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U.S. funding bills provide $4.2M for Norwalk

U.S. Capitol, Washington D.C. Photo: ELIZABETH HAMILTON / CT MIRROR

WASHINGTON – Connecticut got an additional boost of federal funding following the final passage of government funding bills over the weekend, bringing the total for local projects across the state to about $174 million. Norwalk’s share of that total was nearly $4.2 million.

Congress took the final step early Saturday to approve funding for the last six agencies, which included Defense, Homeland Security and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. That prevented a partial shutdown, keeping the government running through the end of September, when the next fiscal year begins.

As part of the appropriations bills, members in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate can submit requests to direct funding for priorities and pet projects in their states and districts, formerly known as earmarks. In total, Congress approved over $14 billion in earmark funding, making up about 1% of the total funding packages.

Based on requests made by Connecticut’s congressional delegation, a total of 180 local projects across dozens of towns and cities will receive federal funding related to infrastructure, transportation, education, and social services.

Norwalk’s Share: nearly $4.2 Million

Of the total $174 million in funding for ConnecticutNorwalk will receive $4,192,504 for four projects:

• Mid Fairfield Child Guidance Center, Inc.: Mental health services and care coordinators in Norwalk Public Schools at $1,398,000

• City of Norwalk Department of Public Works: Install a new storm drainage system designed to withstand a 25-year storm event and improve flooding resilience for 158 properties near Lockwood Lane and Heather Lane at $959,752

• First Taxing District Water Department of the City of Norwalk: Restore supplemental drinking water and treat the Kellogg-Deering Well Field at $959,752

• Norwalk Housing Authority: Demolish 54 obsolescent housing units at the Meadow Gardens Community Center in South Norwalk at $875,000

• Separately, Fairfield County received $500K for education and innovation center.

Source: U.S. Appropriations Committee  

Towns and cities saw a six-month delay of earmarked funding because Congress had been unable to pass appropriations bills for fiscal year 2024. Lawmakers instead approved several short-term bills, known as continuing resolutions, to keep the government running until they negotiated a spending deal in recent weeks.

In these funding bills, Connecticut ultimately secure approval for more projects but less money than for the earmarks approved for the past fiscal year for the state. 

When crafting government funding legislation, Congress needed to contend with spending caps for non-defense, discretionary spending that were negotiated when then-Rep. Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., still served as House speaker.

Between the two government funding packages that passed this month, Congress approved a total of about $1.66 trillion in spending that does not include funding for programs like Social Security and Medicare.

All seven members of Connecticut’s all-Democratic delegation supported the second tranche of government funding bills. And every member but U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., voted for the first round of legislation in early March. Murphy opposed it because of a change it would make to the national background checks system related to purchasing firearms.

“Despite this extremely difficult budget environment, House Democrats, led by Rosa DeLauro, the Ranking Member of the Appropriations Committee, fought off these cuts and worked with Republicans to at least maintain if not boost funding where we could,” U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District, said in a statement. “This is no small feat in a closely divided Congress and will pay huge dividends for our educators, students, and parents in eastern Connecticut.”

Breakdown of federal earmarks for Connecticut

The biggest cities in Connecticut — New Haven, Hartford, Stamford and Bridgeport — are set to receive the most federal funding, but about 70 towns and cities spanning all corners of the state will also see a boost.

A little over half of the earmarked funding will go toward infrastructure and transportation projects, an increase from the previous fiscal year when about a third of the earmarks went to such projects.

Some of the highest-funded projects have gone toward infrastructure investments: $4 million for improvements on Temple Street in New Haven; $3.6 million to complete the Hop River State Park Trail around Coventry and Columbia; $4.5 million for upgrades to Mill River Park in Stamford; $3.2 million to repair a dike leak in Meriden; and $3 million for the construction of a new social services center in New Haven.

Eight towns and cities will see money for police, fire and emergency services. While most of the funding will help with upgrades to departments’ communications and digital systems, the town of Madison will get $114,000 to hire a social worker to work with the town’s police force.

Housing projects will also see a sizable boost from this bill, including at least 12 affordable housing initiatives in places like New Milford, New Britain, Washington, Waterbury, Winchester and Barkhamsted.

It also includes more than half a dozen projects for a family housing shelter in Stamford, a few homelessness shelters in Hartford and New Haven, and a transitional housing program for female veterans and their children in Bridgeport.

