Legislation includes Blumenthal-championed provisions to reduce home heating costs, invest in Connecticut’s workforce, prevent hate crimes, & provide toxic-exposed veterans with health care & benefits
[WASHINGTON, DC] – U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT) released the following statement after the Senate passed the Omnibus Appropriations bill for Fiscal Year 2023:
“This bipartisan package will make a real difference for people across Connecticut. Historic investments will strengthen Connecticut’s skilled workforce, help families with food, housing, and energy costs, modernize our aging infrastructure, and ensure veterans exposed to dangerous toxins finally receive the health care and benefits they are owed through the PACT Act. I’m especially proud to have fought for measures that will address our veteran mental health crisis, support survivors of domestic violence, and improve reporting of hate crimes with double the funding for Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act grants. Along with critical support for our allies in Ukraine, this comprehensive legislation will help our state address the challenges of tomorrow.”
Blumenthal championed the following provisions included in the omnibus spending bill:
Supporting Military Families: The omnibus invests in our troops and their families by including a long overdue 4.6 percent pay raise for all military personnel effective January 1, 2023, as well as an increase in Basic Allowances for housing, meals, utilities, temporary lodging expenses, and other basic needs. It also dedicates $293 million to construction of new child development center projects and planning for future projects in an effort to address insufficient access to childcare across the military.
Investing in Connecticut’s Defense Manufacturing Workforce: Blumenthal fought for significant increases to sustain and enhance Connecticut’s already superior defense industrial base and ensure long term demand for the workforce. These investments are critical to the development of future technologies and weapons systems necessary to maintain peace and security in the midst of rising strategic competition. The legislation includes:
Standing With our Allies in Ukraine & Beyond: The omnibus includes funding to support security efforts related to Ukraine and around the globe, including $44.9 billion for the Ukraine Supplemental Appropriations Act of 2023. The bill also includes an additional $625 million to counter Russian and Chinese foreign malign influence, $225 million for the Baltic Security Initiative, $86 million in program increases for International Security Cooperation programs in Poland, Bulgaria, Georgia, and Romania, continued robust support for Israel with $300 million dedicated to Israeli Defense Cooperative Programs, and an additional $80 million dedicated to the Arrow 3 missile defense system.
Combatting Sexual Assault in the Military: The bill provides $479 million to implement the recommendations of the Independent Review Commission on Sexual Assault in the Military as well as an additional $47 million to fund the Special Victims’ Counsel. Blumenthal’s efforts to secure this funding, in addition to reforms in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, will bring long overdue advancements to the military justice system, allocate real resources to support survivors and prevent and prosecute sexual assault.
Protecting Servicemembers and Their Families from Exposure to Toxic Chemicals: The legislation includes Blumenthal-supported efforts to reduce exposure of servicemembers and their families to harmful per- and poly- fluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) chemicals. Specifically, the omnibus provides an additional $224 million to remediate contaminated drinking water and an increase of $30 million for disposal technologies.
State, Foreign Operations & Related Programs
Supporting Our Afghan Allies: The omnibus increases Afghan Special Immigrant Visas (SIV) by 4,000, extends the program one year until December 2024, and authorizes the State Department to use funding for additional personnel to process backlogs and expedite adjudication of Afghan SIV cases. Blumenthal has pushed for legislation to improve newly arrived Afghan allies’ legal status as they build new lives in the United States and has fought to broaden SIV eligibility.
Supporting Afghan, Ukrainian, & Other Refugees: The omnibus provides $8.37 billion in humanitarian assistance to assist tens of millions of refugees and internally displaced persons as a result of conflicts in Ukraine, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and elsewhere.
Supporting Humanitarian Efforts in Ukraine: A provision based on bipartisan Blumenthal-led legislation allows for the forfeiture and sale of assets seized from corrupt Russian kleptocrats profiting off their war of aggression against Ukraine. The sale of these assets will now benefit the Ukrainian people by assisting in the reconstruction efforts.
Commerce, Justice, & Science Programs
Improving Reporting of Hate Crimes: The legislation includes $10 million for Blumenthal-authored Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act grant programs, representing double the amount of funding from last year. The grants aim to improve hate crimes reporting and expand resources for victims and were established by Blumenthal’s NO HATE Act signed into law last year. These grant programs improve hate crimes reporting systems, establish hate crimes hotlines to connect victims to local support services, and provide training and education to law enforcement on how to identify and investigate hate crimes. The NO HATE Act also includes provisions to help rehabilitate perpetrators of hate crimes through education and community service.
