March 10, 2022
PLATTSBURGH — North Country federal representatives have joined a bipartisan effort to reauthorize the Northern Border Regional Commission, or NBRC.
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-Schuylerville) have cosponsored bills in their respective chambers that would extend the commission through fiscal year 2031.
According to a news release, the NBRC was established in the 2008 Farm Bill as a federal-state partnership that focuses on infrastructure and economic development in 60 rural counties across New York, Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine through the provision of financial and technical assistance.
The 28 counties in New York’s northern border region eligible for funding through the NBRC include Clinton, Essex and Franklin counties; the other nine counties who are part of 21st Congressional District’s current configuration; and four of the six new counties who will at least partially lie in the newly-drawn district.
ABOUT THE BILL
According to a joint news release from the senators, from 2010 to 2021, the NBRC invested in more than 60 projects totaling over $23 million which leveraged in excess of $113 million in matching funds.
The reauthorization bill would increase the commission’s appropriations cap from $33 million to $50 million for the first five years, and to $60 million for the following five years, as well as provide additional flexibility to address the challenges facing the region’s workforce, including health care, child care and projects to combat substance use disorders, the officials noted.
The legislation would also enhance the range of projects the NBRC is able to support, such as housing projects and initiatives aimed at strengthening climate resiliency to addressnew and emerging vulnerabilities of transportation and public infrastructure, the senators said.
Stefanik’s office added that the bill would reauthorize the State Capacity Building Grant Program, through which NBRC states “provide additional funds to local economic and community development organizations to improve the development of projects that will support business retention and expansion, infrastructure development and job creation.”
In addition to cosponsoring the bill, Schumer and Gillibrand cosigned a letter to Senate Environment and Public Works Committee leadership advocating for the inclusion of the NBRC Reauthorization Act of 2022 in a forthcoming economic development package.
FEDERAL OFFICIALS WEIGH IN
Gillibrand said in a statement that the NBRC has and will continue to play a unique and critical role in revitalizing the state’s rural communities.
“Reauthorizing the NBRC will enable it to continue addressing many of Upstate New York’s most pressing challenges: aging infrastructure, substance use and shortages of child care and health care workers,” she added.
“From Lockport to Watertown and Plattsburgh to Schenectady and beyond, the Northern Border Regional Commission has played an important role in spurring job creation and business expansion, upgrading infrastructure, and improving quality of life in communities across Upstate New York,” Schumer said.
“I’m proud to be leading the charge in the Senate to reauthorize the NBRC’s critical programs that will help to accelerate Upstate New York’s economic recovery and new growth in some of our most rural and distressed counties.”
Stefanik noted the significant impact that NBRC grants and projects have made.
“I have seen the success of many of these projects firsthand, and this bill is an important step in increasing access to the program for Upstate New York and the North Country,” she said in a statement.
“This legislation is essential after the forced closure of the northern border and delay in fully returning cross border travel to normal, and I am proud to work with my colleagues to extend this critical program.”
North Country Chamber of Commerce President Garry Douglas stated that the NBRC has become a vehicle for both assisting a variety of valuable projects in the region that don’t fit other agency programs and filling critical funding gaps. He noted Stefanik’s assistance, which was preceded by that of former Congressman John McHugh, who cosponsored the original creation of the commission.
“One such project about to get underway is the construction of infrastructure at the old (Clinton) county airport to create ready industrial space, with major developments now at the table,” he added.
Echoing that, Clinton County Economic Development Director Molly Ryan said the funding has helped the county createa shovel-ready site where several companies have committed to setting up shop and creating hundreds of jobs.
“We applaud the efforts of our federal representatives for spearheading this critical funding and we are confident that Clinton County remains in a strong position to secure future funding through the Northern Border Regional Commission.”
State Assemblyman D. Billy Jones (D-Chateaugay Lake),whoco-chairs the Council of State Governments’ Eastern Regional Conference’s (CSG East) Canada-U.S. Relations Committee, said it is critical that the program continues to help the region address the child care crisis and regional health care needs that were exacerbated by the pandemic.
“I want to thank our federal representatives for advocating to reauthorize this program and I welcome this opportunity for more funding to help economic development across the North Country.”
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