Durbin says Metro East priorities included in newly passed omnibus spending bill

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Illinois, says Metro East is among beneficiaries of what he said is an imperfect spending bill passed in the final days of the Senate session.

Durbin, a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the Consolidated and Further Appropriations Act of 2015 goes to the president for his signature, which is expected. The House approved it earlier.

“I’m disappointed Speaker Boehner and the House Republicans felt compelled to give what amounts to a taxpayer handout to Wall Street just in time for the holidays,” said Durbin. “By attaching odious provisions that undo important financial reforms, Speaker Boehner gave us all a preview of the special treatment Republicans plan to give their special interest friends next year. Instead of allowing these 11th hour riders to sink a funding bill that otherwise reflected months of bipartisan negotiations, I voted today in favor of the dozens of job-creating Illinois projects this bill will fund. From important research at our national laboratories to highway construction projects throughout our state, this bill keeps America’s economic growth on track.”

The following projects, programs, and provisions — listed with the cities, towns or regions they primarily impact — will benefit Illinois:

Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Appropriations

Department of Transportation

· TIGER Grant Program, Statewide / Nationwide: $500 million in nationwide funding for the Transportation Infrastructure Grants and Economic Reinvestment (TIGER) grant program allows local communities to apply directly to the DOT for funding of nationally significant transportation projects. This program is especially helpful to communities engaged in multimodal projects that improve connections to different transportation networks. Several projects have been funded under the TIGER grant program in Illinois including: The Normal Multimodal Transportation Center, the Peoria Warehouse District, the CREATE project and the Tri-City Port in Madison County Illinois.

· Amtrak, Statewide / Nationwide: $1.4 billion in nationwide funding for Amtrak. By providing adequate funding to Amtrak, more than 500 communities in 46 states across the country will continue to see improved passenger rail service.

· Highway Investments, Statewide / Nationwide: $40.3 billion in nationwide funding for the Federal Highway program. This funding is at the MAP-21 fully authorized level. Federal funding comprises over 50% of the funds included in the Illinois Department of Transportation’s multi-year highway improvement program.

· Transit Investments, Statewide / Nationwide: $8.8 billion in nationwide funding for formula funded accounts. This funding is at the MAP-21 fully authorized level.

· Core Capacity Program, Chicago / Nationwide: $120 million for a competitive grant program Senator Durbin created as part of the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act (MAP-21) which was signed into law in 2012. This program establishes a new category for capital investment projects by authorizing core capacity projects, like the planned rebuilding of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA)’s Red and Purple Lines.

· Airport Investments, Statewide / Nationwide: $3.35 billion in nationwide funding for capital investments grants at airports around the country. Federal aid funding supports airport improvement projects around the state of Illinois including the O’Hare Modernization Program at O’Hare International Airport, noise mitigation measures at Midway International Airport, runway improvements at Chicago / Rockford International Airport and Quad City International Airport and safety improvements at Peoria International Airport.

· Essential Air Service, Marion / Decatur / Quincy / Nationwide: $261 million in nationwide funding for the Essential Air Service program which was established by Congress in 1978 to ensure communities with commercial air service before airline deregulation could continue scheduled flights. Without this program many rural communities would have no commercial air service at all, and residents of smaller cities would have to travel significant distances for flights. In Illinois, Marion, Decatur and Quincy will be able to continue in the Essential Air Service program under this appropriation level and under the reforms that were included in the FAA Reauthorization bill. All three Illinois communities have shown steady increases in ridership and subsequently, steady decreases in the subsidy levels over the past three years.

· FAA Contract Towers, Statewide / Nationwide: The omnibus fully funds the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)’s contract tower program, and includes bill language that protects the program against cuts. Under a year-long continuing resolution, the contract tower program would be vulnerable. This past year, in order to live within the budget constraints of a full-year continuing resolution and sequestration, the FAA imposed drastic cuts to its contract tower program and tried to shut down 149 towers across the country. These cuts would have potentially shut down air traffic control towers at Bloomington-Normal, Marion and Carbondale and other airports.

Department of Housing and Urban Development

· Fair Housing Initiatives Program, Statewide / Nationwide: $40.1 million in nationwide funding for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program which aims to assist people who believe they have been victims of housing discrimination. In 2013, six organizations and service centers in Illinois received funds to assist individuals and families facing housing discrimination.

· Homeless Assistance Grants, Statewide / Nationwide: $2.1 billion in nationwide funding to maintain services for those currently receiving homeless assistance and to promote communitywide commitment to the goal of ending homelessness.

· Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS, Statewide / Nationwide: $330 million in nationwide funding for the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) program which provides housing assistance and related supportive services to local units of government, States and non-profit organizations for projects that benefit low-income persons medically diagnosed with HIV/AIDS and their families. In Fiscal Year 2014, Illinois communities received more than $11 million in HOPWA funds.

· Community Development Block Grant, Statewide / Nationwide: $3 billion in nationwide funding for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program which provides annual grants to states and local governments to develop viable urban communities by providing decent housing and a suitable living environment and by expanding economic opportunities principally for low and moderate income persons. CDBG funding is an important tool for helping local governments to tackle serious challenges facing their communities. The $150 million Illinois communities received in Fiscal Year 2014 went towards helping organizations like Skokie’s Turning Point Behavioral Health Care Center plan for a facility to provide social services to the homeless.

· HOME Program, Statewide / Nationwide: $900 million in nationwide funding for the HOME program which helps to expand the supply of decent, affordable housing to low-income and very low-income families by providing grants to state and local governments to fund housing programs that meet local needs and priorities. HOME is the largest federal block grant to state and local governments designed exclusively to create affordable housing for low-income households. In Fiscal Year 2014, Illinois communities received more than $43 million. The HOME program helped fund Chicago’s first LGBT-friendly senior housing development, Town Hall Apartments, which opened in October 2014.

· Security for Public Housing Authorities, East St. Louis: Report language setting aside $23 million for emergency capital needs including safety and security measures necessary to address crime and drug-related activity at public housing authorities. The report language stresses the importance of using funds to protect housing authority residents. Durbin requested this language to ensure funding is available to housing authorities facing high rates of violent crime like the East St. Louis Housing Authority.

Energy and Water Appropriations

Army Corps of Engineers

· Metro East Levees, Metro East: Report language was included to establish third party oversight of the Army Corps of Engineers while they work to fix the portions of the Wood River Levee that have been negatively impacted by a design deficiency in the construction of the Melvin Price Dam.

· Wood River Levee, Wood River: $50,000 in funding to continue design and potentially construction of levee improvements to provide the authorized level of protection it provides during a flood. The project is located in the Mississippi River floodplain of Madison County, upstream of the city of East St. Louis.

· East St. Louis Levees, East St. Louis: $50,000 in funding for the design, construction and rehabilitation of levees that provide flood protection to 200,000 residents and over $1 billion in economic value.

· Calumet Harbor and River, Chicago: $2.523 million in funding for operations and maintenance of the Calumet Harbor breakwaters. Repairs to the navigation structures are critical for the safe towing of river barges between Calumet Harbor and three Indiana ports. An additional $200,000 was included for construction work at the Harbor.

· Carlyle Lake, Carlyle: $5.680 million in funding for operations and maintenance at Carlyle Lake, the largest man-made lake in Illinois, with over 26,000 acres of water and 11,000 acres of public land. Funding is needed to provide flood control, water quality control, and water supply to nearby communities as well as recreation and fish and wildlife conservation. The lake was critical to maintaining water levels on the Mississippi River during recent historic low water events. This project is situated in Clinton, Fayette, Bond, and Marion Counties.

· Chicago Harbor, Chicago: $2.675 million in funding for operation and maintenance of the Chicago Lock, used by commercial towboat and deep draft barges and well as government, passenger and recreational vessels.

· Chicago Ship and Sanitary Canal Aquatic Nuisance Species Barrier System, Chicago: $29 million in funding to continue operation of the barrier system to eliminate invasive aquatic nuisance species such as the Asian carp and to continue construction of permanent barriers.

· Farm Creek Reservoirs, East Peoria: $370,000 in funding for continued operation of two dry reservoirs along tributary streams of the Illinois River. This system provides necessary flood control for East Peoria.

· Illinois River Basin Restoration, Peoria: $400,000 in funding to continue planning and construction to restore and conserve the ecological integrity of the Illinois River, including the reduction of sediment delivery, restoring side channels and backwaters, restoring floodplain riparian and aquatic habitat and function, and improving water and sediment quality.

· Interbasin Control of Great Lakes-Mississippi River Aquatic Nuisance Species, Chicago: $500,000 in funding to continue a study, including consultations with appropriate Federal, State, local and non-governmental agencies, on the range of options and technologies to prevent the inter-basin transfer of aquatic nuisance species.

