The American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association (Order of AHEPA), the leading membership-based service association for the nation’s millions of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes, applauds the inclusion of AHEPA family policy priorities in two bipartisan FY2020 appropriations bills, or “minibuses,” that Congress has passed, announced Supreme President George G. Horiates. The White House has indicated President Donald J. Trump intends to sign the legislative package into law before the current temporary funding bill expires December 20, 2019.
“The legislative package that funds the federal government is a win for enhanced United States relations with Greece, Cyprus, and Israel, in addition to AHEPA family’s community service programs, especially affordable housing for the elderly and resources for survivors of domestic violence and for medical researchers,” Horiates said. “We commend Congress, and especially thank congressional appropriators, congressional leadership, and our champions, for significant investment in federal programs important to the AHEPA family’s mission and vital to U.S. engagement in the eastern Mediterranean. We also thank the community for its advocacy on these myriad of policy priorities.”
Investment in U.S.-Eastern Mediterranean Partnership. One of the minibus bills, the domestic priorities and international assistance appropriations minibus, H.R.1865, includes The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act (Senate version S.1102, as amended), comprehensive legislation which provides the framework for enhanced United States relations with Greece, Cyprus, and Israel; and counters Russian influence in the Eastern Mediterranean.
AHEPA applauds the Act’s inclusion of a provision to authorize funding of the International Military Education and Training (IMET) program for Greece, and for the first time, Cyprus. The authorization of appropriations is sustained over three fiscal years, 2020 to 2022, with meaningful increases in authorized investment each of those fiscal years – an AHEPA priority.
- FY2020 authorization: $1.3 million for Greece; $200,000 for Cyprus
- FY2021 authorization: $1.5 million for Greece; $500,000 for Cyprus
- FY2022 authorization: $1.8 million for Greece; $750,000 for Cyprus
“A strong and sustained IMET program with Greece will ensure relationships are cultivated and enhanced, and further, it will have a lasting beneficial impact toward the strengthening of United States-Greece military-to-military relations among longstanding NATO allies,” Horiates said. “In addition, the introduction of sustained IMET funding for Cyprus speaks to the elevated level of importance the United States places on Cyprus as a strategic security partner. Taken together, they contribute to the groundwork for a more enduring, lasting U.S. partnership in the eastern Mediterranean.”
The IMET program advances the professional military education of the Greek and Cypriot Armed Forces. It also contributes toward the strengthening of United States security interests in an increasingly important part of the world, the Eastern Mediterranean.
“AHEPA is pleased the Act also provides $3 million of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) assistance to Greece in fiscal year 2021,” Horiates added.
“We are deeply grateful to Senators Robert Menendez and Marco Rubio for championing the inclusion of The Eastern Mediterranean Security and Energy Partnership Act with this strong provision on IMET into the FY2020 appropriations package,” Horiates said. “We also thank U.S. Representatives Ted Deutch, Gus Bilirakis, and David Cicilline for their sponsorship of the Act in the House. We appreciate the recognition by United States policymakers in both chambers of Congress, and on both sides of the aisle, of the strategic importance of the trilateral partnership to U.S. interests.”
Holding Turkey Accountable. H.R.1865 also has a provision that states no funds from the Act are to be used for the sale of defense articles to the Turkish Presidential Protection Directorate (TPPD), who were responsible for the May 2017 assault on American protesters on U.S. soil, unless Secretary of State Mike Pompeo reports to Congress that they have returned to the United States to stand trial. The other minibus bill, H.R.1158, the national security appropriations minibus, “prohibits the transfer of F-35 fighters to Turkey to prevent the exposure of cutting-edge U.S. technology to Russian missile systems,” according the minibus’ summary.
“We again commend Congress for taking appropriate measures to hold Turkey responsible for its actions that violate U.S. law, run contrary to U.S. security interests, and trounce on American values,” Horiates said.
Providing Affordable Housing for the Elderly. H.R.1865 also provides a boost for construction of new affordable housing for the elderly administered under the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Section 202 program – an AHEPA and Daughters of Penelope priority. The minibus bill provides:
- $793 million for the 202 program, $115 million above the 2019 enacted level.
- $90 million for construction of new units.
- $100 million for service coordinators, who are the linchpin of the 202 program.
From FY2011 to FY2016, the Section 202 Capital Advance program had been zeroed-out. However, since FY2017, Congress has appropriated $251 million for new construction.
“With our nation’s elderly population booming, the need to provide and maintain dignified affordable housing for our low-income and disabled seniors is as pervasive as ever,” Horiates said. “We applaud Congress’ renewed commitment to provide robust investment in the 202 program.”
AHEPA and the Daughters of Penelope have sponsored 91 Section 202 Housing for the Elderly properties in 21 states, totaling approximately 5,000 units.
Resources for Domestic Violence Survivors. The legislative package provides $502.5 million for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) grant programs, $175 million for Family Violence Prevention and Services Act (FVPSA) programs, including $12 million for the Domestic Violence Hotline – all of which are above FY2019 funding levels. The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) Crime Victims’ Fund (non-taxpayer funded) has a $2.64 billion cap.
“With Penelope House, Penelope’s Place, and domestic violence shelters supported throughout the country by the American Hellenic community, these programs are important to the Daughters of Penelope, which is to be commended for lending its voice in support of these vital programs, helping to raise awareness on Capitol Hill,” Horiates said.
Bolsters Research for Cures. Finally, because the AHEPA family supports medical researchers who are grantees of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), especially researchers working to identify cures to Thalassemia (Cooley’s Anemia), cancer, and rare diseases, the $2.6 billion funding increase for NIH is greatly appreciated, Horiates added.
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Founded in 1922 in Atlanta, Georgia, on the principles that undergirded its fight for civil rights and against discrimination, bigotry, and hatred felt at the hands of the Ku Klux Klan, AHEPA is the largest and oldest grassroots association of American citizens of Greek heritage and Philhellenes with more than 400 chapters across the United States, Canada, and Europe.
AHEPA’s mission is to promote the ancient Greek ideals of Education, Philanthropy, Civic Responsibility, and Family and Individual Excellence through community service and volunteerism.
For more information, please visit www.ahepa.org.