Updates from The Hill

Wednesday, July 29
– Perriello joins Dairy Farmers Caucus
– HUD grants approved for affordable rental housing in Virginia

Tuesday, July 28
– Warner hosts broadband summit
– Perriello bill to extend medical benefits to people who care for disabled vets passes

Monday, July 27
– Perriello discuss progress on legislation to protect D-Day Memorial

 

Wednesday, July 29
Perriello joins Dairy Farmers Caucus

Dairy farmers in the Fifth District saw their voice in Washington grow stronger as Congressman Tom Perriello joined with more than fifty fellow members of Congress to form the Congressional Dairy Farmers Caucus. The bipartisan Caucus was officially announced during a press conference this morning in the United States Capitol, and declared that the critical issues confronting the American dairy farmer will not go unheard in Congress.

“Everybody in America benefits from dairy farming except our dairy farmers as the cost of milk production continues to rise,” said Perriello. “The dairy farmers in Virginia’s Fifth contribute millions of dollars to our local economy and provide fresh and wholesome dairy products that are part of a healthy diet. Family farms take great pride in their product and are an important part of our region’s heritage. I am proud to continue supporting them, and look forward to using this caucus as a way to advance their interests.”

Virginia’s Fifth District is home to more than 200 dairy farms that contribute $80 million a year to the local economy. The district is in the top quarter of dairy-producing congressional districts, and has the second largest dairy industry of Virginia’s eleven districts. According to figures from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, dairy farmers receive less than a quarter of the retail price for cheese, and less than a third of the retail price for milk. Congressman Perriello has supported numerous pieces of legislation that help farmers reduce labor costs and profit from a cap-and-trade energy system.

The Dairy Caucus is receiving praise from national agricultural organizations. “The complexities of dairy policy, and the diverse size and scope of dairy farming in the U.S., means that we need a forum in Congress for dairy farmers to interact with their elected officials,” said Jerry Kozak, President and CEO of the National Milk Producers Federation. “The Congressional Dairy Farmer Caucus will help facilitate the communication between, and education of, members of Congress and the farmers they represent.”

  

HUD grants approved for affordable rental housing in Virginia

U.S. Sens. Jim Webb and Mark R. Warner today announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has approved $44.2 million to jumpstart affordable rental housing programs in Virginia. Funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, HUD’s new Tax Credit Assistance Program (TCAP) provides grants to state housing finance agencies to resume affordable rental housing projects throughout the country while also creating jobs in the hard-hit construction industry.

“Today’s announcement will resume funding assistance for local communities to develop affordable housing and also make available more construction jobs across Virginia,” said Sen. Webb.

“These grants will significantly boost our efforts to put Virginians back to work while also providing quality, affordable housing options for low-income families at a time when those options are critical,” Sen. Warner said. “These grants also should help unlock the credit markets while supporting shovel-ready projects.”

Current economic challenges have frozen investments in the low income housing tax credit (LIHTC) market, and those tax credits create an incentive for investors to provide capital to developers to build multi-family rental housing for moderate- and low-income families across the nation. Since the contraction of the credit market, and as traditional investors remain on the sidelines, the value of tax credits has plummeted. Consequently, as many as 1,000 projects (containing nearly 150,000 units of housing) are stalled across the country.

In response, the Recovery Act provides $2.25 billion for TCAP, a grant program to provide capital investments in these stalled LIHTC developments. HUD is awarding TCAP grants by formula to state housing credit agencies (all 50 states plus the District of Columbia and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico) to complete construction of qualified housing projects that will ultimately provide affordable housing to an estimated 35,000 households nationwide. Since a major purpose of this program is job creation, the Recovery Act establishes ambitious deadlines to spend the grant funds and requires state housing credit agencies to give priority to projects that can begin immediately and be completed by Feb. 16, 2012.

   

Tuesday, July 28
Warner hosts broadband summit

U.S. Sen. Mark R. Warner on Monday hosted the Virginia Summit on Broadband Access at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville, bringing together more than 400 representatives from federal, state, and local governments, as well as leaders of non-profit organizations, to explore opportunities to access new federal funding to expand access to high-speed Internet broadband technology across Virginia.

