The $1.5 trillion federal budget bill recently passed by Congress includes millions of dollars in projects for Tampa Bay.
Hometown legislators asked for, and got, money for high-speed internet in affordable housing communities, wastewater system upgrades, renovations for the Science Center of Pinellas County and more. President Joe Biden signed the bill earlier this week, which includes provisions to help the Ukrainian government.
The spending plan revived the tradition of earmarks for the first time in a decade, allowing members to submit and fund pet projects in their communities.
The practice was banned in 2011 after accusations of corruption and misuse. The new guidelines prohibit projects for for-profit companies and require the requests to be posted online with a financial disclosure certifying the member and member’s family would see no financial benefit.
Both Democratic and Republican legislators from Tampa Bay submitted requests for projects in their districts. Here’s a rundown.
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa
Castor secured more than $10 million through nine projects that focus on mental health care, education, cancer research and more.
“I’m pleased to support three projects aimed directly at lifting up and connecting our diverse Tampa communities,” Castor said in a statement. “These initiatives will drive our economy, keep our neighbors plugged in, and modernize local infrastructure.”
- $2,000,000 to H. Lee Moffitt Cancer Center and Research Institute for AI/machine learning to accelerate cancer research: develops computer infrastructure to assist in gathering cancer data.
- $520,000 to Tampa Housing Authority for Connectivity for Prosperity: increases in-home high-speed internet in affordable housing communities.
- $382,000 to City of Tampa for technology enhancements (digital storage of body cam footage): increases access to body-worn camera data for the Tampa Police Department and helps data be uploaded and evaluated more quickly.
- $2,125,804 to University Area Community Development Corporation Inc. for cultural campus warehouse renovation and site work: connects community residents with quality-of-life services.
- $1,000,000 to University of South Florida for enhancing STEM teacher preparation in the Tampa Bay region: prepares science, technology, engineering and math teachers for instruction and creates a pipeline to Hillsborough County Public Schools.
- $1,000,000 to City of Tampa for Fair Oaks Redevelopment Senior Center: connects seniors with community health and cultural services.
- $300,000 to Urban League of Hillsborough County Inc. for the Hand Up Program: links students who age out of school with training and paid pre-apprenticeships.
- $2,000,000 to Mental Health Care Inc. (Gracepoint) for Mariposa Women’s Neuropsychiatric Hospital: funds 24 psychiatric beds for women.
- $800,000 to Hillsborough County for Town ‘N’ Country Septic-to-Sewer: funds the replacement of legacy septic tanks to increase water quality.
U.S. Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Palm Harbor
Bilirakis brought in more than $13 million for 10 local projects that include money for wastewater treatment systems, workforce training and mental health services.
“While I am no proponent of big government spending, I have a duty to ensure my community receives its fair share of allocated federal resources and to be transparent about my efforts to prioritize these important projects,” he said in a statement.
- $1,600,000 to City of Oldsmar for the Oldsmar State Street drainage ditch: for work on ditch bank erosion in the emerging downtown redevelopment area.
- $1,000,000 to Pasco County Board of County Commissioners for rural northeast Pasco community park site acquisition: helps execute Pasco County Parks’ master plan for rural east Pasco of adding a community park for every 20,000 people by helping acquire land.
- $1,750,000 to City of Dade City for the Dade City Wastewater Treatment Plant: helps relocate a wastewater facility that was placed in a historically Black neighborhood in the 1950s as a move toward environmental justice.
- $1,500,000 to City of Zephyrhills for a lift station and force main project: makes changes to the wastewater system for water flow and water quality protection. The proposal said it will take 300 residents off septic systems.
- $240,000 to Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners for Pinellas County tidal check valves project: installs 15-25 tidal check valves to prevent saltwater intrusion.
- $1,750,000 to Pinellas County Board of County Commissioners for the Pinellas County Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) Public Safety System: provides funding to move to a single system for all emergency dispatch in Pinellas County.
- $2,000,000 to Community Health Centers of Pinellas Inc. for the mental health collaborative project between Premier Community Health Center and Community Health Centers of Pinellas County: allows health centers to increase the number of patients seen for mental health treatment.
- $3,000,000 to AmSkills for the AmSkills Workforce Training Innovation Center: serves as a workforce training area for the Holiday, New Port Richey and Port Richey communities.
- $750,000 to U.S. Institute Against Human Trafficking for its human-trafficking prevention initiative in Tampa Bay: expands prevention and intervention actions and long-term support care for victims of human trafficking.
- $200,000 to The Pasco-Pinellas Public Defender’s Office for its INTERCEPT Project: creates a dedicated position for an employee to identify people with vulnerabilities like homelessness and food insecurity, and connect them with services.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist, D-St. Petersburg
Crist’s projects brought in more than $11 million for nine projects, including those focused on body cameras, public transit, child health care and education.
“The People’s House has once again delivered for Floridians,” Crist said in a statement. “Our historic, bipartisan funding bill tackles some of our biggest challenges at home and abroad, while also directly benefiting you — my neighbors in Pinellas.”
- $2,000,000 to University of South Florida College of Marine Science for infrastructure to address flooding risks due to climate change at the community Level: helps design systems to determine flooding parameters and work with local governments to mitigate flood risk.
- $144,000 to Clearwater Police Department for the mental health co-responder program: pairs a police officer with a mental health professional to respond to calls for people in crisis.
- $230,000 to City of Largo for police officer body-worn cameras for the Largo Police Department: helps secure body cameras for the Largo Police Department that will record any time a weapon is drawn.
- $700,000 to Pinellas County for a sanitary sewer interceptor at Pinellas Park: designs and constructs a sanitary sewer force main with greater capacity.
- $1,500,000 to City of Clearwater for Imagine Clearwater: helps fund restoration of Clearwater waterfront park as part of the Imagine Clearwater project.
- $1,200,000 to Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority for on-route induction charger: helps construct two electric bus charging stations.
- $3,000,000 to Pathfinder Outdoor Education for St. Petersburg’s Science Center: helps renovate and restore the Science Center of Pinellas County.
- $500,000 to Mental Health for Heroes Inc. for collaborative mental health services for first responders: allows first responders to apply for a grant to access mental health counseling for reduced or no cost.
- $2,000,000 to Lions Eye Institute for Transplant and Research Foundation for the Pediatric Vision Center: helps create a pediatric vision center at the nonprofit institute to give comprehensive services for children who lack access.
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U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Clermont, did not submit any community projects for funding. U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Bradenton, did not immediately return a request for comment, and the one project submitted by U.S. Rep. Scott Franklin, R-Lakeland, was not funded.