· Kaskaskia River Navigation, Central Illinois: $1.988 million in funding to ensure operation of the lock and dam. This project serves navigation, recreation, fish and wildlife and habitat restoration functions.

· Lake Shelbyville, Shelbyville: $5.658 million in funding to provide dam maintenance, flood control, water supply, recreation, conservation of fish and wildlife, and water quality control and augment navigation flows downstream on the Kaskaskia River.

· McCook and Thornton Reservoirs, Chicago: $18.5 million in funding for continued construction of the McCook Reservoir in the Chicago Underflow Plan. This project benefits the City of Chicago and 36 suburban communities by reducing untreated sewage back flow into Lake Michigan and reducing basement flooding by protecting nearly 150,000 structures.

· Rend Lake, Rend Lake: $6.072 million in funding to provide flood control, water supply, recreation, conservation of fish and wildlife, and area redevelopment. This project is located near Benton, Illinois, in Franklin and Jefferson Counties.

· Upper Mississippi River Restoration, Western Illinois: $33.170 million in funding for continued ecosystem restoration along the Upper Mississippi River.

Department of Energy

· Basic Energy Science, Argonne / Nationwide: $1.6 billion in nationwide funding for the Office of Science’s Basic Energy Science account which is Argonne National Laboratory’s largest single-source funding source, and accounts for approximately 40% of the lab’s funding;

· Energy Innovation Hub for Batteries and Energy Storage: $24.2 million for the Energy Innovation Hub for Batteries and Energy Storage. In November 2012, Argonne National Laboratory was selected to receive an award of up to $120 million over five years to create the Hub, also known as the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), which is a partnership including University of Chicago, the University of Illinois, the City of Chicago, and private firms and townships in Illinois. The project will establish Illinois as a leader in a multi-billion dollar, developing industry that has potential to stimulate substantial employment and economic growth.

· Advanced Scientific Computing Research: $541 million in funding for the Office of Science’s Advanced Scientific Computing Research account, which supports Argonne’s National Laboratory’s supercomputer initiatives;

· Leadership Computing Facility: $80.3 million for the operations of Argonne’s Leadership Computing Facility;

· Exascale Computing Initiative: $141 million for the DOE’s Exascale Computing Initiative. Durbin is a lead sponsor of the ExaSCALE Computing Leadership Act of 2013, which would speed the development of computers that are faster than 50 million laptops combined. The new technology would be useful in computation-intensive research areas such as physics, earth science, national security, biology, engineering, climate modeling, aerospace and energy.

· High Energy Physics: $766 million in funding for the Office of Science’s High Energy Physics account which is the primary source of funding for Fermilab, and accounts for approximately 90 percent of the lab’s funding;

· Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment: $22 million in funding is included for the Long Baseline Neutrino Experiment, a primary focus at Fermilab. Research in neutrinos represents the next frontier of particle physics.

· The Muon to Electron Experiment: $25 million in funding is included for the Muon to Electron Experiment which could result in the development of a revolutionary technology in the field.

· Superconducting Radio-Frequency (SRF) Accelerator Research: $23 million is included to develop new technologies that will be used across the DOE national laboratory system to build more-powerful detection tools and instruments

· Uranium & Thorium Cleanup, West Chicago: $10 million for the Department of Energy’s Title X program, which pays contractors to clean up legacy defense sites across the country, including the site in West Chicago. The Committee has also included language that directs the Department of Energy to provide funding for the program in future budgets.

Military Construction and Veterans Affairs Appropriations

Department of the Army

· Army Family Housing, Rock Island Arsenal: $19.5 million to construct 33 single family housing units at Rock Island Arsenal. These units will replace family housing units that have exceeded their useful and economic life. Without these new homes, service members relocating to the Arsenal would not be able to find adequate, affordable units within the housing market area.

Department of Veterans Affairs

· Caregivers Initiative: $306 million to expand benefits and services for caregivers to include health care and mental health services, training adapted to the veterans’ individual care needs, and a direct stipend payment. These initiatives are leading to retention of better trained and more qualified caregivers, thus enhancing long-term care provided to veterans. The Family Caregiver Program was created by a Durbin-authored provision in the Caregivers and Veterans Omnibus Health Services Act of 2009 which was enacted May 5, 2010 and directed the VA to begin providing caregiver support by January 30, 2011.

Labor, Health and Human Services and Education Appropriations

Department of Health and Human Services

· Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education, Chicago / Nationwide: $265 million in nationwide funding to children’s hospitals for residency programs that train the pediatric workforce. Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago, Illinois has previously benefitted from this program.

