The End-of-Year Funding Package Passed by the U.S. House and U.S. Senate Includes Spanberger-Led Provisions to Help Farmers Access Carbon Markets, Protect Tax Benefits of Retired First Responders, Combat Substance Use Disorder, Provide Refurbished Government Computers to Veterans, Students, & Seniors
The Congresswoman Successfully Pushed to Include Her “Growing Climate Solutions Act,” “Wally Bunker HELPS Retirees Improvement Act,” “Summer Barrow Prevention, Treatment, & Recovery Act,” & “Computers for Veterans and Students Act”
The Bipartisan Package Also Includes $22,753,466 for 15 Seventh District Community-Requested Projects Secured by the Congresswoman
WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger today voted with a bipartisan majority of the U.S. House of Representatives to pass an end-of-year government funding bill, which includes her Growing Climate Solutions Act, Wally Bunker HELPS Retirees Improvement Act, Summer Barrow Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Act, and Computers for Veterans and Students Act. Additionally, the package includes funding Spanberger secured for 15 community projects across all 10 counties of Virginia’s Seventh District, totaling more than $22.7 million.
The bipartisan funding package includes key, bipartisan provisions led by Spanberger — including her legislation to bring farmers to the table on the issue of climate change, protect a key tax benefit for retired police officers and firefighters, combat rising rates of overdose in communities across Virginia and the United States, and provide refurbished government computers to Veterans, students, and seniors. The package now moves to President Joe Biden’s desk to be signed into law.
“I’m focused on getting things done for the Virginians I serve. And this package includes several priorities I pushed to include — such as cutting red tape that prevents farmers and ranchers from profiting through carbon markets, strengthening investments in programs to combat substance use disorder and addiction, and helping to close a significant opportunity gap for many Veterans here in Virginia,” said Spanberger. “Additionally, I am glad that this package includes my effort to protect the hard-earned health benefits of the many retired police officers and firefighters who, for too long, have been unable to access a tax benefit for their health and long-term care insurance. I was proud to support this agreement to fund critical services, protect the paychecks of millions of federal employees, and keep up the very function of our government — and I am proud that Congress went even further to pass legislation that will benefit so many across our communities.”
GROWING CLIMATE SOLUTIONS ACT
The U.S. House- and U.S. Senate-passed funding package includes a provision based on Spanberger’s bipartisan, bicameral Growing Climate Solutions Act — which Spanberger first introduced in June 2020 — to remove barriers for farmers to participate in voluntary carbon markets and help combat climate change. The provision would create a program at the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to help solve technical entry barriers that prevent farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners from participating in the voluntary carbon credit marketplace to facilitate land-based carbon removal in agriculture and forestry. Additionally, the program would help connect landowners to private sector actors who can assist the landowners in implementing the protocols and monetizing the climate value of their sustainable practices.
The Growing Climate Solutions Act is supported by a wide range of farm groups, private companies, environmental organizations, and industry leaders in Virginia and across the country. Click here for a full list of supporting organizations.
“AFBF commends lawmakers for including several important pieces of legislation in the 2023 omnibus bill to support the role farmers and ranchers play in sustainability and recognize the hardships caused by natural disasters,” said Zippy Duvall, President, American Farm Bureau Federation. “The revised version of the Growing Climate Solutions Act will help farmers work with USDA on climate-smart practices for voluntary, market-driven programs. Farm Bureau stands ready to continue working with both parties on the many other critical issues facing farm and ranch families.”
“The U.S. Chamber of Commerce commends Congress for passing the bipartisan Growing Climate Solutions Act as an important part of today’s omnibus bill. Through its innovative framework that rewards farmers and other land managers for taking voluntary actions to reduce emissions, this legislation would facilitate a new, cost-effective option for addressing climate change,” said Chuck Chaitovitz, Vice President, Environmental Affairs and Sustainability, U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Many of our members are depending on the establishment of such voluntary offset markets to meet their ambitious climate commitments. Thanks to Sen. Braun, Rep. Spanberger, and the Senate and House Agriculture Committees for their leadership. Promoting responsible resource management through financial incentives for voluntary conservation and sustainable land-use practices is a win-win policy that will benefit American agriculture, their supply chain, the broader business community, and the environment.”
