A federal budget bill released late Tuesday night includes funding to hire more border agents in Western New York.
The 2014 Appropriations bill increases funding for Customs and Border Protection by $220 million. About $165.7 million is specifically set aside for the hiring and training of new border officers at ports of entry. That translates to about 2,000 new border agents nationwide.
Rep. Brian Higgins and U.S. Senator Charles Schumer have been working to urge increased staffing in the Buffalo region. Higgins says wait times at the Peace Bridge have doubled in recent years.
"Every aspect of the Western New York economy -- the retail economy, professional sports, arts and culture --are all tied to the reliable, predictable flow of traffic between the United States and Canada," Higgins told WBFO News.
Data shows wait times at all three international bridges increased last year, compared to 2012. Lawmakers say those delays have a significant impact on the Western New York economy. They say having more border agents will allow more lanes to be open, cutting down wait times and congestion at the busy crossings.
Higgins says he will work with both sides of the aisle in fighting for final passage of the funding during budget votes.