The most recent government funding bills provide funding for several Boys & Girls Clubs and YMCAs, domestic violence prevention organizations and workforce development programs and trainings.

The CT NAACP’s One Million Jobs campaign is a workforce development program to help formerly incarcerated people find jobs and is in partnership with Yale-New Haven Health. The $350,000 earmark will go toward expanding the program in New Haven and Hartford.

Money for Norwalk public schools

And about a dozen projects will be geared toward public schools, after-school and summer programs and child care, including funds to improve mental health services at Hamden and Norwalk public schools and two summer programs in Stamford.

Earmarks, now known in the House as community project funding and in the Senate as congressionally directed spending, have been back for a few years after a 10-year ban. U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3rd District, who was head of the House Appropriations Committee at the time, helped oversee the push to restore earmarks.

Many lawmakers see them as direct ways of reaching their communities as well as wielding more influence during the appropriations process.

Others, mainly Republicans and some Democrats, have a negative connotation of earmarks, viewing them as extraneous measures for pet projects that balloon congressional spending.

This time around, Republicans limited earmark requests for House members for a few agencies including Labor, Health and Human Services and Education. Many of them took issue with Democratic requests to provide funding to LGBTQ+ centers. But senators were still able to make requests under those agencies.

Lawmakers and their immediate families must certify they have no financial ties to their requests. Government and nonprofit entities can receive funding, but for-profits are ineligible. House members can request up to 15 projects, but there is no cap on the number for senators. Many requests are made jointly by senators and House members.

While Connecticut’s funding is less than the previous year, the money is an increase from fiscal year 2022 when earmarks first came back to Congress — nearly $150 million.

What else is in the government funding bill?

President Joe Biden signed the bill over the weekend, calling it “a compromise, which means neither side got everything it wanted.” Both parties celebrated wins as well as the removal of controversial policies.

But some members took issue with the legislation. Hardline conservatives wanted deeper spending cuts, while some progressives raised major concerns about pausing funding to a United Nations agency and more money for border enforcement.

The legislation increases Pentagon funding by 3% while keeping funding levels relatively the same for non-defense domestic spending. The bill authorizes a 5.2% pay raise for service members, which was authorized in the defense policy bill that Congress passed late last year.

It also provides 12,000 more Special Immigrant Visas for Afghan nationals who worked with Americans during the war and fled after the drawdown of U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2021.

Republicans touted the inclusion of border-related measures like 22,000 border agents and an increase in detention beds through U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. 

They also highlighted blocking funds for UNRWA, a U.N. agency working with Palestinian refugees and providing aid to Gaza. The pause comes after Israel accused about a dozen UNRWA workers of participating in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

Despite some cuts in the labor, health and education bill, Democrats touted the $1 billion increase for child care and Head Start, a federally funded early learning and education program for infants through the age of 5. They also highlighted the uptick in spending for cancer and Alzheimer’s research, climate investments at the Pentagon and more funding for Title 1 schools.

An earmark requested by Murphy and U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., of $810,000 will help with renovations of a child care center at Grace Baptist Church in Waterbury.

As part of the defense appropriations bill, the F135 Engine Core Upgrade received $497 million, which was initially authorized in the most recent defense policy legislation. The U.S. Department of Defense approved new contracts for Connecticut-based Pratt & Whitney to remain as the sole provider of the military jet engine following a decades-long push by Connecticut’s congressional delegation.

“This bill will allow Pratt & Whitney to deliver the current and future propulsion capabilities that will keep the United States and its allies on the cutting edge of fighter engine technology,” Jill Albertelli, president of Pratt & Whitney Military Engines, said in a statement. “We are incredibly thankful to our congressional allies for their steadfast commitment to supporting these programs.”

The first government spending package included other priorities for Connecticut’s delegation, such as $2.4 billion for Amtrak — with part of the money going toward enhancements on the Northeast Corridor — and $680 million to preserve Long Island Sound.

The bill gave a $1 billion increase to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, bringing the new funding total to over $7 billion. More than 40,000 Connecticut residents use WIC benefits.

The legislation also included mandatory funding of $119 million for the SNAP program, formerly known as food stamps, as well as other nutrition assistance.

This article was adapted by permission from a report by Lisa Hagen, the shared federal policy reporter of CTMirror.org and CT Public based in Washington, D.C.


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