Senate Advances "Minibus" Spending Bills with Illinois Priorities Secured by Durbin, Duckworth

The package includes Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development for Fiscal Year 2024

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) announced that the United States Senate passed three funding bills known as a “minibus” for Agriculture, Rural Development, and Related Agencies; Military Construction and Veterans Affairs; and Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development for Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24).  Durbin and Duckworth worked to secure various priorities for Illinois in these appropriations bills, both through Congressionally Directed Spending requests and through the programmatic appropriations process. 

“Bipartisan efforts are necessary to get many meaningful things done in Washington.  And right now, the most pressing item requiring a bipartisan effort is passing appropriations bills that finally fund the government forthe next fiscal year,” said Durbin.  “I’m glad the Senate was able to come together to advance these bills, which will benefit families, communities, and the economy in Illinois.  I’m hopeful my colleagues in the House will put politics aside, follow the Senate’s lead, and govern.  Government shutdowns should not be common place in Washington.”

“Making sure our government remains open so it can actually help our nation’s families requires bipartisan cooperation and compromise in Washington—which is just what these appropriations bills represent,” said Duckworth. “While House Republicans continue to waste time working on partisan packages full of poison pills, I'm proud my Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle worked together and passed these critical bills to support our Veterans, farmers, working families and the military. It's well past time for House Republicans to finally recognize that governing is about more than pleasing their extreme MAGA base, and I hope they find it within themselves to work with us to prevent a shutdown that would only hurt hardworking taxpayers they claim to care so much about and block critical services that millions of Americans rely on.”

These funding bills include the following Illinois priorities secured by Congressionally Directed Spending requests:


Agriculture, Rural Development and Related Agencies

·         Capital Improvements, Peoria: $1.269 million to the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research, a federal lab that has been responsible for countless agriculture, food safety, environmental, and health care discoveries since its inception, for necessary modernizations to the federal buildings that house laboratories of the Agricultural Research Service.

·         Capital Improvements, Urbana: $1.22 million to the Agricultural Research Service for necessary repairs and modernizations to their facilities in Urbana, Illinois.

·         Childhood Education and Childcare Center, Dixon: $1 million to the Dixon Family YMCA for the expansion of their early childhood program.

·         Event Center, Simpson:$900,000 to the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois for an event center at the Dixon Springs Agricultural Center, an existing 5,000-acre livestock, forestry, and agricultural demonstration facility in Southern Illinois. 

·         Fire Station, Carrier Mills: $375,000 to the Village of Carrier Mills to construct a new fire station large enough to allow all emergency and fire equipment to be housed together at the same indoor facility. 

·         Medical Clinic, Louisville: $800,000 to the Clay County Hospital and Medical Clinics to construct a new medical office building that is more than three times larger than the current facility, which was designed to be a one-provider office but currently houses three primary care providers.

·         Rural Telemedicine Expansion, Eastern Illinois$750,000 to OSF HealthCare to expand a rural telemedicine program to underserved rural areas in Champaign, Vermillion and Douglas Counties. 

 Military Construction and Veterans Affairs

·         General Richard L. Jones National Guard Readiness Center Alteration, Chicago: $5 million for planning and design for major alternations to the General Richard L. Jones National Guard Readiness Center.

·         National Guard Vehicle Maintenance Shop, Bloomington: $5.25 million to complete construction of a vehicle maintenance shop to support operations for the Illinois Army National Guard in Bloomington. 

·         North Riverside Access Control Building, North Riverside: $3.4 million for construction of a new access control building at the North Riverside Armory, which supports a large Chicagoland installation of multiple Illinois Army Guard Brigades. 

·         Peoria Readiness Center, Peoria: $2.4 million forplanning and design for a new readiness center facility for the Illinois Army Guard in Peoria. 

Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies

·         74th Street Garage EV Bus Implementation Project, Chicago: $1.5 million to the Chicago Transit Authority to redesign its 74th Street Bus Garage in Englewood for the electrical upgrades needed forexpansion of its EV bus fleet. 

·         Bike/Ped Connector, Pontoon Beach: $1 million to the Madison County Mass Transit District to construct a bike/pedestrian trail in the historically-disadvantaged community of Venice, to improve multimodal access to public transit and address long-standing pedestrian access issues.

·         Bus Safety Improvements, McLean County:$800,000 to Connect Transit to install collision avoidance technologies on its buses that that will increase pedestrian and cyclist safety. 