“Virginia Farm Bureau commends Congresswoman Spanberger and her colleagues on inclusion of the Growing Climate Solutions Act as part of the 2023 omnibus spending package,” said Wayne F. Pryor, President, Virginia Farm Bureau. “Farmers and forest-landowners manage the overwhelming majority of open space in this country and play a crucial role in adopting practices that naturally sequester carbon. The Growing Climate Solutions Act will help farmers work with USDA on climate-smart practices for voluntary, market-driven programs, and help solve technical entry barriers to farmer and forest-landowner participation in voluntary carbon credit markets.”
“The Virginia Agribusiness Council is pleased to see the inclusion of the Growing Climate Solutions Act in the omnibus spending package, and is thankful for the work of Congresswoman Spanberger and her colleagues in Congress to secure its passage,” said Cliff Williamson, Executive Director, Virginia Agribusiness Council. “This new law will help farm and forest landowners, who steward land and natural resources across the Commonwealth and the nation, by working with USDA to certify practices and create innovative, market-based programs to sequester carbon in a voluntary manner.”
WALLY BUNKER HELPS RETIREES IMPROVEMENT ACT
The funding package also includes a provision led by Spanberger to allow all retired police officers and firefighters to access a key tax benefit to pay for health coverage. This provision — based on Spanberger’s bipartisan legislation named for Wally Bunker, a retired police officer living in Culpeper, Virginia — would remove the requirement that pension fund distributions must go directly to the insurer to be eligible for tax-free status, and make sure that retired first responders can access a critical tax benefit to help cover health and long-term insurance.
“I cannot express how much I appreciate Rep. Spanberger’s efforts to garner bipartisan support and introduce legislation in the House that proved to be the catalyst to prod the Senate to introduce similar bipartisan legislation that rights an unfair practice,” said Bunker. “Rep. Spanberger and her wonderful staff quickly realized this was neither a Seventh District nor a Virginia issue but affected tens of thousands retired public safety personnel nationwide. Rep. Spanberger shows that she is strongly committed to helping constituents deal with government bureaucracy. I am deeply indebted to her for her tenacity and team building with the FOP, other law enforcement fraternal organizations and members of Congress from both parties to see this to a successful conclusion.”
“We are so grateful that Representatives Spanberger and Chabot were successful in their effort to include a provision amending the Healthcare Enhancement for Local Public Safety (HELPS) Retirees Act in the omnibus spending bill and we’re excited to see it pass,” said Patrick Yoes, National President, Fraternal Order of Police. “Under current law, eligible retired public safety officers may use up to $3,000 per year from their qualified government retirement plan, on a pre-tax basis, to pay for health insurance or long-term care insurance premiums. However, in order for these officers to get the pre-tax benefit, the money must be paid directly from their pension fund to a health or long-term care insurance company. This requirement has proved to be unworkable for far too many eligible public safety and its repeal will allow all officers to receive this benefit, because they will be able to make the payments themselves.”
“Fire fighters work a dangerous and demanding job that can lead to them retiring before qualifying for Medicare. Our retirees living on a fixed income shouldn’t be penalized for their service by being forced to pay staggering amounts of money for health insurance. The IAFF applauds Representative Spanberger for her persistent leadership in expanding the HELPS program to assist our retired brother and sister fire fighters afford the healthcare services they need,” said Edward A. Kelly, General President, International Association of Fire Fighters. “We also look forward to working with Congress to develop a comprehensive solution to ensure retired fire fighters have access to affordable, high-quality health insurance options. Our retired brothers and sisters have sacrificed their own health in service to others, and our nation owes it to fire fighters to ensure they keep the dignified and healthy retirement that they have earned.”
