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Shaheen, Collins Reintroduce Bill to Reauthorize Northern Border Regional Commission to Support Economic Development in Rural Northeast Communities

(Washington, DC) – U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) and Susan Collins (R-ME), alongside Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), reintroduced the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) Reauthorization Act of 2023. This bill will extend the authorization of the NBRC and support job creation and community development in the most economically vulnerable parts of rural New Hampshire and the Northeast.

By reauthorizing the NBRC for another ten years, the bill encourages business retention and expansion, invests in public infrastructure and promotes tourism across the region. To address unique challenges facing rural workforces, the legislation also invests in projects that expand rural access to childcare, health care and affordable housing. The NBRC Reauthorization Act also broadens NBRC’s ability to award grants to projects and activities to address the opioid epidemic and other substance use disorders impacting the region. This legislation builds on the members’ previous efforts by adding New Hampshire’s Merrimack County and Maine’s Lincoln County as newly eligible to receive these funds.

“I’m pleased to lead this effort in the Senate to reauthorize funding for the Northern Border Regional Commission for another ten years. The NBRC is a key economic driver in New Hampshire’s North Country by supporting rural businesses, job creation and infrastructure projects. I’ve seen the NBRC’s positive impact in New Hampshire, which is why I’ve consistently fought to support its work – from expanding the reach of the NBRC to Cheshire and Belknap Counties to consistently pushing for additional funding,” said Senator Shaheen. “I’ll always prioritize the NBRC’s essential work and ensure it has the resources necessary to support our rural and economically vulnerable communities.”

“The Northern Border Regional Commission serves as a critical resource for many counties in Maine, making investments to promote job growth, improve infrastructure, and boost local economies,” said Senator Collins. “I have long supported funding for this important program, and as the Vice Chairman of the Appropriations Committee, I’m proud to join Senator Shaheen in this effort to reauthorize the NBRC for another ten years. The critical investments supported by the NBRC will help to ensure that northern border communities have the tools they need to prosper.”

“In the wake of unprecedented economic recovery, it is paramount that we continue to make sure we are not leaving behind our smaller cities and rural neighbors. The Northern Border Regional Commission has played a unique and vital role in expanding economic opportunities, upgrading infrastructure, and improving the quality of life of communities across Upstate New York and the Northeast. The NBRC provides a crucial investment to rebuild local economies. I have been proud to help lead the charge to secure funding for it in the past, and it is critical that we reauthorize it,” said Senate Majority Leader Schumer.

Specifically, the legislation:

  • Reauthorizes the NBRC for ten years and increases the annual appropriation cap from $33 million to $50 million for the first five years, and $60 million for the following five years.
  • Adds Merrimack County, NH, and Lincoln County, ME, to the list of counties eligible to receive funds from the NBRC.
  • Reauthorizes the State Capacity Building Grant Program, which was established in 2018 to further strengthen investment in local high-impact projects. This program provides additional funds to regional economic and community development organizations that support business retention and expansion, infrastructure development and job creation.
  • Improves the region’s climate resilience by enabling NBRC to support projects that address the vulnerabilities of transportation and other public infrastructure assets to climate change.
  • Expands opportunities for community development projects that address unique challenges facing the region’s rural workforce by:
    • Broadening the NBRC’s ability to fund projects that invest in childcare and health care needs. This includes projects to attract, train and retain qualified health care or childcare personnel. The legislation also directs the Commission to emphasize projects to combat substance use disorders from opioid and methamphetamine use.
    • Providing the NBRC the ability to support projects that facilitate the construction or rehabilitation of housing to meet the needs of families and individuals in the region. 

The bill is also cosponsored by Senators Angus King (I-ME), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Peter Welch (D-VT), Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

The full text of the bill is available here.

Shaheen has led efforts in Congress that support and invest in the NBRC, and included her bipartisan legislation to reauthorize and expand the NBRC’s reach in the Farm Bill that was signed into law in 2018. With support from Rep. Annie Kuster (NH-02), the legislation expanded the NBRC to include Cheshire County and communities in Belknap County. Shaheen also worked to include language to ensure portions of NBRC funds be directed to assist rural communities affected by past mill closures, as well as support new markets and the infrastructure needs of the forest products industry. Shaheen led a bipartisan, bicameral group of lawmakers, including the New Hampshire Congressional Delegation, in calling for the inclusion of dedicated funding for the NBRC in COVID-19 relief legislation. In the government funding legislation signed into law in 2020, Shaheen helped secure $30 million for the NBRC, which was a $5 million increase above the fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding level. That legislation also included a Shaheen priority of eliminating the non-federal match requirement on FY2020 NBRC awards and future awards related to COVID-19 recovery, reducing potential hurdles to increased participation among eligible communities. Shaheen also helped secure $40 million for the NBRC in federal government funding legislation for FY2023 that was signed into law, which is a $5 million increase above the FY2022 funding level and the highest the program has ever been funded. In addition, Shaheen helped negotiate the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which provided $150 million to the NBRC – historic funding that will go toward infrastructure and community development projects throughout the region.