CHN: Appropriations Bills Move through Committees; Senate Bills Contain Money for Opioid Abuse, Lead Paint Hazards while House Bills Don’t

The lack of a Congressional budget resolution hasn’t stopped the Senate from moving forward with work on FY17 spending bills. So far, the Senate Appropriations Committee has cleared four of the 12 spending bills needed to fund the government: the Commerce-Justice-Science (CJS) appropriations bills, the Energy-Water appropriations bill, the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill, and the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development bill. The CJS bill includes $132 million to help communities combat heroin and prescription drug abuse through residential drug treatment programs, prescription drug monitoring, additional enforcement efforts, and other programs. Juvenile justice advocates like those at the Campaign for Youth Justice and the Act 4 Juvenile Justice Coalition were  pleased that the bill included $272 million for juvenile justice programs, including a $5 million (8.6 percent) increase for Tittle II State Formula Grants and a $10 million (57 percent) increase for Title V Local Delinquency Prevention Programs. The bill, however, failed to reinstate funding for the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program, which has supported vital state efforts to strengthen juvenile court services.
While the Senate Transportation-HUD bill’s overall total spending level is $827 million lower than FY16 levels, when certain estimated receipts and other changes are taken into account, the allocation is actually $1.4 billion more than current levels. Of this, HUD will get $39.2 billion, an increase of $891 million over FY16. Advocates like those at the National Low Income Housing Coalition note that there are no major cuts and that a few programs received increases, noting especially that the funding is sufficient to renew existing housing choice vouchers, all project-based rental assistance contracts, and all contracts under the Housing for the Elderly program. The bill increases funding for homeless assistance programs by 2 percent and increases funding for the Housing for People with Disabilities program by a similar percentage. The Community Development Block Grant to help states and local governments support housing and economic development projects would receive level funding. The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative is cut from $125 million to $80 million. To compare funding levels in the Senate THUD Appropriations bill, the FY16 enacted levels, and President Obama’s budget request, see NLIHC’s updated chart.

The THUD bill also includes a series of initiatives to address lead-based paint hazards in HUD’s low-income housing units. In addition to other reforms, the bill would require HUD to align its blood lead level standard for children under the age of six with the level recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; provide $25 million to Public Housing Agencies to address lead-based paint hazards in public housing units; and provide an additional $25 million over FY16 funding for lead-based paint hazard reduction for an additional 6,200 low and very-low income families.

The full Senate took up the Energy-Water spending bill on Wednesday, April 20; it is expected to get to a final vote on Tuesday, April 26.

All of this action came after the Senate Appropriations Committee on April 14 approved how much money each of the 12 subcommittees will be allowed to spend on the programs in its jurisdiction, known as 302(b) allocations. While the spending limit for domestic and international programs for FY17 is the same as FY16 levels, rising costs in some areas (especially veterans’ health care) mean the subcommittee allocations changed from the current year’s allocations; the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs Subcommittee, for example, received an increase of 4.7 percent from its FY16 allocations. Most other subcommittees saw reductions to compensate for the $3.4 billion increase needed for veterans’ services. If Congress conforms to the totals established in the Bipartisan Budget Act for FY 2017, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that continuing trend of cuts to non-defense appropriations will mean a 13.4 percent reduction below FY 2010 levels, taking inflation into account. (For this analysis, including all of the FY 2017 allocations, see this report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.)

The House Appropriations Committee has passed three spending bills, the Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill, the Agriculture bill, and the Energy-Water bill, even though they haven’t agreed to 302(b) allocations for the other spending bills. Unfortunately, an amendment from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to add emergency funding for the lead poisoning disaster in Flint and other communities was defeated on the Energy-Water bill, and another amendment from Rep. DeLauro to add emergency funding to address the Zika virus was defeated on the Agriculture bill. House Democratic appropriators may try to add these amendments to other spending bills again as they come up.

The House appears no closer to passing an FY17 budget, and absent that or another agreement that would lock in place the topline spending numbers, House rules prevent the chamber from brining appropriations bills to the floor before May 15. Even after that, disputes in the House over spending limits mean the future of the spending bills is uncertain. House Democrats may choose to vote against the bills brought to the floor first if it looks like additional spending included in them will drain domestic funding and leave little left over for the bills that cover programs for low-income people that may come later.

For more information on all things budget, see our FY17 budget resource page and our April 11 Human Needs Report.   

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