COLUMBIA, SC – Congressman James E. Clyburn (SC-06) hailed passage of two appropriations packages today that will fund the government through Fiscal Year 2020.
“Congress is empowered with the power of the purse, and I am pleased we have reached a bipartisan agreement to fulfill our Constitutional duty to fund the government for the remainder of the fiscal year,” said Congressman Clyburn. “These appropriations packages grow our economy, protect our environment, repair our infrastructure, strengthen health care, invest in education, and set up rural communities for continued success while striving to make America’s greatness accessible and affordable for all.”
This legislation contains many priority projects for South Carolina sought by Congressman Clyburn and includes other initiatives he spearheaded.
Below are priorities from the Sixth District and across South Carolina that are included in these appropriations packages:
INVESTMENTS IN OUR COMMUNITIES
As part of the effort to invest in America’s infrastructure, the spending deal includes $15.5 billion in funding for new transportation and housing projects. Of this funding, South Carolina will receive an increase of $43 million in funding for highway and transit projects and an additional $2.3 million for Community Development Block Grants and HOME Investment Partnership Programs.
This legislation includes full funding for the $138 million request for the Charleston Harbor deepening project, which was also included in the President’s budget request.
This legislation includes $100 million for the Environmental Infrastructure account, which represents a $23 million increase over last year’s allocation. The Lake Marion Regional Water Agency is eligible to apply for these funds to extend its service area to provide potable water and sewage to communities in parts of the Sixth Congressional district.
Rural Energy Savings Program
Congressman Clyburn secured another $12 million for the Rural Energy Savings Program (RESP). He was the original sponsor of the legislation that established the RESP in 2010, which creates jobs, saves American families and businesses money on their electric bills, and reduces air pollution. This program enables electric cooperatives to offer low-interest micro-loans to residential and small business customers for energy-saving retrofit and structural improvements with borrowers paying the loans back on their monthly electricity bills.
This legislation also adds $555 million to the ReConnect program, which provides grants and loans to rural communities to improve broadband access. Congressman Clyburn wants to eliminate digital deserts and ensure all Americans have access to high-speed internet by 2025. This legislation is a good step toward reaching the estimated 162.8 million Americans who don’t have internet access at broadband speeds.
The legislation applies Congressman Clyburn’s 10-20-30 formula—ensuring that at least 10 percent of funds are spent in counties with a poverty rate of at least 20 percent over the last 30 years—to 15 spending accounts, an all-time high. In addition, this package takes important steps to help ensure that all high-poverty communities are able to access the federal investment they need to increase economic opportunity, including technical assistance for Transit Infrastructure Grants, language encouraging the CDFI Fund to prioritize awards to organizations that invest and lend in high-poverty areas, and reporting requirements so Congress can be fully informed about federal resources currently being spent in areas of greatest need.
FIXES TO THE GOP TAX BILL
Places of Worship, Charities, and Non-Profit Tax Fix
Language introduced by Congressman Clyburn in H.R. 1223 was included in the final appropriations package. This measure repeals the 21% tax on the value of “fringe benefits” at places of worship, charities, and non-profits that was imposed in the Republican-passed Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017. Repealing this tax will save places of worship, charities, and non-profits nearly $1.7 billion over the next ten years in taxes on benefits such as parking and transit provided to their employees.
Co-Op Tax Exempt Fix
This legislation also fixes a glitch in the GOP tax bill that if left unaddressed before the end of the year could have caused non-profit phone or electric cooperatives that receive government grants to lose their tax-exempt status. Congressman Clyburn was a co-sponsor of the RURAL Act, that was included in the spending package, which no longer considers federal grants that support things like broadband deployment or disaster relief as taxable income so these non-profits can remain tax-exempt.
The legislation provides $29 million for telehealth projects, and $6 million of that amount will support Telehealth Centers for Excellence. The Medical University of South Carolina is one of those Centers, and it provides nearly a quarter million telehealth services to more than 200 sites in 27 counties, 28 hospitals, more than 100 community clinics and 50 schools.
Community Health Centers
This legislation provides an extension of funds for Community Health Centers (CHC) to keep their funding stable through May 2020. Congressman Clyburn will continue fighting in the new year to extend CHC funding long-term and increase their federal support. CHCs are critical to providing health care in underserved areas. Separately, the bill appropriates $1.6 billion in discretionary funds for Community Health Centers for fiscal year 2020.
SOUTH CAROLINA COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Historically Black Colleges and Universities will benefit from several items in this appropriations legislation. Funding for the HBCU/MI program within the Department of Defense, which is dedicated to STEM education, is increased by more than $10 million. The bill allocates the full authorized amount of $10 million for the HBCU Historic Preservation Fund, which is Congressman Clyburn’s long-time priority to renovate historic structures on HBCU campuses nationwide. Also, the HBCU Excellence in Research Program administered by the National Science Foundation received $18 million, an increase of $3 million over last year.
Coastal Carolina University
The legislation also increases funding for the National Mesonet Program, which is critical for providing weather information for the National Weather Service. Coastal Carolina University operates one of the Mesonet facilities that collects data on Atlantic Coast hurricanes.
Denmark Technical College
Congressman Clyburn secured a legislative fix to prevent Denmark Technical College from losing its ability to provide financial aid to some of its most vulnerable students. This effort will provide needed and warranted relief for Denmark Tech, allowing them to avoid any penalties or sanctions for two years and ensure its students can continue to receive federal loans.
University of South Carolina
This appropriations package includes $9.5 million for workforce talent and technology development efforts in support of Navy power and energy systems, such as bridge-to-university programs for students and digital twin research. The University of South Carolina has indicated interest in securing these funds to prepare our students to protect national security.
The bill includes $5 million for cyber institutes, which will help train the next generation of cybersecurity professionals to protect and defend industry and our critical infrastructure. Last year’s National Defense Authorization Act established these institutes and specifically directed the Secretary of Defense to consider senior military colleges like the Citadel in their selection.
This legislation includes $10 million for prototyping energy smart autonomous ground systems in next generation combat vehicle technology. These funds will help ensure that future ground vehicle systems are ready to respond to and overcome emerging threats. Clemson University is well-positioned to conduct this important research.
Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership
This legislation provides $146 million or the Hollings Manufacturing Extension Partnership (MEP), which is an increase of $6 million. The Hollings MEP is a nationwide network of centers in all 50 states and Puerto Rico that help manufacturers grow their businesses and maximize their potential.
South Carolina National Heritage Corridor
Congressman Clyburn successfully sought an increase in the budget cap for the South Carolina National Heritage Corridor. The Corridor, established by legislation authored by Congressman Clyburn, had reached the limit of federal funds established in the authorizing legislation. With the raised cap, the Corridor will be able to continue its popular programs that bring heritage tourists to the state.
The two spending bills now go to the Senate for approval, and they are expected to pass and be signed into law this week.