Chairman Price Statement at Subcommittee Markup of FY 2021 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development Funding Bill

2020-07-08 11:00
Statement

WASHINGTON — Congressman David Price (D-NC), Chair of the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered the following remarks at the Subcommittee's markup of its fiscal year 2021 bill:

Good morning, everyone.  The subcommittee will come to order.  I appreciate everyone’s flexibility as we convene this year under “socially distanced” circumstances.  While the COVID pandemic has made for some logistical challenges, it has not deterred us from conducting our critical appropriations work on behalf of the American people.  I am proud to unveil the Fiscal Year 2021 Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. 

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 Nita Lowey 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 Member requests.  I hope we can continue to move forward in bipartisan fashion. 

Finally, I’d like to recognize our excellent professional staff.  Our majority clerk, Joe Carlile, has done a terrific job.  His expertise is invaluable to me as Chairman.  He benefits from a great team: Gladys Barcena, Winnie Chang, Jo Eckert, Sarah Puro, Angela Ohm, and Becky Salay.  We are also lucky to have Doug Disrud as our minority clerk along with his colleague Alyssa Hinman.  I’d also like to thank Sean Maxwell of my personal staff and Chris Sweet from Mr. Diaz-Balart’s personal office.  We appreciate all your hard work, not only on the FY21 bill but also the numerous COVID supplemental packages.

This year’s THUD bill represents a renewed commitment to improve safety, produce more affordable housing, upgrade our aging transportation infrastructure, and bolster our nation’s resiliency to a changing climate.  At the same time, as COVID continues to sweep across the country, we ensure that vulnerable populations—homeless youth, veterans, communities of color, domestic violence survivors, the elderly and disabled—remain at the forefront of our efforts. 

The bill includes $75.9 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $1.6 billion over the FY 2020 enacted level and $16.7 billion above the President’s budget request.  We’re grateful for a healthy allocation which, combined with more than $3 billion in offsetting receipts, allows us to make significant progress for our nation’s housing and transportation infrastructure.

Separately, the bill also includes major increases in contract authority for formula programs that draw resources from the Highway Trust Fund rather than direct appropriations: an increase of $14.7 billion for highways and $5.8 billion for transit compared to last year’s levels.  This is consistent with the INVEST in America Act, which passed the House as part of H.R. 2 on July 1st. 

When both discretionary and contract authority resources are totaled, the FY21 THUD bill provides $158.3 billion in combined budgetary resources for DOT, HUD, and related agencies under our jurisdiction, an increase of $22.7 billion compared to the current fiscal year.

The departments and programs funded by the THUD bill are integral to our way of life – housing and transportation connect us to jobs, services, and education.  Without efficient and equitable transportation networks, our economy cannot thrive.  Without affordable housing, our nation’s greatest asset—it’s people—cannot thrive.  An appropriations bill cannot singlehandedly right old wrongs or immediately create a more just society, but it can take us decisively in that direction.

On the housing side of the ledger, we provide increases of $100 million for CDBG and $350 million for HOME to help spur community revitalization.  The HOME funding alone translates to more than 40,000 additional units of affordable housing and will generate jobs and economic activity across the country. 

We fully renew all Housing Choice Vouchers to keep people stably housed; provide $250 million for new vouchers targeted to homeless individuals; and increase Homeless Assistance Grants by $638 million or approximately 23% over last year’s level, the largest increase in over a decade.  The bill also includes an 11% increase for the Public Housing Capital Fund and new set-asides within that fund to address urgent health and safety issues.

The bill also does right by transportation.  All modes receive robust funding including highways, transit, rail, aviation, bike & pedestrian projects, and ports.  The heavily oversubscribed BUILD program, formerly TIGER, receives $1 billion, equal to last year. 

Amtrak is funded at more than $2 billion, and the popular CRISI program for passenger and freight rail improvements is funded at $500 million, an increase of more than 50% over last year. 

We provide sufficient resources for FTA’s Capital Investment Grants to ensure all projects in the pipeline can move forward, and we provide nearly half a billion dollars for discretionary grants for buses, bus facilities, and the “Low-No” emission program to allow transit agencies to recapitalize their aging fleets. 

We also renew our emphasis on safety activities at FAA—an imperative in light of the 737 MAX disasters—and across DOT by providing targeted funding to boost certification activities, bolster enforcement, and hire highly skilled personnel.  Safety must always remain our top priority.

There are many more highlights, but I’ll stop there for now.  These investments will improve quality of life in all communities—urban and rural—while bolstering the economy and laying the groundwork for a more equitable future.  However, our nation is facing an infrastructure crisis, and that term isn’t hyperbole.

Accordingly, under the leadership of Chairwoman Lowey, I have included an emergency title in this year’s THUD bill that provides an additional $75 billion in major infrastructure investments across housing and transportation programs—investments that will repair highways and greenways, upgrade aging transit and rail systems, accelerate improvements at our ports and shipyards, build new runways, jumpstart affordable housing production, and further reduce the disgraceful public housing capital backlog. 

Some may object to the costs or think it inappropriate to designate this as emergency spending.  But to them I ask, what is the cost of continued inaction for our economy and our communities?  “Infrastructure Week” shouldn’t be a punchline.  The FY21 THUD bill is an opportunity to prove that Congress is serious about addressing this issue, particularly as we contemplate the transition from pandemic to full recovery.

Every day our constituents see the consequences of inadequate investment in our housing and transportation infrastructure.  Natural disasters are increasing in severity and number, exacerbated by accelerating climate change.  Meanwhile, COVID-19 is ravaging communities, revealing and deepening existing disparities, while leaving state and local governments with fewer resources and more responsibility to respond in the absence of steady leadership from the executive branch.  This bill does its part to meet these challenges head on.

Again, I’d like to thank Ranking Member Diaz-Balart, whose partnership and cooperation have been and will continue to be essential as the appropriations process moves forward, as well as my colleagues on the subcommittee from both sides of the aisle.  I look forward to working together to enact this legislation into law.

As is customary on this subcommittee, I ask that all Members hold any amendments until we meet again at full committee.

###

116th Congress