Legislation Update: U.S. House Funding Bills of Interest to Mid-Michigan
August 10, 2021
As the U.S. House of Representatives begins its August recess, several funding bills were passed at the end of July that could benefit mid-Michigan. According to Tony Stamas, President and CEO of the Midland Business Alliance (MBA), some of this funding for fiscal year 2022 could support local projects.
“Thanks to the efforts of Congressman John Moolenaar and his staff – as well as the City of Midland, the County of Midland and the MBA staff – our area is potentially on track to benefit from several initiatives in the current House bills,” said Stamas. “Congressman Moolenaar has worked to include language in bills that would help with flood recovery, sanitary sewer improvements, flood mitigation and more.”
He cautioned that there are many legislative steps ahead – including U.S. Senate approval and final House-Senate negotiations – before mid-Michigan may see the funding.
The MBA Advisory Committee on Infrastructure provided an overview (below) of the types of requests that local entities have made through Moolenaar’s office. For those with specific funding requests, that funding may be available to mid-Michigan in 2022 if legislators approve these and other pending appropriations bills.
Requested Legislative Language
The MBA requested legislative report language in five individual fiscal year 2022 appropriations bills, urging coordination among five separate federal agencies – the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) – on environment-based flood mitigation measures.
“Each agency has played an important role in the federal response following last year’s major disaster declaration,” said Stamas. “This report language is important to communicate to these agencies the congressional interest and intent on specific policy – in this case, the importance of environment-based mitigation measures to lessen the impact of future floods in our region. The report language we requested is now included in five separate funding bills in the House of Representatives.”
Those bills are: Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (with oversight of the USDA); Subcommittee on Energy & Water Development and Related Agencies (with oversight of the USACE); Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies (with oversight of NOAA); Subcommittee on Homeland Security (with oversight of FEMA); and Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies (with oversight of the EPA).
Three Funding Requests
First, on behalf of the City of Midland, City Manager Brad Kaye submitted a Community Project Funding request to Congressman Moolenaar for $750,000 in grant funding under the EPA State and Tribal Assistance Grant (STAG) program. This funding would support Midland’s storm and sanitary sewer improvements project. The funds would be specifically targeted to the planned sanitary sewer lining and manhole rehabilitation project, which is a key step toward improving the sewer system to build resiliency for future flooding and rain events. The $750,000 in EPA funding for the City of Midland is included in the Interior & Environment Appropriations bill that passed the full House of Representatives on July 29.
Second, Midland Center for the Arts (MCFTA) President and CEO Terri Trotter submitted a Community Project Funding request to Congressman Moolenaar for $500,000 for Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Economic Development Initiative grant funding to support the revitalization of the MCFTA as a cultural, educational, and economic cornerstone of Midland. This federal funding would allow the execution of a critical stage of MCFTA’s revitalization following the 2020 flooding. The $500,000 for the MCFTA is included in the Transportation & HUD Appropriations bill, which also passed the full House of Representatives on July 29.
Third, on behalf of the County of Midland, County Administrator Bridgette Gransden submitted a Community Project Funding request to Congressman Moolenaar for $400,000 in NOAA funding. These funds would secure data collection tools necessary to improve the understanding of flood risks within the Tittabawassee River Watershed. According to the request, these tools are critical to improving flood forecasting, assessing the threat of future flood events, and informing City and County emergency management personnel. This data would also inform local and regional emergency response efforts and support public education and early warning activities prior to a storm event.
While NOAA funding could not be earmarked for this specific purpose, the House Appropriations Committee included additional funding under the National Weather Service (NWS) account to address this critical need. Report language has been included in the Commerce, Justice, Science Appropriations funding bill, which has been approved by the full House Appropriations Committee. The report language reads, “The Committee is concerned about the limitations of NEXRAD due to its ineffectiveness in calculating low altitude rainfall, below 7,000 feet, in low lying areas on the edges of the radars’ scannable range, lack of river gauges and lack of ground truth stations. The Committee, therefore, encourages NWS to install additional small data collection devices to better assess rainfall, water levels, and related climate data. The Committee encourages the NWS to install additional small data collection devices to better assess rainfall, water levels, and related climate data. The NWS is urged to focus on watersheds where underestimates of local rainfall has led to damage of water infrastructure.”
“Because of this report language, we feel confident that Midland County’s needs for data collection tools can be addressed,” said Stamas.
Additional Pending Legislation
“Over the last month, we have submitted the same funding requests to U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow’s office, and she has submitted all three of our local funding requests to the Senate Appropriations Committee for consideration,” said Stamas.
There is also pending House legislation that addresses two major FEMA-related challenges that affect mid-Michigan. “We’ve worked closely with Congressman Moolenaar and his team on the development of federal legislation to mitigate the financial burden that FEMA requirements are placing on the Midland area,” said Stamas. Moolenaar introduced the “Rural Disaster Support and Relief Act” on May 19th, the one-year anniversary of the dam breaches and flood event. The legislation addresses a FEMA cost-share issue and includes a provision eliminating a FEMA flood insurance penalty affecting the Midland Center for the Arts.
More recently, the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee adopted an amendment in full committee to adjust the cost-share for major disaster declarations in the calendar year 2020 to no less than 90 percent federal and 10 percent local. The House Homeland Security Appropriations bill was approved by the committee but has not yet been considered by the full House of Representatives. This legislation is separate and distinct from Moolenaar’s bill.
The legislative process on appropriations and budget approval is expected to continue throughout 2021.
“Congressman Moolenaar, Senator Stabenow, Senator Gary Peters and their teams have been very supportive and deserve credit and thanks for their tremendous support of the mid-Michigan area’s needs,” said Stamas.