SUMMER BARROW PREVENTION, TREATMENT, AND RECOVERY ACT
The package also includes Spanberger’s bipartisan legislation to increase federal investment in programs to combat substance use disorder and addiction. The legislation — first introduced by Spanberger earlier this year — is named in memory of Summer Barrow, a young Virginian who died of a fentanyl overdose. This legislation would authorize annual funding through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) to support American communities’ fight against the substance use disorder epidemic. Specifically, the bill would reauthorize several substance use disorder programs which focus on overdose prevention, first responder training, co-prescribing programs, pregnant and postpartum women substance use disorder treatment, and alternatives to opioids in emergency rooms.
“Thanks to the hard work and perseverance of Representative Spanberger and her colleagues, our family finds solace in the fact that the programs in the Summer Barrow Act will offer support — and perhaps even a better future — for those who are struggling with substance use disorder,” said Carey Colvin, Mother of Summer Barrow. “This epidemic concerns every American and has taken far too many lives, including the life of my daughter. No one actively decides to be an addict or chooses to develop mental health issues and this Act offers several avenues of treatment. There are no appropriate words to express how much we miss Summer. Like so many who have lost their struggle with substance use disorder, she would never have intentionally caused the grief that continues to envelop us. She would be comforted in knowing that she is part of a legacy that offers hope to others.”
“The National Rural Health Association (NRHA) supports inclusion of the Summer Barrow Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Act in the FY 2023 appropriations package,” said Alan Morgan, CEO, National Rural Health Association. “NRHA applauds Representative Spanberger (D-VA) for her continued support on behalf of rural communities, and seeking solutions in the ongoing substance use disorder crisis. This legislation will increase access to needed services in our rural communities.”
“With more Americans dying this past year from overdose than any previous year on record, it is time to make bold investments across all levels of intervention and treatment in the fight against the opioid epidemic,” said Brandie Williams, Deputy Executive Director, Rappahannock Community Services Board. “The flexibility in funding provided for in The Summer Barrow Prevention, Treatment, and Recovery Act sends a clear message to our communities, our friends, our brothers, and our daughters experiencing addiction that you are not alone. Just as the path to recovery looks different for each individual, so should the resources and treatment options available to them. We are committed and resourced to stand beside you.”
“For Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services (RRCS), I want to thank Congresswoman Spanberger for her commitment to the members of our community, struggling with a Substance Use Disorder,” said Jim LaGraffe, Executive Director, Rappahannock-Rapidan Community Services. “The Summer Barrow Prevention, Treatment and Recovery Act passage will ensure our organization can continue to provide critical services for those needing support in their recovery and also assist us in developing strategies and activities for Prevention. As we know, the lifetime odds of dying from a fatal overdose are now greater than dying in an automobile accident. This Act, and the services it supports will save lives in our community. Again, for RRCS, I thank Congresswoman Spanberger for her dedication to the people she serves.”
COMPUTERS FOR VETERANS AND STUDENTS ACT
Additionally, the end-of-year funding package includes Spanberger’s bipartisan legislation to provide computers to Veterans, students, seniors, and others in need. The end-of-year package includes the Computers for Veterans and Students Act — which Spanberger first introduced in July 2020 — that would help provide federal surplus and repairable computers to non-profit computer refurbishers who would then repair and distribute the equipment to those in need of a device.
“Veterans gave so much to this country and thankfully Tech For Troops can now give more to our Veterans and their families in need,” said Mark Casper, CEO, Tech For Troops. “With this legislation, nonprofits across the nation will be able to support so many more families. Thank you to Rep. Spanberger for championing this across the finish line!”
“The COVS Act is an important step toward digital equity,” said Shawn Daugherty, Senior Government Relations Manager, Human-I-T. “Too many American households lack access to the internet, and the tools and skills necessary to be successful online. This legislation will help provide equitable access to opportunity by ensuring that used, but still usable, government equipment is made available to those most in need. We thank Rep. Spanberger for her continued leadership on this critical issue.”
“I am pleased our 50 states and 6 territories were supportive of Rep. Spanberger’s (D-VA) legislation by all of us working with the GSA, the Congress and the Oversight and Reform Committee to make this happen,” said Sam Sibert, President, National Association of State Agencies for Surplus Property (NASASP). “We participated in the bill’s progress and showed how bipartisanship can work in Washington, DC.”