The Recovery Act provided a total of $7.2 billion to the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Utilities Service (RUS) to increase broadband access throughout the country. Of that funding, NTIA will utilize $4.7 billion to deploy broadband access in un-served and underserved areas in the United States. By expanding public computer center capacity and encouraging sustainable adoption of broadband service, RUS will invest $2.5 billion to improve broadband access in rural communities.

The top administrators of both federal programs attended today’s Summit. Applications for the first round of funding from both federal agencies are due on Aug. 14, and applications are available at www.broadbandusa.gov.

“Broadband technology, with its capacity to expand education and job training programs, makes many of our communities much more attractive for increased economic investment and new jobs,” Sen. Warner said. “The experts we assembled at today’s Summit were able to provide great information on what these expanded federal broadband programs have to offer, how to apply, and how to make applications from Virginia stand out.”

Sen. Warner made expanded access to broadband technology an economic development priority during his term as Governor of Virginia (2002-06), leveraging federal and state resources to partner with the private sector in extending broadband infrastructure across 400 miles of rural Virginia. In 2007 and 2008, Warner co-chaired Gov. Timothy M. Kaine’s Broadband Roundtable, which ultimately produced a first-in-the-nation, statewide coverage map and a “toolkit” to help localities tackle many of the “last-mile” challenges of broadband deployment.

Monday’s Broadband Access Summit was the third in a series of conferences hosted by Senator Warner this summer that will help Virginians access new federal funds available through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. In mid-July, he hosted the Virginia Summit on Energy Opportunities which brought together more than 400 decision-makers at Hampton University in Hampton. In May, he hosted the Virginia Conference on Health Information Technology that brought 450 health care professionals to Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond. All three conferences were streamed live on the Senator’s website.

 

Perriello bill to extend medical benefits to people who care for disabled vets passes

Congressman Tom Perriello’s proposal to extend medical care for family members who serve as caregivers to severely disabled veterans passed the U.S. House Monday on a bipartisan voice vote. Perriello introduced the legislation, the Health Care for Family Caregivers Act of 2009 (H.R. 2734), on June 4, 2009.

“Caring for our veterans and military families is our nation’s moral obligation,” said Perriello. “When I talked with veterans from the Fifth District, they told me how often family members step into a full-time caregiver role, and this bill honors that important sacrifice. I’m grateful for the wide bipartisan support for this bill and look forward to seeing it signed into law.”

Perriello’s legislation was included in H.R. 3155, the Caregiver Assistance and Resource Enhancement Act, which will now go to the U.S. Senate for consideration. As a result of the bill, a family caregiver will not be subject to deductibles, premiums, copayments, cost-sharing, or other fees for their own personal medical care. It expands the definition of those eligible for benefits beyond spouses and children to include any nuclear, extended, or step-family members who serve as primary caregivers for disabled veterans. Veterans’ organizations such as the Wounded Warrior Project have praised Rep. Perriello’s work helping veterans’ caregivers.

 

Monday, July 27
Perriello discuss progress on legislation to protect D-Day Memorial

Tom Perriello hailed passage of legislation in the U.S. Senate to start the process of transferring the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford to the National Park Service, and vowed to protect the amendment in the U.S. House.

“This is a big step forward in ensuring that the sacrifice of the Bedford Boys is honored for generations to come. Senators Warner and Webb deserve our thanks for their leadership in the Senate and I will continue to fight for this study on the House side,” said Rep. Perriello.

Perriello introduced a bill on June 3 to authorize the Department of the Interior to study whether the D-Day Memorial meets the requirements for becoming a National Park. Virginia Senators Mark Warner and Jim Webb introduced companion legislation in the Senate on June 8, and the bill was included as an amendment in the National Defense Authorization Act, which passed the U.S. Senate on Thursday.

“We are a long way from done but at least now we know this is heading towards a solution and I’m proud to keep fighting until we get there,” said Perriello.

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