Massive D.C. spending bill will keep NY-NJ Gateway Project alive, anti-terror funds flowing to NYPD
But fails DREAMers, misses healthcare fix, says Velázquez
The bipartisan $1.3 trillion spending package hashed out in Congress Wednesday evening includes a number of provisions affecting Brooklyn and the New York City area.
The omnibus bill will keep the government in operation until September, if Congress passes it this week.
In the bill, Homeland Security anti-terror funds will be continue to be directed to the NYPD for training, equipment and other security purposes, despite President Donald Trump’s threats to cut them.
In addition, partial funding has been allocated to expand the Northeast Corridor rail connection between Newark and NYC, known as the Gateway project. The expansion was called the “most vital piece of infrastructure that needs to be built in the United States” by President Barack Obama, but it is opposed by Trump. The existing two-track line used by both Amtrak and New Jersey Transit has reached full capacity.
The Gateway project was backed by Brooklyn U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan, chair of the Emergency Preparedness Subcommittee (Bay Ridge – Staten Island), who said in a statement on Thursday that he was “very happy with the compromise reached” on its partial funding.
While money for specific projects, or “earmarks,” were banned in 2010, Congress, with input from representatives, allocates money to agencies for different programs. A spokesperson for Donovan told the Brooklyn Eagle that $388 million is allocated in the omnibus bill for a Northeast Corridor account and $153 million to two State Transportation Agency programs associated with the project. Future funding streams remain to be negotiated.
Donovan also applauded the $630 million in Urban Areas Security Initiative grants for homeland security, calling it “sorely needed to protect the world’s top terror target.”
Roughly $180 million of this goes towards the Urban Areas Security Initiative. Last year, New York City received $178 million from UASI to train first responders, invest in chemical/biological/nuclear weapons detection equipment, maintain the state-of-the-art Domain Awareness System and more. In addition, the Transit Security Grant Program and the Port Security Grant Program received $100 million each in the omnibus. FEMA’s Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program was also funded.
Donovan also pushed for funding for NUSTL, the National Urban Security Training Lab in Manhattan, which was slated to close. The bill contains $3.4 million for the facility.
Additional money is dedicated to combat the opioid crisis. According to the NYC Department of Health, from 2000 to 2015, rates of overdose death from opioids increased 300 percent in the city. Brooklyn was the focus of the city’s 2017 opioid information campaign.
Another measure would allow parents of autistic children track their location using a monitor attached to their wrist, ankle or clothing, a measure backed by U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Schumer introduced the bill in response to the tragic 2014 death of Avonte Oquendo, a non-verbal boy with autism, who disappeared from his Long Island City school.
The bill also includes a measure — “Fix NICS” — calling for state and federal authorities to report more data to the FBI’s National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). The measure is backed by both Republicans and Democrats.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez, however, said in a statement on Thursday that she voted against the bill because it “continues to fund Trump’s deportation machine, while failing to offer a solution for the young DREAMers who are American in every way but on paper. Moreover, the bill does not include needed fixes to our healthcare system, which have received bipartisan support.”
Omnibus bills cover a broad range of spending categories, eliminating the need for separate votes. More than half of the $1.3 trillion — roughly $700 billion — would go to national defense. This is an increase of almost $70 billion, or ten percent.
President Donald Trump expressed support for the bill in an e-blast to followers, who touted it as providing “the largest pay raise for American troops in a decade;” more than 100 miles of new construction for the “border wall” and “key priorities at home.” Service members would receive a 2.4 percent pay raise under the bill.
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