Federal Lobbying

Overcoming Odds for Competitive Bus Funding

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Overview

RiverCities Transit (RCT) is a small public transit agency in Southwest Washington that provides public bus services to the communities of Longview and Kelso. In 2015, nearly half of RCT’s buses had reached or exceeded their useful life. RCT also lacked an adequate transit center capable of meeting its operational needs and supporting the local community’s demand for service growth.

RCT faced significant funding gaps to meet these needs. While frequent bus replacement is needed to maintain a fleet in a state of good repair, bus purchases represent a substantial investment. Furthermore, RCT could not fund construction of a new transit center without diverting funds from critical operational needs. To fill the funding gap, RCT sought federal support through the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Bus and Bus Facility Program, which makes federal resources available to replace buses and related equipment. RiverCities Transit called upon CFM to help fund both a bus replacement grant and redevelopment of its downtown transit center.

Challenge

The FTA’s Bus and Bus Facility grant program is highly competitive and recent budget reductions by Congress have further limited the program’s already scarce funds. As a small operation with few administrative staff and limited resources, RCT faced an uphill battle competing with larger transit agencies across the country that were also pursuing funding from the program.  

However, without receiving an award from the FTA, RCT would be unable to meet the costs of replacing aging buses and constructing a transit center. Continuing to operate its existing fleet would result in rising maintenance costs and less reliable service to riders in the local community.

Approach

Knowing the competitiveness of the grant program and the limited resources of RiverCities Transit, CFM took on the responsibility to draft the two grant proposals from scratch. Based off insights from FTA, CFM strategically crafted the proposal to answer questions posed in the application. Knowing further advocacy would be needed to win the awards, CFM worked with the Washington congressional delegation to provide tours, secure letters of support and request strategically targeted phone calls to FTA in support of the grant.

Result

Despite FTA’s program being oversubscribed 8:1 and FTA only awarding 61 grants nationwide, both of RCT’s requests were funded. RCT was able to overcome the long odds and immense nationwide competition to be the only entity in the country to secure two grants in the 2016 round. Together, these grants totaled $3.6 million to meet critical needs of RCT.

Following the award announcements, CFM worked with the congressional delegation and cities on press releases announcing the award. Today, RCT is working to implement both projects using the federal grant funds.

Strengthening Tigard’s Industrial Core

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Overview

The City of Tigard identified its Hunziker Industrial Core as a unique and exciting opportunity to redevelop 138 acres of industrial land in an urban setting to help foster economic growth and provide long-term, high-skill, high-wage job opportunities for the region. CFM worked with Tigard, local stakeholders and the Oregon congressional delegation to secure millions of dollars in grant funding to help execute Tigard’s vision.

Challenge

While the benefits of the project are clear and compelling, necessary infrastructure improvements were cost-prohibitive for Tigard. The total cost of public infrastructure (roads, water, waste water and storm water) necessary to support private development in the Hunziker Industrial Core was estimated at more than $8 million. Even after CFM’s state lobby team secured $1.5 million in funding from the State of Oregon, there was a large funding gap to fill to bring this project to fruition.

Approach

With extensive knowledge of federal funding streams, CFM identified the Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) Public Works grant program as the best fit for the City to pursue. CFM organized project tours and meetings with EDA officials in Oregon and Washington, DC to discuss how well the project aligns with EDA’s funding priorities and worked with City staff to draft and edit grant applications for EDA’s two-phase application process.

CFM prepared lobbying materials, organized meetings in Oregon and DC and secured enthusiastic support from the Oregon congressional delegation. In the following months, however, Tigard would be repeatedly informed by EDA that the Hunziker project was being held up by a variety of bureaucratic red tape.

With experience maneuvering the intricate processes of federal agencies, CFM began organizing conference calls with EDA officials and coordinated outreach with the congressional delegation to help move the project over bureaucratic stumbling blocks.

Result

Working with the Oregon delegation and City staff, CFM helped secure $2,100,000 in EDA grant funding for infrastructure improvements in the Hunziker Core, one of the largest grants awarded in the region. With funding in hand, Tigard’s Hunziker Industrial Core public infrastructure project is underway. When complete, the project will improve access to 138 acres of underdeveloped industrial property attracting an estimated $36 million in private investment that will create between 150 and 300 high-skill, high-wage jobs.

Historic Photo Exhibit helps raise Adoption Agency’s Profile

Photo originally featured on Holt International's Blog

Overview:

On July 27, 1953 the United States and Korea signed an armistice agreement ending the Korean War, and Holt International Children’s Services began its compassionate work to aid vulnerable children and families. To mark this historic milestone and celebrate National Adoption Month, CFM organized Children of Korea: A Sixty-Year Retrospective. This premier exhibit featured historical photos from Holt’s archives and provided a glimpse into the lives of orphaned Korean children.

