WASHINGTON — Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., was one of four members of Congress who negotiated the compromise $1.4 trillion appropriations bill approved by the House on Tuesday and expected to pass the Senate on Friday.
Leahy, the Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, hosted a meeting with the committee’s chair, Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., and their counterparts on the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y. and Rep. Kay Granger, R-Texas.
Following the agreement, Leahy said, “I’m gratified to be in a position to give Vermont a center seat as we set our national priorities in these annual funding bills. These investments in our Green Mountain State will support Vermont’s dairy farmers, continue efforts to clean up our ‘Great’ Lake Champlain, and revitalize our historic downtowns. I look forward to Senate passage later this weekend and getting this bill signed into law.”
In a statement, Leahy highlighted the following items in the budget as being or particular benefit to Vermont.
Lake Champlain — $25.5 Million
This is an increase $4.5 million over fiscal year 2019.
This expanded funding will be used to improve water quality challenges in Lake Champlain, including phosphorous runoff, sea lamprey control, salmon and lake trout restoration, invasive species control, and other ecosystem work.
President Trump’s budget would have eliminated funding for Lake Champlain.
Dairy — $6 Million
The agreement includes $20 million for a new regional Dairy Business Innovation Initiatives, including one for Vermont. This is an $18.5 million increase over fiscal year 2019.
These funds will provide nearly $6 million to support Vermont dairy.
The Vermont Agency of Agriculture was one of three regionally located initiatives in the U.S. that received a small grant earlier this year from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to create regional a Dairy Business Innovation Initiative.
These funds will help Vermont farms by providing technical and financial assistance to help dairy producers diversify their products, demonstrate innovative on-farm production practices, and adapt to emerging market trends, with the overall goal of improving dairy farm viability.
Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) — $31 Million
This is a $6 million increase over fiscal year 2019. Since Leahy became Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, he has championed a $20 million increase in funding for the NBRC.
The NBRC supports development in economically distressed Northern Border counties. Funding from the commission has gone to multiple recent projects in Franklin County, including the Missisquoi Valley Rail Trail, infrastructure in Fairfax and economic development in Enosburgh.
Since 2010, Vermont organizations have received more than $10.6 million to spur economic development and job growth in Vermont’s 6 northern-most counties.
In the 2018 Farm Bill, Leahy led a provision to ensure that ALL communities in Vermont are eligible for funding from the NBRC’s grant programs.
Paul Bruhn Historic Revitalization Grants program — $7.5 Million
This program was renamed in honor of the late Vermonter Paul Bruhn who dedicated his life to preserving the legacy of rural America. Leahy and Bruhn created the program in 2018.
These grants support small historic preservation projects in rural communities that often do not have the resources to access larger grant programs, and support Vermont’s small towns and villages efforts to revitalize town centers and conserve Vermont’s history and heritage.
Waterbury Dam — $20 Million
The agreement includes $20 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to begin a risk assessment study on the Waterbury Dam. This funding will help with dam safety modifications, construction recommendations, and major improvements, preventing the flooding of several towns in the Waterbury area by the Little River and Winooski River.
U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School — $30 Million
Located in Jericho, Vt., the U.S. Army Mountain Warfare School provides instruction in mountaineering and maneuvering through difficult terrain to the Army and other military personnel through year-round climbing and training opportunities.
Current facilities are in desperate need of critical upgrades to meet safety needs and demand, and the new facility will improve training to ensure our soldiers have all the skills needed to maneuver, regardless of the terrain.
LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) — $3.74 Billion
This is a $50 million increase over fiscal year 2019. The President sought to eliminate all funding for LIHEAP. This bill will secure an estimated $20.7 million in LIHEAP funds for Vermont. “No family should have to choose between heat or eat in Vermont or anywhere in America,” Leahy said.
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) — $502.5 Million
This historic level of funding includes increases for Leahy-authored grants that help Vermont survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, like Rural Domestic Violence Enforcement (+$1.5 million) and Transitional Housing Assistance (+$1 million). In an upcoming story, the Messenger will examine the impact of VAWA grants on Franklin County.