SENATE PASSES GOVERNMENT FUNDING MEASURE WITH KEY WINS FOR OHIO SECURED BY BROWN
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate passed a government funding measure that included key wins for Ohio secured by U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH). The package, which includes badly needed COVID-19 relief for Ohio, passed the Senate by a bipartisan margin of 91-7. The House also passed the package, which now heads to the President’s desk to be signed into law.
Brown fought to include key provisions for Ohio in the final package, including language to end surprise medical bills, provisions to make the tax code fairer and key investments in Ohio’s military installations.
“In the midst of such a difficult year for Ohio, the package we secured tonight will provide critical investments and support for our state. Ohio families and communities are struggling, and this package is a first step toward getting them the help they need. We’ll all have more work to do in the months and years ahead, but the Senate passage of this package tonight is an important victory for our state,” said Brown.
Key provisions secured by Brown in the year-end package include:
· Language based on Brown legislation to protect patients from surprise medical bills
· Brown’s bill to protect seniors from out-of-pocket costs for preventive colonoscopies
· Provisions to increase transparency for Pharmacy Benefit Managers – or PBMs, which operate as middle-men among drug manufacturers – as well as insurance companies and pharmacies
· Brown/Portman effort that permanently lowers the medical expense tax deduction for seniors to 7.5 percent for older Americans and other individuals with high medical costs
· Three-year funding extension for Community Health Centers in Ohio
· Language to prioritize and protect funding for the new CDC NIOSH facility in Cincinnati
· $128M in funding for Healthy Start, a $2.5M increase over last year
TAX CREDITS AND A FAIRER TAX CODE
· Brown-led legislation to allow filers to choose to use their 2019 wages – instead of 2020 wages that may have been affected by the pandemic – to calculate their Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit when they file in 2021. This will prevent low-paid workers from taking a second hit – a lower tax refund on top of already lower wages – at tax time next year
· Extension of Health Coverage Tax Credit to help retirees and other individuals who lost their health care coverage — in addition to their pensions and other benefits — when their employers either entered into bankruptcy or laid off workers due to foreign trade
· Five-year extension of New Markets Tax Credits, which help spur revitalization by providing tax credit incentives to Community Development Entities (CDE) so they can invest in low-income communities
· Five-year extension of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which encourages employers to hire individuals who face significant barriers to employment
· Permanently lower taxes on craft beverages. Without this change, Ohio’s local breweries, wineries and distilleries would have seen their taxes double in January
· $5 million grant increase for the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) Program, which provides support to free tax preparation sites that help individuals and families file their income tax returns
· Higher funding levels for the Black Lung Disability Trust Fund, which helps coal miners who have been deemed disabled due to black lung disease
· Four additional housing bills to ensure that homeless services providers get the funds they need for next year, to keep families living in public housing safe from carbon monoxide poisoning, and to improve homeless services and mortgage access for Native Americans
· $23.5 Million for Wright-Patterson Air Force Base to upgrade the existing Type II hydrant fuel system to a Type III system
· $15 million for military construction to support a new Army Guard Readiness Center at the Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base
· $1.3 billion for Abrams Tanks upgrades and modifications, and $1.16 for Stryker Vehicles which are built at the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center in Lima
· $430 million for ongoing cleanup at the Portsmouth Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Piketon
· Approximately $23.3 billion for NASA, including $828 million for aeronautics research. A portion of that funding will go to NASA’s Glenn Research Center in Cleveland
· Funding for the solar electric propulsion work led by Glenn Research Center
INFRASTRUCTURE AND TRANSPORTATION
· Nearly $1.1 billion for bridge replacement and rehabilitation to repair and replace deficient bridges, a portion of which will be allocated to Ohio bridges. Brown has led bipartisan efforts to secure much larger federal investments in repairing and replacing deficient bridges.
· $640 million of supplemental funding for eligible projects under the Surface Transportation Block Grant program, which can be used for highway repairs, local transportation improvements and alternative fuel corridors. Ohio’s share of the additional $640 million will be based on current formula programs.
· $1 billion for investments in surface transportation infrastructure that are awarded on a competitive basis for projects that will have a significant local or regional impact that is commonly referred to at the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development (BUILD) grant program (formerly the TIGER program).
· $516 million from the general fund for transit infrastructure grants, which will support efforts by Ohio transit agencies to replace buses and vans that have reached the end of their service life.
· Language to simplify the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and make it easier to access federal financial aid
· Restoration of Pell Grant eligibility to students who get borrower defense loan discharges because they were defrauded by their for-profit colleges, based on Brown’s Pell Grant Restoration Act
· Provisions based on the REAL Act, Brown’s bipartisan legislation to lift the ban on incarcerated individuals accessing Pell Grants for higher education
· Important debt relief and increased funding for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs)
· Provisions from Brown’s Child Welfare Emergency Assistance Act to support key child welfare programs working to support young people and families during the pandemic, including:
o $400 million for the John H. Chafee Foster Care Independence Program to ensure young people have access to supports, such as housing, food, and cash assistance, and allow more of these funds to cover housing costs for foster youth
o $10 million for the Court Improvement Program to ensure dependency courts have resources to facilitate the transition to remote hearings, train judges, volunteers, and court personnel on the use of technology, and support innovative programs to help families continue to address case plan requirements
o $85 million for the Mary Lee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program to provide support services for families, kinship, foster, and adoptive parents, and young people
o $20 million for kinship navigator programs to ensure kinship caregivers have access to resources and direct assistance
o Increased federal funding and flexibility for kinship navigator programs to provide direct assistance to kinship caregivers
o Increased funding for states to implement prevention services authorized in the Family First Prevention Services Act
o Protections to ensure young people in foster care do not “age-out” of care and are cut off from critical housing and support services during the public health emergency
· $484 million for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG), which gives supplemental funding to states and local governments to support police officers
· $30 million for the Patrick Leahy Bulletproof Vest Partnership Grant Program
· $720 million for firefighters, of which:
o $360 million is for Assistance to Firefighter Grants; and
o $360 million is for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants.
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