CHN: Appropriations Bills Funding Human Needs Move in House and Senate: Differences Won’t Be Resolved Until After Election

The House has passed 10 of its 12 annual appropriations bills in Appropriations Subcommittees, 7 of them in the full Appropriations Committee. Five have passed on the House floor.  The Senate has completed work in the full Appropriations Committee on 9 bills with none having yet reached the full Senate.  Both chambers have done work on the Agriculture bill that funds nutrition programs, the Transportation-HUD bill containing housing and homeless programs, the Commerce-Justice-Science bill funding programs for youth,. The Senate Appropriations Committee has in addition completed its Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (L-HHS-ED) bill.  (For the results of earlier action by committees, see the April 30 Human Needs Report.)
Final agreement between the House and Senate on most of the bills became more difficult when the House decided on a lower overall appropriations cap than the $1.047 trillion established for FY 2013 in the bipartisan deficit reduction legislation, the Budget Control Act (PL 112-25), enacted last August.  The Senate is adhering to the Budget Control Act cap.  The House set an overall level of $1.028 trillion, the number in its Budget Resolution.  The House allocates $8.1 billion more for Defense than the Senate and $28 billion less in the rest of the bills. The biggest difference in House bills compared with those in the Senate are $7.7 billion, or 5 percent, less in the (L-HHS) bill, and $1.4 billion, or 7 percent, less for Agriculture programs.

The President views the House’s total spending level for fiscal year 2013 as breaking the August agreement.  On April 18 the Administration sent a letter to House Appropriations Committee Chairman Harold Rogers (R-KY) saying that the President would not sign into law any appropriations bills unless the House agrees to the $1.047 trillion level in the Budget Control Act.  The letter states, “Unfortunately, the House Budget Resolution for FY 2013 breaks our bipartisan agreement and proposes $28 billion in new cuts in annual non-defense spending – exactly the area where we have already cut the most.”  See the letter from the Administration here.

It’s important to note that because the human needs programs talked about below are annually appropriated programs (funded at the discretion of Congress every year) for many of the programs only a limited number of families or individuals who meet the eligibility requirements actually receive assistance.  Less than one-third of families eligible for HUD rental assistance receive it; nearly 20 percent of those eligible for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) receive aid; the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) serves approximately 60 percent of those eligible to receive it; and only one in six families eligible for federal child care assistance receive the help. See in CHN’s April report, Self-Inflicted Wounds: Protecting Families and Our Economy from Bad Budget Choices (beginning on p. 25ff) with data showing deep cuts that have already occurred in many human needs programs since 2010 and the impact of further devastating cuts if the impending sequestration next January goes forward.  (For more information about sequestration, see the May 31 Human Needs Report.)

Funding for human needs in L-HHS-ED, HUD, and Agriculture Committees thus far:

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education Programs  After 7 bills passed the Senate Appropriations Committee with bi-partisan support, the L-HHS-ED bill advanced along party lines and will likely be one of the most controversial to negotiate with the House who has not yet acted on its bill.  With the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Care Act pending, Republicans objected to including $4 billion for its implementation.  The $158.8 billion bill, the largest of the discretionary bills after defense, is $2 billion more than in FY 2012 and is consistent with the Administration’s request, but nearly $9 billion more than the House allocation.  The House is expected to introduce its bill soon.  Last year the House Subcommittee Chairman Dennis Rehberg (R-MT) crafted his own version of the bill, one that was so draconian that it was never brought to the floor of the House, ensuring that the L-HHS-ED bill would became part of the omnibus appropriations bill.

The Senate bill includes $2.438 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, an increase of $160 million over FY 2012 funding. Head Start also saw an increase, receiving $8.039 billion, or $70 million more than its current level.  Based on the failure of some grantees to meet new performance standards enacted last year, $1.2 billion in Head Start grants will need to be re-competed.  Funding for the education of students with disabilities between the ages of 3 and 21 receives a $100 million increase, to $11.678 billion.  Under the bill the maximum Pell Grant award would increase by $85 to $5,635 for the 2013-2014 school year.  Funding for community health centers is increased by $300 million over FY 2012 to $3.067 billion.  Title I education for disadvantaged students is funded at $14.616 billion, an increase of $100 million over its current level.  The committee rejected the Administration’s proposal to decrease funding for home energy assistance (LIHEAP) by $452 million, instead level-funding it at $3.472 billion.  The Administration again this year proposed to cut in half the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) but the committee instead level-funds the program at $677 million.  See a more detailed summary of the committee’s bill here. For the full text of the bill, click here.

