Chairman Price FY2021 T-HUD Full Committee Appropriations Bill Opening Statement

July 14, 2020
Press Release

Chairman David Price

Opening Statement

Full Committee Markup of the FY 2021 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Bill

July 14th, 2020

 

Good afternoon, everyone.  After two rounds, I know you’re all excited for the main event.  I am proud to present the Fiscal Year 2021 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. 

 

Before I mention some of the bill’s highlights, I’d like to once again thank Ranking Member Mario Diaz-Balart for his partnership and collaboration.  I’d also like to thank full committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey for her steady leadership, Ranking Member Kay Granger, and all the members of this committee from both sides of the aisle who contributed their ideas to help shape this bill.

 

Finally, I’d like to recognize our excellent professional staff.  Our majority clerk, Joe Carlile, has done a terrific job, and he also benefits from a great team: Gladys Barcena, Winnie Chang, Jo Eckert, Sarah Puro, Angela Ohm, and Becky Salay.  We’re lucky to have Doug Disrud, our minority clerk, and his colleague Alyssa Hinman.  I’d also like to thank Sean Maxwell of my personal staff and Chris Sweet from Mr. Diaz-Balart’s personal office.  We appreciate all your hard work these past few months.

 

Overview

This year’s THUD bill represents a renewed commitment to improve safety, produce more affordable housing, upgrade our aging transportation infrastructure, and bolster our nation’s resiliency to a changing climate.  At the same time, as COVID continues to sweep across the country, we ensure that vulnerable populations—homeless youth, veterans, communities of color, domestic violence survivors, the elderly and disabled—remain at the forefront of our efforts. 

 

The bill includes $75.9 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $1.6 billion over the FY 2020 enacted level and $16.7 billion above the President’s budget request.  We’re grateful for a healthy allocation and more than $3 billion in offsetting receipts, which allows us to make real progress for our nation’s housing and transportation infrastructure.

 

Separately, the bill also includes major increases in contract authority for formula programs that draw resources from the Highway Trust Fund rather than direct appropriations: an increase of $14.7 billion for highways and $5.8 billion for transit compared to last year’s levels.  This is consistent with the INVEST in America Act, which passed the House as part of H.R. 2 on July 1st.  

 

Program Highlights

On the housing side of the ledger, we provide increases of $100 million for CDBG and $350 million for HOME to help spur community revitalization and the production of new affordable housing.

 

We fully renew all Housing Choice Vouchers to keep people stably housed; provide $250 million for new vouchers targeted to homeless families and other at-risk individuals; and increase Homeless Assistance Grants by approximately 23% over last year’s level, the largest increase in over a decade.  The bill includes an 11% increase for the Public Housing Capital Fund and new set-asides within that fund to address urgent health and safety issues.

 

The bill also does right by transportation.  All modes receive robust funding including highways, transit, rail, aviation, bike & pedestrian projects, and ports.  Amtrak receives more than $2 billion; the heavily oversubscribed BUILD program receives $1 billion, equal to last year; and the popular CRISI program for passenger and freight rail improvements is funded at $500 million, a very deliberate increase of more than 50% compared to last year. 

 

We provide sufficient resources for FTA’s Capital Investment Grants to ensure all projects in the pipeline can move forward, and we provide nearly half a billion dollars for discretionary grants for buses, bus facilities, and the “Low-No” emission program to allow transit agencies to recapitalize their aging fleets. 

 

We also renew our emphasis on safety activities at FAA—an imperative in the wake of the 737 MAX disasters—and across DOT by providing targeted funding to boost certification and enforcement and hire highly-skilled personnel.  Safety must always remain our top priority.

 

Emergency Title

There are more highlights, but I’ll stop there.  These investments will take us forward, but our nation is facing an infrastructure crisis—and that term isn’t hyperbole.  Under the leadership of Chairwoman Lowey, I have included an emergency title that provides an additional $75 billion for infrastructure investments to revitalize our transportation networks, jumpstart affordable housing production, and further reduce the disgraceful public housing capital backlog. 

 

Some may object to the costs or think it inappropriate to designate this as emergency spending.  But to them I ask, what is the cost of continued inaction for our economy and our communities?  While members of both parties bemoan crumbling infrastructure, this legislation is an opportunity to prove that Congress—if not the administration—is serious about addressing this issue, particularly as we contemplate the transition from pandemic to full recovery.

 

Equity and Resiliency

Finally, I want to underscore that the funding in this bill and the accompanying report promote equity and resiliency for all communities.  We set-aside funding for areas of persistent poverty; provide dedicated funding for DOT and HUD to offer more technical assistance to grantees that need it; and boost funding for programs that expand opportunity, from housing counseling to workforce development to minority internship programs.

 

The bill also seeks to protect taxpayer dollars by incorporating resiliency principles into the many DOT and HUD programs that help shape our communities.  This means building smarter by requiring all-hazards mitigation and the use of updated building codes.  The bill also includes nearly $5 billion in dedicated funding to make water and energy efficiency improvements and ensure properties are more resilient in the face of natural disasters.

 

Closing

In closing, the departments and programs funded by the THUD bill are integral to our way of life – housing and transportation connect us to jobs, services, and education.  Yet every day, our constituents see the consequences of inadequate investment in our housing and transportation infrastructure.  Natural disasters are increasing in severity and number, exacerbated by accelerating climate change.  Meanwhile, COVID-19 is ravaging communities, revealing and deepening existing disparities.  This bill does its part to meet these challenges head on.

 

Again, I’d like to thank Ranking Member Diaz-Balart, as well as my colleagues on the committee from both sides of the aisle.  I look forward to working together to enact this legislation into law.