The $1.1 trillion federal appropriations bill passed by both the House and Senate and signed by President Trump on May 5 includes funding for several programs important to the U.S.-flag maritime industry as well as health care for retired coal miners and their families.
The bill covers federal spending for the rest of Fiscal Year 2017 which runs through September 30.
First, the measure increases to $5 million per vessel the annual outlay provided to U.S.-flag companies for the guaranteed availability for military usage of ships and their facilities during times of war or emergencies as provided under the Maritime Security Program (MSP). The MTD and its affiliates have been negotiating for such an increase. It had the support of Republicans and Democrats in both chambers.
Next, additional money was included for the Food for Peace Program. Also known as PL-480, the program ensures that food and grain grown by American farmers and carried by American transportation workers is loaded onto U.S.-flag vessels by American dockworkers to help those in need around the world. It has been called one of the most successful foreign aid programs ever and long has had bipartisan support. The MTD, its affiliates and Port Maritime Councils have been fighting attempts to weaken the program through giving straight cash payments to non-governmental organizations and/or foreign governments in the place of actually providing food. The bill provides $1.9 billion for various food aid programs covered by cargo preference.
During its March meeting, the MTD Executive Board heard from the Mine Workers’ Levi Allen about the crisis facing more than 22,000 union retirees and their families as their health care was about to be cut off unless the federal government intervened. The Mine Workers were promised health care by President Truman during a 1946 contract agreement. Congress passed needed funding measures in 1992 and 2006 before the dire recent situation arose. Until this measure was passed, health care funding for these retirees and families would have ended May 5.
After weeks of meetings, elected officials from both parties supported the spending bill. It includes new dollars for defense and infrastructure. MTD-affiliated American Federation of Government Employees spoke in favor of the measure as it halted further contracting out of federal jobs as well as rejected cuts to government research, education and other programs.