Year-End Omnibus Appropriations Package Signed Into Law
U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) applauded a year-end omnibus bill being signed into law, which includes a 12-bill appropriations package to fund the government through the end of Fiscal Year 2021, including Senator Murkowski’s Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies appropriations bill. This historic funding package also provides nearly $900 billion for COVID-19 relief; Senator Murkowski’s bipartisan, bicameral Energy Act of 2020; a bipartisan compromise to address the issue of Surprise Medical Billing; a major tax extenders package, and more.
“I am glad that Congress was able to put our differences aside and work together in a bipartisan manner to do what’s right for our nation. Together, we’ve crafted an omnibus bill which directs critical federal funding to where it is needed most,” said Senator Murkowski. “The 12-bill appropriations package invests in every sector of America. It will create economic opportunities for Alaskans, strengthen our national defense and military infrastructure, support Alaska’s fisheries, and invest in transportation. It includes funding for a number of Native and rural programs, as well as provisions to protect Alaska’s land and people. Building on my efforts to address Alaska’s public safety crisis, including the crisis of missing, trafficked, and murdered indigenous women, additional funding is included for the BIA to continue to address those issues. We secured a number of funding initiatives that will build on my work to increase America’s presence in the Arctic, as well as funding is included to improve healthcare for Alaskans. Full funding is also included for the PILT program which supports vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations. Reaching this agreement took significant bipartisan compromise from members across the board, and I’m proud to have been a part of that good work. The President’s decision to sign this legislation without further delay, which includes critical COVID-19 relief, is welcomed news.”
(Note: Numbers are nationwide program funding levels.)
Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Bill Highlights
- USGS Earthquake, Volcano, and Landslide Hazards: Provides funding for Alaska to develop and enhance earthquake monitoring capabilities, as well as operational funding to upgrade volcano monitoring equipment. Additionally, the bill provides funding for a site-specific landslide hazard assessment and a long-term monitoring strategy in Prince William Sound.
- Missing, Trafficked, & Murdered Indigenous Women: In order to improve the federal response to the epidemic of missing, trafficked, and murdered indigenous women, an additional $6.7 million is included for the BIA to continue to address these issues. Specifically, the bill includes $2 million for cold case work, $1 million for equipment needs, $3 million to support the goals of “Operation Lady Justice”, and $750,000 for victim witness specialists. The bill also continues language of the need to boost both coordination and data collection among Tribal, local, state, and federal law enforcement by directing BIA to designate an official within the agency to work with Tribes to develop a set of guidelines on how to best collect statistics. Native American women face high rates of violence and the lack of data on the number of women and girls who go missing or murdered further complicates the Nation’s ability to address this crisis.
- Payment in Lieu of Taxes: Provides full funding at $515 million for the Payment in Lieu of Taxes (PILT) program. The PILT program provides monetary compensation to local governments throughout Alaska that contain federal lands that are not subject to state or local taxation. The revenue helps local governments provide vital services, such as firefighting and police protection, construction of public schools and roads, and search-and-rescue operations.
- Timber Industry in Alaska: Dedicates resources critical to programs that support jobs and opportunities in the timber industry in Southeast Alaska. Also notes the harm the retaliatory Chinese tariffs are having on the Alaska timber industry and encourages the Department of Agriculture to consider including domestic timber products on the list of agriculture commodities covered for tariff relief.
- Denali National Park Road: Requires National Park Service to provide a long-term plan for addressing road improvements at Polychrome Pass.
For a fill list of Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill highlights, click here.
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Bill Highlights
- Micro-Grants for Food Security Program: Includes $5 million for the Micro-Grants for Food Security Program, which was created by Senator Murkowski in the 2018 Farm Bill, to help support Alaskans’ ability to grow their own food.
