Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act
Legislation provides $300 million annually for Great Lakes efforts nationwide, supports local projects
Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, has announced approval of H.R. 5764, The Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Act of 2014, legislation authorizing $300 million in federal funding annually to support Great Lakes efforts for each of the next five years.
"We see a great multiplier effect with investments made in the Great Lakes," Higgins said. "With each effort to preserve and improve the Great Lakes, we produce economic and environmental benefits for generations to come."
First initiated in 2010, the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative is a multiyear, multi-agency effort to restore the Great Lakes by cleaning up pollution, promoting shoreline health, combating invasive species and protecting fish and wildlife.
Over the past five years, more than $40 million in GLRI funds have been invested in Western New York. Examples of local projects supported by GLRI include: habitat restoration at Times Beach in Buffalo, dredging of the Buffalo Harbor, shoreline preservation and enhancements along the Buffalo River at Riverbend, removal of contaminants along the Buffalo River area of concern, restoring the ecological integrity of Hoyt Lake at Delaware Park and green infrastructure investments along Niagara Street.
Higgins and a bipartisan coalition of members cosponsor the bill. It will now move to the Senate for final consideration and approval.
Higgins, a member of the congressional Great Lakes caucus, whose district borders Lake Erie, spoke at the Great Lakes Commission annual meeting held this fall in Buffalo. He has consistently advocated for a substantial federal investment in Great Lakes initiatives.
In 2008, the Brookings Institution released a report that concluded Great Lakes restoration efforts have the potential to create jobs, development and increased property values that generate between $600 million and $1.1 billion in the Buffalo region alone.
The Great Lakes represent the largest surface source of fresh water on this planet.
Higgins announced the House approval of H.R. 5185, the Breast Health Education and Awareness Requires Learning Young Act Reauthorization. This legislation reauthorizes the EARLY Act, originally signed into law in 2010, through fiscal year 2019.
"The urgency to make cancer research and prevention a national priority cannot be understated," Higgins said. "The EARLY Act is an excellent piece of legislation, which helps to provide essential education and resources not only to those at risk for breast cancer, but also the health care providers working to provide the highest quality of care to these individuals."
The EARLY Act, authored by Congresswoman Wasserman Schultz, was included in the 2010 Affordable Care Act. The bill aimed at teaching women and medical professionals about breast cancer risk factors and warning signs, especially targeting young women and women of higher-risk ethnic and racial backgrounds.
Thanks to the EARLY Act, the CDC has identified gaps in education and awareness in both young women and health care providers, it has supplied grants to organizations focused on helping young survivors cope, and implemented a targeted media campaign to reach women at the highest risk.
Schultz, herself a breast cancer, joined Higgins this past spring at Roswell Park Cancer Institute in Buffalo where she spoke about the EARLY Act. They toured the Center for Personalized Medicine, which uses state-of-the-art gene sequencing technologies to develop targeted medical therapies tailored to an individual's unique genetic characteristics.
Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act
Higgins announced approval of H.R. 5059, the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention Act for American Veterans Act. This legislation creates a comprehensive community response for coordinated mental health care at veterans hospitals across the country. Higgins cosponsored this legislation.
"Thousands of men and women devote their lives every day to serve our country," Higgins said. "We cannot turn our backs on these individuals. This legislation is a step forward to protecting the safety of these service men and women."
The Clay Hunt SAV Act is a first step to mitigate the amount of suicides committed by veterans every day. The legislation requires the Veterans Administration to develop an interactive website for mental health services to better facilitate coordinated care. It also requires a third party to annually evaluate both the Department of Defense and the VA mental health and suicide prevention programs. It aims to address the lack of mental health professions currently serving the VA.
The bill provides an education loan repayment pilot program to individuals pursuing psychiatric services and working at VHA hospitals.
Since 2001, more than 2 million U.S. soldiers have served in combat in Afghanistan and Iraq. An estimated 600,000 soldiers have a traumatic brain injury, post-traumatic stress disorder or depression. Approximately 22 veterans commit suicide every day, totaling 8,000 veterans each year.
New York is home to more than 800,000 veterans. The 26th Congressional District is home to almost 50,000 veterans. Higgins has made veterans affairs one of his top priorities since joining the House of Representatives.
Any veteran suffering from severe depression and thoughts of suicide is encouraged to call the 24-hour Veteran Crisis Line at 1-800-273-8255. Press 1 for immediate assistance.