Housing Programs  The Senate Appropriations Committee completed its Transportation-HUD bill in April.  On June 7 the House Appropriations Subcommittee passed its bill which the full Committee may consider the week of June 18.   Under the House bill HUD receives $33.6 billion for FY 2013, about $1.4 billion less than the Senate Committee bill. Like the Senate, the House rejects HUD’s proposal to mandate minimum rents of $75 per month in Tenant Based Rental Assistance, Project-Based Rental Assistance, Public Housing, Section 202 Elderly Housing, and Section 811 Housing for Persons with Disabilities. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, adoption of the minimum rent could cause serious hardship for up to 500,000 of the most extremely poor tenants served by HUD’s programs.
The House either meets HUD’s request or provides less funding than the Administration for key rental and homeless programs.  The House bill provides $19.1 billion for housing vouchers including $17.24 billion for renewal of voucher contracts, equaling HUD’s request, but $262 million less than the Senate Committee provides.  HUD requested a lower level than needed, assuming policy changes such as the mandatory minimum rent which the House does not include.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, up to 55,000 vouchers could be lost if Congress adopts the Administration and House’s funding level.  The House Subcommittee provides $8.7 billion in funding for Project-Based Rental Assistance, the same as HUD requested but nearly $1.2 billion less than the Senate bill provides.  The lower number in the Administration’s bill reflects its proposal to short-fund the program with less than a full year of funding along with a promise to fund the remainder with money not used in prior year accounts.  The House bill, like the Administration, provides $4.524 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund, $67 million less than the Senate.  The Public Housing Capital Fund would receive $1.985 billion in the House and Senate bills, $85 million less than HUD requested.

Homeless Assistance Grants would be receive $2 billion in FY 2013, an increase of $99 million over FY 2012, but less than HUD’s request for a $330 million increase and $146 million less than in the Senate bill.  The Senate requests level-funding of $375 million for the Section 202 elderly housing program.  HUD is seeking a $100 increase and the House a $50 million increase in the program.  Both the Administration and the Senate fund Section 811 housing for persons with disabilities at $150 million, a $15 million cut over FY 2012, while the House provides level funding.  The Senate funds Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) at $3.1 billion, $152 million less than the FY 2012 level and the Administration’s request.  The House provides $3.344 or $396 million more than the FY 2012 for CDBG formula grants.  Click Here to see the National Low Income Housing Coalition budget chart for HUD programs.

Nutrition Programs  The Senate Agriculture Appropriations Committee bill that passed in April funds the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) at $7.041 billion, the level requested by the Administration and enough to cover the current and projected caseload.  Included in that amount are $60 million for breastfeeding peer counselors, $14 million for infrastructure, $30 million for management information systems and $16.5 million for WIC farmers’ markets. The House Appropriations Subcommittee bill adopted on June 6 provides $6.9 billion for WIC which is believed to be sufficient to meet caseload, but does not include funding for breastfeeding per counselors or infrastructure.  The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), which serves 599,000 mainly low-income seniors, is funded at $187 million in the Senate and Administration bills; $9.2 million more than in FY 2012.  The House funds CSFP at $173.25 million, a level that would result in approximately 43,000 fewer low-income participants receiving a food package.  None of the bills provides the $5 million needed to expand service to six new USDA-approved states.  The Emergency Assistance Food Program (TEFAP) received $269.5 million in mandatory funding for food commodities in the House and Senate bills, reflecting the level established by the 2008 Farm Bill plus an adjustment for food price inflation. TEFAP commodities were funded at $260 million in FY12.  TEFAP administrative grants, which help charitable food providers store, transport and distribute TEFAP commodities, are funded in the Senate bill at the Administration’s request of $49.4 million, a $1.4 million increase over FY 2012, but receive only $47.04 in the House bill. The Emerson/Leland Hunger Fellowship Program is level-funded at $2 million in the Senate and House versions of the bill.

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