CHN: Major Domestic Appropriations Bills Moving Forward
By July 24, the House is expected to approve appropriations for the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. If the full House does not dramatically alter the work of the Appropriations Committee, they will have adopted increases for all these departments above the rate of inflation, and over the amounts requested by the Obama Administration. Despite a Congressional Budget Resolution that provided less for total appropriations than the President’s budget, the House Committee on Appropriations has continued to concentrate resources on domestic programs.
Transportation-HUD. The full Appropriations Committee reported out its Transportation-Housing and Urban Development bill on July 17, with approval on the floor expected July 23. The Committee’s bill increases funding over FY 2009 by 13 percent, both for Transportation and for HUD, not counting the economic recovery funding provided for FYs 2009 and 2010. The bill provides 3.4 percent more than the Obama Administration requested for HUD programs and 4.6 percent more than the Administration’s proposal for transportation funding.
Low-income rental housing assistance needs significant increases just to keep pace with the rising costs of preserving current numbers of rental units. The House Committee bill provides $18 billion for rental vouchers to support the current 2.1 million units under the Section 8 program, a 7 percent ($1.2 billion) increase. The Committee provides just under 1.2 percent more than the Administration proposed. The Committee and the Administration propose the same amount for project-based Section 8 rental housing assistance, $8.1 billion, up $600 million, or 8 percent, over FY 2009.
Other HUD programs also receive increases. Public housing developments receive increases both in capital funding (2 percent over FY 2009; 1.1 percent more than the President) and in operating funds (7 percent more than FY 2009; 4.3 percent more than the President). Homeless assistance grants rise from $1.677 billion to $1.85 billion in the House bill, a 10 percent increase (3 percent more than the Administration requested). Housing for the elderly rises considerably under the House Committee bill, from $765 million in FY 2009 to $1 billion. The President proposed flat funding for this program. The House proposes to increase housing for persons with disabilities from $250 million to $350 million, a 40 percent increase. The President’s budget proposed flat funding for disabilities housing as well.
The Community Development Fund (including funding for the Community Development Block Grant), is funded at $4.6 billion by the House Committee, an increase of $700 million over FY 2009, and up nearly $151 million over the President’s request.
The Senate has only held hearings so far on Transportation-HUD funding.
Labor-HHS-Education. Increases here too exceed 2009 to 2010 inflation projections. Appropriations for the largest number of domestic programs, the Labor-HHS-Education bill, passed in full Committee on July 17, with floor action expected on July 24. The Committee approved a total of $163.4 billion in appropriations, $11.1 billion more than in FY 2009, not counting emergency economic recovery funds. The Committee’s funding is about 1 percent higher than the President’s request.
One of the biggest differences between the House Appropriations Committee and the President is over home energy assistance. The President had proposed $2.41 billion for the regular Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), with another $790 million in a contingency fund if needed for spiking energy prices, for a total of $3.2 billion. The House Committee proposes $5.1 billion, the same amount spent in FY 2009, counting the emergency economic recovery funds.
Within the Department of Labor, both the Committee and the President propose another year of flat funding for job training programs under the Workforce Investment Act, not counting the large amount of economic recovery funding available in FYs 2009 and 2010. In other jobs programs, the House raises funding for YouthBuild from $70 million in FY 2009 to $100 million. The President did better for YouthBuild, recommending $114 million for FY 2010. YouthBuild provides opportunities for poor young workers to receive training in construction, get high school or post-secondary education, and/or move into construction employment. The House bill also falls short of the President’s request for the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders in the labor market. The President had proposed $115 million, up from FY 2009’s nearly $108.5 million. The House Appropriations Committee recommends flat funding. The House and President agree on new funding of $50 million for a Green Jobs Innovation Fund. Job Corps rises modestly to $1.705 billion in the House bill, slightly more than the $1.701 provided by the President. Veterans Employment and Training would rise by 7.4 percent in the House bill (3.6 percent higher than the President’s request).