Challenge:

November is a busy time on the congressional calendar. CFM needed to create an event and ensure maximum attendance from federal lawmakers, agency officials and other stakeholders to raise awareness of Holt’s work.

Approach:

CFM began building momentum by meeting with child welfare champions in the House and Senate, as well as federal agency officials. CFM coordinated many event details, including securing the venue and confirming attendance of distinguished guests. CFM secured the participation of House and Senate leaders, foreign ambassadors and federal agency officials. To ensure the event was marked in congressional history, CFM partnered with the Oregon delegation to obtain statements for the Congressional Record recognizing Holt.

Result:

Nearly 200 attendees packed the Senate Russell Caucus Room to view the historical photos. Honorary hosts included Senators Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley of Oregon, as well as co-hosts Senator Mary Landrieu of the Congressional Coalition on Adoption Institute. Other notable guests included Ambassador Ho-Young Ahn of the Republic of Korea, and Holt Korea President Kim Dae Yul. Distinguished Members of Congress including Reps. Peter DeFazio, Suzanne Bonamici and Senator Charles Rangel provided remarks recognizing Holt’s work. CFM successfully elevated the organization’s profile and showcased Holt’s rich history in the field of inter-country adoption and child welfare. 


Preventing Airspace Restrictions on Pearson Field

Preventing Airspace Restrictions on Pearson Field

"Pearson Field 1" by John Kloepper. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons 

Overview

With little notice, Federal Aviation Administration officials proposed restricting airspace at Vancouver’s historic Pearson Field, which could have resulted in significant flight delays and safety issues. Vancouver called in CFM, which rallied congressional support, forced a public airing of the proposal and ultimately led to the restrictions being dropped

Challenge

On September 20, 2012, Vancouver and local pilots were formally notified of a new FAA regulation that would significantly change aircraft access in shared airspace between Vancouver’s Pearson Field and Portland International Airport. The plan was to go into effect in just 10 days after the notice.

The FAA wanted to impose an 8-mile-long, 1-mile-wide and 2,100-feet-high airspace restriction, dubbed the "Pearson Box." With implementation of the Pearson Box, departing aircraft would have been delayed up to 30 minutes until Portland International Airport controllers created a sufficient operational window to allow takeoffs. Delays would have an impact for planes landing and taking off in Portland.

These delays could have caused commercial airport operations and other tenants to depart Pearson Field, increasing operating deficits and ultimately forcing its closure. Pearson is the only remaining general aviation airport in Southwest Washington with an instrument approach.

Approach

CFM worked closely with city officials, airport stakeholders, the Port of Portland and the Washington and Oregon congressional delegations to provide information on the FAA action and advocate for an immediate delay of the Pearson Box. CFM coordinated conference calls and multiple contacts with FAA headquarters in DC to ensure concerns were elevated to the highest level. Washington Senator Patty Murray agreed to lead the effort, which prompted FAA to ask an expert advisory panel to assess Pearson Field issues and recommend a path forward.

Result

In December 2012, the FAA review panel convened in Vancouver. The FAA sent its most senior staff to facilitate the discussion and provide expert counsel. At CFM’s insistence, the panel also included local stakeholders – Pearson pilots, Vancouver city staff and the Port of Portland. Ultimately, the panel threw out the Pearson Box plan and suggested minor communications improvements to allow continued operations of Pearson.

Providence Health & Services: Protecting Health Care Benefits for Seniors and Children

Providence Health & Services: Protecting Health Care Benefits for Seniors and Children

Overview

When federal legislation threatened to severely reduce health care benefits for seniors covered under Providence Health Plan, the CFM Federal Lobbying team crafted a comprehensive strategy to avoid the cuts and loss of member benefits. The goal was to preserve Medicare Advantage, which provides coverage to the majority of Oregon seniors. CFM’s plan enabled Congress to preserve benefits to Northwest seniors as well as extend children’s health care coverage to 15 million more kids.

Challenge

A cut of $150 billion to Medicare Advantage was proposed to pay for an expansion of children’s health insurance. Because Medicare Advantage traditionally is considered a Republican program, most Democrats were eager to dismantle it. That political dynamic – along with the unpopularity of for-profit insurance companies and the laudatory mission of providing coverage for children – created significant momentum for these cuts.

