Washington, DC – Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) cheered a range of critical Rhode Island priorities included today in an omnibus spending bill that will keep the federal government funded through September 30:
“I’m proud of what this bill achieves for Rhode Island. It puts billions behind the fight against the opioid crisis, including hundreds of millions of dollars for programs established under my bipartisan addiction and recovery bill. And it targets federal opioid dollars at the states where they can make the biggest difference – like Rhode Island.
“And that’s just a start. For the first time, real funding will go to the National Oceans and Coastal Security Fund, a resource for resiliency, restoration, and research to protect our oceans and coastal communities, which I worked to establish. That’s a big win for coastal states like Rhode Island.
“This bill will help reduce student loan debt, and includes a provision I authored to help teachers, policemen, and other public servants get the student loan relief they were promised. After hearing from a Rhode Islander who, after ten years of payments, found she didn’t qualify for loan forgiveness due to a technicality, I authored a fix for that problem and fought to get it passed.
“It includes my legislation to help safely share data on criminals with other rule-of-law countries. It increases spending to upgrade our roads, bridges, ports and other critical infrastructure in Rhode Island. It increases funding for low-income housing. And it raises the maximum level of Pell grants, to carry on Senator Pell’s legacy of opening the door to higher education for millions of Americans.
“While this legislation isn’t perfect, it contains victories for Rhode Island based on good bipartisan work. Republicans and Democrats in the House and Senate came together, kept the White House from interfering, and exercised Congress’s power of the purse. I hope we can build on that success moving forward.”
A number of provisions in the spending bill are based on legislation Whitehouse has championed or supply funding to programs formed by Whitehouse bills, including:
- A $3.3 billion-increase in funding to fight the opioid epidemic, with more than $500 million to fund programs established by Whitehouse’s bipartisan Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act. This funding will be used to further a number of addiction and recovery activities already underway in Rhode Island, including prescription drug take back, family-based programs and addiction coaching, and community-based alternatives to incarceration programs.
- $30 million in funding for the National Ocean and Coastal Security Fund to support work that helps Americans understand and adapt to forces like sea level rise, severe storms, and other coastal hazards, which threaten lives and economic prosperity in coastal communities across the country.
- A provision based on a bill by Whitehouse and Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA) to fix a glitch in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program that had prevented teachers, soldiers, social workers, and other public servants from getting the loan forgiveness they were promised—an issue brought to Whitehouse’s attention by a Rhode Islander. The budget bill includes $350 million to provide loan forgiveness to these borrowers.
- A provision based on Whitehouse’s Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data (CLOUD) Act, to encourage governments to develop a clear framework for technology companies to comply with investigative demands. The legislation incentivizes countries to remove conflicts of law and raise privacy standards.