CHN: Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations: Some Gains, But Many Disappointments

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education recommended nearly $151.55 billion for annually funded programs in FY 2008, $7 billion over current year spending, and $10.6 billion more than the President had requested.  Taking inflation into account, the Subcommittee recommendation is only about 2.6 percent higher than Labor-HHS-Education appropriations this year.
While modest, the total is higher than the amount needed just to keep pace with inflation (projected at 2.3 percent from FY 2007 to FY 2008).  But within that total, there are winners and losers.

Education:  In general, the Subcommittee invested more in education, which grew by 7.4 percent over this year, not counting inflation.  Specifically, federal grants to school districts for disadvantaged students (Title I) would rise by about $1.5 billion, or nearly 12 percent over this year.  School improvement grants rise from the current $125 million to $500 million.  The Subcommittee rejected the President’s proposal to eliminate the small Even Start program, which helps parents and children to learn how to read.  (Funding rises from $82.3 million to $99 million.)  Afterschool care through the 21st Century Learning Centers rose to $1.1 billion, a 10 percent increase, counting inflation.  In higher education, maximum Pell grants go up from $4,310 a year to $4,700, a $390 increase.  Total funding for Pell grants rises 12 percent after inflation, to $15.65 billion.

Some education programs did not fare as well.  Special education funding under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) did not keep pace with inflation, with Part B grants to states cut about 1 percent, and Part C grants to infants and families down 2 percent, after an inflation adjustment.  Certain migrant and neglected and delinquent youth education programs grew less than inflation.

Health:  Many important health services received increases well above inflation.  Community Health Centers, also a priority of the President’s, are slated to grow 8 percent after adjusting for inflation, to $2.188 billion.  The Maternal and Child Health Block Grant starts to recover from cuts in prior years, with funding of $750 million in FY 2008, up 6 percent from this year, but still down 4 percent from the FY 2005 level, taking inflation into account.  The Ryan White AIDS program rises 2 percent over inflation, and Rural Health services grows to $144.8 million, a 10 percent inflation-adjusted rise.

Mental Health and Substance Abuse:  Here, the picture is far more modest.  Children’s Mental Health was level-funded at just over $104 million.  Other mental health funding to states rose just one percent above inflation.  The total for the Center for Substance Abuse Treatment was down 1 percent from this year, counting inflation.

Child Welfare Services:  With a few exceptions, many services to protect children from abuse or neglect were level-funded, therefore losing to inflation.  Considering that four in ten of substantiated cases of child abuse or neglect go without care, this underfunding is disappointing to advocates.  The small discretionary grants under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) would rise to $36.1 million, a 37 percent increase, counting inflation.  Programs for runaway and homeless youth are consolidated in one account, with funding rising to $97.8 million, a 9 percent increase after inflation.

Community Services:  Heating and cooling assistance for low-income households (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP) gets a $500 million increase in the program’s contingency fund, while the basic formula grants to states are level-funded at $1.98 billion.  Any increase in LIHEAP is welcome, but contingency funding remains unspent until the Administration decides it should be released, giving local agencies less ability to plan how to distribute their funds.  The Community Services Block Grant would grow to $660.4 million, up 2 percent after inflation.  Refugee and Entrant Assistance rises to $650.6 million, an 8 percent increase, counting inflation.

Early Childhood:  In a surprising disappointment, Head Start does not keep pace with inflation.  Its $5.57 million funding is really a 1 percent cut.  Head Start has suffered since FY 2005.  Counting the impact of inflation, the proposed FY 2008 funding is down 25 percent since that year.  The annually appropriated portion of the Child Care and Development Block Grant is funded at $2.137 billion, up 1 percent, counting inflation.  These funds will have shrunk an inflation-adjusted 5 percent since FY 2005.

Job Training and Employment:  Most of these Labor Department programs would continue to shrink after several years of erosion.  Adult and youth training under the Workforce Investment Act would drop 2 percent, counting inflation.  Employment Service state grants would be funded at $725.9 million, a loss of 1 percent after inflation.  However, Job Corps funding would exceed inflation by 2 percent (to $1.649 billion), and Community Service Employment for Older Americans grows an inflation-adjusted 7 percent to $530.9 million.

The Labor-HHS-Education bill was scheduled to be taken up by the full Appropriations Committee on June 14, but that Committee action was postponed as part of the House’s deal to incorporate members’ earmarks in most of the appropriations bills.  A new date has not yet been set.  At this point, the Labor-HHS-Ed bill is not likely to reach the House floor until after the July 4th recess.

Despite the modest overall increase in this bill, because it avoids the severity of cuts in the President’s proposal, it is subject to his veto threat.  (See the other article on appropriations in this issue.)

Budget and Appropriations
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