CHN: Fiscal Year 2019 Begins Without a Shutdown and With a Labor-H Bill

October 1 marked the start of Fiscal Year 2019 for the federal government. While all 12 appropriations bills that are required to keep the government running had not been passed by the September 30 deadline, five of them were passed by then. A partial government shutdown was avoided when President Trump on September 28 signed a stopgap measure, also known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to fund the remaining departments through December 7. This was signed as part of a minibus package that also included the bills to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-H) and the Department of Defense for the full fiscal year, as well as an extension of the Violence Against Women Act through the duration of the CR. The minibus passage had previously been overwhelmingly passed by the Senate (93-7) and the House (361-61). The president had also previously signed another minibus passed by Congress that included the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water Development, and Legislative Branch spending bills.

Advocates were pleased that the Labor-H and Defense minibus package contained no poison pill riders and that several programs of importance to the human needs community received modest increases. However, they maintain that the overall spending level for the Labor, HHS, and Education departments should be higher given the size and importance of the departments; the three departments combined received $178.1 billion in discretionary (annually-appropriated) funding, a $1 billion increase over FY18. According to CQ, the bill also includes an extra $2.6 billion for programs outside of the agreed-upon spending caps for areas such as biomedical research and anti-fraud initiatives in Medicare and Social Security. However, Democrats had argued that as nondefense discretionary spending is set to increase by $18 billion for FY19 under a budget deal Congress passed earlier this year, the Labor-H bill should get at least $5 billion of that increase. For comparison, the Department of Defense received $674.4 billion.

See below for a summary of some of the highlights of the increases in the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. For more information, see the summary of the package from the House Appropriations Committee Republicans and Democrats.

The Department of Education received nearly $71.5 billion, an increase of $581 million over FY18.  21st Century Learning Centers received a $10 million increase; the entire program would have been eliminated in President Trump’s budget. IDEA special education grants to states are funded at $12.4 billion, up nearly $87 million from FY18. The maximum Pell grant would be boosted by $100. TRIO programs that provide services to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and first generation college students to help them enter and complete college and postgraduate education received a $50 million increase.

The Department of Labor is funded at $12.1 billion, a $94.3 million decrease compared to FY18. The Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers program received a $1 million increase; this program would have been eliminated in President Trump’s budget. Community Service Employment for Older Americans, which was also eliminated in Trump’s budget, was flat-funded from FY18. Apprenticeship programs received a $15 million increase, Job Corps was level funded, and the Veterans Employment Training (VETS) Program got a $5 million boost above FY18 levels.

The Department of Health and Human Services received a $2.3 billion increase over FY18 levels to $90.5 billion. The National Institutes of Health received a $2 billion increase to $39.1 billion. Head Start will get a $200 million increase. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will get a modest $50 million increase; this program would have been eliminated in President Trump’s budget. The Child Care and Development Block Grant will also receive a $50 million increase over the large $2.37 billion increase that occurred this year. The Community Services Block Grant received a $10 million increase. Unlike the House’s original bill, the final compromise bill does not include new language restricting HHS’s authority to administer or enforce the Affordable Care Act, nor does it include language overriding a long-standing court consent decree, known as the Flores decision, that requires a limit of 20 days’ detention for migrant children and their families separated at the border (The Trump Administration announced on September 6 a proposed rule that would weaken Flores and allow for families to be detained indefinitely; click here for more information).

The Department of Defense received $606.5 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget, a $17 billion increase over FY18. It also received $67.9 billion in its uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, a $2.6 billion boost over FY18. Included in the bill is funding for 93 F-35 fighter jets, 16 more than the Pentagon requested; these jets have been plagued with problems. The bill will also fund three Littoral Combat Ships, two more than the Pentagon requested.

Funding battles for the remaining seven spending bills, including those that cover the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and others, will resume in the lame duck session after the November 6 elections. Funding for President Trump’s border wall is expected to be controversial in these battles. Other fights may also arise over issues like a raise for civilian federal workers (included in a Senate bill but not in a House version; President Trump has called for a pay freeze for these workers), environmental regulations, and some of the harmful partisan policy changes, known as riders, that were included in House versions of the bills but not Senate versions.

Budget and Appropriations
Education and Youth Policy
Labor and Employment