By SHERRI RUGGIERI
U.S. Representative Bill Pascrell, Jr. (D-NJ-09) stated, “With reservations, I voted in favor of the Omnibus [bill] because it provides the seed money to finally commence work on the Gateway Tunnel project. Gateway is of decisive importance to the future of New Jersey and the Northeast. Our ability to realize it compelled Congress to pass this bill.” While not perfect, Congressman Pascrell released these statements to explain the select programs funded in the Omnibus:
- $415.5 million for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant program. This represents an increase of $19.5 million from the FY2017 budget. The Byrne JAG program allows states and local governments to support a broad range of activities to prevent and control crimes based on their own local needs and conditions. Grants can be used for state and local initiatives, technical assistance, training, personnel, equipment, supplies, contractual support, and information systems for criminal justice in a host of areas.
- $225.5 million for the COPS Hiring Grant program that has placed more than 130,000 sworn law enforcement officers in communities across the country by providing grants for the hiring of officers. These grants provide federal resources to communities with public safety needs that may lack the funds to hire law enforcement officers.
$350 million for the Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFG) program and $350 million for the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) Grants program, as well as a waiver that will make it easier for communities in New Jersey and elsewhere to retain firefighters.
- $60 million for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program (NSPG) that was designed to provide physical target hardening measures to protect against the threats the Department of Homeland Security has identified as of most concern to at-risk nonprofit institutions.
- $11.32 million for the Traumatic Brain Injury state grant program. The Task Force works to increase awareness of brain injury in the United States, supports research initiatives for rehabilitation and potential cures, and strives to address the effects these injuries have on families, children, education, and the workforce.
- Expansion of the Low Income Housing Tax Credit by 12.5% and improved flexibility for the credit to provide for more affordable homes for the lowest income families.
Congressman Josh Gottheimer (NJ-5) also voted for the bipartisan Omnibus bill: “Today, I voted to secure critical bipartisan funding for America’s Gateway Project, national security, and war on the opioid crisis. Furthermore, “I am encouraged to see funding for the critical Gateway tunnel project included in the funding bill. Although we still face headwinds, this federal support is a constructive first step toward solving the most pressing infrastructure problem facing our nation. The Gateway Program will provide job-creating investments to fix New Jersey’s crumbling tunnels, bridges, roads, and rails and spur economic growth. Securing the gateway to one-fifth of America’s economy is not a partisan issue, it is an American issue,” he added.
Sherri Ruggieri is the managing editor of Empire State News. A practicing attorney for over 20 years, Ms. Ruggieri is also chairperson of Edison Township’s Planning Board. Additionally, she has served as a college professor, with nearly a decade of experience in teaching law and political science courses.
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