WASHINGTON -- The Senate Appropriations Committee approved legislation yesterday that would fund the HOME program and environmental revolving loan fund programs in fiscal 1995 at higher levels than those approved by House lawmakers last month.
The Senate committee's bill would give $1.5 billion to the HOME program next year, compared with $1.275 billion in the House Appropriations Committee's bill and $1.1 billion requested by the Clinton Administration in its fiscal 1995 budget plan. HOME received $1.25 in fiscal 1994. The fiscal year begins Oct. 1.
The Community Development Block Grant program would receive $4.6 billion under the Senate committee's bill, the same as that proposed by the House panel. The administration had requested $4.4 billion, equal to the program's fiscal 1994 funding level.
The appropriations bill would also fund independent agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, and would give $3.4 billion in 1995 to the EPA's water infrastructure initiatives. That compares with the House committee's proposal of $2.73 billion. The Clinton Administration had requested $1.91 billion.
Of the $3.4 billion, $2.0 billion would go toward state revolving loan funds for wastewater treatment facilities, nearly double the House committee's proposal of $1.28 billion. The water infrastructure total also includes $700 million for a state revolving fund being created for drinking water treatment facilities, the same level as in the House committee's bill.
Congress is working on separate bills to reauthorize the wastewater treatment and safe drinking water programs. One bill would reauthorize the six-year-old revolving loan fund program many states use to help stretch their federal dollars by leveraging municipal bonds to help build wastewater treatment facilities.
The other would renew the safe drinking water act and establish a new revolving fund program to help finance construction of drinking water treatment facilities.
Housing lobbyists said they were pleasantly surprised by the relatively large funding level for HOME. The Senate Committee's action is "a stunning endorsement" of the HOME program "and an equally stunning rejection of the administration's resistance to having the program adequately funded," said John T. McEvoy, the executive director of the National Council of State Housing Agencies.
The proposed funding level for the block grants "reflects the strong congressional commitment to a program which is so key to state and local government efforts to revitalize and maintain their communities," said Reggie Todd, the chief lobbyist for the National Association of Counties.