Appropriations staffers and committee members continued to work toward beating a December 11 deadline when the government will run out of money. Despite the ongoing work it is unclear whether or not issues around policy riders and, as of last week the issue of Syrian refugees, will prevent a deal before the government shuts down.
Earlier this month the 12 subcommittees of the Appropriations Committees received what are called their 302(b) allocations which is a technical term for how discretion dollars are divided between the twelve subcommittees. Despite the lack of publication of those allocations, the Labor-HHS-Education subcommittee allocation became public last week when Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) ranking member of the House Subcommittee, criticized the $161 billion allocated to the three departments. That figure is $5 billion above FY 2015 but DeLauro was advocating for closer to $10 billion. The total needs to cover education funding the Labor Department and key HHS programs including child care, Head Start, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and many other health areas including child welfare. Many of these programs have been frozen or suffered across the board cuts over the last half decade (for example CAPTA state grants and the two Title IV-B child welfare flexible funds). In both houses but especially the Senate they are looking for billions of dollars in increases for NIH to catch up with a decade of limited or no increases.
Under the appropriations bills approved in the summer and before the most recent budget deal, funding for key child welfare services were frozen except for the entitlement funding under Title IV-E. Under Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) state grants ($25.3 million), discretionary grants ($28.7 million), were both level along with the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention or CB-CAP ($39.7 million) and the Adoption Opportunity Act ($39 million). Under Title IV-B, Child Welfare Services ($268 million), Promoting Safe and Stable Families ($59 million in discretionary) are both the same as FY 2015. The Adoption/Kinship Incentive funds ($37 million), and Runaway and Homeless Youth ($97 million) are also at the ’15 level but the Senate does allocate $2 million for a study and survey of the homeless youth population. The budget projections show an increase in foster care funding from just under $4.3 billion to just over $4.7 billion. These could increase in the final budget since it is only a projection and foster care numbers have been increasing. The Administration February budget had already projected an increase of 6,000 more IV-E eligible children in foster care rising to 168,000—the numbers reflect only foster care children who are covered by federal IV-E dollars through the AFDC link.