AAPA: Senate Bill Cuts Key Port Grant Program

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By The Maritime Executive 11-01-2019 04:41:29

On Thursday, the American Association of Port Authorities (AAPA) voiced concern about the U.S. Senate’s approval of a FY2020 appropriations bill that would cut funding for the Maritime Administration's Port Infrastructure Development Program by about $200 million. The program provides grants for port infrastructure projects through a competitive application process.

MARAD’s Port Infrastructure Development Program was initiated last year with a first round of funding of $290 million, made possible in part by the support of Congressman Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL). The program will provide 15 major coastal seaports and a selection of others with financial support for projects that deploy advanced technology, enhance resiliency or facilitate agricultural exports, among other goals. The application process for the first round closed in September. 

If the Senate's appropriation mark is upheld in the final FY2020 bill, the program would be cut to $90 million next year. The Senate bill also requires that deep-draft coastal ports and shallow-draft inland waterways ports must share the funds - a change from the conditions for the FY2019 round, which was restricted to coastal seaports with at least 20 feet of water depth. For FY2020, AAPA is calling for funding the program at a minimum level of $300 million for deep-draft coastal ports only. 

The House of Representatives approved $225 million for the program in its version of the FY2020 appropriations bill. AAPA says that it will fight to secure a higher funding level for the program in the final conference negotiations. 

“It’s critical that the U.S. invest in its port infrastructure to address growing trade, which is the lifeblood of our economy,” said Chris Connor, AAPA’s president and CEO. “MARAD’s Port Infrastructure Development Program is the first and only federal grant program dedicated to our nation’s ports, and direct investment into port-related infrastructure is a top AAPA priority. Seaports are a crucial part of our nation’s transportation infrastructure and serve as vital freight gateways to the global marketplace for our military and for American farmers, manufacturers, retailers and consumers."