Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Filemon Vela (TX-34) submitted a statement to the House Committee on Appropriations for the Member Day Hearing. The hearing is an opportunity for Members of the United States House of Representatives to highlight issues of importance to them and their constituents as Congress works to prepare Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 funding legislation.
“As we look to support important work and projects in the district, I have focused on ensuring our communities have the vital infrastructure, health care and learning opportunities our community needs to grow and thrive. That is why I’ve focused on ensuring the RGV has expanded broadband connectivity, the resources to help address flood control projects in communities prone to hurricane storm damage and flood risk, improving our land ports of entry and fully funding Community Health Centers, which offer comprehensive, affordable care to our underserved areas,” said Congressman Filemon Vela. “These initiatives will not only better our communities, but also help bolster economic development in the region. I look forward to championing these priorities this fiscal year.”
Congressman Vela’s statement on his top funding priorities for the 34th District of Texas can be found in its entirety below.
STATEMENT BY CONGRESSMAN FILEMON VELA (TX-34)
HOUSE COMMITTEE ON APPROPRIATIONS
MEMBER DAY HEARING
JUNE 9, 2021
Chairwoman DeLauro, Ranking Member Granger, Members of the Committee,
Thank you for the opportunity to provide input into the appropriations process. As you prepare appropriations bills for Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, I would like to highlight several important funding priorities for my constituents in the 34th District of Texas – the Lower Rio Grande Valley Watershed assessment, land ports of entry, broadband, and Community Health Centers.
Lower Rio Grande Valley Watershed Assessment
The Lower Rio Grande Valley Watershed, including Cameron, Hidalgo, Willacy, and Kenedy Counties in Texas, is historically flood prone, suffering significant flooding events in 1967, 1984, 1996, 2010, 2015, 2016, 2018, 2019 and 2020. Further, the area is one of the fastest growing Regional Water Planning Areas with an estimated population growth rate of 160 percent by 2060. An assessment is needed to understand the hydrology of the watershed as a whole so the region can move forward with determining how to address the persistent and increasing flood events.
The study will investigate how the system of connected watersheds function, how urban development patterns are affecting the watershed across the system, and how they are affected by current and future potential flooding events. I urge the committee to provide the $200,000 needed to move forward with this study.
Economically disadvantaged communities, like the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, face extra burdens in addressing complex flood control issues. Without involvement from the Corps, many of these problems will not be recognized and addressed in a timely manner, resulting in additional damages to property and life. Therefore, I urge the Committee to include language in the Energy & Water Appropriations bill to encourage the Army Corps to initiate flood control projects in economically disadvantaged communities that are prone to hurricane storm damage and flood risk.
Land Ports of Entry
As you draft the FY22 Appropriations bills, I urge you to include $6 billion to fund vital upgrades to our land ports of entry (LPOEs). Investments in improving the aging infrastructure at our ports of entry are necessary for a safer and more prosperous America.
As you know, building infrastructure is a critical part of putting people back to work and reviving the economy. Upgrading the facilities at our LPOEs would not only bring good jobs to local communities and boost our country’s economy, but it would also strengthen our national security and facilitate trade and travel.
Mexico and Canada are two of our three largest trading partners, and every day, hundreds of thousands of commercial trucks, passenger vehicles, and pedestrians cross our LPOEs on the northern and southern borders. Many of our LPOEs, however, have longstanding infrastructure needs that impede both security and commerce. Funding improvements to LPOEs will help U.S. Customs and Border Protection to carry out their dual missions of national security and facility trade and travel.
As you craft FY 2022 appropriations bills, I urge you to consider including the following report language that supports increased investment in municipal-owned broadband networks:
“The Committee urges the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to study the role of municipal-owned networks in expanding broadband access to unserved and underserved urban communities.”
There continues to be severe and ongoing need for connectivity in urban minority communities, and for many, municipal-owned networks are the only path to universal service. My district is home to successful small businesses, cutting-edge universities, and a strong workforce poised to benefit from fast and reliable internet. However, many of my constituents have been left behind by the broadband market. According to the National Digital Inclusion Alliance (NDIA), the Rio Grande Valley is home to the first, second, and fifth worst-connected cities in America. Broadband connectivity is a crucial need for my district, and we must work to ensure every home has affordable and accessible internet connectivity.
Unfortunately, many urban areas, especially those with persistent poverty and significant minority populations, continue to be underserved. With the lack of federal funding programs that target underserved urban areas, cities in my district are turning to municipal-owned networks. Broadband is no longer a luxury, it is a vital tool for students, hospitals and patients, veterans, and our small businesses. Broadband must be treated as a utility. We must prioritize funding for urban areas, including municipal-owned networks, and remove unnecessary barriers that prevent local governments from providing this critical utility to their communities.
Community Health Centers
I urge you to include the highest possible funding for our Community Health Centers, which offer comprehensive, affordable care to our underserved communities.
Community Health Centers have historically enjoyed bipartisan support, with more than 1,400 health center organizations serving communities in every state across the nation. These health centers need funding for both operational and infrastructure purposes so that they can continue to meet the changing needs of the 30 million people they serve. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Community Health Centers have played a vital and evolving role, from offering diagnostic testing and education to triaging patients to being active in the administration of vaccines.
The Community Health Centers in my district provide exceptional service to my constituents in the 34thDistrict of Texas and have significantly contributed to the COVID-19 vaccination efforts in South Texas. As of the first week in June, the Community Action Corporation of South Texas (CACOST) reported administering 19,205 vaccines while Su Clinica administered 11,200 vaccines and Brownsville Community Health Clinic administered 8,051 vaccines. I applaud their efforts and dedication to the patients they serve. We need to provide sufficient federal resources so that they can continue to keep their doors open and provide critical health care services to some of our most vulnerable populations.
Thank you again for this opportunity to provide input to the Committee. I urge Members of Congress to consider the importance of these diverse needs and include sufficient funding for these priority areas.
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