Omnibus appropriations bill marks progress, but promises remain unfulfilled
Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs, issued the following statement Friday, March 23 in response to passage of the Fiscal Year 2018 Omnibus Appropriations Bill:
“After years of shrinking services, Congress approved final spending levels that will reduce the erosion that has occurred in many human needs programs since 2010. As a result, more working families will be able to place their children in quality, affordable child care settings; more low-income housing units will be preserved and some new units will be available; treatment programs for opioid use disorders will increase; and maximum Pell Grant college scholarships will rise by $175 to $6,095. Funding for job training grows, and there are increases for low-income K-12 school districts and for special education.
“These increases are very welcome, and much needed. The Coalition on Human Needs is most grateful to those members of Congress and their staff who fought for such improvements. Still, it is important to place these gains in context. For the most part, the added funding does not approach the levels available in FY 2010, taking inflation into account. Most job training programs, for example, remain about 15 percent below FY 2010 funding. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, despite an increase over the previous year, is still 38 percent below FY 2010. That means low-income seniors and families will not get as much help as they need in paying for heat or cooling. Funding for the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program is tight, and will have to be carefully watched over the coming year. We believe the 2020 Census is still underfunded, and will continue to work for adequate funding to ensure that everyone is counted.
“In a major victory for workers, the omnibus included language prohibiting employers from confiscating tips from their staff, a grossly unfair proposal that has been advanced by the Trump Administration. In many other areas, victories come from what is not in the spending bill. Congress rejected efforts to block funding for the “fiduciary rule,” thereby retaining the protection that financial advisers must act in the best interests of their clients. The large increases sought for immigrant detention beds and enforcement agents were not approved. The deep cuts proposed in the Trump budget in housing, education, and social services were decisively dismissed. The strong efforts of advocates to protect and expand needed services made a big difference.
“We remain bitterly disappointed that Congress and the Trump Administration have not kept the promise of providing permanent legal status for the Dreamers, who were brought to this country as children by undocumented parents. They have grown up here, know no other home, and are an important part of our communities. They deserve better, and abandoning them diminishes us all. We call upon President Trump, Speaker Ryan and Majority Leader McConnell to bring the Dream Act to the floor without entangling it with unacceptable immigration policy restrictions or further increases in enforcement.
“The President’s late threat to veto the omnibus is recklessly irresponsible. He should sign it and immediately work with Congress to protect the Dreamers.”