Lowey Touts Lower Hudson Valley and New York Funding Priorities in Year-End Government Spending Bill

December 18, 2015
Press Release

Rail and Public Safety, Early- and Higher Education, Child Care, and Biomedical Research Funding Increases Benefit Westchester and Rockland

Health Care Benefits for 9/11 Survivors Reauthorized

WHITE PLAINS/NEW CITY, NY – Congresswoman Nita M. Lowey (Westchester/Rockland), the Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee, today highlighted items included in the Fiscal Year 2016 omnibus spending bill (omnibus), a $1.1 trillion year-end measure passed by the U.S. House of Representatives to fund the federal government, that benefit Westchester, Rockland, and New York State.

“New Yorkers send more than our fair share of tax dollars to Washington,” said Lowey. “As Ranking Member on the House Appropriations Committee with responsibility for negotiating this year-end government spending package, I fought hard to ensure Lower Hudson Valley priorities were included. Increased federal investments in rail and public safety, early- and higher education, and medical research will strengthen our region. I will continue fighting each and every day to keep our economy strong, create local jobs, and improve the quality of life for residents in Westchester and Rockland.”

Rail Safety
In the omnibus, new railroad safety grants are funded at $50 million, $25 million of which available for Positive Train Control (PTC) and $25 million for rail infrastructure. The new Northeast Corridor Capital Grants are funded at $19.2 million in addition to $1.39 billion for Amtrak. Lowey also fought to reverse a $251 million cut to Amtrak.

“We must invest in the safety of our commuter railways to avoid fatal accidents. This is especially true for the heavily-traveled Northeast Corridor.”

Rail Grade Crossing Safety
The omnibus includes Lowey’s amendment to increase to $350 million the set-aside for grade crossing improvements in the Highway Safety Improvement Program, giving state highway departments additional resources to make upgrades and safety improvements at dangerous crossings. The spending bill also includes a Lowey provision to set aside $6.5 million for the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) to develop a high-visibility enforcement paid-media campaign that supports highway-rail grade crossing safety.

“The tragic Metro-North accident in Valhalla and subsequent near misses make clear we simply weren’t doing enough to protect travelers at dangerous railroad crossings. I’ve been working with federal officials to find solutions to what has become a recurring safety threat in my district and nationwide.”

Crude by Rail Oil Safety
Lowey successfully included an amendment in the omnibus to direct the Department of Energy to examine methods to reduce the volatility of crude oil prior to shipment.

“Dozens of tank cars carrying explosive crude oil pass through Rockland County each day, threatening homes, schools, and businesses near the tracks. No one should have to live with dangerously explosive materials rumbling through their back yards.”

Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority
The Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that facilitates the development and purchase of vaccines and therapies to combat public health emergencies, will receive an increase of $96.7 million in the omnibus. Companies in the Lower Hudson Valley have benefitted from BARDA: The agency entered into a $38 million agreement with Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Tarrytown to develop, test, and manufacture a therapy for the treatment of Ebola virus infection; and Protein Sciences has invested millions of dollars through a partnership with BARDA to manufacture a modern flu vaccine. Protein Sciences is expected to hire upwards of 70 new employees to support increased production resulting from FDA approval earlier this year to manufacture the vaccine at the company’s Pearl River facility.

“This is a serious investment in our public health infrastructure that could benefit Lower Hudson Valley biomedical research companies.”

Ebola Reimbursement
Lowey secured language in the omnibus directing HHS to work with local hospitals that shouldered the costs of preparing for Ebola patients, but were not reimbursed for their financial sacrifice. Under her provision, hospitals will be eligible to receive partial reimbursement for the costs of renovations and alterations in preparation for Ebola patients.

“During the Ebola outbreak, area hospitals worked around the clock to prepare for the worst case scenario. Not only must we ensure our public health community has the resources to prevent and respond to any outbreak, but we should also help local hospitals cover the costs of being prepared to combat deadly diseases.”

James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act
There are more than 30,000 responders and survivors who have an illness or injury caused by the 9/11 terrorist attacks. After a lapse in authorization, the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Reauthorization Act – on which Lowey was an original co-sponsor – was included in the omnibus, reviving two programs: The World Trade Center (WTC) Health Program and the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.

“There’s no reasonable explanation for the shameful delay in extending health care and benefits to survivors and first responders who risked their lives to save others on 9/11. I will continue working to deliver the treatments these brave men and women deserve.”

Child Care and Early Education
The omnibus provides more working families with access to child care services by increasing child care funding by $326 million, and invests in early education for students in need by increasing Head Start by $570 million.  Last year, Head Start programs served almost one million children and their families nationwide, including more than 3,000 in Westchester and Rockland counties and 50,000 across New York.

“Access to quality, affordable child care for young children in need is vitally important for working families in New York, and the federal Head Start and Early Head Start programs give children the best opportunity to prepare for school and build a foundation for healthy and successful lives.”

Higher Education
The omnibus provides $22.5 billion for Pell Grants. Combined with mandatory funding, these discretionary funds will enable the maximum grant to increase to an estimated $5,915, an additional $140 for the 2016-2017 school year. More than 20,000 students who attend college in New York’s 17th Congressional District, which includes parts of Westchester and all of Rockland, received Pell Grants worth almost $80 million during the 2014-2015 school year. New York students received approximately $2 billion in Pell Grants.

“Pell Grants are essential for students seeking to finance their college education and obtain a good-paying job. Some students work two or three jobs to help pay for college, while supporting a family. We must continue investing more in our students.”

National Institutes of Health
The omnibus funds the National Institutes of Health (NIH) at $32 billion, which is $2 billion above the 2015 enacted level, and includes specific research increases for a host of diseases, such as Alzheimer’s disease. It also provides a general increase to all NIH Institutes and Centers to continue basic biomedical research and translational research. NIH contributes approximately $2 billion to the New York economy each year by funding biomedical research grants that conduct cutting edge research and yield life-saving results.

“The Lower Hudson Valley has a high concentration of biomedical research companies that are working on groundbreaking medicines and treatments for some of the most horrible diseases. Funding for the National Institutes of Health has nearly tripled since I joined the subcommittee that funds medical research. I will continue fighting for federal investments that fuel this regional engine for growth.”

Countering Violent Extremism/Terrorist Attacks
The omnibus includes a general provision for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to make available $50 million in new grants to state and local governments to combat terrorist activity. Ten million dollars in grants will be set aside to counter violent extremism, and $39 million in grants will support preparedness for complex, coordinated terrorist attacks. 

“The terrorist attacks in Paris and San Bernardino underscored the need to ensure states and localities are prepared and vigilant. We must do all we can to prevent the next tragedy on our soil, especially a high-value target like our metro region.”