The appropriations bill also includes $25 million for the Community Relations Service (CRS) at the Department of Justice, which provides facilitated dialogue, mediation, training, and consultation to assist communities facing discrimination-based conflict. This represents a nearly 20% boost in funding for these critical services.
Addressing Violence Against Women: The bill contains $700 million, the highest funding level ever, for grants provided by the Office on Violence Against Women. These grants represent a 22 percent increase over last year’s level and will be awarded to state, local, and tribal governments, nonprofit organizations, and universities to help strengthen law enforcement resources, provide support services, and enhance the legal safety net for victims and survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault.
Building Safer Communities: The measure includes $324 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services Hiring program to allow police departments across the country to hire over 1,800 more officers. It also includes $770 million for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program, an increase of nearly $100 million, to support state and local law enforcement; $50 million for community violence intervention and prevention initiatives to help stop gun violence; $35 million for the purchase of body cameras; and $10 million for officer mental health and wellness. In addition, the bill releases $1.9 billion from the Crime Victims Fund, which has served as the primary source of funding for state victim compensation and assistance programs that help victims of crime heal and rebuild.
Combatting Child Exploitation: The bill includes $105 million for missing and exploited children programs, an increase from $99 million during the previous fiscal year, which supports the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) and the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force program. NCMEC manages numerous programs and provides multiple activities and services related to missing and exploited children, including the CyberTipline, which serves as the national clearinghouse for tips and leads about child sexual exploitation. Blumenthal has long led Senate efforts in support of increased funding and resources for NCMEC. The ICAC Task Force is a national network of 61 coordinated task forces representing thousands of federal, state, and local law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. These task forces help increase law enforcement capabilities to detect internet crimes against children, conduct investigations, and provide training and technical assistance in forensics, community outreach, and capacity-building. Blumenthal led bipartisan legislation signed into law yesterday to reauthorize the ICAC Task Force.
Stopping School Violence: The bill includes a total of $135 million for grants under the STOP School Violence Act. These grants will help further evidence-based school safety programming, including training to school personnel and students on how to identify warning signs, intervene when those signs are reported, and prevent tragedies such as suicide, mental health crises, and interpersonal violence.
Supporting 9/11 Victims & Families: The World Trade Center Health Program was created by Congress to provide medical treatment and monitoring for survivors and first responders of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania. As a result of increased enrollment and costs, there will be a $3 billion shortfall over the next ten years. The omnibus includes $1 billion in supplemental funds to take the first step towards addressing this projected shortfall. This provision is based on legislation Blumenthal helped lead in the Senate to fully eliminate the shortfall.
Supporting Families Impacted by State-Sponsored Terrorism: The U.S. Victims of State-Sponsored Terrorism Fund was established in 2015 to provide American victims with judgments against designated state sponsors of terrorism a mechanism to recover those judgments. Language in the omnibus enhances support for widows and children of victims of the 9/11 attacks, along with family members of victims of the 1983 Beirut Marine barracks bombing and the 1996 Khobar Towers bombing.
Investing in Our Oceans & Marine Habitats: The bill includes nearly $5 billion in funding for National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) efforts to promote research, protection, and restoration of our oceans and fisheries. Blumenthal has long worked to protect waters and wildlife in Long Island Sound, around Connecticut, and across the country. This bill continues that fight by including $1.1 billion for the National Marine Fisheries Service to adapt its fishery management practices to the reality of the changing climate, $81.5 million for Coastal Zone Management Grants, $56.7 million for Habitat Conservation and Restoration Funding, $46 million for the Ocean Exploration and Research Program, and $6 million above the Fiscal Year 2022 enacted level to support efforts to protect the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Recognizing Connecticut’s Estuarine Research Reserve: Following efforts by Blumenthal to designate and fund a reserve under the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) in Connecticut, the bill provides $41 million in funding for the entire NERRS program. The newly-established Connecticut Reserve is one of 30 reserves in the NERRS that are protected for long-term research, water quality monitoring, education, and coastal stewardship.
Investing in our Manufacturing Workforce: The bill includes $175 million for the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership, $70 million for the Minority Business Development Agency, and $37 million for the Manufacturing USA Program. These programs provide vital resources to manufacturers and workers throughout Connecticut.
Stopping Crumbling Foundations: The bill includes $750,000 for the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to continue working with academic institutions to study and develop testing for the presence of pyrrhotite in concrete. Blumenthal has long supported providing relief to Connecticut homeowners who have suffered because of concrete foundations containing pyrrhotite. Blumenthal supported NIST’s 2020 award to the University of Connecticut to investigate and model foundation risk and has continued to support funding the research.
