Senate Passes Domestic Spending Bills With Illinois Priorities Secured By Durbin

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, today released the following statement after the Senate passed the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 funding bills for Interior and Environment; Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development; Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration; and Commerce, Justice, and Science:

“As a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I am proud to secure important federal funding for Illinois in the bills that passed the Senate today.  From protecting the Great Lakes region, to investing in our transportation infrastructure and working to lower the cost of prescription drugs, these bills invest in Illinois’ future and fund critical functions and programs within our government.  I will continue working to bring home federal dollars important to Illinois.”

Today’s bills included the following priorities for Illinois:

Interior and Environment

  • Great Lakes Restoration Initiative (GLRI), Great Lakes Region: $310 million in funding for the GLRI to support the inter-agency program to address issues affecting the Great Lakes, including invasive species and pollution.  Since 2010 GLRI has invested more than $226 million in Illinois to implement 170 projects including the removal of toxic chemicals from Waukegan Harbor, green infrastructure projects like the Millennium Reserve near the Calumet River, and the restoration of 40 acres of land at Northerly Island.
  • Land and Water Conservation Fund: The bill includes $465 million in funding for the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which helps protect federal lands and waters.
  • Bubbly Creek:  The bill includes Durbin’s language urging EPA, Army Corps, and DOJ to expedite a resolution to negotiations over liability concerns that have prohibited the Army Corps of Engineers environmental restoration program on the South Fork of the South Branch of the Chicago River.
  • Ethylene Oxide and the Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS): The bill includes language addressing concerns about ethylene oxide emissions and urges the EPA to brief the committee about its plans to update federal standards.  The bill also includes language to continue to maintain the IRIS program and its mission to identify harmful chemicals with the highest scientific rigor.
  • Manganese: The bill includes Durbin’s language about manganese soil contamination in Chicago and encourages EPA to clean up all affected areas to the lowest possible limits for residential screening and monitoring. 

Transportation, Housing, and Urban Development

  • Saving Illinois’ Public Transportation Funding: The bill blocks a rescission of mass transit funding, restoring $75 million to Illinois’ public transportation systems.
  • BUILD Grants: $1 billion in nationwide funding for the BUILD program (formerly ‘TIGER’), of which Illinois has been a major beneficiary since the program was created in 2009.
  • Amtrak and Quad Cities: $2 billion in nationwide Amtrak funding, and the bill includes Durbin’s language urging the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) to provide a multi-year extension of the current grant agreement to establish the new Quad Cities to Chicago State-supported Amtrak route.
  • Blocked Crossings: The bill includes Durbin’s language directing the FRA to report on its efforts to collect data on blocked crossings and what additional data would be needed to properly analyze the problem.
  • Roadside Deaths and Distracted Driving:  The bill includes Durbin’s efforts to combat roadside personnel deaths, specifically $5 million for testing technology, barriers, and other solutions to improve driver awareness and protect roadside personnel.  The bill also includes Durbin’s language directing the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) to report on deaths and motor vehicle accidents involving roadside personnel.
  • Expanding the Chicago HEAL Initiative:  In Illinois, Durbin has launched the Chicago HEAL Initiative with 10 major hospitals to reduce violence, strengthen neighborhoods, and overall improve community health.  The bill includes Durbin’s language encouraging the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to replicate the Initiative across the country by providing incentives for new projects that coordinate with both housing providers and health care organizations.
  • Assessing the Current Public Housing Backlog:  The bill includes funding for HUD to complete an updated capital needs assessment of the nation’s public housing stock. The most recent assessment was completed in 2010 and estimated a $26 billion backlog projected to increase by an average of $3.4 billion per year.    
  • Improving Public Housing Safety: The bill includes Durbin’s language directing HUD to change the process by which emergency safety and security grants are allocated, from a lottery to regionally, based on need.
  • East St. Louis Receivership: The bill includes Durbin’s language directing HUD to review the progress made during the three-decade-long administrative receivership of the East St. Louis Housing Authority and to report to Congress on transitioning Public Housing Authorities out of receivership.

