WASHINGTON, March 22 – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) issued the following statement Thursday on the appropriations bill released last night to fund the federal government through September 30:
“As the ranking member of the Budget Committee and a member of Democratic leadership, I am proud of the many initiatives that I fought for in this budget that will help Vermont’s working families, the elderly, the children, the sick and our veterans. These initiatives include the largest increase in child care funding in nearly 30 years, student debt relief, a major increase for the Social Security Administration, $2 billion for infrastructure improvement at Veterans Administration hospitals, assistance to make it easier for low-income kids to attend college, $3.3 billion to address the opioid and heroin epidemic, investment in sustainable energy, and help for thousands of service members, veterans and their families coping with the challenges associated with military service.
“In the wealthiest country in the history of the world, millions of families in Vermont and around the country should not be falling behind economically and struggling to pay their bills. This legislation provides some long-overdue assistance.”
Victories for Vermont’s Working Families, Veterans and Students
- $2.37 billion, or an 80 percent year-over-year increase, for Child Care Development Block Grants to improve the health, safety, and quality of child care. Over the next two years, Vermont is expected to receive over $3 million in additional funding to provide child care for nearly 600 children.
- $3.3 billion for opioids and mental health treatment, prevention, and research, including:
- $1 billion for a new State Opioid Response Grant program, with a small state minimum under which Vermont will receive at least $4 million.
- $130 million for a new Rural Opioids Response program
- $415 million to improve addiction treatment in rural areas through community health centers and the National Health Service Corps.
- $480 million increase for the Social Security Administration. Many Vermonters have complained about the severe length of time it takes for underfunded and understaffed Social Security Administration field offices in Burlington, Montpelier and Rutland to help process and approve benefits. The funding increase fought for by Sanders will begin to reverse major staffing cuts to the SSA that have taken place since 2010, which will help improve customer service for Vermonters.
- $60 million increase for TRIO and $10 million increase for GEAR UP programs to help low to moderate income students go to college. Collectively, these programs help some 7,500 Vermonters, many of whom will be first generation college students.
- $600 million to expand access to high-speed broadband in rural areas like Vermont, a $534 million increase over fiscal year 2017.
- $2 billion to address VA hospital maintenance and constructionbacklogs that will free up needed funding to fill many of the 30,000 vacancies at the VA to make sure veterans in Vermont and throughout the country get the care they have earned and deserve.
- $350 million Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program to provide debt relief to teachers, police officers, nurses and others who have chosen a career in public service, who due to a flaw in the program, were made ineligible for loan forgiveness.
- $20 million for the Beyond the Yellow Ribbon Reintegration Program which help members of the Armed Forces and their families in preparation for deployment, during deployment and in reintegration post-deployment. This has helped thousands of Vermont National Guard members, veterans and their family members cope with the challenges associated with deployments and military service.
- $3.64 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, a $250 million increase over fiscal year 2017. This will provide an estimated $1.39 million increase for Vermont for a total of $20.4 million in fiscal year 2018. This program provides heating assistance to over 20,000 low income Vermonters, 79% are seniors on fixed incomes, persons with disabilities and families with young children in Vermont.
- $246 million for the Meals on Wheels program and over $490 million for congregate meals, an increase of $19 million from last year and a $40 million increase for congregate meals for seniors. Last year in Vermont, Meals on Wheels programs provided more than 1 million meals to seniors.