Spanberger Secures Major Investment in Broadband Internet Projects in U.S. House-Passed Funding Legislation, Votes to Pass with Bipartisan Majority

Funding Legislation Includes Additional Provisions the Congresswoman Fought to Secure, Including Increased Support for Veteran Suicide Prevention & the State Department’s FASTC Facility in Nottoway County

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today voted with a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass a funding package that would expand funding for rural broadband internet projects, strengthen support for the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), and protect Central Virginia’s natural resources.

In March 2020, Spanberger led a coalition of more than 80 Democrats and Republicans in asking for strengthened funding for the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) ReConnect Program. The funding legislation passed today in the House would provide $990 million for the ReConnect Program, which supports high-speed broadband internet projects across the United States — including in Central Virginia. This amount marks a 78-percent increase in funding from last year’s budget.

Spanberger has long fought to protect and expand the USDA’s ReConnect Program and close the digital divide across Central Virginia. Last year, she successfully led the fight to protect ReConnect funding from elimination. And in February 2020, she announced $28 million in ReConnect funding for broadband internet projects in Central Virginia — including in Louisa, Orange, Goochland, and Powhatan Counties.

“The ReConnect Program is providing rural communities across the country — including in Central Virginia — with the opportunity to keep families connected, small businesses competitive, and students engaged. Especially in this moment of uncertainty, we’re reminded daily of the progress that has yet to be made on tackling the digital divide,” said Spanberger. “This major increase in ReConnect funding would allow additional businesses and communities to apply for much-needed investments in broadband infrastructure. I’m also proud to see many of Central Virginia’s priorities included in the funding package we passed today, including a focus on the FASTC training facility in Nottoway County, increased funding for veterans’ suicide prevention, and additional support for conservation efforts in the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Funding bills are reflections of our priorities, and I hope the Senate will move quickly to sign off on these priorities.”

Earlier this month, the U.S. House voted to pass infrastructure-focused legislation that includes U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger’s priorities to expand high-speed internet access across the country, as well as her amendment to ensure that new broadband networks are built to provide customers with sufficient upload and download speeds.

The funding package passed today in the House includes additional priorities Spanberger fought to include to support Central Virginia’s economy, environment, and veterans, including:

FASTC

  • Recognizing the importance of the Foreign Affairs Security Training Center (FASTC) in Nottoway County. The funding package passed today in the House includes language stressing the importance of the U.S. State Department’s training facility in Nottoway County. Spanberger successfully led a bipartisan push to include a provision that calls for a report on addressing the remaining needs of the FASTC facility, including the need for nearby lodging for trainees.

CONSERVATION

  • Promoting the environmental benefits of conservation practices in agriculture. The bipartisan funding package requires studies on the benefits of conservation and soil heath practices, as well as the success of cover cropping and livestock integration. In March 2020, Spanberger — Chair of the Conservation and Forestry Subcommittee — led an effort to make sure these studies would be included in today’s package.
  • Protecting the Chesapeake Bay Watershed. Spanberger successfully helped advocate for a six-percent increase in funding over last year’s funding levels to support the Chesapeake Bay Program. This additional investment would allow Virginia and other states in the Watershed to improve or advance environmental sustainability, collaborate with state and local governments, support farm conservation initiatives, and advance shared public health goals.

RURAL ECONOMY

  • Protecting funding for critical USDA Rural Development programs. In response to a bipartisan effort led by Spanberger, USDA Rural Development programs that support rural businesses and economic development will continue to receive funding. This effort followed the Trump administration’s fiscal year 2021 topline budget, which would eliminate these programs.
  • Strengthening rural water and waste. The bipartisan funding package includes $1.45 billion in rural water and waste program loans, as well as more than $610 million in water and waste grants for clean and reliable drinking water and sanitary waste disposal systems. Earlier this year, Spanberger joined a bipartisan effort calling for the inclusion of this funding after hearing about the need for these projects in Central Virginia.

VETERANS

  • Supporting cutting-edge prosthetics research at the VA. Spanberger helped successfully secure $840 million for medical and prosthetic research at the VA, which is an increase of $40 million above the 2020 funding level and $53 million above the President’s budget request.
  • Providing additional resources for suicide prevention and outreach. Spanberger helped secure $10.3 billion for Mental Healthcare, an increase of $865 million above the 2020 funding level and $40 million above the President’s budget request. This amount includes $313 million for suicide prevention outreach through the VA.

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