December 26, 2019
Trone announces ‘huge funding wins’ for Western Maryland
WASHINGTON — The federal government’s new $1.4 billion spending package includes “huge funding wins” for Western Maryland, Rep. David Trone announced last week.
The House of Representatives passed the bill, followed by Senate approval. President Donald Trump signed the proposal into law Friday.
Trone pointed to three key areas he “pushed on aggressively” to secure funding — broadband expansion, the Appalachian Highway Development System and the opioid epidemic.
“I’m proud of the fact that we passed a bipartisan spending bill that has a lot of really important things that I’ve been advocating for, which I think are big wins for Garrett County,” Trone said in a telephone interview.
One of the biggest wins, he said, is $640 million for the expansion of rural broadband service throughout the United States. He noted the money is meant to improve accurate measurements of broadband coverage in communities, including the sources of data used to help generate coverage maps.
“If we don’t get broadband fixed and working 100 percent, we can’t create jobs,” Trone said.
In September, he and U.S. Sens. Ben Cardin and Chris Van Hollen hosted a rural broadband roundtable in Hagerstown to discuss the need for more access with regional officials and the Federal Communications Commission.
“That’s the digital highway that creates jobs,” Trone said about broadband. “The other piece is the physical highway that creates jobs.”
The new spending plan includes $100 million for the Appalachian Highway Development System.
“This was out of the budget, literally, for the last decade,” Trone said. “Congress had declared that the roads were pretty much built — and they are built about 90 percent — and they stopped spending money on the ADHS.”
Trone, a Democrat, said he was “relentless” in getting the funding in the budget, but stressed it was a bipartisan effort, which included Republican Reps. David McKinley, of West Virginia, and John Joyce, of Pennsylvania.
“That’s a big deal to get that program started up again after they (federal government) quit funding it,” Trone said.
The money could help Maryland and Pennsylvania complete the U.S. 219 North project, which has been stalled in the Keystone State because of a funding shortages. Trone said he was optimistic Pennsylvania would be able get some of the new ADHS money for the project.
“Whether or not it will be enough to finish out the corridor, we don’t know,” he said. “So I’m working on another bill for next year.”
This “diversion” bill would free up money that’s “trapped” in states that have finished their projects and no longer need previously appropriated funds. Under Trone’s proposal, that money would go back into the ADHS general fund and be reallocated to Pennsylvania and other areas in need.
The federal government’s new spending plan also includes $1.5 billion for state opioid response grants through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Trone said one of his bills was incorporated into the measure.
“That’s money that will flow to the states,” he said. “Then Gov. Hogan in our state will disperse that money.”
In addition, funding has been earmarked to help children impacted by the opioid epidemic. About $4 million will go to the Centers for Disease Control to study childhood trauma and ACES (adverse childhood experiences). Trone said this was a direct request from him because of how drug addiction is affecting families in Garrett County and across the state and nation.
He also asked for additional funding for the National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative. About $69 million was allocated for this SAMHSA program, which is a $5 million increase over last year.
In addition, Trone said he helped secure $250 million in “completely new” money for Head Start programs across the nation to address adverse childhood experiences.
“What I heard a lot about up in Garrett and Allegany counties was Head Start and Judy centers,” the congressman said, “These centers that help our young kids when their brain development is really at high speed.”
He indicated youngsters are being greatly affected by their parents’ addictions, the trauma and the death toll.
“This is about the kids,” Trone said. “Their parents are having addiction issues, but we owe it to help the kids. If we focus on children, we’re all going to be better for it. It makes a better country.”