In Health and Human Services funding, the House appropriators and the President agree on flat funding Community Health Centers at $2.19 billion (not counting the important $2 billion in economic recovery act funds). Rural health programs are cut, from nearly $149 million in FY 2009 down to $130.1 million in the House bill (the President proposed $124.7 million).
The House bill would raise mental health program funding by 4 percent over the current year (2.3 percent above the President’s request). Substance abuse programs would rise just 2.1 percent over FY 2009 in the House Appropriations Committee bill, just slightly above the President’s request.
Refugee assistance would do better under the President’s recommendation, rising from $633.4 million in FY 2009 (not counting economic recovery funds) to $740.6 million. The House bill provides nearly $715 million.
The annually appropriated portion of the Child Care and Development Block Grant is level-funded by both the House and the President for yet another year, at $2.127 billion. This does not count the $2 billion in economic recovery funds available in FYs 2009 and 2010. Head Start would rise from $7.113 billion in FY 2009 to $7.235 billion, with the President and House Appropriations agreeing. (Again, the economic recovery funding of $2.1 billion is not included in the FY 2009 funding level for purposes of this comparison.)
The Social Services Block Grant is flat funded at $1.7 billion. Most appropriations for child welfare services are also level funded. Exceptions include $20 million in newly proposed Adoption Opportunities funding and the elimination of $47.7 million in the Compassion Capital Fund, a Bush-era initiative. Family violence/battered women’s shelter funding is raised to $133.8 million, a 4.7 percent increase over FY 2009. The President had recommended flat funding. Both the President and the House appropriators eliminate abstinence education, another Bush initiative evaluated as ineffective. Instead, both the President and the House would newly fund Teen Pregnancy Prevention Community Grants at $110 million.
Services for the aging are mostly level-funded, although nutrition for the elderly would rise to $829.2 million in the House bill, up 2.4 percent over the current year (the President flat-funded that as well).
Overall, the House Committee increases Department of Education funding only modestly over the current year (1.9 percent growth, leaving aside economic recovery act funding), and provides virtually the same amount as the Administration. Title I aid for school districts serving low-income K-12 students is level-funded at $14.5 billion. These funds were temporarily increased by $10 billion in FYs 2009-2010 as part of the economic recovery act. The President’s budget recommended cutting Title I appropriations for FY 2010 down to $12.99 billion, not counting recovery funding.
Both the President and the House Appropriations Committee flat-fund special education programs through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) at $12.58 billion. The House Committee increases English Language Acquisition from its current level of $730 million to $760 million; the President’s budget provides level funding.
The President requested eliminating the Even Start program, which tries to help parents and their young children improve literacy skills. The House Committee agreed to continue the program at $66.454 million, just below its current level. The Administration preferred to invest in two new initiatives, the Early Learning Challenge Fund (with a funding level of $300 million), and Early Childhood Grants (funded at $500 million), and to increase funding for Early Reading First from $112.5 million to $162.5 million. The House did not provide any funding for the two new initiatives, and provided $35 million less for Early Reading First than the President recommended.
Migrant education is modestly increased over current year spending by both the Administration and the House Appropriations Committee. A number of smaller education programs serving rural communities, Native Americans, and homeless children and youth are all level-funded. Also flat-funded are vocational programs (at $1.27 billion). Adult basic education receives $2 million more in funding from the President than from the House (the President’s request is for $641.6 million).
The Appropriations Committee and the President agree on keeping the maximum Pell Grant size at $4,860. Funding to cover this required a 3 percent increase in Pell Grant funding (to $17.78 billion; the President had included only $17.495 billion).
With these two major bills, the House will have passed 11 of its dozen appropriations bills, with only the Department of Defense appropriations awaiting floor action. The House is likely to keep to its schedule of passing all of the appropriations bills before leaving for the August recess. The Senate has only passed two appropriations bills so far; but the full Appropriations Committee has approved another 7 bills, which now await their time on the Senate floor.