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Bill includes money for projects in state

by Special to The Commercial | December 23, 2020 at 3:33 a.m.
FILE - U.S. Sen. John Boozman speaks to media, Friday, August 7, 2020 at Northside Elementary School in Rogers. (NWA Democrat-Gazette/Charlie Kaijo)

U.S. Sen. John Boozman has secured funding provisions for Arkansas priorities, including more than $96 million for the National Center for Toxicological Research and the Pine Bluff Arsenal, and nearly $300 million for the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program, which includes Jefferson, Benton, Pulaski and Washington counties.

Boozman, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies subcommittee, secured provisions in the omnibus bill that stand to deliver benefits to the Natural State, according to a news release.

Boozman, R-Ark., authored the section of the bill that funds military construction and veterans affairs. He also secured resources for the following Arkansas-related priorities:

• National Center for Toxicological Research: $66.7 million to support the Food and Drug Administration's research to promote and protect public health conducted at that National Center for Toxicological Research, which is in Jefferson County.

• Pine Bluff Arsenal: More than $30 million for munitions manufacturing.

• High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program: $290 million to support effective and innovative drug control efforts by federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in program areas. In Arkansas this includes Benton, Jefferson, Pulaski and Washington counties.

• Air Force training: $8 million to support training at Razorback Range.

• Fort Chaffee: $15 million for construction of the Arkansas National Guard Readiness Training Center, which will provide greater support for training exercises and help ensure Arkansas guardsmen continue to be some of the best.

• 188th Wing: $2.6 million for the Energy Resilience and Conservation Investment Program renewable energy project.

• Department of Defense Research: Funding for collaborative research in which Arkansas companies are engaged, including more than $34 million for silicon carbide research to make smaller components for more sophisticated modern weapons.

• Rural broadband: $635 million to help close the digital divide and invest in rural broadband through the U.S. Department of Agriculture's ReConnect Program.

• Rural Development: Expanding business development and job training opportunities in rural areas, including $2.8 million for the Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Access program which connects Arkansas agricultural producers to information that helps them improve their operations. Appropriate Technology Transfer for Rural Access administers the Armed to Farm program that assists veterans in transition to civilian life by training them for a career in farming. The program has a regional headquarters in Fayetteville.

• Veterans treatment courts: Support for critical components of the judicial system that offer jail-alternative treatments for individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. Veterans treatment courts received $25 million to help break the cycle of addiction.

• Law enforcement grants: $484 million for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program, which provides federal, state and local governments the tools to prevent and fight crime, and keep their communities safe. In Arkansas, the Byrne program helps fund multijurisdictional programs like drug task forces.

• State revolving fund water infrastructure finance funding: $5 million is included to help meet underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs, a program Boozman-sponsored previously to create an innovative approach to modernizing critical water infrastructure.

• Community health centers: In Arkansas, there are more than 130 community health center facilities that help nearly 200,000 people get the medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care services they need. The Senate allocates $1.68 billion for these health facilities.

• Delta Regional Authority: The Authority works to improve economic opportunity for residents of the Delta through targeted investments. The bill includes more than $30 million for the Authority, which supports grants to the region and funding for basic public infrastructure development and transportation improvements.

• Small business development: More than $30 million is included for programs that support small-business development, such as the Federal and State Technology Partnership Program, Women's Business Centers and Regional Innovation Clusters program.

• McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System: The bill includes report language discussing the importance of the system's inland waterway deepening, and encourages the Army Corps of Engineers to provide funds for nonstructural activities, such as channel deepening, when funding is sufficient to accommodate such projects.

• National Feral Swine Damage Management Program: Increases funding to this program under the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to reduce adverse ecological and economic affects caused by feral swine across Arkansas and the nation.

• Community Development Block Grant: The bill provides $3.5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program, the federal government's largest and most widely available source of financial assistance supporting state and local government-directed neighborhood revitalization, housing rehabilitation and economic development activities. Grants are used for projects intended to address housing, community development and economic development, as determined by local officials.

• Contract Tower Program: The bill funds this program -- which provides enhanced safety, improved air traffic control services and significant Federal Aviation Administration cost savings -- at $173 million. This program benefits aviation safety by allowing small commercial service and general aviation airports to receive air traffic control services. There are five contract towers in Arkansas: Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and Texarkana.

• University transportation centers: $78 million for researching and developing improved transportation methods. The Mack-Blackwell Transportation Center at the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville has been a U.S. Department of Transportation University Transportation Center since 1992.

• Workforce training: $35 million for the Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities initiative to support workforce training and education in rural communities across the Delta and Appalachian regions.

• Head Start and Child Care Development Block Grant Program: $135 million increase for Head Start and $85 million increase to provide child care assistance for families in need. Program funds are critical to supporting working parents and enabling child care to continue to operate, a key to economic recovery.

• Water infrastructure: $1.1 billion for the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, which helps public water systems finance infrastructure improvements needed to achieve or maintain compliance with Safe Drinking Water Act requirements and to protect public health. $1.6 billion for the Clean Water State Revolving Fund to provide communities low-cost financing for water quality improvement projects.

"Congress has an obligation to fund the government," Boozman said. "Passing the appropriations bills ensures we are investing in programs that support the needs of Americans. I'm proud to craft legislation that fully funds the VA MISSION Act and electronic health record modernization programs while supporting new initiatives to reduce and prevent veteran suicide."

"I'm pleased Congress approved resources for programs important to Arkansas," Boozman said.

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