The U.S. Senate today, by a vote of 93-7, passed a bipartisan government funding package for the Departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, Labor, Education and Related Agencies for the next fiscal year. The package also contains Continuing Resolution language that will fund any government agencies at risk of a shutdown at the end of the fiscal year through December 7th.
Following is a list of the Health and Human Services, Labor, Education and Related Agencies provisions U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) sponsored that were included in the final package the Senate approved today:
- $1 million to enhance the public health response for communities affected by toxic algal blooms. This provision would provide $1 million to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help areas most affected by harmful algal blooms. Priority would be given to locations subject to a state of emergency designation within the previous 12 months, which includes 13 Florida counties.
- Student loan deferments for cancer patients. This provision would make borrowers diagnosed with cancer eligible for a deferment on the payment of their federal student loans and would suspend the accrual of interest until six months after the patient has finished receiving treatment.
- $10 million for mental health in schools. This amendment would provide up to $10 million to the Department of Education to administer a pilot grant program to train and hire more mental health professionals in schools across the country. The legislation provides federal education grants to colleges and universities that partner with low-income school districts to train school counselors, social workers, psychologists and other mental health professionals and place them in the underserved school districts that need them the most. Nelson initially introduced the measure in the wake of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School earlier this year.
- Streamline sharing of DoD and VA electronic health records. This provision would help ensure the Department of Defense is executing the plan to streamline the process by which it shares electronic medical records with the Department of Veterans Affairs.
- $1 million to the Firefighter Cancer Registry to monitor and study the incidence of cancer among firefighters. The provision provides additional funding for the CDC to monitor and study the relationship between exposure to fumes and other toxins and the rate of cancer among firefighters.
- $3.78 billion for programs addressing the opioid epidemic and mental health. This provision includes nearly $2 million in state grants to address the opioid epidemic and mental health; $350 million for opioid overdose surveillance and preventions; $495 million to improve access to opioid and substance use disorder treatment in rural and underserved areas.
Sen. Nelson also advocated for and received the following funds in FY19 Defense Appropriations:
- $10 million for Eastern Gulf Test and Training Range. Located off of Florida’s Gulf Coast, this $10 million will improve one of the nation’s most vital training ranges, making it harder for oil companies to drill and preserving the area for national security needs.
- $950 million for two additional Navy Littoral Combat Ships (LCS). The East Coast fleet of LCS’s are homeported at Naval Station Mayport, located in Jacksonville, FL.
- $1.5 million to begin planning and design for the execution of the Navy’s Strategic Laydown and Dispersal Plan. The plan is expected to announce additional ships to be homeported at Mayport.
The bill now heads to the House for a vote.