Omnibus budget includes electric co-op funding priorities

The House and Senate passed a FY 18 spending ­package and President Trump signed it into law on March 23. The bill addresses several electric co-op priorities, ­including improved access to federal lands for vegetation ­management and broadband funding.

The bill includes $600 million for a new rural broadband grant/loan program to extend broadband service to the country’s most underserved areas. The new funding is in addition to the Rural Utilities Service (RUS) Broadband Loan and Community Connect Initiatives. The bill also includes $7.5 million to coordinate broadband mapping to provide more extensive and accurate data. The bill includes language to reform federal land ­management practices and makes it easier for utilities to maintain power line rights-of-way on federal lands, such as removing trees and vegetation that threaten reliability and could cause wildfires.

The budget package also maintains RUS Electric Loan Program loan levels, the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) received a ­funding increase, as did the Federal Emergency Management Agency for its Disaster ReliefFund and Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grants.