Congress acting on an omnibus appropriations bill is certain. The only question is when they will pass such a bill and how long it will run.
There are days not weeks left before the summer break starts. That break will run through Labor Day. It is expected that there will be limited days in September with the occasional rumor that the House might wrap all work up this month and not come back in September. All of this is a result of the nervousness of an especially volatile election year.
The Senate has passed all 12 bills through Appropriations Committee with the Energy and Water and the Military Construction bills passing the full Senate. The House of Representatives has passed the Defense, Legislative Branch, and Military Construction bills while it has passed another eight bills through the Committee and then there is the twelfth bill in the House, the appropriations for the Labor Department, Health and Human Services and Education Department. (Labor-HHS). A Subcommittee hearing has been scheduled for this Thursday. In the recent past the House Subcommittee has voted that bill out of Subcommittee without ever releasing specific details and not voting it out of the full committee. A mark up this Thursday would leave little more than a week for further action.
On Tuesday June 7 and Thursday June 9, the Senate Appropriations moved a Labor-HHS-Education bill through Subcommittee and full Committee respectively. Leadership from both sides proclaimed a bipartisan victory of what was passed with little controversy.
The big winner, if there can be one, is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which received a $2 billion boost for the second straight year. The Committee provided an increase in substance use funding to address opioids use. Various programs increased by $126 million to $261 million. The key child welfare programs however, remained flat.
The substance use funding was provided through a $28 million increase under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to target overuse of prescription drugs. Another $49 million was given to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSHA) for treatment and $50 million was provided to Community Centers for treatment.
In terms of child welfare there was no increase in funding for CAPTA state grants, left at $25.3 million, CAPTA discretionary funding at $ 33 million, Adoption Opportunities ($ 39 million), Adoption Incentives ($37.9 million) and Child Welfare Services ($269 million) Promoting Safe and Stable Families actually loses $20 million in court funding pending a reauthorization which must be done by October 1. PSSSF discretionary funding stayed at $59 million. The court funds are based on a complex mandatory budget scoring calculation and will be lost if Congress does not fund new federal dollars to keep it flat-funded.
The Committee was able to move some funding around under relatively frozen caps by tapping into a surplus that exits under the college student Pell grants program. Pell Grants are funded under a combination of annual appropriations and some mandatory funding. Students apply and can receive a maximum grant of approximately $5600 per year adjusted by income. In years when Congress does not appropriate enough they make up for the shortfall in the next year. In this case there was a carry over or surplus. Much of the increase however did not help children’s programs and instead assisted in the NIH increase.
You can find the funding levels for key child welfare and children’s program with this CWLA 2017 budget chart.