CHN: Biden Administration’s FY22 budget blueprint invests in education, health, and housing

On April 9, the Biden Administration released a summary of its $1.5 trillion budget request for annually-appropriated programs for the government’s Fiscal Year 2022, which begins on October 1. In topline numbers, the blueprint calls for $769 billion in non-defense (domestic and international) annually-appropriated spending, also known as non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding. This reflects a 16 percent, or $105.7 billion, increase over FY21 levels. It also calls for $753 billion in defense discretionary funding, a 1.7 percent increase over FY21. This includes the previously uncapped and controversial Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, which would now be included in the base defense budget. In a break from the past, the Pentagon budget would dip below half of total discretionary spending (to 49.5 percent). While advocates praised the expansion of funding for human needs programs, many progressives have called for cuts to the defense budget.

Highlights for some of the key departments include:

Education: $102.8 billion for the Department of Education, a whopping 40.8 percent increase over FY21 levels. This includes $36.5 billion for Title I grants for high-poverty schools, a historic $20 billion increase from FY21; and a $2.6 billion increase (to $15.5 billion) for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants that support special education and related services for students with disabilities. Additionally, Pell Grants would be increased and would be available to Dreamers (undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children).

Health and Human Services: $133.7 billion, a 23.1 percent increase from FY21 levels, for the Department of Health and Human Services. This includes $1.6 billion for mental health, double last year’s funding; $10.7 billion (up $3.9 billion from FY21) for opioid prevention and treatment; a $1.5 billion increase to expand access to quality child care; and an increase of $2.2 billion for the Indian Health Service.

Housing and Urban Development: $68.7 billion (a $9 billion or 15.1 percent increase over FY21 levels) for HUD, including $30.4 billion (up $5.4 billion) for Housing Choice vouchers to expand assistance to 200,000 more families; $400 million (up $40 million from FY21) to reduce lead-based paint and other health hazards in homes; and $900 million to increase affordable housing in tribal communities and increase economic opportunities for low-income Native American families.

Labor: $14.2 billion for the Department of Labor, a $1.7 billion or 14 percent increase over FY21, including $2.1 billion (up 17 percent) for worker protection agencies.

Agriculture: $27.8 billion for the Department of Agriculture, up $3.8 billion or 16 percent. This includes $6.7 billion (up $1 billion) for critical nutrition programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and a $65 million increase to expand broadband access in rural areas.

Justice: $35.2 billion for the Department of Justice, up $1.8 billion or 5.3 percent. This includes $2.1 billion (up $232 million) for gun violence prevention; $209 million, an increase of $33 million, in the Department’s Civil Rights Division, Community Relations Service, and other programs; and $1 billion for Violence Against Women Act programs, nearly double this year’s level. Some advocates expressed concern over increases in law enforcement funding.

Homeland Security: $54 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, up 0.2 percent from FY21, including $345 million for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services to adjudicate a backlog of naturalization and asylum cases. The budget does not include funding for border wall construction.

Environmental Protection Agency: $11.2 billion for EPA, a $2 billion or 21.3-percent increase from FY21.

A full budget request, which is expected to include more details as well as proposals for mandatory spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, tax policy, and a 10-year projection for spending and revenues, will likely follow in the coming weeks or months.

Fiscal Year 2022 is the first year in a decade that budgets and annual spending bills will not be limited by the low discretionary spending caps required by the 2011 Budget Control Act that have prevented Congress from investing in human needs programs. During this time, lawmakers typically followed the principle of “parity,” or supposedly similar increases in both defense and non-defense spending. The suggested allocations in the president’s budget are separate from funding he has proposed in his recently released American Jobs Plan and in the anticipated American Families Plan.

For more details on the budget blueprint, see the press release and funding request from the White House, as well as these pieces from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

A president’s budget is a proposal to Congress used to signal an administration’s priorities, and it provides guidance to Congress in determining what the totals for annual appropriations should be. As noted in the article in this Human Needs Report on President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, it is expected that a budget resolution passed by both the House and Senate will contain instructions that will allow Congress to pass all or part of the President’s economic recovery proposals using the reconciliation process. However, appropriations bills cannot be enacted through a reconciliation process; that means appropriations bills will need 60 votes – and therefore Republican support – to pass in the Senate.

Preliminary work has also begun in Congress on spending bills for FY22. House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees have started hearings, and the committees could start drafting spending bills in May.