AMERICAN RECOVERY AND REINVESTMENT PLAN NEEDED IN TEXAS
January 28, 2009
Washington, DC - Rep. Gene Green voted today in support of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, critical legislation that will create and save 3 to 4 million American jobs. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was approved by a vote of 244-188 and will now be sent to the Senate.
Our national economy is in bad shape, and thousands are laid-off almost every day. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will increase funding for construction jobs, educational support, health care -- including expanding Medicaid to recently laid-off workers -- and many other important items.
Representative Green released the following statement in support of the legislation:
“Madame Speaker, I want to thank you, the rest of Leadership, and the chairmen of the committees that put this bill together for your work to create a package that will create jobs, invest in America’s infrastructure needs, address pressing healthcare needs, and expand opportunities for education and worker training. I strongly support the provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and urge my colleagues to join me in supporting it.
Our district and the surrounding areas in southeast Texas were devastated by Hurricane Ike last September. People are getting back on their feet, but there is still a significant need for additional federal funding. I would have like to seen that included in this package as it is one of the most pressing recovery needs in our country, but since it was not, I hope it can be included in either an upcoming omnibus or supplemental appropriations bill.
In Texas we’ve seen the unemployment rate jump from 4.2% a year ago to 6% in December of 2008 – the unemployment rate in the Houston-Baytown area is 5.5% and will likely only rise with the significant drop in the price of oil and refined product, and the impact that has on our energy sector jobs. It is important we invest in this sector and this legislation makes valuable contributions to diversify our nation’s energy and environmental resources.
It makes critical improvements to the smart grid provisions established in the Energy Independence and Security Act of 2007 by eliminating the cap on the allowable number of smart grid demonstration projects and increasing the grant funding available for these efforts.
My hometown of Houston is a leader in moving toward smart grid solutions. Center Point Energy, a leading energy delivery company in Texas, will invest over $600 million in automatic metering systems, or AMS, over the next five years to support smart grid infrastructure. AMS technology is the first step in moving towards an automatic grid which will allow consumers to manage and monitor the electric use in real-time, reduce energy consumption, and improve grid reliability.
I also support Representative Ed Markey’s (D-MA) amendment to this section that will expand the protocols smart grid projects can use to obtain grants authorized in this bill.
I am also pleased with the increase in funding and changes to the Weatherization Assistance Program which will help low-income families make their homes more energy efficient, as well as the additional $1 billion provided for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that will help more Texans heat and cool their homes during these troubled economic times.
While I support the temporary Department of Energy loan guarantee program created under Section 5003 for renewable energy and electric transmission projects, I hope the Committee does not forget about the strategic importance of funding the larger DOE loan guarantee program so that other valuable projects can move forward that reduce carbon emissions and that employ new innovative technologies.
In addition to the extension of the renewable production tax credits, I also believe Congress should provide a long-term extension of the biodiesel blenders tax incentive to help this critical renewable energy industry. Houston is home to several biodiesel producers that directly or indirectly employ hundreds of workers in good-paying jobs, and over 50,000 jobs are currently supported by this industry nationwide. Without a long term extension of this tax credit, producers are not able to provide the certainty required to bring in much needed capital for renewable energy projects. In addition to creating and sustaining jobs, the biodiesel industry helps our nation reduce greenhouse gas emissions and is developing next generation feedstocks such as algae that will further enhance our energy security.
Finally, I appreciate the inclusion of an additional $100 million for the National Estuary Program, which could help protect the Galveston Bay Estuary Program. Galveston Bay is a critical ecosystem home to an abundance of plant and animal species that are vital to our region’s way of life and local economy. These funds can be used for such useful purposes as restoring wetlands or habitat restoration, and can be leveraged with public and private sector funds to generate large returns on investment. The Port of Houston Authority also actively participates and supports this key environmental program.
The legislation also makes significant investments in health care services and coverage in this country during these tough economic times.
Unfortunately, when individuals lose their jobs they often cannot afford medical care or COBRA premiums and often forgo treatment due to the cost.
ARRA will provide COBRA premium assistance for 12 months for workers who have been involuntarily terminated and their families. COBRA premium assistance will allow individuals who would typically be unable to afford COBRA maintain insurance coverage and obtain medical treatment.
States like my own have asked Congress for assistance with the States Federal Medical Assistance Percentage to help assist them the rising number of individuals needing Medicaid coverage. In order to avoid state deficits, many states may have to reduce their standards for Medicaid eligibility, which will actually increase the number of uninsured.
A temporary increase in FMAP funding until December 31, 2010 will help avert this potential problem and allow states to continue to provide Medicaid coverage to this uninsured population. The American Recovery and Reinvestment Bill of 2009 contains a 4.9% increase in FMAP for states. Texas, in particular, will benefit from an FMAP increase and the temporary formula and hold harmless provision.
ARRA will also place a moratorium on 7 Medicaid regulations. My home state of Texas is affected by all seven of these cuts but most affected will be the payments for graduate education, Targeted Case Management Rule, Cost Limits to Public Providers, Coverage for Rehabilitation Services. Theses regulations would reduce funding to these valuable programs and leave states in a significant budgetary crisis.
ARRA also provides valuable funding for Health Information Technology. We’re all aware of the benefits that improved IT would bring the health care sector and the patients it serves. With integrated information technology, patients could manage their electronic health records and avoid having to haul multiple records to their various physicians.
If implemented correctly, Health IT can improve patient safety and garner cost savings. The funds provided in ARRA are an investment in the future of health care in this country. Providers will have to pay some up front costs to obtain the technology, but they will receive $40,000 to $60,000 in financial incentives for adopting interoperable health IT systems.
Another key component that this package contains provides an investment of critical funds into our state and local transportation agencies. This is the quickest way to create jobs immediately. The Texas Department of Transportation alone has 853 “shovel-ready” projects. One of these projects in my district will create 1200-1350 new engineering and construction jobs in the Houston area in the next ninety days. This is significant in an economy where thousands of job cuts are announced every day.
It is easy to make the case for an infusion of transportation dollars when our state departments of transportation have run out of money. However, some of my colleagues on the other side of the aisle are asking why we should invest billions of dollars in education around the country. The answer to this question is simple. Investing in our children’s education is investing in our economic competitiveness.
When states came across hard fiscal times in the last year, education funding is typically one of the first areas where they cut back. Additionally, with the increase in foreclosures, property tax revenues are down and cities have also cut back on financing critical education services. If we do not invest in our children’s education and give them an opportunity at a better economic future, then we are setting ourselves up even more federal spending on social services in the future.
By increasing the amount of the Pell Grant by $500, we give students across the country the financial help they need to get the certification or degree necessary to pursue and keep a job in this economy. By investing in Head Start, we are setting a whole generation of students on a path towards economic viability. Head Start has been proven to help close the achievement gap between students of differing socio-economic status across the country.
Finally, I am encouraged that this bill will lower the child tax credit eligibility level making it available to all working tax filers with children. This will help our constituents put food on the table and pay their essential bills as the cost of living continues to increase.
Madame Speaker, I again state my strong support for this package which will provide and immediate infusion of funding into shovel-ready projects, creating jobs and starting our economy on the road to recovery, and I urge all my colleagues to join me in supporting the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.”
# # #