Chairman Price Statement at Subcommittee Markup of Fiscal Year 2022 Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies​ Funding Bill

2021-07-12 17:22

Congressman David E. Price (D-NC), Chair of the Transportation, and Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's markup of its fiscal year 2022 bill:

Good evening, everyone.  The subcommittee will come to order.  It is wonderful to see some of you again in person after a challenging 16 months. Once again, we have worked around the COVID-19 pandemic, and I am proud to unveil the Fiscal Year 2022 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill today. 

Before I mention some of the bill’s highlights, I’d like to thank Ranking Member Mario Diaz-Balart for his collaboration each step of the way.  As the former Chairman of this subcommittee, he brings a wealth of knowledge to this process, and I value his partnership.  I’d also like to thank full committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro for her steady leadership, Ranking Member Kay Granger, and all the members of this subcommittee from both sides of the aisle who contributed their ideas to help shape this bill.

Like last year, I’m pleased to report we accommodated more than 90 percent of Democratic and Republican Member requests.  I hope we can continue to move forward in a bipartisan fashion.

This year’s THUD bill represents a renewed commitment to improve safety, upgrade our aging transportation infrastructure, address our nation’s affordable housing and homelessness crisis, bolster our resiliency to a changing climate, and remedy inequities and disparities in our housing and transportation systems.  As our nation continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more critical than ever to ensure that vulnerable populations—communities of color, the unhoused, veterans, domestic violence survivors, the elderly, and people with disabilities—remain at the forefront of our efforts. 

The bill includes $84.1 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of nearly $8.7 billion over the FY 2021 enacted level. 

The bill also includes major increases in contract authority for formula grant programs that draw on the Highway Trust Fund rather than discretionary funding, reflecting the INVEST in America Act that recently passed the House.

In total, the FY22 THUD bill provides $162.6 billion in budgetary resources for agencies under our jurisdiction, which is an increase of $25.9 billion compared to fiscal year 21.

On the housing side of the ledger, we are keeping more than 4.8 million people stably housed by fully renewing all Housing Choice Vouchers from previous years, preserving all rental assistance for persons living with HIV, and meeting the renewal needs of several other programs. This is coupled with critical new investments including more than 125,000 new tenant-based vouchers, expanding housing opportunities for low-income families and people experiencing or at risk of homelessness – including survivors of domestic violence and veterans. We are also doubling the number of new units proposed in the President’s budget for Section 202 Housing for the Elderly and Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities, and increasing the number of people served through the Homeless Assistance Grants program by more than 18,000.

The bill also makes significant investments in public housing by providing an increase of $834 million for public housing operations and capital maintenance to preserve nearly 1 million units of affordable housing and improve the living conditions for the more than 2 million low-income individuals served by the program. This includes $3.4 billion for capital grants and targeted assistance to address lead, mold, radon and fire safety and urgent health and safety needs. 

This bill provides significant increases to the CDBG, HOME, Choice Neighborhoods, and NeighborWorks programs to help expand affordable housing, spur community revitalization, and generate jobs and economic activity.

I am also pleased to support the President’s new initiatives, including $150 million for a mobility-related services program for Housing Choice Voucher families, $50 million for a new homeowner down payment assistance program, and $150 million to improve energy and water efficiency and resiliency in public housing.

The bill also does right by transportation.  All modes receive robust funding including highways, transit, rail, aviation, bike and pedestrian projects, and ports.  The heavily oversubscribed RAISE program, formerly known as BUILD and TIGER, receives a 20% boost to $1.2 billion.

Amtrak is increased by $700 million, and the popular CRISI program for passenger and freight rail improvements is increased by $125 million. We also fund the new proposed PRIME program to modernize and expand passenger rail at $625 million, and include the necessary resources to ensure all projects in the FTA’s Capital Investment Grants pipeline—New Starts and Small Starts -- can move forward in 2022.

We continue to emphasize safety at FAA by providing targeted funding to strengthen certification activities, bolster enforcement, and hire highly skilled personnel.  Safety must always remain our top priority.

Finally, we know that certain communities face persistent barriers that prevent access to opportunity, so the bill includes $100 million for a new Thriving Communities Initiative, ensuring that regional planning efforts focus on promoting equity, environmental justice, and resilient infrastructure.

The pandemic has brought to light our continued need for efficient and equitable transportation networks and expanded access to safe and affordable housing to ensure that no one is left behind as we rebuild our economy, especially communities of color, the unhoused, veterans, survivors of domestic violence, the elderly, and people with disabilities.

I am proud of what our Subcommittee and its members have contributed to transportation and housing infrastructure on an annual basis.  The FY22 THUD bill is an opportunity to prove that Congress is serious about addressing our nation’s infrastructure crisis, particularly as we contemplate the transition from pandemic to full recovery.

I also look forward to Congress passing a comprehensive package of infrastructure in all its forms to address our nation’s multiyear funding needs to build back better.  In fact, I view our FY22 bill as a down payment on the goals of the American Jobs Plan.

It is more important this year than ever to recognize our excellent professional staff.  Our new majority clerk, Christina Monroe, has done a terrific job.  Her expertise is invaluable to me as Chairman, and she certainly hit the ground running after being hired while we were still operating remotely.  She also benefits from a great and seasoned team: Gladys Barcena, Winnie Chang, Jo Eckert, Sarah Puro, and Jenny Neuscheler. I’d also like to once again thank the members of our THUD team who left the subcommittee in recent months but who continue to leave their imprint on this bill – Joe Carlile and Angela Ohm.  We are also lucky to have Doug Disrud as our minority clerk, along with his colleague Alyssa Hinman. I’d also like to thank Nora Blalock of my personal staff and Chris Sweet from Mr. Diaz-Balart’s personal office.  We appreciate all your hard work, not only on the FY22 bill, but also the numerous COVID-19 relief packages, and on the long-awaited reinstatement of Community Project Funding requests.

Let me add a final word about these community projects, about which I will elaborate in full committee markup. As a longtime defender of congressional earmarking as an essential exercise of the power of the purse, of great potential value to the communities we serve, I have been delighted to see a new, more transparent and accountable, process reinstated.

I confess, however, to not fully anticipating the degree to which our T-HUD subcommittee would win the lottery! We received well over a thousand requests, most of them well-designed to produce community benefit. Processing these requests has been a major undertaking for our subcommittee and personal staffs.  We have depended on the departments we oversee to verify the eligibility of projects, and we have needed to work across party lines to ensure equity in the treatment of members and strong standards of accountability, so that the list of projects funded is a matter of pride and confidence for this committee and the House.

I cannot thank profusely enough the staff members who have carried out this review. They have worked on hundreds of proposals conscientiously and carefully and fairly and have done so, I have to say, with a sense of mission as to how much good this process, if done right, can accomplish.

I also want to thank Mr. Diaz-Balart and his staff in a way that goes far beyond the standard acknowledgement of cooperation. We have agreed upon the need to vet projects carefully, to avoid excess and the appearance of excess, and to ensure fairness in the treatment of members, individually and across party lines. Mr. Diaz-Balart has made what could have been a fraught process a cooperative and productive one, and I believe our final list of nearly 970 projects reflects our joint desire to proceed responsibly and with integrity.

117th Congress