·         Community Center, Galesburg: $1 million to the City of Galesburg to renovate a former school into a new community center for Galesburg residents.  The community lost its last remaining community center to a fire in 2016.

·         Early Childhood Center Renovation, North Chicago: $2 million to North Chicago Community Unit School District 187 for infrastructure renovations at Green Bay Early Childhood Center, which is North Chicago Community Unit School District 187’s only preschool. 

·         Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Masterplan, Chicago: $1 million to the City of Chicago for an EV infrastructure master plan for EV deployment at O’Hare Airport, including identification of necessary charging infrastructure for airport fleet vehicles, passenger vehicles, tenant vehicles, and service providers.

·         EV Bus Procurement, Champaign County: $2 million to the Champaign-Urbana Mass Transit District to purchase three new hybrid electric buses to replace existing diesel buses.

·         Lincoln Library Youth Services Renovation, Springfield: $1 million to the City of Springfield to renovate the Youth Services space at the Lincoln Library’s downtown location.

·         Marjorie Kovler Center ADA Upgrades, Chicago:$1 million to the Heartland Alliance for Human Needs & Human Rights to make the 80-year-old Marjorie Kovler Center fully ADA-accessible, which will increase the reach of its services to the growing number of refugees, immigrants, and asylum seekers arriving each year.

·         Microtransit Pilot, Decatur: $2.5 million to the City of Decatur to implement a Microtransit pilot program, using EVs to provide cost-efficient transit services to disadvantaged residents and fill geographical and schedule gaps in current transit service. 

·         Southwest Connector, Murphysboro: $3 million to the City of Murphysboro to advance the Southwest Connector Project, which will build a 60-mile, four-lane rural expressway providing access from Southern Illinois to St. Louis, connecting Columbia, Waterloo, Red Bud, Sparta, Pinckneyville, Murphysboro, and Carbondale.

·         Stepping Stones Expansion, Bloomington: $850,000 to YMCA McLean County for capital improvements, including the renovation and the necessary expansion of its space for the Stepping Stones program, McLean County’s sexual assault crisis center.

·         Terminal Apron Expansion, Mascoutah: $2.5 million to the MidAmerica St. Louis Airport to expand the airport’s apron to accommodate three new aircraft parking positions associated with the newly expanded passenger terminal.

·         West Side Urban Agriculture Initiative, Chicago: $1 million to the Puerto Rican Cultural Center to construct two greenhouses in Humboldt Park to increase food security and urban agriculture skills in a community impacted by poverty and disinvestment.

·         Airport improvements, Springfield: $1,800,000 Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport for the extension of the terminal aircraft-parking ramp, allowing foradditional aircraft parking areas while providing safe distances from taxiing aircraft on adjacent pavements.

·         Airport expansion and pilot training, Romeoville:$1,327,000 to Joliet Regional Port District for the expansion of the aircraft staging and operating apron pavement area available for the growing pilot flight training schools at the Lewis University Airport.

·         Airport improvements, Murphysboro: $2,100,000 to the Southern Illinois Airport Authority for the construction of additional parking for airline-size aircraft for maintenance, repair and overhaul work.

·         Bus shelter weatherization, Marion: $265,000 to the Illinois Department of Transportation to fund developments to weatherize and protect bus shelters and utilize solar power to provide interior lighting at 8 new bus shelters in Marion, Illinois.

·         Multimodal facility development, Chicago:$4,800,000 to the City of Chicago for the development of a covered and lit walkway, compliant with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act, from Metra's O'Hare Transfer Station to the entrance of the O'Hare Multi-modal Facility and Airport Transit System station.

·         Affordable housing, Cook County: $1,544,000 to them Housing Authority of Cook County forcritically needed capital improvements at the Housing Authority of Cook County's south suburban affordable housing properties.

·         Urban farming, Chicago: $2,367,000 to Green Era Educational NFP for the establishment of the Green Era Renewable Energy and Urban Farm Campus, which is transforming 9-acres of brownfields in the Auburn Gresham neighborhood into a center fororganics recycling, green energy and jobs, fresh produce and small business incubation.

These funding bills include additional Illinois priorities through the programmatic appropriations process:

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies

·         Food Safety Outreach Program: $10 million to provide food safety training and technical assistance, education, and extension to owners and operators of small farms, small food processors, and small fruit and vegetable vendors affected by the Food Safety Modernization Act.

