<br>House Passes American Recovery And Reinvestment Act
Voting to pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, U.S. Rep. Nick Rahall (D-WV) Wednesday helped to advance a package of badly needed investment aimed at creating and saving jobs in West Virginia and throughout the Nation and boosting America's flagging economy.
The national wave of job loss is spilling into West Virginia, where over 2,000 jobs have disappeared in the last year, making the need for relief urgent, said Rahall.
This bill will help to build infrastructure -- things like highways and bridges, water and sewer systems, dams and airports -- that create jobs and invite private-sector growth, said Rahall. But it will also help to fund the growing needs of families suffering as a result of the economic downturn by financing education, and healthcare.
Additionally, the stimulus bill contains $2.4 billion to demonstrate carbon capture and sequestration technologies and techniques through Clean Coal Power Initiative, administered by the National Energy Technology Laboratory in Morgantown.
Proving carbon capture and sequestration is critical to advancing the kind of new generation coal-fed electricity and fuels that fit into the Obama Administration's green energy vision, Rahall said. The strength and longevity of coal's position in America's broadening energy portfolio largely relies on the ground-breaking research and development that the $2.4 billion in this bill will help to underwrite.
The bill contains $243 million for highway and bridge construction in West Virginia. As a Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, and now its Vice-Chairman, Rahall has long worked to bring highway and bridge construction dollars to West Virginia, where the rugged topography has traditionally made road-building a particularly costly and difficult undertaking in comparison with other states. Also in the bill for West Virginia is $19 million for Transit Capital Assistance, monies that help to fund local bus services.
"The bill, we in the House, are working on right now will increase West Virginia's highway dollars by $243 million using the existing federal highway formula. The State, under this bill, will allocate stimulus funds to various projects and needs. Southern West Virginia has many highway projects ready to go that deserve the State's attention. Local support will be paramount in bringing our fair share of federal dollars south for the Coalfields Expressway, Beckley Z-Way, King Coal Highway, Shawnee Parkway and other important projects. Congress still has work to do on the stimulus bill. It's aim has to be job creation and doing that through building our transportation network makes a lot of sense, said Rahall.
Also included in the bill for West Virginia are $90 million for Clean Water State Revolving funds, and $19 million for Drinking Water State Revolving funds, programs that help to bring safe, clean drinking water to the state's rural communities.
The bill, further, contains a total of $50 million for Watershed Rehabilitation Programs nationwide, as well as $1.5 million for USDA Rural Communities Advancement Programs, Rural Water & Waste Disposal, $350 million for Natural Resources Conservation Service's watershed and flood control programs -- programs that have helped protect West Virginian's homes and businesses from floodwaters.
This legislation provides a national total of $4 billion for local law enforcement agencies, including Byrne/JAG grants and the COPS hiring program, programs that are critical to the Nation's men and women of law enforcement, allowing them to purchase critical equipment and put additional police officers on the streets.
This legislation invests in the Nation's schools with $20 billion for school modernization, including $14 billion for K-12 schools and $6 billion for higher education institutions. Over $28 billion is included for vital programs such as Head Start, Title I and IDEA, each of which provides local school districts with necessary funding to ensure that every child, regardless of income or disability, receives the best education possible.
A critical part of ensuring each student receives the best education, is making sure they can afford that education, which is why $15.6 billion will go to increase Pell Grants from $4,850 to $5,350. No one should be denied the dream of college because of the cost of tuition, especially when the cost of deferring that dream is far greater in the long-run," said Rahall
The rising cost of gas and electric utilities has hit every household hard, which is why $1 billion was included for the national Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). West Virginians, in particular our seniors, have long relied on LIHEAP for assistance when utility bills rise beyond manageable levels and the winter of this economy will be no different," said Rahall
"I believe that affordable and quality healthcare should be a priority in this Nation, which is why I am proud to support the key health care investments in this bill, Rahall said, noting the bill's $1.5 billion for Community Health Centers and $600 million for training of doctors, dentists and nurses helping to further ensure that all Americans, especially those in rural areas continue to have access to critical healthcare services.
Every State has been hit hard by the economy and the $87 billion in additional federal Medicaid matching funds will help the States to maintain Medicaid programs and avoid having to cut or scale back health care services covered under this program.
Naysayers balk at this bill because it contains a lot of funding, but the challenge is immense and choices are either to take courageous action or to stand around and wring our hands, Rahall said. The better course is clear; take a bold step, invest in America again, put people back to work, and make our economic future bright once more.