CHN analysis shows funding caps must be lifted in order to prevent serious losses in human needs programs


March 27, 2019

Every year, the Coalition on Human needs compares funding for well over 150 human needs programs starting in FY 2010 and continuing to the current fiscal year (this year, 2019).

CHN uses FY 2010 as a benchmark because that is the year before the Budget Control Act passed Congress and was signed into law by President Obama. That law called for automatic cuts in spending if Congress could not curtail spending on its own.

This year, CHN tracked spending for 184 human needs programs. CHN found that 131 of the programs, or 71 percent, lost ground since FY 2010. And 54 programs were cut by 25 percent or more. You can download CHN’s funding analysis and appropriations tables here.

Because the spending caps were lifted for FYs 2018 and 2019 through bipartisan legislation enacted by Congress, some programs began to make up some of the ground lost since FY 2010.

Now, however, that progress is threatened. Unless Congress acts this year, harsh spending caps will go into effect for FYs 2020 and 2021, reducing all domestic/international appropriations by $55 billion in FY 2020 (or $70 billion, adjusting for inflation) below FY 2019 levels.

Deborah Weinstein, CHN Executive Director, warned that such cuts would mean that far fewer people would be served by the 184 human needs programs tracked by CHN.

“If we are to provide opportunities for more people to work in steady jobs with good pay, we need to expand job training for adults (including older workers) and youth, not cut FY 2019 funding for those programs by more than $1.5 billion below the FY 2010 levels,” Weinstein said. “With rent burdens rising, we need to increase affordable housing, not allow public housing maintenance to erode by more than $1 billion compared to FY 2010. From nutrition to education to public health, we should be investing in meeting people’s needs in order to sustain economic growth and shared prosperity. Rigid spending caps prevent the investments we need.”

Weinstein pointed to child care as an example of one human needs priority that benefited when Congress agreed to lift spending caps for FYs 2018 and 2019. In FY 2018, she said, funding for child care doubled to $5.2 billion compared to its level in FY 2010, even after adjusting for inflation. That increase was estimated to allow an additional 151,000 children to receive low-cost child care. (That important gain started to be eroded in FY 2019, when a small uptick in funding for child care was not enough to withstand one year’s worth of inflation.)

But even when taking the greatly beneficial increase in FY 2018, Weinstein said, federal support for child care programs actually pales in comparison with FY 2010.

“Although the increases have allowed states to add children beyond the 1.3 million placed in FY 2017, we are still reaching hundreds of thousands fewer children than we were in FY 2010, when 1.7 million children were served in an average month,” she said.  “One thing is clear,” said Weinstein.  “If Congress does not build on the progress we have started by allowing needed investments in services that help families raise their children and maintain decent living standards, our nation’s economy will stall.”