Approach

CFM mobilized Medicare beneficiaries, as well as state and local leaders, in a coordinated effort to communicate how the proposed cuts would disproportionately harm Oregonians. CFM also worked with the Governor’s office to demonstrate that preserving benefits for seniors was truly a non-partisan issue. Working closely with our delegation, CFM helped devise an alternative pay-for, in the form of an increased tax on tobacco products, to expand children’s health insurance.

Result

As a result, CFM helped create a coalition of Democratic Members of Congress to go against their party leaders and support the Medicare Advantage program. Congress ultimately passed a significant tobacco increase to pay for children’s health insurance expansion. Funding for Medicare Advantage and benefits to Oregon seniors were preserved.

Helping Fund Innovation at Oregon Institute of Technology

Overview

Helping Fund Innovation at Oregon Institute of Technology

When the Oregon Institute of Technology needed federal funding to build a Geothermal Power Generation Facility, and construction and equipment for the new Center for Health Professions, the CFM Federal lobbying team answered the call by delivering more than $4.5 million.

Challenge

Over the last three years, federal funding for congressional earmarks has become more competitive, and the number and amount of earmarks has been reduced.

Approach

CFM worked with OIT to showcase the unique nature of its requests and demonstrate the exciting benefits that could be derived from federal investment. The Geothermal Power Generation Facility would be the first of its kind on a university campus. The Center for Health Professions project would address the health care workforce training and education shortages that will plague the entire state of Oregon for the next two decades. These two projects are emblematic of the progressive, problem-solving spirit that Oregonians appreciate.

Result

Working with the Oregon delegation, CFM helped OIT secure $3.6 million over three years for its Geothermal Power Generation Facility and $950,000 over three years for the Center for Health Professions and health related equipment. CFM also crafted language and included authorization for a $2 million grant program for the Geothermal Power Generation Facility in the 2007 Energy bill. 

Providence Health & Services: Health Care for Low-Income Persons

Overview

Providence Health & Services: Health Care for Low-Income Persons

Providence Health & Services, the largest health care system in Oregon with eight hospitals spread throughout the state, as well as a number of special programs for children, families and senior citizens, has a long and intentional mission to serve the less fortunate in the state. It is a commitment that dates back to the founding of the system. For health care in Oregon, this sense of mission means, among other things, serving persons covered by the Oregon Health Plan, which is the state's name for Medicaid.

Challenge

As the recession choked off the supply of general funds for state programs, legislators turned in 2003, 2007 and 2009 to a desire to enact hospital and health insurance taxes to raise money. Providence had questions about the policy justice of taxing providers, but in each of those years participated in good faith to design the best taxes possible – taxes that would be charged to hospitals and insurers, with assurance that the proceeds would go to fund low income health care.

Approach

CFM's role was to advise Providence on the tax policy, plus monitor negotiations in Salem, with an eye toward being able to give executives a clear sense of the political give-and-take, as well as the final outcome. If the health care taxes made policy sense, the money had to go for two purposes – fund low-income health and reduce the cost shift to private health insurance bills as a result of state government underfunding of the Oregon Health Plan (Medicaid).

Result

With CFM's help, Providence, along with other hospitals and insures throughout, produced consensus versions of both the hospital and health insurance tax. On the hospital, the most recent version of the tax, negotiated in the 2009 legislative session, resulted in an increase in reimbursement to hospitals under the state's Medicaid program, thus reducing the cost shift. On the insurance tax, the proceeds were directed to funding increases in children receiving health insurance, perhaps in the range of 80,000 new covered lives.

Revitalizing Downtown Vancouver, Washington

Overview

One of CFM’s most successful projects during the last few years, Vancouver’s Downtown Waterfront Redevelopment Project, epitomizes CFM’s way of doing business. We look under every rock, work every angle and clearly communicate with elected officials about the needs and benefits of worthy projects.

Challenge

The City of Vancouver was operating under tight timelines to secure millions for infrastructure improvements linked to a $1.3 billion downtown redevelopment project.

Approach

CFM helped the city target and apply for funds in five separate federal accounts, lobbied the congressional delegation and agency officials on behalf of the project, and coordinated a grassroots effort to mobilize support.

Result

In just two years, CFM helped Vancouver secure more than $7.6 million in federal earmarks, stimulus funds and other streams of federal funding to revitalize the downtown area and meet the project deadlines. 

Marion County, Oregon: Creating a Safe Environment for Kids

Overview

Marion County leaders needed to stem the plague of youth issues caused by drugs and parents who cycle through the criminal justice system, leaving hundreds of children without proper parental attention. CFM met this significant challenge by helping to create, brand and, ultimately, secure millions of dollars for Marion County’s “Kids First” initiative, a comprehensive network of local programs that serve children in high-risk families affected by methamphetamine addiction.

