U.S. Senator Doug Jones, D-Ala., announced Thursday that dozens of his requests to fund priorities for Alabama were included in a year-end appropriations package that passed the Senate on Thursday. The two funding bills now head to the President’s desk for his signature.
“From increased resources for our HBCUs to additional funding to prevent the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease in our deer population, there are dozens of Alabama priorities included in this bill,” Jones said in a release. “The deal will also fund my Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Commission, end the Kiddie Tax on military families, and provide funding for heirs’ property owners to resolve burdensome legal issues. I want to thank Senators Richard Shelby and Patrick Leahy, who lead our Appropriations Committee, for their bipartisan work to get this done.”
Key provisions championed by Senator Jones include:
Ending the “Kiddie Tax”: As a result of the Military Widow’s Tax, Gold Star spouses often put benefits in their children’s names in order to collect full survivor benefits. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act significantly raised taxes due on these benefits up to a tax rate of 37 percent, resulting in surprise tax increases of over $1,000 for many families. The inclusion of Senator Jones’ bill to get rid of the Kiddie Tax will restore the previous lower tax rate on these benefits.
Civil Rights Cold Case bill implementation: $2M has been allocated for National Archives and Records Administration to implement Senator Jones’ Civil Rights Cold Case Collection Act, which was signed into law by the President early this year.
Funding gun violence prevention research: For the first time in two decades, Congress will allocate $25M for research into the causes of gun violence in America. Senator Jones has supported this effort as a common-sense, bipartisan step to better understand and prevent acts of gun violence.
Improving maternal and child health: $17M increase for programs to improve maternal and child health through the Health Resources and Services Administration, including an additional $5 million to reduce maternal mortality. Senator Jones has introduced numerous pieces of legislation to support families and increase access to health care for women and children.
Increasing funding to enforce federal child protection laws: $90M for State Grants and $55.66 million for the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention grants to enforce the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, which Senator Jones has introduced legislation to reauthorize in 2020.
Raising the purchasing age for tobacco to 21: The deal prohibits sale of tobacco products to anyone under the age of 21 across the country. Senator Jones joined similar legislation earlier this year.
Clotilda excavation assistance: $500,000 for the Smithsonian Institution to support excavation, education, and community engagement around discovery of the Clotilda, the last known slave ship to arrive in the United States. The bill also expands eligibility for Civil Rights grants under the Historic Preservation Fund to include recently discovered sites of the transatlantic slave trade, including the Clotilda. Senator Jones also recently memorialized the discovery of the Clotilda, which was found near Mobile, Alabama, in a Senate resolution.
Funding programs to resolve heirs’ property disputes: $5M secured by Senator Jones for a new heirs’ property relending fund program.
Preventing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease: Preventing the spread of Chronic Wasting Disease: $1.72M for the U.S. Geological Survey and $5M to the Animal Plant Health Inspection Service to combat chronic wasting disease. As an avid hunter and outdoorsman, Senator Jones has introduced several pieces of legislation to fight the spread of CWD. Also included in the bill was another of Senator Jones’ priorities, the Modernizing the Pittman-Robertson Fund for Tomorrow’s Needs Act, which will help state wildlife agencies to conduct important CWD outreach activities.
Increasing Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) funding:
In addition to securing permanent mandatory funding for HBCUs, Senator Jones has advocated for this bill to also provide $325M—a 15 percent increase—for HBCU discretionary funding next year. Last year, he also secured a 14-percent discretionary funding increase in the omnibus funding bill.
- $10M for HBCU Historic Preservation Fund grants.
- $50M, including $10M for Public HBCUs, for HBCU Capital Finance Loan deferment authority.
Increasing the maximum Pell Grant award: Students are now eligible for a $150 increase in the maximum Pell Grant award, bringing the maximum award to $6,345 per student.
Funding wastewater grant programs: $5M for the Household Water Well System Grant Program, which Senator Jones expanded in last year’s Farm Bill to include up to $15,000 for households in rural areas to install and maintain individually owned decentralized wastewater systems.
Enforcing EPA civil rights protections: $9.554M for enforcement of environmental justice programs under EPA. Earlier this year, Senator Jones called on EPA to better enforce civil rights protections in the environmental justice context.
Saving miners pensions: The bill shores up the miners pension plan, which is headed for insolvency due to coal company bankruptcies and the 2008 financial crisis, and ensures that the miners who are at risk due to coal company bankruptcies will not lose their healthcare. There are nearly 6,000 United Mine Workers of America pensioners in Alabama.
Protecting public transportation funds: The bill includes Senator Jones’ amendment to protect $1.2B in public transportation funds, including more than $7M that was set to be cut for Alabama transit agencies without this amendment.
Protecting Alabama auto manufacturers from unnecessary tariffs: The bill requires the release of automobile and auto part Section 232 investigation within 30 days, which Senator Jones has called on the Administration to make public.
Addressing the shortage of pilots and lack of diversity in military service: $3M for the Air Force and Army Junior ROTC to create pilot scholarship programs to increase diversity in military pilot ranks. Senator Jones introduced a bill earlier this year to authorize the secretaries of each military department to create these programs.