BRATTLEBORO — U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., announced on Aug. 1 that more than $254 million that they requested on behalf of 89 Vermont projects has been included in the annual Senate Appropriations bills released last week.
These 12 bills will fund the federal government for fiscal year 2023 and will have to be negotiated before being passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law by the president.
According to a news release, Sanders's and Leahy's Congressionally Directed Spending (CDS) requests, more popularly known as earmarks, “would meet needs across the state and across a number of issue areas, including child care, infrastructure, clean energy and water, farming and agriculture, education, health care, and housing.”
With Leahy preparing to leave his powerful perch in the Senate, Vermont institutions may not be able to count on the funding he has historically secured. Members of the appropriations committee tend to take home the most cash - and the committee's most senior members take home the most of all.
Sanders is seeking $42 million in CDS spending.
Windham County will be sharing in the federal largesse coming to Vermont. Sanders's list included these items:
• Federally Qualified Health Center expansion into Brattleboro, $4.22 million. With this funding, Springfield Medical Care Systems, newly renamed North Star Health, will integrate with Windham County Dental Center on the campus of Brattleboro Memorial Hospital, allowing 1,500 to 3,500 Vermonters to access dental care.
North Star Health will also build a new facility in Windham County to provide much-needed primary medical and behavioral health care.
• After-school and summer programming, Windham Central Supervisory Union, $100,000. With this funding, the Windham Central Supervisory Union will support summer and after-school programming for the students of the West River Valley.
• Sewer infrastructure upgrades for the town of Whitingham: $1 million. With this funding, the town will complete required safety upgrades to its two wastewater treatment facilities.
• Rockingham Meeting House conservation and restoration project, $360,000. This funding will be used for the Rockingham Historic Preservation Commission to restore and conserve the historic Rockingham Meeting House for safe public use.
There were no specific awards for Windham County in the $212 million of Leahy's CDS requests. Among the largest individual appropriations Leahy is seeking this year are $34 million to renovate and expand Burlington International Airport, $30 million for the University of Vermont's Honors College, and $25 million for the Lake Champlain Geographic Program.
The county may benefit from $10 million for the Preservation Trust of Vermont Village Community Trust Initiative to provide assistance for 20 communities across Vermont or from $10 million for the Vermont Department of Libraries Public Facilities Preservation Initiative to help preserve and support libraries in rural communities.
Only a first step
The Aug. 1 announcement does not ensure that the money will arrive in Vermont soon - or ever. That hinges on whether Congress passes all 12 spending bills.
As of Aug. 1, six such bills had passed the House, and none had passed the Senate.The new fiscal year starts Oct. 1, but Congress seldom treats that as a hard deadline. It often passes a series of “continuing resolutions” that keep the government running but don't fund new earmarked projects.
Many of last year's spending bills, for example, were not signed into law until this March.