CHN: Labor-HHS-Education Spending Bill Clears House
Senate Version Moves Out of Committee
After a mere seven hours of debate, the House passed its annual Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education appropriations bill (HR 3061) on a 373-43 vote Thursday. Several amendments – including one introduced by Rep. Melissa A. Hart (R-PA) that would have banned schools from distributing contraceptive pills to students – were either withdrawn or rejected in the interests of keeping the measure bipartisan.
The bill provides a total of $395.9 billion – $123.4 billion of which is discretionary spending – for the departments of labor, health, and education. The fiscal year 2002 amount is $12 billion more than last year and $7 billion more than the president originally requested. However, the House bill’s funding level shows a reduced rate of growth in Labor-HHS-Education spending from 15% in fiscal year 2001 to 10 percent in 2002.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the Labor-HHS-Education spending bill on Thursday as well, but Senate disputes over controversial issues such as foreign aid and White House judicial appointees are slowing the legislative process in that body.
None of the 13 annual spending bills has crossed the president’s desk yet, even though fiscal year 2002 began on October 1st. Congress passed a continuing resolution to keep government programs running through October 16th.
The House-approved Labor-HHS-Education spending bill appropriated the following levels of funding for federal departments, agencies, and programs:
The Department of Labor’s funding level increased by $402 million (three percent) over last year’s level, and totals $14.1 billion, $588 million more than the Administration’s request.
The appropriations bill provides $1.5 billion for dislocated worker training programs under the Workforce Investment Act, a funding level seven percent higher than last year’s number and $152 million more than the Administration’s request. Adult training funds were maintained at $950 million, $50 million more than the President requested.
Funding was set at $440 million for the Community Service for Older Americans program, which provides unemployed low-income people aged 55 and older with part-time jobs in community service-related fields. This amount equals last year’s appropriation and the Administration’s request.
The bill appropriates $1.4 billion for youth job training, $225 million more than last year and $352 million more than the President requested. Job Corps received $1.5 billion, $75 million more than in fiscal year 2001 and the Administration’s request. The Employment Standards Administration – charged with enforcing federal regulations intended to protect workers – was given $370 million.
HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES
The measure appropriates $301.5 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services, a $35.3 billion increase over last year and $1.4 billion more than the Administration’s request. Only 18 percent of the bill’s funding for HHS is discretionary; the rest is for mandatory programs like Medicare and Medicaid.
The bill includes $106.8 billion for Medicaid, an increase of $7.2 billion over last year. This figure does not include the advance appropriation of $36.2 billion in the fiscal year 2001 bill, but does include an advance of $46.6 billion for Medicaid costs in the first quarter of 2003. The measure appropriates $81.9 billion for Medicare, $11.5 billion more than last year’s level.
The funding level for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program (PSSF), which aims to ensure the safety and support the families of at-risk and foster children, was maintained at $305 million. The Administration’s proposal allowed for a $200 million increase in PSSF, which is set to expire at the end of fiscal year 2002. The bill also appropriates $4.9 billion to Foster Care and Adoption Assistance programs, $60 million less than the Administration’s request.
Head Start received $6.5 billion, an increase of $276 million over last year’s level and $151 million more than the President’s request. The measure appropriates $2.2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), an increase of $200 million over last year.
The bill appropriates $1.7 billion for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), a decrease of $25 million from last year. The amount of TANF funding available for transfer into SSBG was maintained at 10 percent.
Funding for substance abuse and mental health has increased by $168 million (six percent) to $3.1 billion. This is three percent more than the President requested, and includes $834 million for mental health and $2 billion for substance abuse treatment programs.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) received $1.7 billion, $300 million more than last year and the Administration’s proposal.
The measure grants $51.8 billion to the Department of Education, a $7.1 billion (16 percent) increase over last year, and $4.7 million (10 percent) more than the Administration requested. While education has been the President’s top domestic priority, education overhaul legislation (HR 1) – passed in the House in May and the Senate in June – remains in conference committee.
HR 1 would penalize states, school districts, and schools for failing to meet “adequate yearly progress” as measured by student performance on math and reading tests. The House-approved appropriations bill grants $400 million – $80 million more than the President’s request – to states for the development costs of these annual reading and math skills assessments.
The House Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill adds $3.6 billion to programs authorized by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), for a total of $22.3 billion. This increase is comparable to the $5 billion boost requested in the House version of HR 1, but significantly less than the $14.4 billion increase endorsed by the Senate.
Funding for Title I – a program that provides aid to states and school districts to help poor and educationally disadvantaged students – increased by 29 percent to $12.5 billion. The TRIO program for minority and disadvantaged students received $800 million, $70 million over last year and $20 million more than the President’s request.
Bilingual and immigrant education received $700 million, $240 million (52 percent) above the President’s budget request. Special Education grants and programs account for $8.9 billion, $434 million more than the President’s request and $1.4 billion more than last year’s level.
“Reading First,” a central tenet of Bush’s education package, received $975 million. The new program is aimed at helping states and school districts administer literacy programs to ensure that all students can read by the third grade.
A new initiative that grants states federal dollars to bolster the professional development and quality of teachers accounts for $3.2 billion of the education allotment. This amount is $575 million more than the President requested.
The measure also includes $611 million for adult education, $595 million of which is for state grants. This level is $51 million higher than last year’s and $55 million more than the President’s request.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) received an appropriation of $31.7 billion. These funds may be supplemented on the state level, and are federal cash payments to elderly, blind, and disabled people with little or no income.