· Community Health Centers, Statewide / Nationwide: $$1.492 billion for Community Health Centers, that when combined with mandatory funding included in the Affordable Care Act, results in a total of $5.092 billion in nationwide funding for the Community Health Centers grant program.

Department of Education

· Head Start, Statewide / Nationwide: $8.6 billion in nationwide funding for Head Start to promote school readiness of children from low-income families. Of that funding, $500 million will be set aside to expand the Early Head Start program and for new discretionary grants for high quality infant and toddler care.

· Impact Aid, North Chicago / Nationwide: $1.3 billion in nationwide funding for Impact Aid, including $66.8 million for Federal property payments. This program provides assistance to school districts that have lost tax revenue due to tax-exempt federal properties or that experience increased expenditures due to the enrollment of federally connected children, such as those living on military installations. This funding is critical for school districts in Illinois such as the North Shore School District who enroll hundreds of children from nearby military installations.

· Pell Grant, Statewide / Nationwide: With funding under the bill, the maximum Pell grant for 2014-2015 is estimated to be $5,830. That is an increase of $100 over the previous year. Pell Grants help keep college within reach for millions of low income students each year, including nearly 400,000 Illinois students in 2011-12.

Agriculture Appropriations

Department of Agriculture

· Plant Health, Tree and Wood Pests, Statewide / Nationwide: $54 million to help identify and contain wood-boring pests threatening tree health across the country, 19 of which have been detected in the past decade, including the Emerald Ash Borer. Included in the funding are resources to identify and contain Emerald Ash Borer infestations and to increase public awareness of the threat in Illinois and 14 other states.

Food and Drug Administration

· Food Safety Modernization Act Implementation, Nationwide: an increase of $27 million for implementation of the Food Safety Modernization Act. This funding increase will allow FDA to improve compliance and inspection programs and allow FDA to invest in tools to significantly cut the time it takes to respond to complex food safety issues. Senator Durbin’s Food Safety Modernization Act was first introduced in 2008 and the bill was signed into law in January 2011. When the bill was introduced, 48 million Americans suffer from preventable foodborne illness each year. FDA is still in the process of implementing the improved requirements included in the bill.

Financial Services and General Government Appropriations

· Consumer Product Safety Commission, Nationwide: $123 million in nationwide funding for the nation’s leading consumer protection watchdog in its work to protect the public from unreasonable risks of serious injury or death from thousands of types of consumer products. The bill also directs the Commission to ensure any future upholstered furniture flammability standard does not require or result in increased use of flame retardant chemicals. In 2012, the Commission released a study that indicates that flame retardant chemicals, as currently used in upholstered furniture foam, have no practical impact on flammability. In July 2012, Durbin chaired a hearing on the safety and effectiveness of flame retardant chemicals, following a Chicago Tribune four-part investigative report on flame retardant chemicals and furniture flammability standards which explored the role of Big Tobacco and their attempt to shift the focus from cigarettes as the cause of fire deaths. Chemical companies, which sought to preserve a lucrative market for their products, teamed with the tobacco industry and state fire marshals to steer policymakers away from developing fire-safe cigarette standards and toward rules requiring furniture flammability standards.

Commerce, Justice and Science Appropriations

Department of Justice

· Thomson Prison: Includes the full amount of capital and operating needs to continue the opening of the prison. BOP given the funding necessary to allocate $43.7 million for equipment and staffing as well as $15 million for modernization and repairs for the building.

· Preventing Gun Violence, Chicago / Statewide / Nationwide: $1.1 billion, an increase of $53 million, in nationwide funding to enhance efforts to protect our communities from gun violence. This includes $798 million, an increase of $22 million, for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to enforce gun laws, trace crime guns, investigate illegal gun trafficking and keep schools safe. The bill also provides $142 million, an increase of $13 million, to the Federal Bureau of Investigation to run instant criminal background checks for gun purchases; provides $73 million in grants for states to improve submission of criminal and mental health records to the background check database; and provides $75 million for a comprehensive school safety initiative to help schools conduct safety assessments.

· Addressing the Heroin Crisis, Statewide / Nationwide: $7 million for a new program within the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) office for competitive grants to anti-heroin task forces.

· Second Chance Act Prisoner Reentry Programs, Chicago / Statewide / Nationwide: $68 million for prisoner reentry programs pursuant to the Second Chance Act of 2007, in addition to $27.5 million for criminal justice reform and recidivism reduction efforts.

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