Transportation, Housing & Urban Development Programs
Implementing the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act: This bill provides more than $100 billion for the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT). This appropriation, along with the historic funding from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, will enable DOT to continue to enact the programs authorized by Congress and provide money to state and local governments.
Investing in Passenger Rail: The bill includes major investments in the safety and operations of passenger rail, including:
Strengthening Airports and Aviation Safety: The bill includes $19 billion to support activities at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), including $558.5 million for Airport Improvement Program grants, which support airport safety, terminal, and noise mitigation projects.
Bolstering Public Transportation: The bill includes $16.97 billion for the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) to help struggling transit agencies purchase buses and rail cars, build maintenance facilities, and address a $176 billion transit state-of-good-repair backlog across the country. In recent years, the Connecticut Department of Transportation has successful utilized hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding through these programs to address critical infrastructure projects.
Assisting Renters & Homeowners: This legislation includes major investments expanding access to affordable housing, including nearly $23.6 billion for tenant based rental assistance, $14.5 billion for project-based rental assistance, and $1.5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, a federal block grant program which creates affordable housing for rent or homeownership for low-income households.
Expanding Access to Safe, Affordable Housing: The omnibus makes major investments in housing by allocating $3.6 billion for homeless assistance grants, $1.1 billion for housing for the elderly, $967 million for Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities, $500 million for housing for persons with AIDS, and $410 million for the Lead Hazard Reduction Program.
Providing Health Care & Benefits to Toxic-Exposed Veterans: The legislation includes $5 billion for the Cost of War Toxic Exposures Fund to help implement the landmark Honoring our Promise to Address Comprehensive Toxics Act (PACT) of 2022. Signed into law in August, the PACT Act expands eligibility for health care services and benefits to veterans with conditions related to toxic exposure during their service. The measure includes provisions championed by Blumenthal to assist veteran populations that were previously unable to access services: veterans who responded to the nuclear disaster in Palomares, Spain, those who were deployed to the K2 Air Base, and veterans and families exposed to toxins in the water supply at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
The omnibus also includes $15 million to fund the Airborne Hazards and Burn Pits Center of Excellence to better understand the long-lasting effects of exposure to open burn pits and airborne hazards to veterans’ health.
Prioritizing Veterans’ Mental Health: The omnibus provides $13.9 billion in funding for veteran mental health care, an increase of $744 million from last year, and includes $498 million specifically for suicide prevention. This funding includes multiple Blumenthal-championed bills, including the Veteran Peer Specialist Act to expand the highly successful peer specialist support program to all VA medical centers. In an effort to combat veteran-suicide, the program harnesses peer-to-peer relationships, helps veterans in-need access mental health services, and teaches them coping and positive health-affirming behaviors.
The legislation also includes Blumenthal’s Veterans Justice Outreach Improvement Act which expands and improves the Veterans Justice Outreach Program to identify justice-involved veterans, assess their needs, and connect them with VA benefits and services.
Investing in 21st Century VA Infrastructure: Blumenthal fought for funding in the bill that directs over $2 billion to support high priority projects, correct critical seismic and safety deficiencies, address other performance gaps at VA facilities, and ensure that veterans in Connecticut and across the country can access care in modern facilities that are safe, secure, sustainable, and accessible.
Paying Tribute to Service Animals: Blumenthal, sponsor of the National Service Animals Memorial Act, fought for a provision to authorize the creation of a memorial honoring and recognizing the contributions of service animals and their handlers to the public wellbeing, safety, and independence of Americans throughout our history.
Department of Homeland Security Programs
Investing in New London’s Coast Guard Museum: This measure includes $20 million for exhibits for the National Coast Guard Museum in New London. Blumenthal has long fought for museum funding to honor the Coast Guard’s history and the tens of thousands of men and women who have served.
Supporting First Responders: The omnibus includes $720 million for firefighter grant programs, including $360 million for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants and $360 million for Assistance to Firefighters Grants (AFG). Blumenthal has strongly advocated for these programs and heard about their importance directly from firefighters during his visits to departments around Connecticut.
Labor, Health & Human Services & Education Programs
Helping Families with Home Heating Costs: As families brace for rising home heating costs during the winter, the omnibus provides $5 billion in funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to assist households with lowering their heating bills and making cost-effective home energy repairs. Over the last few months, Blumenthal has joined his colleagues in calling on the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to release LIHEAP funds as swiftly and at the highest level possible.