COMMUNITY PROJECT FUNDING
The package also includes investments — totaling $22,753,466 — for 15 local projects across all 10 current Seventh District counties. Spanberger worked directly with county officials and community leaders to solicit these requests, move these projects forward, and ensure they were included in the final end-of-year funding package. These investments would help improve public safety, keep Virginians safe, rebuild our physical infrastructure, expand healthcare and treatment services, help create new jobs, and foster economic growth.
“Making federal resources available to the Virginia communities I serve is one of my top priorities in the U.S. Congress. Throughout the federal appropriations process, I have worked closely with local leaders to request these federal dollars for all 10 counties in Virginia’s Seventh District and move this funding forward to the president’s desk,” said Spanberger. “These investments return taxpayer dollars to our communities to directly respond to the physical infrastructure, health, and public safety needs of the counties we serve. Thank you to the many Virginians who worked with my office to move these smart, locally-driven investments forward. Securing this funding will allow us to deliver on the priorities of our communities and strengthen our regional economy — and I look forward to the president signing these investments into law.”
A summary of funding for 15 projects in Virginia’s Seventh District that passed in the U.S. House today is below.
Spanberger secured $1,000,000 for Amelia County to upgrade the existing public safety communications system to an interoperable radio system. The major deficiencies of the current radio system inhibit law enforcement and first responders from operating at full capacity and diminish their efficiency in response to calls. This investment would supply emergency communication and interoperability in areas where there is little to no coverage, as well as improve safety for officers and the community.
Spanberger secured $175,000 for the Chesterfield County Sheriff’s Office to purchase a virtual reality training system. This system would provide its deputies interactive training in the skills of crisis intervention, de-escalation, and use of force. Specifically, the training system would improve deputies’ decision-making and crisis response skills, improving safety for law enforcement and the community while reducing use-of-force incidents.
Spanberger secured $1,000,000 for Rappahannock Rapidan Community Services (RRCS) to expand its Behavioral Health Clinic. This investment would include renovations and additions of approximately 3,000 square feet, as well as the addition of an elevator to increase accessibility. Culpeper County and surrounding areas are currently experiencing suicide rates 30 percent higher than the Virginia average, as well as overdose rates that continue to rise above the state average. While the need for behavioral health and substance use services has increased, RRCS has outgrown the current physical space and is unable to provide additional services.
Spanberger also secured $324,494 for Culpeper County to purchase a new ambulance for the Little Fork Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company. Little Fork Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company is one of the few volunteer fire and rescue companies in Virginia requiring members to obtain fire and/or EMS certification, as well as the only volunteer company specializing in large animal rescue, preventing the loss of livestock in the Culpeper community and across the Commonwealth. This investment will allow for the replacement of an ambulance that reached its effective end of life and ensure that the Little Fork Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company can continue providing emergency medical services to the Culpeper community.
Spanberger secured $4,000,000 for Goochland County for the construction of a new roundabout at the Oilville Road-I-64 interchange. This funding would help build a four-way roundabout that would alleviate a major traffic blockage on I-64 that creates a safety threat to both exiting traffic and through traffic on the Interstate.
Spanberger secured $5,000,000 for Henrico County’s completion of the Lambert Way-Woodman Road Extension, which would create a second access point to Glover Park and be directly tied to Interstate 295 and Route 1. In response to increased traffic congestion in this section of Henrico County, this project would ease this congestion and allow visitors to enter and exit more smoothly. Additionally, the road would feature a 10-foot-wide bike and pedestrian path that will connect to a similar path on the extended portion of Woodman Road — and ultimately the Fall Line Trail.
Spanberger also secured $1,275,000 for Henrico County to construct bus shelters and benches at Greater Richmond Transit Company (GRTC) transit stops throughout the County. The four main transit corridors in Henrico County are served by more than 200 bus stops — many of which do not have shelters, benches, or ADA-compliant accessibility due to a lack of sidewalks and ramps. This investment would go directly towards the installation of shelters for approximately 31 transit stops in the County and benches for approximately 50 transit stops — as well as installation of concrete pads, ADA access, and trash receptacles.
