and $6.4 billion more than last year’s level. Eighty-six percent of the discretionary funding goes to medical care and medical research for veterans. Blumenthal successfully advocated for provisions that will provide $60 million in housing assistance vouchers for homeless veterans, ensure additional accountability at VA, and increase funding for research on toxic exposures and on gender-appropriate prosthetics.
- Builds and Maintains our Nation’s Transit Infrastructure—The bill funds the transit New Starts program at $2.18 billion, which supports major investments in transit infrastructure and provides essential funds to local governments and transit agencies. Furthermore, every $1 billion invested in public transit supports about 13,000 jobs and creates $3.5 billion of economic activity. Blumenthal successfully advocated for robust funding for rail safety, Amtrak, the TIGER grant program, and Federal Aviation Administration contract tower power program.
- Strengthens National Security — For the Transportation Security Administration, the bill provides $7.440 billion to protect the nation’s transportation systems, including aviation, mass transit, highway and pipelines. Additionally, the bill includes $50 million in new funding for the DHS to distribute as needed to state and local governments, universities, and non-profit organizations, to prepare for emergent threats from violent extremism and complex, coordinated terrorist attacks. The bill also increases funding, per Blumenthal’s urging, for the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as military procurement of programs including Ohio Replacement, Virginia Class Submarines, F-35 Aircraft, Blackhawk and Naval Hawk helicopters
- Supports Women’s Health—The bill includes $286.5 million for the Title X program, which provides comprehensive family planning and preventive health services to more than 4 million men and women in 2014, including more than 780,000 Pap tests, 1.3 million breast exams, 3 million STD tests and 1 million confidential HIV tests. Blumenthal successfully advocated for provisions in the bill that increases funding for STD prevention programs.
- Helps Attack America’s Opioid Epidemic—The bill includes $3.8 billion for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which includes $47 million directed to addressing the burgeoning epidemic of prescription drug and heroin overdose: $25 million – an increase of $13 million – for medication assisted treatment in high-risk states, $12 million for naloxone distribution in 10 states; and $10 million for prevention efforts in up to 20 states that will build awareness of prescription drugs. Blumenthal successfully advocated for provisions that will require VA to research alternative treatments to prescribing opioids for veterans.
- Helps Our Children Get the Education They Need—The bill provides significant funding increases over the Senate Republican committee proposal for education programs, including Title I funding ($350 million more than the Senate Republican bill) and Head Start ($470 million more). Title I grants support more than 80 percent of the 14,000 school districts across the nation and more than 23 million students. The Head Start funding total includes a cost-of-living increase for grantees that will restore enrollment to the 2014 level of 927,000 funded slots. The omnibus also restores the Striving Readers Comprehensive Literacy Program, a program that provides competitive grants to states for improving literacy instruction for children. Blumenthal successful advocated for increased Head Start and Early Head Start funding.
- Reduces College Student Debt—The bill provides $22.475 billion for the Pell Grant program to maintain the max discretionary award at $4,860 for the 2016-2017 school year, which, combined with mandatory funding, is estimated to increase to $5,915. There will be about 8.4 million Pell Grant recipients during the 2016-2017 school year, an increase of more than 100,000 students compared to the current year. Blumenthal successfully fought to keep out a harmful provision that would have prevented the Department of Education from requiring for-profit colleges to report student outcomes and hold them accountable when large numbers of graduates default on student loans.