Addressing the Mental Health Crisis: This legislation increases funding to improve mental health access and bolster our system of crisis care. These investments include $1.01 billion for the Mental Health Block Grant, $385 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, $130 million for Children’s Mental Health Services, and $140 million, for Project AWARE which will expand efforts to identify and help children and youth in need of mental health care. Finally, the bill invests $111 million for Department of Education programs designed to increase the availability of mental health services in schools, including by expanding training programs to prepare new school counselors, social workers, and psychologists. To address the national crisis in child and adolescent mental health, Blumenthal has called for more funding to expand the pediatric workforce with a focus on mental health and the impact of COVID-19.
Investing in Groundbreaking Medical Research: The legislation provides $47.5 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to advance and develop new therapies, diagnostics and preventive measures. The funding includes $226 million for Alzheimer’s diseases and related dementias, $150 million for the National Cancer Institute, and $88 million to address health disparities. The measure also includes $26 million in Blumenthal-championed funding for Lyme disease research and $565 million for antimicrobial resistance (AMR) research.
Preventing Opioid & Substance Misuse: The bill provides approximately $4.9 billion to address opioid abuse, including nearly $1.6 billion for states to address the opioid epidemic through the State Opioid Response Grant program, $505 million for opioid overdose surveillance and prevention at the CDC, $145 million to help affected rural communities, and $80 million to address the needs of children affected by the opioid crisis. Blumenthal called on appropriators to provide expanded funding for substance use disorder prevention, surveillance, and treatment in light of the continued scourge of the opioid epidemic.
Protecting Pregnant Workers from Discrimination: This omnibus includes the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a critical step towards preventing inexcusable discrimination against pregnant workers. The provision requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations for workers related to pregnancy, childbirth, or pregnancy-related conditions, and also protects pregnant workers from retaliation for requesting or using these accommodations. Blumenthal has exposed pregnancy discrimination in corporate America and strongly supported this provision to help put an end to such pernicious practices.
Expanding Health Care Access for Postpartum Parents and Children: This bill guarantees that every child in Medicaid and CHIP (40 million children nationwide) will have 12 months of continuous, stable coverage when they enroll. This will dramatically reduce disruptions in coverage and care for children and permanently extend a policy from the American Rescue Plan allowing states to provide 12 months of postpartum coverage to pregnant individuals in Medicaid and CHIP. To date, 27 states, including Connecticut, have implemented this important policy to support maternal health. Blumenthal has supported proposals to guarantee this continuous coverage for postpartum parents and their children.
Strengthening Social Security: The bill includes $14.1 billion, an increase of 6 percent and the largest increase in more than a decade, for the Social Security Administration’s administrative expenses. This funding will support the administration of benefits for over 70 million Americans, including processing over 8 million retirement and disability claims annually, which became backlogged as a result of the pandemic and underfunding.
Extending Telehealth Services: This legislation extends the telehealth benefits for Medicare beneficiaries first expanded during COVID for two additional years. Blumenthal has called for an extension of this important benefit.
Preventing & Addressing Gun Violence: The omnibus includes $12.5 million for gun violence prevention research at the CDC and NIH to study the epidemic of gun violence in communities across the country.
Funding the Firefighter Cancer Registry: This bill includes $5.5 million, an increase of $3 million, for the Firefighter Cancer Registry, which tracks cancer rates in an effort to improve workplace safety. In 2017, Blumenthal cosponsored legislation establishing the registry, an important step in addressing the occupational risks of firefighters and helping researchers look into cancer risks for our nation’s first responders. Blumenthal has called for reauthorizing the registry.
Strengthening Protections for Working Mothers: In 2010, the Break Time for Nursing Mothers law passed, providing critical protections for nursing mothers. However, an unintentional gap in the law left millions of working mothers unprotected. The omnibus includes provisions based on legislation Blumenthal cosponsors, the PUMP for Nursing Mothers Act, to extend these protections to cover salaried employees and others currently exempted from the law. The provisions also provide clarity for employers on when nursing mothers must be paid and provide methods of recourse for violations.
Finding Treatments and Cures for Brain Diseases: The bill includes $680 million for the Brain Research through Advancing Innovative Neurotechnologies (BRAIN) Initiative which supports efforts to develop cures and treatments for brain disorders including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autism, epilepsy, schizophrenia, depression, addiction, and traumatic brain injury. Blumenthal has long-led the call in advocating for enhanced resources for researchers.
Improving the Efficiency of Our Health Care System: The legislation includes over $373 million for the Agency on Health Care Research and Quality to study the delivery and efficiency of our health care system. For the first time ever, this funding also includes $10 million to study Long COVID. Blumenthal led efforts urging negotiators to include robust funding for the agency and has called for more resources and research into the impact of Long COVID.
