Today, Congressman Henry Cuellar (D-Laredo) helped pass H.R. 4348, the "Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act" (MAP-21). MAP-21 addresses crucial issues pending before Congress including the extension of the current student loan interest rate and the much-needed reauthorization of surface transportation legislation--known as "the highway bill." MAP-21 also reauthorizes the National Flood Insurance Program for five years, providing certainty and security to businesses, renters and the housing market.
"This three-part deal includes a broad range of provisions that will benefit students, families, businesses and local governments across America," said Cuellar. "Students can now enter the coming school year with the security of lower rates and less expensive monthly payments to loans. Federal and state agencies will be able to more effectively leverage transportation funding, and Texas will be able to make much-needed improvements to road, rail, and public transit needs. And homeowners, renters and businesses will benefit from the protection and security of continued flood insurance. This bipartisan bill is an example of the need for all members of Congress to work together across the aisle to ensure that we don't let partisan gridlock prevent us from taking action on behalf of our country's students, families and businesses."
MAP-21 is the result of months of negotiations between the House of Representatives and the Senate to reach a bipartisan agreement on these crucial issues. The bill passed the House of Representatives on a bipartisan vote of 373 to 52.
Student Loan Provisions: MAP-21 extends the current student loan interest rate of 3.4% for new federally subsidized, undergraduate student loans through June 30, 2013. This bill will have a significant impact on the 461,533 Texas students who are borrowers in the 2012-2013 academic year (according to the Committee on Education and the Workforce). Preventing the doubling of interest rates on need-based student loans makes next year's education $950 less expensive for more Texan students. Without this action, current interest rates would have doubled on July 1 from 3.4% to 6.8%, placing an unfair burden on middle class students and their families at a time when student debt is ballooning.
Transportation Provisions: This bill will create or save more than 2 million jobs, authorize highway and transit programs for more than two years at current levels, make key reforms consolidating transportation programs and cut red tape, and leverage federal resources to expand public-private partnerships in transportation. MAP-21 also provides state agencies like the Texas Department of Transportation more flexibility and opportunities for funding sources.
After nine short-term extensions of the prior surface transportation law, this bill ends the uncertainty our local businesses and governments faced in their transportation planning. This bill will make over $3 billion available for Texas infrastructure, funding much-needed transportation improvements in areas like the Eagle Ford Shale footprint. This bill also contains a provision advocated for by Congressman Cuellar that provides funding for bus systems in areas like Laredo and McAllen through federal grants directed at urbanized areas.
Flood Insurance Program Provisions: The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) helps finance disaster relief payments from the federal government to areas that have been devastated by floods. The Program gives crucial protections to homeowners, renters and businesses and provides security and certainty to people living in flood prone areas. This agreement reauthorizes the program for five years, through September 30, 2017. The NFIP has been extended temporarily more than a dozen times since the last long-term reauthorization expired in 2008.