Florida Ports Council advocacy update – 01/21/21
Fiscal Year 2021 Appropriations:
Despite a threat of veto, former President Trump signed the massive omnibus appropriation and relief package on Sunday, December 27th. As reported previously, the Bill includes $900 billion in COVID relief aid and several appropriation areas that include transportation and maritime-related funds. After a significant number of requests from U.S. seaport organizations, including the Florida Ports Council, the bill also included WRDA 2021. Many in the Florida Congressional Delegation had priorities in the WRDA legislation and pressed leadership to include the bill in the final omnibus legislation. Although the COVID relief portion of the bill did not include any specific seaport funding, the annual appropriation portion of the bill included funding for many of the grant programs used by seaports including:
- $230 million for the Port Infrastructure Development Grant Program (now Port and Intermodal Improvement Program) – $205 million must be awarded to projects at coastal seaports or Great Lakes
- $100 million for port security
- $1 billion for TIGER/BUILD
The COVID relief portion of the bill did provide $10 billion to state departments of transportation for highway maintenance. These funds may help offset losses at FDOT and free up additional dollars for other FDOT projects, potentially, seaport projects.
National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) 2021:
Both the House and Senate voted to override former President Trump’s veto of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (HR 6395). As reported previously, the bill included two important seaport related provisions – the Port and Intermodal Improvement Program (PIIP, formally known as PIDP) and the Maritime Transportation System Emergency Relief Act (MTSERA). The bill will increase budget authorization of $750 million for PIIP grants and creates the statutory framework (without funding) for the MTSERA grant program. As noted above, the PIIP was funded for 2021, but the MTSERA grant program did not receive any funding because it had not been formally created prior to the passage of the 2021 omnibus appropriations legislation.
The Florida Legislature began its initial committee hearings for Regular Session 2021 the week of January 11th. These meetings are being held under strict COVID protocols and are staff and issue introductory meetings. Committees of interest and jurisdiction over seaport related matters include the following – Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development; Senate Transportation Committee; Senate Select Committee on Pandemic Preparedness and Response; House Appropriations Subcommittee on Infrastructure and Tourism; House Subcommittee on Tourism, Infrastructure and Energy; and House Committee on Pandemic and Public Emergencies. We are reaching out to leadership and staff on these committees and have provided them with our latest seaport mission plan and other information.