CHN: Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Bill Approved in Senate Subcommittee; Further Action Delayed

The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education programs approved next year’s funding on June 10, with no overall increase in funding over this year’s levels.  Many important programs, especially in the area of early childhood, did receive at least modest increases.  Those will be paid for by cuts in other Labor-HHS-Education areas, including mandatory spending.  The cuts were unspecified in the summary materials provided.  Full details would have been supplied when the bill came before the full Committee, originally scheduled for June 12.  That mark-up was postponed, however, with no date yet for further action.  Although the Committee pointed to expected absences by members, there was speculation that concerns over amendments Republicans might offer led to the delay.
Among the provisions highlighted by the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee:

Early Childhood: Among the early childhood increases in the Subcommittee bill, Head Start receives $8.74 billion, up $145 million from FY 14.  Included is $65 million in new dollars for Early Head Start, with continued support for Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.  Preschool Development Grants receive $350 million, an increase of $100 million.  While more modest than the President’s far-reaching proposal for universal pre-k, the Senate shares the view that early childhood expansion should be a priority.

Unaccompanied Children Entering the U.S.: Responding to the recent reports of a surge in the number of unaccompanied minor children crossing the border to escape violence in their home countries in Central America or to join family members in the U.S., the Subcommittee more than doubled funding for sheltering and providing support services for these children (providing $1.94 billion, up $1.028 billion over FY 14).  The bill also expands transfer authority to move funds from other areas if need continues to grow unabated.  In May 2014 alone, 9,500 children were apprehended, up 300 percent over May of 2013.

College Aid: The bill continues the gradual increase in Pell Grants, setting the maximum grant at $5,830, an increase of $100.  Student loan servicing was transferred from mandatory to discretionary funding and increased by $281 million.  Its new total of $1.447 billion now puts more pressure on the level-funded discretionary total. In other funding for college students, Work-Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants rose modestly by $50 million, and TRIO support services for students increased to $846.6 million, up $8.4 million.

Child Care: The bill provides $100 million in new funds to pay for quality improvements recently enacted in a reauthorization bill.  The approved total, $2.46 billion, will not allow for the substantial increase in child care placements needed to replace child care slots lost over the past few years. 

Home Energy Assistance: The Senate Subcommittee rejects the President’s repeated proposals to cut the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).  Home heating and cooling assistance is level funded at $3.39 billion, which remains well below the $4.5 billion funded in FY 2010.  According to the National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association, since FY 2010, the purchasing power of the average LIHEAP grant has declined from 60.2 percent of the cost of home heating to 44.7 percent.

Job Training: Labor Department funding for Workforce Investment Act programs is up modestly from FY 2014.  Training programs for adults, youth, and dislocated workers are funded at $2.62 billion ($36 million more than the current year).  These programs would be modified if the new Workforce Investment and Opportunity Act (WIOA) makes it to final passage (see article in this Human Needs Report). 

K-12 Education: The bill provides $14.435 billion, up $50 million over the current year, for funds to low-income school districts (Title I).  This is slightly below FY 2010 funding levels, without taking inflation into account.

State Paid Leave Fund: This new initiative would provide $5 million for states for planning the creation of paid leave funds.  President Obama has included this in his budget proposals, but it has not yet been funded by Congress.  The Senate Subcommittee would provide the funding.

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