·         Agricultural Research Activities: $455 million to provide competitive grant funding to support critical research priorities addressing issues of national, regional, and multi-state importance to the safety, sustainability, and quality of American agriculture with a special emphasis on human nutrition and obesity reduction, food safety, sustainable bioenergy, global food security, and climate change.

·         Agricultural Research Service: $1.792 billion to fill research vacancies and advance critical research priorities in food safety, crop production, and crop protection programs within the Agriculture Research Service. 

·         Animal Welfare: $37.5 million for USDA to, among other activities, follow through with the recommended improvements identified in an audit performed by USDA’s Inspector General in May 2010, detailing serious shortcomings in the ability of Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s Animal Care Unit to effectively address problematic dog dealers and ensure their compliance with minimum humane care standards. 

·         USDA Food Safety Activities: $1.205 billion to carry out food safety inspection, surveillance, and data collection activities conducted within USDA.

·         Plant Health, Tree and Wood Pests: $62.6 million to help identify and contain wood-boring pests threatening tree health across the country, including the Emerald Ash Borer. 

·         ReConnect Program: $98 million to support loans and grants that facilitate broadband deployment in rural areas without sufficient broadband access at minimum speeds of 25 Mbps/3 Mbps.  

·         McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program: $248 million to support education, child development, and food security among the world’s most vulnerable children, particularly among girls.  

·         Food for Peace: $1.8 billion to meet emergency food needs around the world. 

·         Local and Regional Procurement: $24.8 million to provide food aid commodities more quickly and at a lower cost by procuring them locally or regionally instead of shipping overseas.

·         Overall FDA Funding Level: Direct appropriations of $3.55 billion as well as an additional $3.07 billion in FDA user fees collected from prescription drug companies, generic drugs, medical devices, animal drugs, and tobacco products.

·         FDA Food Safety Activities: More than $1.5 billion for food safety oversight.

·         Drug Shortages: $3.75 million for FDA to address nationwide drug shortages, especially for critical cancer drugs.

·         ALS: An additional $2.5 million for FDA to further implement ACT for ALS, which requires FDA to publish and implement a five-year action plan to foster drug development and facilitate access to investigational drugs for ALS and other rare neurodegenerative diseases.

·         E-Cigarette/Menthol: The bill includes tobacco report language Durbin supports, including language to compel FDA to act more quickly to remove unauthorized e-cigarette and synthetic nicotine products from the market, increase transparency around products under review, and deny any product that is not appropriate for the protection of the public health.  The report language also commends FDA forissuing proposed rules to prohibit menthol flavoring in cigarettes and cigars, and urges FDA to quickly finalize these regulations.

·         Drug Promotion/Advertising: The bill includes Durbin’s report language directing FDA to improve its oversight of promotional activities by pharmaceutical companies, including the practice of sales representatives marketing directly to physicians.

Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies

·         Caregivers Program: $2.4 billion 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. 

·         Information Technology Systems: $6.4 billion to develop, modernize, and enhance the technology systems used by the VA, including the Veterans Benefits Management System, which aims to reduce the existing claims backlog and enhance claims processing. 

·         Medical and Prosthetic Research: $984 million toadvance and promote the health and care of veterans through the development of cutting-edge treatments in a host of areas, including post-traumatic stress, traumatic brain injury, wounded warrior care, and now greater support for toxic exposure research.  This amount includes $46 million from the Toxic Exposures Fund created under the PACT Act.

·         State Home Construction Grant Program: $164 million for critical renovations and updates to existing State Veterans Homes and to construct new facilities to serve the aging veteran population. 

·         PFAS blood testing: report language was included directing the VA to report to Congress its guidance for blood testing military firefighters for exposure to PFAS in firefighting foam.

·         Smoke-Free VA: report language was included that supports the Veterans Health Administration’s smoke-free policies at VA medical facilities.

Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development, and Related Agencies

·         Capital Investment Grants (CIG):  $2.45 billion in nationwide funding for the extension and improvements of existing transit systems, which includes full funding the Chicago Transit Authority’s Red Line Extension Project.

·         Amtrak: $2.45 billion in nationwide funding to support Amtrak operations.

·         The Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (RAISE) Grants: $800 million to fund innovative transportation projects that will create jobs and have a significant impact on the nation, a region, or a metropolitan area.