- Genetically Engineered (GE) Salmon: Building on her previous efforts to inform consumers they are purchasing genetically engineered salmon, Senator Murkowski again secured bill language requiring the term “genetically engineered” in the market name of any GE animal approved for human consumption by the FDA prior to February 2019.
- Organic Certification for Wild Seafood: The bill includes report language urging USDA to reestablish the Wild Caught Working Group under the National Organic Standards Board to consider developing organic certification standards for wild seafood.
- Rural Broadband and telephone infrastructure: The bill includes $35.5 million for rural electric and telephone infrastructure loans and $97 million for Distance Learning, Telemedicine and Broadband grants.
- Rural Water and Waste Disposal Program: $68 million was included for this program, which includes funding Alaska Natives. The Senator secured report language that encourages the Secretary to distribute these funds in line with the fiscal year 2014 distribution to the degree practicable, which provided a higher amount for the portion dedicated to Alaska.
For a full list of Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration Appropriations Bill Highlights, click here.
Commerce, Justice, Science Bill Highlights
- Tsunami Preparedness: The bill provides a $500,000 increase to NOAA’s Tsunami Warning Program and directs NOAA to work with other federal and state agencies to monitor the tsunami risk at Barry Glacier and inform emergency planning efforts for nearby communities like Whittier.
- National Weather Service (NWS): Provides $1.1 billion for the NWS, alongside report language highlighting continued concerns about staffing in Alaska.
- Human Trafficking and the FBI: Includes report language Senator Murkowski championed, directing the FBI to continue to designate a lead agent in each field office as a Human Trafficking Program Coordinator. In addition, the FBI is urged to allocate additional resources to those field offices in States with the highest rates of modern slavery and human trafficking. Not later than 180 days after the date of enactment of this Act, the FBI shall submit a report on those field offices' capacity to investigate all crimes of slavery and human trafficking in their jurisdiction. The report should further detail any additional resources that have been provided to those field offices for these efforts.
- STOP School Violence Act (Byrne-JAG and COPS): $132,000,000 is included in support of this program. This program supports both student education and teacher/school-official training, to better identify and respond to signs of mental distress that might precipitate violent attacks on schools. This program also supports evidence-based efforts to improve school security and overall safety.
- Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund (PCSRF): Funding is maintained at $65 million for the PCSRF, a program established in 2000 the help reverse declining steelhead and Pacific Salmon stocks in Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington, and Idaho.
For a full list off Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations bill highlights, click here.
Defense, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs Bill Highlights
- Military Pay Raise: The bill takes care of our troops by providing funding for a 3% pay raise our servicemembers as authorized by the NDAA.
- Ted Stevens Center for Arctic Security Studies: Provides $10 million to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency to establish the sixth and newest DoD Regional Center with a focus on Arctic Security.
- F-35A Aircraft Procurement: Provides an increase of $2 billion to fund an additional 17 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters and associated spare parts, including 12 F-35A conventional takeoff and landing variant and 5 F-35C takeoff and landing variant for a total of 96 F-35s in FY2021.
- Innovative Readiness Training (IRT): In an effort to increase real world training opportunities and deployment readiness, $30 million is provided for the Innovative Readiness Training program. The program can bring military reservists from across the country to Alaska for advanced training by providing public and civil-society programs that are rarely practices outside of typical training iterations. These programs typically include building critical infrastructure or providing mobile health and/or dental clinics to support the local communities that they are embedded with.
- Fort Greely Communications Center: Includes $48 million for the construction of a Communications Center at Fort Greely.
For a full list of Defense, Military Construction, and Veterans Affairs Appropriations bill highlights, click here.
Energy and Water Development Bill Highlights
- Arctic Energy: Includes report language directs the Department of Energy to support a renewed focus on the Arctic region and to reestablish the Arctic Energy Office. Once reconstituted, the office will serve as a centralized area to support the integration of research and development and innovative activities of the Department, including microgrids and integrated energy systems. Provides over $5 million for program direction.