Challenge

Marion County has unique child welfare challenges not shared by other Oregon counties or across the nation. As home to five of the state’s 14 correctional institutions, Marion County faced a significant problem with intergenerational issues of drug abuse, criminal history, child abuse and poor parental attention and care. The county had a serious drug problem, particularly with methamphetamine abuse. For more than eight years, Marion County had been designated by the federal government as a “High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.”

Approach

CFM worked with community leaders to highlight the innovative, evidence-based approaches Marion County developed to break the cycle of intergenerational drug abuse, crime and family violence affecting local children. Kids First represented a partnership of more than six local agencies and programs. Leveraging this partnership, CFM worked to brand and market the project to Congress as one comprehensive initiative, with the ability to achieve results.

Result

CFM achieved name recognition for the Kids First project among the delegation and was successful in securing funding for the project four years in a row. Total federal funding for Marion County’s Kids First initiative now tops more than $2 million. 

City of Longview, Washington: Securing Emergency Water Funds

Overview

When the City of Longview, Washington needed federal assistance to address a pending water shortage and funding shortfall, the CFM Federal Lobbying team put together a comprehensive legislative strategy that delivered more than half a million dollars. In the end, thankfully, there was no water shortage. However, with the funding secured, the dredging permit and the emergency plan in place, the City of Longview received the

comprehensive service CFM had promised.

Challenge

CFM was hired a week before the appropriations deadline in Congress. We also were facing the possibility of an emergency water shortage within six months. CFM needed to act quickly to coordinate a federal funding strategy and also ensure we addressed a possible water shortage by devising a comprehensive plan that involved federal and state regulatory agencies.

Approach

Within a week, CFM prepared and organized a trip for City officials to visit their congressional delegation in Washington, D.C. Also in a short time, CFM researched funding options, submitted appropriations requests, prepared project “white papers,” contacted federal and state agencies, coordinated grassroots support for the water project and briefed congressional staff.

Result

Working with the Washington Congressional delegation, CFM helped the City of Longview secure $500,000 for construction of a new water treatment facility, $70,000 for reimbursement costs for damage done to the existing water treatment facility and established emergency response plans with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Environmental Protection Agency, Corps of Engineers and Department of Ecology. CFM also helped the City obtain an emergency-dredging permit should the City face low flows in the late summer or fall. , the City of Longview received the comprehensive services CFM had promised.

Marion County: Oregon Starting Early, Hard Work Gets the Fund

Silver Falls located in Marion County.

Silver Falls located in Marion County.

Overview

Marion County in Oregon needed federal funding for several important projects, including efforts to combat illegal drug manufacturing.

Challenge

Anyone who has dealt with the Congressional appropriations process knows it is important to start early, usually the first of the year, to ensure your project gets into the funding "hopper." It just so happened that Marion County hired CFM in June – somewhat late in game.

Approach

CFM began by mobilizing the County's allies on Capitol Hill – we even found a few new ones along the way.

Result

A few short months later, CFM was able to help the County secure more than $700,000 to fight meth lab manufacturing and arm County parole/probation officers with the necessary tools to track convicted offenders. County leaders were happy with the immediate payoff.

Nelson Irrigation Corporation: Averting a Costly Bureaucratic Delay

Overview

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Long before the war in Iraq, Nelson Irrigation Corporation's strong global reputation attracted the attention of two companies – one in Spain and one in Saudi Arabia – that needed quality components for agricultural irrigation projects in Iraq, funded through the United Nations Food-for-Oil Program. With tight assembly schedules, razor-thin shipping deadlines and a possible war, Nelson faced the prospect of waiting for D.C. bureaucrats to approve or deny a large shipment.

Challenge

Nelson was required to clear several bureaucratic hurdles before a single sprinkler could leave a U.S. port. First, the company secured the approval of the UN Security Council. Then, Nelson had to contend with two overburdened and sometimes slow federal agencies: The U.S. Department of Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control and the U.S. Department of Commerce's Bureau of Export Administration. Under deadline pressure, Nelson began to assemble 105,000 sprinklers.

Approach

CFM quickly positioned Nelson Irrigation and its project in a manner that immediately generated support from key Members of the Washington state congressional delegation. Walla Walla's Congressman and the state's two U.S. senators agreed to send letters of support and make calls to key personnel within the departments of Commerce and Treasury.

Result

Using its own contacts within the Department of Commerce, CFM was able to expedite approval from the Export Administration that had predicted an eight-week approval process. After the Export Administration sent its stamp of approval back to the Department of Treasury, an aggressive campaign was used to speed the final approval Nelson needed to complete the shipment and satisfy its customers overseas.