Shaheen, Leahy, Collins Lead Push to Reauthorize Northern Border Regional Commission to Support Hard-Hit Businesses & Communities

February 17, 2022

(Washington, DC) – Today, U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Northern Border Regional Commission (NBRC) Reauthorization Act of 2022. 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. The bill is also cosponsored by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Angus King (I-ME) and Maggie Hassan (D-NH).

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 child care, health care and affordable housing needs. 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.

“The Northern Border Regional Commission is a key economic driver in northern New Hampshire. I’m pleased to lead this effort in the Senate to reauthorize funding for another ten years so this commission can continue to support rural businesses, job creation and infrastructure projects. I’m also thrilled this bill extends eligibility to Merrimack County so it can access NBRC funding to promote local economic development,” said Senator Shaheen. “For years, I’ve prioritized funding to support the NBRC’s essential work to help revitalize our most economically vulnerable communities, and this legislation builds on those efforts. I look forward to the Senate acting swiftly on this bill so we can deliver important resources to rural communities, especially as we recover from the pandemic.” 

“In my time leading the Senate Appropriations Committee, I have been proud to increase funding for the Northern Border Regional Commission by tens of millions of dollars and ensure that projects in every county in Vermont are eligible.  This bill will secure the existence of the Commission for years to come and means that future generations of Vermonters will continue to benefit from its support for their communities and local economies,” said Senator Leahy.

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

“Since its creation, the Northern Border Regional Commission has been an go-to resource for communities across Maine – helping to create good-paying jobs, boost small businesses, and strengthen local economies, ” said Senator King. “The NRBC has invested millions of dollars in Maine’s rural communities, providing vital economic support to fuel the long-term prosperity of the region. Reauthorizing the NBRC is absolutely critical for Maine, and I hope it can be done in a speedy, bipartisan fashion. “

“New Hampshire is filled with vibrant communities that define us as a state and are the basis for our economic success,” said Senator Hassan. “Since 2008, millions of dollars in federal funding from the Northern Border Regional Commission have been used to support local projects that have driven economic growth across the region. It is critical that we reauthorize the Commission so that it can continue to deliver funding and resources to New Hampshire to spur job creation and help all Granite Staters thrive.”

Specifically, the legislation:

  • Reauthorizes the NBRC for 10 years and increases the annual appropriation cap from $33 million to $50 million for the first 5 years, and $60 million for the next 5 years.
  • Adds Merrimack County, NH and Lincoln County, ME to the list of counties eligible to receive funds from the NBRC, given data from recent years indicates that Merrimack has similar levels of economic distress as existing NBRC counties.
  • 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 local economic and community development organizations that support business retention and expansion, infrastructure development and job creation.
  • Improves the region’s climate resilience. The bill would enable 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 child care and health care needs. This includes projects to attract, train and retain qualified health care or child care personnel. The legislation also directs the Commission to place an emphasis on 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.

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 FY2020 funding level and the highest the program has ever been funded. 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 $35 million for the NBRC in bipartisan funding legislation for fiscal year (FY) 2022 that passed the committee, which is a $5 million increase above the FY2021 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.

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