Contacting your Representative

Contact Information for your federal Elected Officials:
To get contact information for your Members of Congress, please visit http://thenation.capwiz.com/thenation/directory/congdir.tt. Simply type in your zip code to identify your Representative and two Senators. Click on the photo of each member, then click on the “contact” tab for phone numbers.

The Message:
When you call, tell the person who answers the phone the following message:

• I am a constituent, and I have a message for the Senator/Representative about the economic recovery bill.

• Please ask the Senator/Representative to contact the conferees to support three priorities in the final economic recovery bill:
1. Explicit funding for the Transportation Enhancements program;
2. The House funding level and language for school modernization grants; and
3. The House funding level for the Healthy Communities program.

The person answering the phone may ask for your contact information. It is unlikely he or she will ask you any questions, but if so, please use the following talking points:

• Bicycle and pedestrian improvements give families cheaper transportation options to access their workplaces, schools, and public transit. And, shifting people out of their cars and onto their feet and bikes helps with reducing greenhouse gases and air pollution. It’s also a healthier option for people. Building bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure will create construction jobs and use materials.

• The Transportation Enhancements program will allow bicycle and pedestrian projects to be funded as part of the economic recovery – which will create construction jobs, use construction materials, get local businesses working, and help Main Street economies.

• The school modernization fund will help schools make needed infrastructure upgrades to modernize the school and make it more green. The House language allows funding to be used for improving bicycle and pedestrian access to schools, which is an important component to reduce a school’s carbon footprint. And, making the upgrades will generate jobs for contractors across the nation.

• The CDC’s Healthy Communities program would provide funding to local communities to implement community wellness activities addressing critical problems like obesity. These activities will help stimulate public health jobs while building stronger, healthier communities which will save money. For every dollar we invest in community prevention, it saves five dollars in health care costs in just five years.

Background:
Both the House and Senate have adopted their own versions of the Economic Recovery bill. The House passed its version, which totaled $819 billion, on January 28, 2009.

The Senate has been debating its version for the past week, and in the end, a group of Senators negotiated a series of cuts to funding levels throughout the bill in order to get enough votes to pass the legislation. Today, the Senate passed its version of the bill, totaling $829 billion—although with very different provisions than the House bill in many areas. Senator DeMint’s amendment to prohibit any funding in the bill for bike/ped projects was not offered, and thus is not included; however, without an explicit inclusion of Transportation Enhancements, school modernization grants, and Healthy Communities in the bill, it’s unlikely that many bike/ped/Safe Routes to School projects will be funded.

The House and Senate are moving immediately to conference the bill, in which they will discuss differences between the two bills and negotiate a final bill that will be voted on by the House and the Senate, and then presented to President Obama for his signature. Congress is seeking to have a bill ready for signature by Friday, February 13.

Transportation Enhancements
Both the House and Senate bills include billions for transportation infrastructure, but only the House bill explicitly includes funding for bicycle and pedestrian projects through the Transportation Enhancements program. The House bill includes approximately $1.35 billion for Transportation Enhancements of which 50-60% is traditionally spent on bicycle and pedestrian projects. The Senate bill does not explicitly include Transportation Enhancements, so it is unclear whether this funding will be in the final bill. We want to ensure that Transportation Enhancements is explicitly included in the final bill to help stimulate the economy, create green jobs, and build sustainable transportation options for families.

School Modernization
The House bill provides $14 billion in grants to school districts to fund school modernization projects. Eligible activities include things like upgrading HVAC and wiring, adding renewable energy, making lead/mold/asbestos abatement, and more. For Safe Routes to School, an important eligible use of funding is to improve bicycle and pedestrian access to the school. The House language also includes funding for states to develop inventories of each school’s modernization needs and carbon footprints, which can create an opportunity to get good data on bicycle and pedestrian facilities at schools. The Senate bill originally had $16 billion for school modernization but did not include bicycle and pedestrian access as an eligible use of funding. All of the Senate’s funding for this purpose was eliminated before final passage. We want to ensure that the House funding level and House language is included in the final bill to get contractors working on making schools green and healthy.

Healthy Communities
The House bill provides $500 million for community-based prevention and wellness activities including projects focused on improving nutrition and physical activity levels of children to help address childhood obesity. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would administer the grants, which would be available for local governments, school districts, and nonprofits. This is exactly the type of funding that will help jumpstart local efforts on important issues like Safe Routes to School – and it will create jobs – more importantly, jobs focused on helping Americans be healthier. This will also save on health care costs. The Senate bill does not include any funding for this purpose.

Contact for Questions:
Thank you for taking action on behalf of increasing opportunities for healthy and green transportation choices! If you have questions, please contact Margo Pedroso, Policy Manager of the Safe Routes to School National Partnership at margo@saferoutespartnership.org.