Congressman John Garamendi (D-CA) submitted several requests for community funded projects last month to congressional committees. The requests are part of an effort to restore "earmarks" to Congress as part of its appropriations authority.
Garamendi said in 2011, the authority of awarding earmarks was moved from Congress to the presidential administration. The respective department secretary would decide what projects would get funding rather than Congress.
"We reached out to the nonprofits in our district and city, county district agencies and said community funded projects may return," Garamendi said.
Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi laid out guidelines for what entities could request funding. The entity must be a nonprofit or government agency and not a private entity. In addition, the entity could not be one that the Congress member requesting on its behalf had any interest, financial or otherwise in.
Garamendi said his office received about 30 different requests -- 15 of those were non-starters either because they didn't meet the guidelines or were requesting too much money.
One of the projects that Garamendi requested to be included in the next appropriations bill is the Adventist Health Well-Being Project Restoration. He said it is on his "top 10" list of projects he indicated to the appropriations committee as being a priority.
The request is for $985,000 to expand the Lake County Restoration House and establish a Yuba-Sutter Restoration House following Lake County's model. Adventist Health Director of Community Well-Being Ashten Phillips said the Restoration House would be a transitional living environment providing a safe, secure place for medically fragile clients with complex medical needs who are unsheltered or have unstable housing.
"Without these federal funds, providing such services in this manner will at best be delayed, if at all," Phillips said. "Regardless, Adventist Health/Rideout will otherwise continue to work to innovate ways to support our most vulnerable community members and secure further grant funding opportunities."
She said the funds would support the current community well-being programs. Since 2017, the Lake County program has housed 68 clients and led to a 29 percent reduction in emergency room visits, 92 percent reduction in emergency medical service responses, 76 percent reduction in law enforcement encounters, and a 76 percent reduction in days incarcerated.
Matched funding is required and if awarded the funding would be distributed in the first quarter of 2022.
"Without the funding, the project would only be able to go forward when additional funding is secured," Phillips said.
Garamendi said because the request is for less than $1 million it has a better chance of being included in the appropriation bill. However, he said the main roadblock to money being distributed is the Senate has not agreed to allow earmarks. He expects the bill to pass the house before the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30.
"As of now, Senate Republicans are opposed to this process," Garamendi said. "Now that's not final but it is certainly a problem."
He said although Democrats hold a slight majority in the Senate, they won't be able to force earmarks through without Republican support. He believes some Republican members of Congress will be in conversation with their senators about allowing earmarks to return because the alternative is having Democratic department heads deciding where money goes.
"I think it's a toss up," Garamendi said about whether the earmarks would make it past the Senate. "...Those programs are very necessary, very meritorious."
Garamendi requested funding for a handful of local projects as part of the forthcoming surface transportation reauthorization act. The projects include:
-Riego Road/Baseline Road Improvement Project: The request is for $8.4 million to assist with the project approval and environmental document phase of the project, which will cost approximately $9.5 million, according to Sutter County public information officer Chuck Smith. The approximately $136 million project will improve 12 miles of Riego Road/Baseline Road connecting southern Sutter County to Placer County from two lanes to a cohesive and coordinated four-lane arterial that can be widened for a future six-lane roadway.
The project will serve the Sutter Pointe Specific Plan, which allows for industrial, commercial and residential growth in the southern portion of Sutter County.
"Developers in this region hope to begin construction within the next two years," Smith said. "Riego/Baseline is currently a two-lane road, badly impacted by traffic. The improvements will allow better access between Placer County and southern Sutter County to the Sacramento International Airport and the downtown Sacramento area. This is an important regional economic development project worthy of federal support."
-Yuba-Sutter Transit Authority Project: The request is for $4 million for the Next Generation Zero-Emission Bus Operations, Maintenance and Administration Facility. Transit Manager Keith Martin said the current facility is undersized and functionally obsolete.
"Because the current facility must be replaced, the project will proceed without the requested funding, but on a potentially much longer timeline which could include the need for an interim move due to the highway project," Martin said. "Early federal funding for the engineering and design phase will significantly accelerate the nearly $40 million facility replacement project and make Yuba-Sutter Transit more competitive when seeking additional discretionary federal, state and regional funding."
The funding is expected to require up to a 20 percent local match ($1 million) in non-federal funds. Martin said if the funding is awarded, construction could begin by the end of 2023 with occupancy in 2025. Without the funding, the project may face uncertain delays and cost impacts as additional funds would need to be either secured from other sources or diverted from other uses.
-Pleasant Grove Siding Passenger Rail Operation and Capacity Improvements Project: The request is for $3 million to complete the project's environmental and design phases. The project location is along Catlett Road in Pleasant Grove and will improve transportation options for residents, enable future rail service expansion to Marysville and Butte County, reduce freight-passenger train conflicts, and increase passenger train speeds and reliability.
The project sponsor is the San Joaquin Regional Rail Commission.
-Wheatland Parkway Phase 1a Project: The request is for $850,000 for a South Yuba Transportation Improvement Authority (SYTIA) project along South Beale Road and State Route 65.
Yuba County Supervisor Gary Bradford is a SYTIA director. He said the funding would be to complete a Project Study Report (PSR).
"The PSR could be funded locally, however receipt of federal funding to cover it would free up those local funds to be spent on a PSR for another SYTIA project, such as the East Wheatland Expressway," Bradford said. "In other words, receiving this funding will enable our local funds to go further, completing more of the work required to make the projects 'shovel ready' in a shorter time frame."
The Wheatland Parkway Project would significantly improve the safety of the Highway 65/South Beale Road intersection, improve access from Highway 65 to Beale Air Force Base and the Sports and Entertainment Zone, provide a connection between Highway 65 and 70, linking Beale Air Force Base, the Employment Village, the Sports and Entertainment Zone, Plumas Lake and Wheatland -- when combined with the Plumas Lake Boulevard extension. It will also serve as the northern terminus to a future Wheatland bypass, according to Bradford.
"This project, along with the East Wheatland Expressway project, is critical to improve safety and traffic flow on Hwy 65 and support continued economic development and prosperity in south Yuba County," Bradford said.