On July 29th, the House passed the FY 2011 Transportation-HUD Appropriations bill (H.R. 5850) by a vote of 251-167. This bill creates jobs and bolsters the economic recovery by making key investments in transportation and housing infrastructure. It also provides vital housing aid to millions of Americans, as the housing sector continues to struggle. In addition, the bill makes critical investments in FAA safety inspection systems and other efforts to make travel safer, easier and more efficient.
While making key investments, the bill is also fiscally responsible - achieving savings in lower-priority programs. Overall, the bill provides $67.4 billion in discretionary spending - which is $500 million below 2010 and $1.3 billion below the President's request.
The deep Bush recession, which began in December 2007, has affected every sector of our economy. However, one of the hardest-hit sectors has been construction. Private, state and local construction activities stagnated during the recession. The national unemployment rate for the construction industry is currently 20 percent.
In response to the continuing crisis in construction, the bill makes key investments in transportation that are targeted to areas that will create jobs and build the infrastructure that will underpin future economic growth. Notably, the bill provides an additional $4.1 billion above 2010 for highway construction, which will create more than 142,000 new jobs across all sectors of the economy, spur economic growth, and allow states to complete additional infrastructure projects.
The bill also provides an additional $500 million above 2010 for public transit, which will create 20,000 new jobs for transit workers around the country.
As the housing sector continues to struggle, the bill provides vitally needed aid, including providing $113 million to support foreclosure counseling for families through NeighborWorks America, and $88 million for the HUD housing counseling assistance program.
The bill includes numerous other key investments, including beefing up FAA safety enforcement efforts and highway safety efforts, and supporting such community development programs as CDBG, HOME, the Brownfields program and the Livable Communities initiative.
Investing in Transportation and Housing Infrastructure to Create Jobs
- Highways: The bill provides $45.2 billion, $4.1 billion above 2010 and $3.9 billion above the request, to improve and repair our nation's highway infrastructure. According to the non-partisan job model used by the Department of Transportation, every $1 billion of federal investments in highways creates an estimated 34,800 jobs. Hence, the increased investment of $4.1 billion in highway construction above 2010 in this bill will create more than 142,000 new jobs across all sectors of the economy.
- Public Transportation: The bill provides $11.3 billion, $500 million above 2010 and $575 million above the President's request, to support bus and rail projects, including capital expenditures. The increased investment of $500 million in public transportation above 2010 in this bill will create 20,000 new jobs for transit workers around the country.
- Passenger Rail Grant Program: The bill provides $1.4 billion, $400 million above the request, to expand and improve intercity passenger rail and develop a robust national high speed rail system, which will create jobs and reinvigorate our manufacturing base.
- Amtrak: The bill provides $1.77 billion, $201.9 million above 2010 and $151.5 million above the request, to make capital investments including improvements to Amtrak's fleet. The increase of $201.9 million above 2010 will create 1,130 additional jobs.
- HOPE VI: The bill provides $200 million, not requested and matching 2010, for grants to rehabilitate distressed public housing neighborhoods by transforming them into sustainable mixed-income communities. This transformation will help create jobs in the hard-hit construction industry and will revitalize distressed neighborhoods.
- Public Housing Capital Fund: The bill provides $2.5 billion, $455 million above the request and matching 2010, to help Public Housing Authorities make critical repairs and improvements to public housing units. Every dollar invested in the Capital Fund produces $2.12 in economic return for local economies.
- Community Development Block Grant: The bill provides $4.35 billion, $97 million above 2010 and $28 million below the request, to spur local construction and development. The CDBG program works to ensure decent affordable housing, provide services to the most vulnerable, and create jobs through the expansion and retention of local businesses.
Aid with Housing, As the Housing Sector Continues to Struggle
- Foreclosure Mitigation and Housing Counseling Funds: The bill provides $113 million, equal to the request, to support foreclosure counseling for families through NeighborWorks America, and $88 million, equal to the request, for the HUD housing counseling assistance program to provide help for low and moderate income families before they purchase a home.
- Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Vouchers: The bill provides $75 million, not requested, for housing vouchers for homeless veterans, coordinated with supportive services from the VA Medical Centers. This funding will support 10,000 new vouchers and supports the effort to end veteran homelessness.
- Housing for the Elderly: The bill provides $825 million, $551 million above the request, to rehabilitate and build housing for low-income elderly people. Ten eligible seniors are on the waiting list for every one unit of housing available.
- Housing for the Disabled: The bill provides $300 million, $210 million above the request, to support affordable housing for the disabled by constructing approximately 1,400 new units and keeping over 13,000 Americans with disabilities in their homes.
- Homeless Assistance Grants: The bill provides $2.2 billion, $335 million above 2010 and $145 million above the request, to provide permanent and transitional housing for homeless families and individuals. This is the first year of implementation of the HEARTH Act, which will support both the prevention of, and rapid resolution of, homelessness in America.
- Section 8 Tenant Based Rental Assistance: The bill provides $19.4 billion, $1.2 billion above 2010 and $155 million below the request, to renew all vouchers currently in use and allow more than 2 million low-income families to stay in their homes.
- Section 8 Project- Based Rental Assistance: The bill provides $9.4 billion, $819 million above 2010 and equal to the President's request, to support the 1.3 million units of housing assisted. The average annual income of a resident of this form of housing is $11,217 and more than 57 percent are either elderly or disabled.
Improving Transportation Safety
- Aviation Safety: The bill provides $1.3 billion, $70.4 million above 2010 and $10.5 million above the request, for FAA safety enforcement efforts, including $17 million to hire 122 additional safety inspectors. This additional funding will help meet the safety goals established in the FAA Administrator's Call to Action the aftermath of the tragic Colgan Air air crash in Buffalo, New York, in early 2009.
- Highway Safety: The bill provides $891 million for the programs of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, to make America's roads safer by encouraging seat belt use, preventing drinking and driving, improving child safety, enhancing motorcyclist safety, and other initiatives.
- Distracted Driving Prevention Initiative: The bill reallocates $50 million within the Highway Traffic Safety Grants program to fund a new incentive grant program for states that enact and enforce laws to prevent distracted driving with a focus on banning “texting” while driving.
- Railroad Safety Technology: The bill provides $75 million, $25 million above 2010 and $75 million above the request, to provide grants to help deploy positive train control systems, which perform a critical safety function on rail lines with mixed freight and passenger traffic.