WASHINGTON- The U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, on Tuesday, released each of its Fiscal Year 2021 funding bills including the Senate Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies (MilCon-VA) bill authored by U.S. Senator John Boozman (R-AR).
Boozman’s bill includes full funding of the VA MISSION Act and electronic health record modernization programs. It also supports the newly enacted Commander John Scott Hannon Veterans Mental Health Care Improvement Act, which includes a provision by the senator to create a Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) grant program to reduce and prevent veteran suicide.
“Funding the government is the most important responsibility of Congress. I’m proud of the bipartisan collaboration that resulted in the support of veteran programs and national defense facilities. I urge my colleagues in the House of Representatives to work together with the Senate so we can provide this certainty for Americans,” Boozman said.
Boozman also secured several Arkansas-related priorities in the bills:
Air Force Training: $8 million to support training at Razorback Range.
Pine Bluff Arsenal: Over $25 million for munitions manufacturing.
Department of Defense Research: Funding for collaborative research in which Arkansas companies are engaged, including more than $30 million for silicon carbide research to make smaller components for more sophisticated modern weapons.
National Center for Toxicological Research: $66.7 million to support the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) research to promote and protect public health conducted at the National Center for Toxicological Research. This facility is located in Jefferson County.
Rural Broadband: $400 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 (ATTRA) program which connects Arkansas agricultural producers to information that helps them improve their operations. ATTRA administers the Armed to Farm program that assists veterans in transition to civilian life by training them for a career in farming. ATTRA has a regional headquarters located in Fayetteville.
High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Program (HIDTA): $285 million to support effective and innovative drug control efforts by federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies operating in HIDTA areas. In Arkansas this includes Benton, Jefferson, Pulaski and Washington counties.
Veterans Treatment Courts: Support for critical components of our judicial system that offer an alternative treatment to jail for individuals suffering from drug and alcohol addiction. Veterans treatment courts received $24 million to help break the cycle of addiction.
Law Enforcement Grants: $481 million for the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant (Byrne JAG) program which provides federal, state and local governments the tools to prevent and combat crime and keep their communities safe. In Arkansas, Byrne JAG helps fund multi-jurisdictional programs like Drug Task Forces.
SRF WIN Funding: $5 million is included to help meet underserved or unmet water infrastructure needs, a program Boozman-authored last Congress to create an innovative approach to modernizing critical water infrastructure.
Community Health Centers (CHC): In Arkansas, there are more than 130 CHC facilities that help nearly 200,000 people get the medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care services they need. The Senate allocates $1.7 billion for these health facilities.
Delta Regional Authority (DRA): The DRA works to improve economic opportunity for residents of the Delta region through targeted investments. The proposed Senate bills include more than $30 million for the DRA 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 (FAST) Partnership Program, Women’s Business Centers and Regional Innovation Clusters program.
McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS): The bill includes report language discussing the importance of the MKARNS inland waterway deepening and encourages the Army Corps of Engineers to provide funds for non-structural activities, such as channel deepening, when funding is sufficient to accommodate such projects.
The Senate will now begin negotiations with the House of Representative so a final agreement can be reached to fund the federal government for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2021.