ORLANDO, Fla. (FNN NEWS) – Congresswoman Val Demings (D-Orlando) is among the Florida congressional delegation that voted for the $1.3 trillion spending bill, while nine republicans and one democrat opposed it.
Congressman Darren Soto (D-Orlando) released a statement on the passage of the Omnibus Bill: “This spending bill leaves DREAMers behind, while putting $1.6 billion towards Trump’s divisive and unnecessary border wall and hundreds of millions more to deport their parents.”
congresswoman Val Demings statement
Today, Rep. Demings (FL-10) voted ‘Yes’ on the omnibus federal funding bill.
Said Rep. Demings, “Funding the federal government is the first responsibility of Congress. The omnibus spending bill is not perfect, but it keeps vital services running for the American people, and provides increased funding for medical research, critical education programs, workforce development training, infrastructure development, environmental programs and science-based research.
“In addition, our advocacy meant that several initiatives and priorities that I have fought for throughout the last year were included in the final draft. This includes funding for aviation security, election security, youth mentoring, minority business development and law enforcement mental health programs. I will continue working to ensure that our government is functional, fair, and compassionate.”
Each of the items below is an area in which Rep. Demings has advocated for increased federal support. Several highlighted items note significant wins for her.
Securing Our Nation & Communities
- Election Security – The Omnibus includes $380 million in new money for the Election Assistance Commission (EAC) to distribute to states as grants for the purpose of protecting election systems from cyber threats. The FBI will receive an additional $300 million for counterintelligence to combat Russian hacking. Rep. Demings serves on the Congressional Task Force on Election Security and has introduced legislation to provide additional resources to secure our elections.
- Aviation Security – The Omnibus includes $77,000,000 above the requested amount to maintain existing TSA staffing at airport exit lanes, as required by law, and an additional total includes $45,000,000 above the request to sustain the Law Enforcement Officer Reimbursement Program. In December, Rep. Demings led a letter, signed by 39 other Members of Congress, to House and Senate Appropriators urging that the Omnibus fully fund both items. It also includes $7.7 million for Customs & Border Patrol to hire 328 new Customs Officers, which will help alleviate the need for CBP to temporarily rotate CBPOs from Orlando International Airport to the Southwest Border crossings. Rep. Demings also previously cosponsored a bill to authorize the hiring of 500 new CBP officers annually.
- Minority Business Development Agency – The Omnibus includes $39 million for the MBDA, the only federal agency whose mission it is to promote the growth of minority-owned business. This is an increase from FY17 of $5 million, the amount that was added to the House-passed appropriations bill (H.R. 3354) by an amendment offered by Rep. Demings.
- Law Enforcement Mental Health – The Omnibus includes report language pointing out that grant funding administered by the COPS Office within DOJ can now be used by State, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to establish peer mentoring mental health and wellness pilot programs, as authorized by the recently passed the Law Enforcement Mental Health and Wellness Act (Public Law 115-113). Rep. Demings was a co-author of this legislation.
- DOJ Youth Mentoring – The Omnibus includes $94 million for grants that support the implementation, delivery, and enhancement of evidence–based mentoring services to improve outcomes and ensure that at–risk, high–risk, or underserved youth stay out of the juvenile justice system. Last year, Rep. Demings succeeded in offering an amendment to the House Appropriations bill to restore the overall funding level in the House-passed FY18 bill (H.R. 3354) to the FY17 level, an increase of $5 million above the amount in the House bill initially. The total in the Omnibus is an increase of $14 million beyond that.
- Disaster Response Overtime – The Omnibus incorporates all of the provisions of the Disaster Response Workforce Flexibility Act of 2017 (H.R. 4611), introduced by Rep. Demings in December to restore overtime pay to FEMA personnel responding to extraordinary disasters in 2017, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose, and Maria; the California and Montana wildfires; and other major storms. The bill addresses inequities in current law that legally restrict FEMA from paying additional overtime to hundreds of its employees. About 500 FEMA employees whose 2017 disaster response hours exceeded the statutory cap have been subject to wage garnishment. Those workers’ pay will be restored thanks to Demings’ bill being enacted as part of the Omnibus.
