CHN: House Appropriations Committee Approves Labor-HHS-Education Bill
On Thursday, July 14, the House Appropriations Committee passed (31-19) the FY17 Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor-HHS-Ed) appropriations bill, the largest of the 12 annual spending bills. According to a summary released by the Appropriations Committee majority, the measure would provide $161.6 billion in discretionary (annually appropriated) funding, $569 million (0.3 percent) below FY16 levels and $2.8 billion below President Obama’s request. The Department of Labor would receive $12.0 billion, $138 million below FY16 and $765 below President Obama’s request. The Department of Health and Human Services would receive $73.2 billion, a $2.6 billion increase over current year spending and $3.5 billion above the President’s request. The Department of Education would receive $67 billion, a $1.3 billion cut from current levels and $2.4 billion below the President’s request.
Reactions from advocates were mostly negative. While the overall funding level for the bill is less than the Senate’s $163.8 billion (including a $1.96 billion increase in “cap adjustment funding,” allowed to invest in reduction of improper payments in Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security), the House bill provided less of an increase to the National Institutes of Health ($1.25 billion in the House versus $2 billion in the Senate), which advocates hoped would mean more money for low-income programs.
The bill includes $500 million for new grants to states to combat opioid abuse, a $500 million (3.9 percent) increase over FY16 levels for Special Education IDEA grants to states to support education for children with disabilities, a $100 million (2.9 percent) increase for Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP), and $300 million for a new infectious disease rapid response reserve fund. Although the idea of a reserve fund to enable quick action on new infectious disease threats is promising, it falls far short of the $1.9 billion sought by the President for Zika alone. The Head Start program received an increase of $141.6 million and the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) was increased by $40 million. However, due to improvements Congress recently authorized in Head Start and CCDBG, the funding provided is not sufficient to continue to serve the same number of children—in fact, according to a statement from Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), 125,000 Head Start slots will be lost at the bill’s funding level.
Advocates were pleased that the House bill funds Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I Adult and Youth programming at current FY2016 levels, whereas the Senate bill cut those programs by $33.5 million and $35.4 million respectively. The House version would also increase the state dislocated worker formula grant by $20 million relative to current funding levels, but makes cuts of nearly $90 million to the dislocated worker national reserve.
The few gains in the bill didn’t outweigh the losses, however. The House bill eliminates funding for Apprenticeship Grants, included in the FY16 bill at $90 million and in the FY17 Senate Labor-HHS bill at $100 million. It does not include the restoration of year-round Pell grants that was included in the Senate bill, and makes a cut of approximately $1.3 billion in funding to the overall Pell program, reducing the overall amount of Pell funding available for future years. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA) introduced an amendment that would reinstate year-round Pell, consistent with the Senate’s Labor-HHS bill, but it was defeated along party lines. The Teacher Quality State Grants program was cut by $400 million. The bill also cuts the operating budget for Medicare by $881 million, and cuts the operating budget for Social Security by $264 million, which would worsen the already long waits for services for the increasing number of retirees.
The bill also contains many partisan riders opposed by Democrats, including provisions that would defund the Affordable Care Act, block implementation of the Department of Labor’s updated overtime rule, halt the National Labor Relations Board rule on union elections, and prevent the Centers on Disease Control and Prevention from funding gun violence prevention research. Democrats on the committee offered amendments to override each of these provisions, but they were all defeated.
For more information, see the bill report from the House Appropriations Committee, the Republican summary of the bill, and this summary from the National Skills Coalition. For information about the Senate Labor-H bill, see the June 13 Human Needs Report.