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration

  • Protecting SNAP Benefits for Illinois Seniors:  The bill includes Durbin’s bill language to protect SNAP nutrition assistance benefits for 8,000 low-income seniors and elderly people in Illinois.  In recent years, USDA has sought to strip SNAP eligibility and participation from 150 supportive senior living facilities across Illinois, and the Durbin amendment blocks this regulatory overreach.
  • Lowering Prescription Drug Costs:  The bill includes Durbin’s report language to lower the cost of prescription drugs by speeding the FDA approval process for lower-cost generic insulin and studying efforts by pharmaceutical companies to block competition by abusing the patent system.
  • National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research: The bill includes $1.424 billion for the Agricultural Research Service.  This amount ensures continued funding for research labs across the country, including the National Center for Agricultural Utilization Research in Peoria, where more than 250 scientists and staff are conducting important research to create new markets for food waste, biofuels, and plant-based biochemicals.  
  • Office of Urban Agriculture.  The bill includes $5 million cosponsored by Durbin to fund the new USDA Office of Urban Agriculture created by the 2018 Farm Bill to strengthen the growing sector of farm and food systems that link population centers with agriculture, including rooftop, indoor, vertical, non-profit and neighborhood farms.

Commerce, Justice, and Science

  • Bureau of Prisons:  The bill includes $7.76 billion to fund Bureau of Prisons staff, inmate care, and building construction and maintenance costs.  This amount ensures full funding of FY20 operations of USP Thomson, a high-security federal prison in Thomson, IL. $75 million of the funding is specifically dedicated to the implementation of the First Step Act, at Durbin’s request. Durbin was one of the lead authors of the First Step Act, a landmark, bipartisan law that uses evidence-based recidivism reduction programs to help inmates successfully return to society after serving their sentence; it also reduces some sentences for certain low-level, nonviolent offenders while preserving important law enforcement tools to tackle criminal enterprises.
  • Domestic Terrorism: The bill includes Durbin’s request for language addressing the significant threat posed by violent domestic terrorists and extremists. It directs the FBI and DOJ to vigorously investigate and prosecute incidents of domestic terrorism; review training and resource programs to assist state, local, and tribal law enforcement in understanding, detecting, deterring, investigating, and prosecuting acts of domestic terrorism; and provide a detailed report to Congress on incidents of domestic terrorism that occurred in FY19.
  • Children Exposed to Violence Initiative:  The bill includes $8 million to provide funding for grants to develop innovative training, resources, and awareness efforts, and to support communities in developing strategic plans to address children’s exposure to violence as victims and as witnesses and to provide trauma-informed services.  Durbin successfully worked to restore funding for this important program in FY19.
  • National Science Foundation:  The bill includes $8.32 billion to fund basic science research and promote innovation, ensure America’s competitiveness with the global economy, and help train the future scientific and technical workforce. 
  • NASA Science:  The bill includes $6.91 billion to fund the innovative work of more than 10,000 scientists at universities, industry, and government laboratories in Illinois and across the United States through competitive research grants and mission-critical technology and development.
  • NASA Education: The bill includes $10 million to fund the innovative work of more than 10,000 scientists at universities, industry, and government laboratories in Illinois and across the United States through competitive research grants and mission-critical technology development & support. 
  • NOAA:  The bill includes $76.5 million for Coastal Zone Management Grants and $45 million for Coastal Zone Management and Services to support regional efforts to restore and protect coastal communities in the Great Lakes Region. The bill also includes $4.15 million for the Regional Climate Centers to develop products and services for climate-related issues affecting sectors such as agriculture, transportation, energy generation, and water resources. 
  • NIST Scientific and Technical Research and Services:  The bill includes $754 million to support basic scientific research that increases the U.S. industrial and technological competitiveness, including advanced computing and manufacturing innovations.