- Border Wall & ICE – The Omnibus includes $1.6 billion for physical barriers and technology along the Southwest border, which funds 47 miles of new barriers (using existing see-through fencing) plus 48 miles of replacement barriers. The Omnibus does NOT include language cutting off funding of so-called sanctuary jurisdictions, and does NOT include any funds for new detention beds to house undocumented immigrants or new ICE agents.
- Gun Violence Prevention – The Omnibus includes $75 million (+$2M from FY17) for grants to states to upgrade criminal and mental health records in the NICS Background Checks System. It includes the text of the “Fix NICS” Act, which is aimed at improving the accuracy and completeness of records reported to the system, but does not expand the instances in which a background check is required. It also includes a clarifying statement that the existing statutory language that prohibits the CDC from advocating for gun control does NOT prohibit the CDC from studying the CAUSES of gun violence.
Protecting Pathways to Prosperity
- K-12 Public Education – The Omnibus includes a $700 million increase (to $1.1 billion) for Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants that allow states to expand the use of technology in order to improve the academic achievement and digital literacy of all students. It includes a $300 million increase for Title I Grants to Schools and a $275 million increase for Special Education Part B State Grants (IDEA). It also includes for $1.2 billion (+$20 million from FY17) for 21st Century Community Learning Centers that provide before- and after-school programming, and which the President’s budget sought to eliminate.
- Job Training – The Omnibus includes $1.2 billion for career and technical education programs, a $75 million increase over current funding. Apprenticeship programs will increase by $75 million. $2.8 billion for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Grants to States (worker training programs for adults, youth and dislocated workers), which is $80 million more than the FY17 level. $1.7 billion for Job Corps, which is $15 million more than the FY17 enacted level. $295 million for Veterans Employment and Training, which is $16 million more than the FY17 enacted level.
- Higher Education – The Omnibus increases the maximum Pell Grant to $6,095, a $175 increase. It also creates a $350 million fund to provide relief for public service employees with student loans that are otherwise ineligible for the PSLF program. Some in Congress have sought to eliminate the entire program.
- National Service – The Omnibus includes level funding for the Corporation for national and Community Service, and $412 million (+$26M from FY17) for AmeriCorp State & National Grants.
- Child Care Block Grant – The Omnibus includes a $2.37 billion increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program, the highest discretionary funding for the program ever.
- Affordable Housing – Includes a $808 million increase for the Public Housing Capital Fund, which will cut down the backlog of unmet renovation needs. It also includes a $250 million increase for HOME Investment Partnerships, $176 million increase for Housing for the Elderly, $85 million increase for Housing for the Disabled, and $90 million increase for Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes.
- Energy Bill Help – Includes $3.64B (+$250M from FY17) for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides vital assistance during both the cold winter and hot summer months that helps low-income families and seniors to use more of their scarce resources to meet other basic needs.
Investing in Our Infrastructure & Environment
- Infrastructure – The Omnibus includes $2.525 billion in new funding for highway formula grants; $1 billion increase for the National Infrastructure Investment (TIGER) grants program; $232 million increase for subway, light rail, and commuter rail transit systems; and a $446.6 million increase for Amtrak. It includes a $305 million increase for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), which the President’s budget sought to eliminate.
- Army Corps FL – Includes $107 million for construction of the South Florida ecosystem restoration project. Also includes $1.47 million for Canaveral Harbor operations and maintenance.
- Brownfields – Reauthorizes the EPA program that provides grants and technical assistance to communities to assess, safely clean up, sustainably reuse contaminated properties, and provides $80 million for these grants. It also includes $721 for the Hazardous Substance Superfund cleanup programs, and increase of $3 million above the FY17 amount.
- Climate Research – Increases funding for Coastal Science, Assessment, Response, and Restoration activities to $75.4 million, an increase of $2.8 million, and slightly increases, from $10 to $13 million, funding for Coastal Science and Assessment competitive grants. Among other activities, these programs support research by NOAA and its academic, state, tribal, non-profit, industry, and local partners as they develop harmful algal bloom forecasts.