Investing in Our Workforce: The bill includes $4.1 billion in funding for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) to help provide adult and youth training grants, registered apprenticeships, and Workforce Data Quality Initiative grants, among others. Blumenthal is a strong advocate for funding for WIOA and workforce innovation opportunities.
Supporting Older Americans & Individuals with Disabilities: The omnibus includes $2.5 billion for the Administration for Community Living to expand nutrition and family caregiver programs, fund home and community based supportive services, and promote strategies that enable older adults and people with disabilities to live in their communities. As a member of the Senate Special Committee on Aging, Blumenthal has long advocated for increased resources for seniors.
Supporting Special Olympics: The spending bill includes $36 million for Special Olympics education programs, an increase of $5 million over last fiscal year. Blumenthal has led efforts in the Senate to increase funding for the organization and its athletes across the country.
Energy and Environment Programs
Investing in the Army Corps: The bill includes $8.66 billion for investigations, construction, and operations and maintenance conducted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to enact its projects. This includes 16 projects throughout the state of Connecticut totaling more than $28 million.
Protecting the Connecticut River Basin: This legislation includes $6 million, an increase of $5 million from last year, for hydrilla control, research and demonstration work in the Connecticut River basin. It also encourages the Army Corps of Engineers to consider the benefits of establishing a rapid response task force to cover the multistate watershed. Blumenthal led a letter calling on Congress to address the eradication of invasive Hydrilla verticillata in over 65 miles of the Connecticut River and adjoining coves and tributaries.
Promoting Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology: Blumenthal fought for funding that will support Connecticut’s growing hydrogen and fuel cell industry. This includes $3.5 billion for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), $890 million for the Office of Fossil Energy and Carbon, $121 million Solid Oxide Fuel Cell Systems and Hydrogen, and $9.8 million for the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Loan Programs.
Preventing Exposure to PFAS: This legislation includes $5 million for agricultural programs to test soil, water, or agricultural products for per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) and a provision requiring for the assessment of PFAS in cosmetics. Blumenthal is a sponsor of the No PFAS in Cosmetics Act, legislation to ban the inclusion of PFAS chemicals in cosmetics products such as make-up, moisturizer, and perfume.
Protecting Connecticut’s Fish and Wildlife Refuge: The bill directs $3 million to the Silvio O. Conte National Fish and Wildlife Refuge. Covering parts of Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire, the Refuge conserves, protects, and enhances the abundance and diversity of native plant, fish and wildlife species and the ecosystems on which they depend throughout the 7.2 million-acre Connecticut River watershed.
Agriculture, Rural Development, and FDA Programs
Ensuring Access to Affordable, Nutritious Food: The omnibus includes major investments to ensure working families have access to affordable, nutrition food. Specifically, the bill includes $154 billion for the Supplemental Nutritional Insurance Program (SNAP), an increase of $13.4 billion over last year, $28.544 billion for Child Nutrition Programs including historic funding allowing schools to serve healthy meals, and $4 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to ensure over 4 million low-income women and children do not see their benefits reduced.
Interior & Environment Programs
Funding for the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument: This bill includes $2.5 million for wildlife and habitat management at Marine National Monuments, as well as expresses support for $1 million of this funding going to the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument. Blumenthal has long-supported the monument and was a leading voice in advocating for the designation of this first-ever Atlantic marine national monument to help preserve the rich biodiversity and marine ecosystem of the Atlantic Ocean.
Disaster Relief Programs
Strengthening Puerto Rico’s Infrastructure: This legislation includes $1.1 billion in funding for infrastructure damaged by Hurricanes Ian and Fiona. Specifically, the bill allocates $1 billion to improve the resiliency of Puerto Rico’s electric grid, especially for low- and moderate-income households and households with individuals with disabilities. Following Hurricane Fiona, Blumenthal called for a Major Disaster Declaration and urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to use funds in its Disaster Relief Fund to aid the island. In October, Blumenthal called on FEMA, the U.S. Department of Energy, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development to ensure a robust, resilient, and rebuilt electric grid on the island. Last month, Blumenthal joined his colleagues in urging the Department of Energy to assist with installing rooftop solar and storage projects for low-income households and households with people with disabilities on the island.
Consumer Protection & Commerce Programs
Preventing Injuries & Deaths from Furniture Tip-overs: The omnibus directs the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) to establish a standard preventing furniture tip-overs. Blumenthal is a sponsor of the Stop Tip-overs of Unstable, Risky Dressers on Youth (STURDY) Act, legislation to change the stability standard for manufacturers of clothing storage units from voluntary to mandatory and require companies ensure their products are tested for safety and stability before being sold.