Major Investment In Veterans, Economy And Health Care Passes Congress; Menendez Votes In Favor

Major Investment In Veterans, Economy And Health Care Passes Congress; Menendez Votes In Favor

Supplemental appropriations bill includes landmark new GI bill and extension of unemployment insurance

Washington - Last night, the U.S. Senate gave final approval to supplemental appropriations for major domestic issues, including a new G.I. bill for Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans, Medicaid health care protections and an extension to unemployment insurance that is badly needed in the sluggish economy.

U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) has been a strong supporter of these priorities and voted in favor of the legislation.

"These investments in American families and veterans have been a priority for this Congress in these tough economic times," said Senator Menendez. "Our troops who are returning from their service in Iraq or Afghanistan deserve for their government to make the same type of commitment to them that they have made to their country. That is how a grateful nation honors its heroes. The least we can do is guarantee higher education to those who want it, especially in this tough job market.

"As layoffs increase in this sluggish economy, the extension of unemployment insurance will help struggling families stay afloat as they look for new work. And with health care unaffordable for many of our seniors, families and citizens with disabilities, it's important that we prevent proposed rollbacks in their Medicaid coverage.

"Though this bill is important, it does not encompass everything in the Senate's original version, and there is work left to be done. We need to bolster the low-income heating assistance program, which will is vital with rising energy prices. We also need to boost the Byrne public safety grants for law enforcement, which I worked to accomplish in the original version."

Provisions included in the supplemental appropriations bill:

• Veterans education: expansion of GI Bill benefits for service members who have served on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001.

• Unemployment insurance: extension of federal unemployment benefits by up to 13 weeks for workers who have exhausted their current benefits.

• Medicaid: moratorium on six Medicaid regulations that would narrow some services to seniors, families and people with disabilities, and that would cut payments to providers.

• Disaster aid: $5.8 billion to strengthen New Orleans levees and $2.7 billion for relief from floods and tornadoes in the Midwest.

• Military construction, veterans' health: funding for military construction, veterans' hospitals and military hospitals.

• Other domestic programs: $1 billion in unrequested funds for the Food and Drug Administration, Federal Bureau of Prisons, census overruns and other programs.

• Merida Initiative: $465 million to combat organized crime, drug trafficking, violence, judicial reform, institution-building, and rule of law in Mexico and Central America.

# # #