- Nuclear Energy: Provides $250 million in continued funding for the advanced nuclear reactor demonstration program. This funding closely tracks the provisions within the Nuclear Energy Leadership Act, which is included in Division Z of the same bill.
- Office of Indian Energy (OIE): Includes $22 million, for a key program that assists tribes with energy needs and projects on their lands. Also includes report language tasking DOE to prioritize state entities in Alaska for technical assistance and directing OIE to design funding opportunity announcements that do not exclude tribes based on land ownership structures. This program recently awarded grants for projects in Iguigig, Kwethluk, and Togiak.
- Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response: Provides $156 million for the Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security, and Emergency Response (CESER) at the Department of Energy, which addresses emerging threats to our nation’s energy supply by improving energy infrastructure security.
For a fill list of Energy and Water Appropriations bill Highlights, click here.
Homeland Security and State, Foreign Operations Bill Highlights
- Polar Security Cutter (PSC) and Polar Sustainment: Provides $555 million towards acquisition of the second polar security cutter as well as $15 million for a service-life extension to rehabilitate and restore the critical systems onboard the icebreaker POLAR STAR.
- Transboundary Watershed Management: Provides up to $500,000 to support State Department engagement with other Federal agencies to identify remaining gaps in the Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) between British Columbia and Alaska, Washington, Idaho, and Montana, relating to mining activity in transboundary watersheds.
- PFAS: Includes $5 million for environmental remediation projects related to per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances evaluation and response.
- Fishing Safety: Provides $6 million to help the Coast Guard implement the Fishing Safety Training and Fishing Safety Research Grant Programs.
For a full list of Homeland Security and State, Foreign Operations Appropriations Bill Highlights, click here.
Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Highlights:
- Alaska Native Education Equity Program (ANEP): An increase of $500,000 for a total of $36.453 million for a program designed to meet the unique educational needs of Alaska Native students.
- Native Language Immersion Grants: An increase to an estimated $2.5 million to support Native American and Alaska Native Language Immersion Schools and Programs grants, crafted by Senator Murkowski in the Every Student Succeeds Act. It has been determined that schools where indigenous language is the primary language of instruction have a strong, positive effect on Alaska Native students.
- Opioid Response Grants: Includes $1.5 billion for Opioid Response Grants for education, treatment, behavioral health services, and recovery support, $50 million of which shall be made available to Indian tribes or tribal organizations and for State with the highest mortality rate related to opioid use disorder.
- Area Health Education Centers: Includes $43.2 million, a $2 million increase, for Area Health Education Centers, which support efforts to recruit, retain, and train healthcare personnel in rural and underserved areas, Alaska’s AHEC program supports workforce development across Alaska.
For a full list of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Highlights, click here.
Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Bill Highlights
- Essential Air Service: Includes $165 million for Essential Air Service to help increase access for rural communities that are otherwise isolated from the National Air Transportation System. Essential Air Service is a lifeline securing consistent passenger, mail and bypass mail service delivering medicine, foodstuffs and other necessities to these otherwise isolated communities.
- Ferry System: Includes funding to support the FAST Act, including $38 million for a competitive grant program which could help support maintenance and improvements of Alaska’s ferry system through the construction of ferry boats, acquiring right-of-way, and constructing ferry terminal facilities.
- Tribal Housing: Makes significant steps towards addressing the immense housing and urban development needs in rural Alaska by allocating $747 million for Native American Housing Block Grants, vital funding to designated housing entities to address the housing needs of tribal communities. $100 million is included for Competitive Grant funding again. $70 million is included for the Indian Community Development Block Grant fund to support tribal economies and community development efforts. In addition, the bill includes $1.5 million for the Section 184 Indian Housing Loan Guarantee Fund, which provides lenders with a 100-percent guarantee for mortgages to American Indian and Alaska Native borrowers to address the unique nature of tribal trust land used as collateral.
For a full list of Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Bill Highlights, click here.