CHN: Low-Income Programs Threatened with Across-the-Board Cuts

Congress is threatening nearly every program funded annually by the federal government – from education to biomedical research, workforce training, Head Start, housing, WIC and many others – with an across the board cut that may be between 2 and 4 percent.
Not content with cutting mandatory programs such as Medicaid and Food Stamps by $35 billion (see story this issue), Congress is contemplating going after programs that are funded annually, also called discretionary programs. A two percent cut from all federal agencies and their discretionary programs, including defense and homeland security, would amount to a $16 billion loss in funding for fiscal year 2006.

House Budget Committee Chairman Jim Nussle (R-IA) said he supports a 2 percent across-the-board cut, but the appropriators who oversee defense and homeland security spending are unlikely to support cuts to defense. If Congress decides to hold homeland security and defense programs harmless from a sweeping cut, the domestic programs may be cut even more steeply.

In addition, the President is encouraging Congress to look more closely at the 150 programs his budget proposed eliminating, freezing or cutting in order to cut spending. Some of these programs are: Even Start, vocational education state grants, tech prep state grants, Upward Bound, Early Learning Opportunities Fund and universal newborn hearing and screening. A full list can be found on pages 17 and 18 of the PDF document “Major Savings and Reforms in the President’s 2006 budget”:

Although the fiscal year began October 1, Congress has finalized funding only for the Department of the Interior and for itself (as part of the legislative branch bill). The House has approved all of its appropriations bills but because the Senate has not finished its work, ten other bills that fund the rest of the government have not yet been approved in final form.

In order to keep the government running, Congress approved a continuing resolution (CR) that will last until November 18. (See September 30 Human Needs Report .) The CR already contains many cuts to human needs programs. For any appropriations bills not completed before November 18, Congress will have to approve another CR.

An across-the-board cut could be made at any time and could affect even those programs for which the funding was already approved by Congress. If, for example, the final housing appropriations bill is approved before November 18, Congress could later put into effect an across-the-board cut making rescissions to housing programs.

The total level of discretionary spending for fiscal year 2006 approved by Congress in the budget resolution is already lower than last year’s level. An additional across-the-board cut of 2 percent would translate into unprecedented cuts to domestic spending.

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