CHN: FY17 Appropriations Bill Avoids a Shutdown

The omnibus provides spending guidance to federal agencies through Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year. The bill (H.R. 244) includes $1.07 trillion in base spending – $551 billion in base defense spending and $515.5 billion in base non-defense spending – to adhere to spending caps. The total cost of the bill is estimated at $1.18 trillion, which includes war funds and emergency and other spending outside of the caps. This includes an additional $15 billion for defense spending (President Trump asked for $30 billion) and additional money for border security. The bill passed both chambers with broad bipartisan support (309-118 in the House; 79-18 in the Senate) and was signed by President Trump on May 5. According to CQ, the bulk of the no votes in the House came from ultra-conservative Republicans who viewed the package as too light on GOP spending and policy priorities; only 15 Democrats in the House voted no, again demonstrating that the House leadership depends on Democratic votes to pass spending bills.

Advocates celebrated the fact that Congress rejected the $18 billion in cuts to domestic programs called for by President Trump and rejected the money Trump asked for to start the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border. While many human needs programs received flat funding from FY16, there were things to celebrate in the bill: the restoration of year-round Pell grants, additional funds to combat opioid abuse, the rejection of hundreds of poison pill riders, and more. Funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) increased by $95 million more than FY16 levels, and the Head Start program received $85 million more than in FY16. The TRIO and GEAR UP programs both saw increases, as did Homeless Assistance Grants, which received $133 million more than in FY16. The Lead Hazard Control and Health Homes program under the Department of Housing and Urban Development received a $35 million bump over FY16 levels, and Section 8 Rental Assistance is funded to adequately renew existing vouchers and contracts. Special Education IDEA grants to states to support education for children with disabilities received a $90 million bump.

Not all news was as good; the overall Department of Education’s budget was cut by $1.2 billion, and the Department of Labor’s budget was cut by $83 million. The Corporation for National and Community Service’s budget was cut by $64.5 million, and many juvenile justice programs were cut as well. CHN will soon release a chart showing how more than 160 human needs programs fared in the omnibus and how they’ve fared in spending decisions since FY10. While some programs received increases this year, the vast majority of these programs have lost ground since FY10. This takes inflation into account, but for most of the programs, the losses exceeded inflation.

Advocates were also disappointed that the bill did not maintain the principle of parity, or providing equal relief from sequestration cuts for defense and non-defense programs. Summaries of the omnibus bill are available from Republicans and Democrats on the House Appropriations Committee, and the full bill text can be found here. The National Low Income Housing Coalition released a chart and analysis of how the omnibus affects housing programs.

Budget and Appropriations
Education and Youth Policy
Housing and Homelessness