WASHINGTON—U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, released the following statement after passage of the Coronavirus Relief & Omnibus Agreement, which includes key funding priorities and legislation Murphy authored to help Connecticut.
Specifically, the legislation repeals the mandate to sell Plum Island and includes $18.9 million to clean up the island, provides $700 million for Amtrak’s Northeast Corridor and an additional $1 billion in COVID relief funding to Amtrak, provides $30.4 million in funding for the Long Island Sound Geographic Program, and includes $135.5 million for construction of a new courthouse in Hartford. The bill also includes the Mental Health Parity Compliance Act of 2019, legislation Murphy introduced with U.S. Senator Bill Cassidy (R-La.) that will provide federal and state health insurance regulators with additional tools to monitor and assure compliance with mental health parity laws.
“I’m on the Appropriations Committee to make sure that Connecticut’s priorities are included in the federal budget, and the bill we passed today is a clear win for our state,” said Murphy. “This funding package includes important money for testing and vaccine distribution that will help us combat COVID-19, and direct cash payments and small business assistance to help those in need. I’m also glad to see funding in this bill that supports longstanding local priorities like Amtrak, the Long Island Sound, and the new Coast Guard Museum, in addition to language repealing the mandate to sell Plum Island and providing first-time funding for the Hartford courthouse project. Finally, as we’ve seen mental health issues spike throughout COVID-19, I’m also proud my bipartisan legislation that cracks down on insurers who don’t pay for mental health treatment was included in this bill. Of course, there is a lot more work to do and I look forward to getting back to work with President-elect Biden.”
The Coronavirus Relief & Omnibus Agreement also includes:
· An additional $5 million in funding for the Coast Guard museum in New London;
· $30.4 million for the Long Island Sound Geographic program, a nearly 50% increase from last year’s levels;
· $109 million for magnet schools, an increase of $2 million from last year, as well as a language repealing the only remaining prohibition on using federal funds for transportation to carry out school desegregation efforts. This means more flexibility for magnets as well as school districts more broadly to fund efforts to increase school diversity;
· $25 million for gun violence research within the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH);
· $85 million for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Initiative grants to help strengthen background checks, a $6.7 million increase from last year;
· $4.5 billion direct to states for COVID-19 vaccine distribution, monitoring, and tracking, including a targeted investment of $300 million for high-risk and underserved populations;
· Language to phase down the use of hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)—extremely potent greenhouse gases that are used in air conditioners and refrigerators—by 85 percent over the next 15 years;
· $5 million to conduct COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution on Capitol Hill, after Murphy led a letter to Senate and House leadership calling for a comprehensive testing plan for everyone who works in and around the Capitol;
· $13 billion to increase SNAP benefits by 15%, following a letter Murphy co-led with Senator Merkley that called for the same increase as well as language expanding SNAP to college students as Senator Murphy has championed;
· $2 million for the Department of Commerce’s National Institute of Standards and Technology to partner with a university to study and develop a reliable and cost-effective standard for testing for the presence of excessive pyrrhotite in concrete, which is the root of the crumbling foundations problem plaguing Connecticut;
· $10 million for Highlands Conservation Act, one of the most significant federal investments of conservation funding in Connecticut that allows state and municipal land trusts to conserve thousands of acres of land; and
· $5 billion towards aerospace and defense manufacturing in Connecticut that will keep jobs and increase demand for Connecticut manufacturers, expand funds for Workforce Development Programs, and authorize advanced payments to small and medium aerospace and defense businesses.