WASHINGTON – Congress approved the RESTORE Act legislation Friday that will direct billions of dollars in BP oil spill fine dollars to Louisiana and the rest of the Gulf Coast states.
The RESTORE Act was included in a multi-billion-dollar transportation and highways funding bill that also includes the plan to keep interest rates low for federal student loans, the five-year extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, or NFIP, and part of the RAMP Act by U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette, to direct more federal funds to river dredging and port projects in Louisiana and the rest of the nation.
But a late addition to the omnibus bill this week also cuts more than $650 million in federal health care funds for Louisiana’s poor that will slice Medicaid reimbursements for many hospitals and providers. State also officials said the loss of the funds would eliminate Medicaid programs for services like breast and cervical cancer screenings, foster care, adult dentures, hospice care and more.
President Barack Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
The bicameral transportation conference committee managed to squeeze everything into one bill with federal transportation funds set to run out and with student loan interest rates to double after Saturday. Also, the NFIP expires after July. The U.S. House vote of 373-52 and the U.S. Senate’s 74-19 approval came Friday afternoon just before the congressional Fourth of July break.
The entire Louisiana congressional delegation voted for the bill.