·         Passenger Rail Grant Programs:  These grant programs include funding for rail infrastructure and safety improvement projects.

o   Consolidated Rail Infrastructure and Safety Improvements (CRISI) Grants: $572 million in nationwide funding to improve the safety, efficiency, and reliability of passenger and freight rail systems.

o   Federal-State Partnership for Intercity Passenger Rail: $100 million in nationwide funding to fund capital projects that reduce the state of good repair backlog, improve performance, or expand or establish new intercity passenger rail service.

o   Railroad Crossing Elimination Program (RCEP) grants: $600 million in nationwide funding to fund highway-rail or pathway-rail grade crossing improvement projects that focus on improving the safety and mobility of people and goods.

·         Blocked Crossings Causes & Solutions Identification:  Includes Durbin’s report language directing the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to include in its annual report potential solutions and best practices to improve safety, mobility, and emergency response capabilities at highway-rail crossings.  This would require the FRA to consider technology’s potential role in detecting the highest risk areas and to explore what role train length plays in blocked crossings, among other measures.

·         Emergency Response Blocked Crossing Reports: Includes Durbin’s report language urging the FRA to require states receiving track inspection funding to require first responders to report verified blocked crossing incidents to the FRA’s blocked crossings portal, which Durbin established through Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations legislation.  It also directs the FRA to continue working with stakeholders to identify root causes of blocked crossings and identify meaningful solutions.

·         Automated Track Inspections:  Directs $17 million to support the FRA’s fleet of advanced inspection vehicles that accompany its field inspectors to validate the railroads’ inspection programs and advance research priorities, with a special emphasis on routes transporting passengers and hazardous materials.

·         FRA Rail Research & Development Center of Excellence (COE): $2.5 million for the FRA COE, which Durbin established in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).

·         Digital Alert Technologies:  Includes Durbin’s report language urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to deploy digital alert technologies, with local law enforcement, that can provide up-to-date information about dynamic road conditions to drivers.

·         FAA:  $20.3 billion for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).  This includes funding that will allow the FAA to hire 1,800 additional air traffic controllers, replace outdated equipment, improve the aircraft certification process, and improve hazardous materials transport oversight, among other efforts.

·         Airport Improvement Program:  $300 million forairport infrastructure grants for planning and development.

·         Low-No Emission Bus Grants:  $50 million for the purchase or lease of zero-emission and low-emission transit buses as well as acquisition, construction, and leasing of required supporting facilities.

·         Buses and Bus Facilities Grants:  $161.9 million fortransit agencies to replace, rehabilitate, and purchase buses and related equipment and to construct bus-related facilities.

·         Distracted Driving:  Includes Durbin’s report language, building off of his Protecting Roadside First Responders Act with Duckworth, enacted as part of IIJA, requiring NHTSA to brief the Committee on its efforts to ensure automatic emergency braking can detect passengers at night and at speeds above 37 miles per hour, the conditions under which 65-75 percent of pedestrian fatalities occur, respectively.

·         HEAL Initiative Pilot Program:  Includes $5 million to support efforts underway between HUD and HHS to provide direct technical assistance to communities leveraging programs like Medicaid to cover and provide housing-related supportive services and behavioral health care.

·         Lead Assessments in Federally Assisted Housing:  Includes $65 million to help Public Housing Agencies (PHAs) address lead-based paint and other residential health hazards in public housing units.

·         Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes: $350 million.

·         Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA):  $505 million to help cities and states address the housing crisis facing people living with HIV/AIDS.

·         Homeless Assistance Grants:  $3.9 billion to provide funding to state and local governments for emergency shelters, rapid re-housing, permanent supportive housing, and other crisis response programs. 

·         Community Development Block Grant (CDBG):$3.3 billion to provide states and localities with resources to meet the needs of low-income communities, including housing rehabilitation, supportive services, public improvements, and economic development projects.

·         Section 8 Tenant-Based Rental Assistance: $31.74 billion.  This also includes $445 million for new Tenant Protection Vouchers; $30 million to expand the HUD-VASH program; and $30 million for the Family Unification Program.

·         Choice Neighborhoods Program: $150 million to provide funding for the transformation, rehabilitation, and replacement of distressed public and HUD-assisted housing, as well as support for communities working to revitalize neighborhoods of concentrated poverty. 

·         Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation (NeighborWorks): $170 million to create opportunities for Americans to live in affordable and safe homes by providing community development organizations in all fifty states with financial resources and counseling services.