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Statement on Signing the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000

October 20, 1999

Today I have signed into law H.R. 2684, the "Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000."

This Act will fund vital housing, community development, environmental, disaster assistance, veterans, space, and science programs. Specifically, it provides funding for the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA) and Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Science Foundation (NSF), and several other agencies.

The Act funds a number of my Administration's high priorities, including the Corporation for National and Community Service at this year's current funding level. National Service gives young people the opportunity to obtain funding for a college education while serving the country in areas of great need, such as the environment, public safety, and human services. National Service also allows young people to participate in service-learning programs that provide substantial academic and social benefits, including the opportunity to learn responsible citizenship.

I am pleased that the Act also provides full funding of HUD's highest priority: $10.9 billion for the renewal of all Section 8 contracts, assuring continuation of HUD rental subsidies for low-income tenants in privately owned housing. I am also pleased that the Act provides 60,000 housing vouchers for low-income families. In addition, the Act adequately funds programs to help distressed communities, including my new initiative for America's Private Investment Companies (APIC), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG), assistance to the homeless, the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund, Brownfields redevelopment, and rural and urban empowerment zones. The CDBG program promotes housing and economic activity in low- and moderate-income areas. It provides funding for housing rehabilitation, construction, and homebuyer assistance. The CDFI Fund helps to create a network of community development banks across the country, spurring the flow of capital to distressed neighborhoods and their currently underserved low-income residents.

The Act includes funding that could support part of my New Markets proposal, which will help ensure that all Americans share in our economic prosperity. APIC and the rural and urban empowerment zones will help revitalize communities so that they can take advantage of the strength of the economy and help those left behind in our economic boom. Additionally, $1.02 billion is provided for homeless assistance grants, enabling localities to continue to shape and implement comprehensive, flexible, coordinated "continuum of care" approaches to solving homelessness.

I am pleased that the Act adequately funds Fair Housing programs, which will enable HUD to expand significantly its activities aimed at reducing the level of housing discrimination nationwide.

The Act provides $710 million, a significant increase, for elderly housing, recognizing the dramatic rise in our elderly population and the changing housing needs that accompany this unprecedented demographic shift. The Act replaces old models, which separated housing from services, with new models that bring services to elders where they live—allowing seniors to remain in their homes and communities longer.

I am also pleased that H.R. 2684 provides $19.8 billion for the medical care of our Nation's veterans. Since January, long waiting times in VA medical centers have disrupted the level and quality of medical care that veterans have received. This level of service is unacceptable, and the funding levels in the Act will allow us to address this issue. The Act will also allow for the provision of a range of home- and community-based care for those high-priority veterans who do not have access to such services, and it provides resources for the aggressive testing and treatment of Hepatitis C.

The Act provides $7.6 billion for the EPA, which will enable the agency to adequately implement our environmental laws. I am pleased that H.R. 2684 adequately funds EPA's portion of the Clean Water Action Plan and the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. However, the Act should have provided full funding for the Climate Change Technology Initiative and the new Clean Air Partnership Fund at the requested levels. Furthermore, I continue to believe that the provision prohibiting implementation of the Kyoto Protocol is unnecessary, as my Administration has no intent of implementing the Protocol prior to ratification. This year's language is identical to last year's provision. Since this year's House and Senate report language is contradictory, we will implement the Kyoto provision consistent with the language in last year's conference report. I also am disturbed that the conference report includes new language that is aimed at restricting efforts to reduce smog by delaying EPA action on several States' clean air petitions. My Administration has a strong commitment to clean air and will continue to use the full range of authorities under the law to make our Nation's air safe to breathe for all Americans.

The Act also adequately funds the Nation's investment in space and science programs. It provides $13.65 billion for NASA and $3.9 billion for the NSF, including $126 million for my Administration's Information Technology in the 21st Century Initiative. If we want to maintain our current economic prosperity, it is essential that we sustain our investment in long-term research across all the scientific and engineering disciplines. This Act maintains the Nation's investments in science, technology, and learning, which have fueled unprecedented economic growth for the past decade.

Finally, I am pleased that H.R. 2684 adequately funds FEMA to help cope with unforeseen disasters. The $2.5 billion in contingent emergency funds, along with the $821 million appropriated, ensures that the country is well prepared to deal with unforeseen natural disasters and that FEMA has adequate resources to respond to Hurricane Floyd and other disasters.

I am pleased that my Administration and the Congress were able to work together successfully on this bill—in a spirit of cooperation— to resolve our respective differences and produce a bill that is fully paid for and effectively addresses critical needs of the American people. I am especially pleased that we were able to achieve acceptable funding levels in a number of areas by providing offsets that were agreed on by both sides. I urge the Congress to work with my Administration in similar fashion in coming to mutually acceptable agreements on the remaining FY 2000 appropriations bills and to do so expeditiously. The American people deserve no less.


The White House, October 20, 1999.

NOTE: H.R. 2684, approved October 20, was assigned Public Law No. 106-74.

William J. Clinton, Statement on Signing the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Housing and Urban Development, and Independent Agencies Appropriations Act, 2000 Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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