CHN: Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Labor-HHS-Education Bill: Advocates Have Work Ahead to Seek Best of House and Senate Funds

The full Senate Appropriations Committee approved more than $149 billion in funding for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education programs on June 21.  The Senate bill is about $2 billion less than the amount passed by the House Appropriations Subcommittee, and more than $8 billion over the President’s request.  Although final action awaits the bills in both House and Senate and amendments are possible, few substantial changes are expected now until the differences between the two bodies are resolved in conference committee.
Advocates surveying the House and Senate bills acknowledge the improvements over the President’s proposal, but are disappointed over missed opportunities.  Both House and Senate allow inflation to shrink most job training programs, which have been losing funding for years.  Many services for children are similarly cut.  Despite the hopeful Children’s Summit sponsored a month ago by House leadership, children’s mental health and child welfare services are largely flat-funded (hence cut 2 percent below current spending levels, adjusted for inflation).  The Senate Appropriations Committee funds Head Start at $7.089 billion, just 1 percent above inflation, while the House Subcommittee does not increase Head Start funds enough to keep up with inflation – another cut.  Child care is flat-funded in the Senate (at $2.062 billion), and increased to $2.1 billion in the House.  The Social Services Block Grant, providing services to all age groups, remains flat-funded at $1.7 billion by the President, House, and Senate.

If the current differences between the House and Senate bills remain up to conference committee negotiations, advocates will have an important role to play in making the case for the best funding possible for human needs programs.  Although the House total for Labor-HHS-Education appropriations is higher, that does not mean it has the higher funding levels in all programs.

Where House Funding does Better:  The House is substantially higher in Low Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP), with about $500 million more than the Senate bill.  Adjusting for inflation, House LIHEAP funds are 20 percent higher than the current year; the Senate bill is 2 percent below.  A number of education accounts are substantially better in the House as well.  Title I, the main federal aid program for schools in low-income communities, receives $14.36 billion in the House, while the Senate includes $13.9 billion, the same funding the President proposed.  The House bill is 9 percent above this year’s spending for Title I; the Senate, 6 percent.  The House also provides $300 million more in state grants for Teacher Quality Improvement than does the Senate.  That amounts to 8 percent more than this year in the House version, while the Senate cuts these grants by 2 percent, counting inflation.  In another example of better House funding, the annually appropriated funds in the Child Care and Development Block grant rise slightly above inflation, to $2.137 billion, or 1 percent above current year funding.  The Senate leaves funding unchanged at $2.062 billion, for a 2 percent real cut.  Afterschool programs in the 21st Century Learning Centers receive more than $1.1 billion in the House, up 10 percent from this year, counting inflation; the Senate just keeps pace with inflation.  Pell grants also do considerably better in the House, with enough funding to increase the maximum grant for low-income students to $4,700 a year from the current $4,310.  The Senate leaves the maximum grant unchanged.

Senate Higher Funding:  But the Senate bill does better in a number of areas.  Head Start, which shrinks with inflation in the House bill, rises to $7.088 billion in the Senate, an inflation-adjusted 1 percent increase over this year’s funding.  Special education state grants, funded through the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), receive $11.24 billion in the Senate bill, or 2 percent above this year’s funding in real terms.  The House funds this program at $10.96 billion, not enough to keep pace with inflation.  Runaway and Homeless Youth do better in the Senate, with nearly $103 million in funding, $5 million more than the House.  The Senate provides 17 percent more than the current value of this year’s funding; the House, 7 percent.  The Senate bill also adds more funding for Community Health Centers, up 4 percent in real dollars over this year, while the House increases funds by 2 percent.  The Senate also does better in certain mental health and substance abuse services.  It funds the Community Services Block Grant at more than $670 million, 4 percent up from this year, while the House is at $660 million, or 2 percent up in inflation-adjusted dollars.  Both are massively better than the President’s proposal, which eliminates the program.

For these and more examples of House-Senate differences in Labor-HHS-Education funding, see this table:

For all the information available from the House and Senate Committees, click here:

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