Spanberger secured $1,000,000 for Louisa County to enhance radio coverage in Holly Grove, in the southeast corner of the county. The increase in coverage would allow the county to have 100% emergency radio coverage to improve the communication between the emergency dispatch office and Louisa County Sheriff’s Deputies. This investment would enhance safety for the police, other emergency services, and the residents of the county.
Spanberger secured $1,000,000 for Nottoway County to replace its aging and unreliable public safety radio system with a modern digital radio system. The new system would include mobile, portable, and base type radios in various stations and vehicles. This investment would allow the county to determine effective locations for tower-mounted radio components to achieve the optimum radio coverage throughout the county and provide law enforcement, firefighters, EMS personnel, and other first responders with an improved level of safety while working in high-risk environments.
Spanberger secured $251,000 for the Germanna Community College Educational Foundation to purchase equipment for the newly established Robert C. O’Neill Wellness Clinic. Located on the Germanna Community College Locust Grove campus, the clinic will provide free healthcare services to uninsured or underinsured area residents, many from rural communities. Services such as screenings and referrals, dental care, physical therapy, wellness evaluations, and wellness classes will be provided by students from the Germanna Nursing and Health Technologies program, increasing the program’s capacity for students to receive clinical hours necessary for graduation.
Spanberger secured $750,000 for Powhatan County to bring Fighting Creek Park and its surrounding areas up to ADA standards. The Park offers many recreational opportunities, but access is significantly restricted for members of the public with disabilities or impairments. This investment would help upgrade existing parks, playgrounds, fields, bleachers, sidewalks, parking lots, restrooms, and concession facilities to current ADA standards.
Spanberger secured $3,452,972 for Phase 2 of Spotsylvania County’s Motts Run Water Treatment Plant expansion to meet growing water demand as the region grows. This investment would further advance the engineering in Phase 1 into the detailed design work and development of technical specifications necessary for the completion of the project. Earlier this year, President Joe Biden signed into law Spanberger’s legislation to provide $1,840,000 for Phase 1 of the Mott’s Run expansion.
Spanberger also secured $3,000,000 to help Spotsylvania County design and construct a new 1-million-gallon water tower to replace an existing 250,000 gallon tank. As the Massaponax and Thornburg areas of Spotsylvania County continue to experience consistent population growth, this project would increase capacity, help serve growing residential and commercial demands, and provide more fire flow duration.
Spanberger also secured $125,000 for the Rappahannock Regional Criminal Justice Academy to purchase a Virtual Reality Training Judgment Simulator. The simulator would be used in training programs conducted at the academy — which services 43 member agencies across Virginia — to increase officer confidence and proficiency in de-escalation skills and improve judgment on use-of-force decisions. This investment would enhance the academy’s ability to effectively train officers to de-escalate crisis situations, as well as reduce injuries and incidents of lethal force.
Additionally, Spanberger secured $400,000 for the Rappahannock Area Health District to obtain a fully equipped mobile health clinic. This mobile health clinic would be used throughout the community to expand clinical services and health outreach to individuals in rural communities as well as those who otherwise lack access to healthcare. This investment would help bridge this gap and protect and improve the health of the Rappahannock Area community through disease prevention, health promotion, and emergency preparedness and would provide key services such as vaccinations, testing, immunizations, clinic services, and cancer screenings.
For FY2023, the U.S. House of Representatives allowed for specific Community Project Funding requests — as it did in FY2022. Spanberger worked directly with community leaders in all 10 counties of the Seventh District to gather community-focused requests for her submissions. Click here for the full list of her submissions.
To be eligible, projects must be sponsored by local or state government entities or non-profit organizations and must be projects that would otherwise meet the qualifications to apply for federal grant funding. The purpose of Community Project Funding is to ensure direct, local engagement as part of the federal appropriations process. In line with this goal, funding applications needed to demonstrate significant local support for the projects.