On Thursday, July 27, 2023, Congress wrapped up their work for the summer and left town for the August recess. Members will spend the next 6 weeks in their districts and will return to Washington, D.C. after Labor Day to resume business on the Hill.

The Senate moved quickly to pass each of the twelve spending bills through the full Appropriations Subcommittee on a bipartisan basis, wrapping up the last four bills on Thursday, including the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) bill that funds most human services programs. The bill was passed almost unanimously during the markup, a very similar outcome to the other spending bills, and garnered little discussion from the Committee members.

Overall, the Senate Appropriations Committee leadership has agreed to add $14B to the top line agreement made in the debt ceiling negotiations, recognizing the need for additional investment to ensure that programs are able to meet their goals amidst inflation and increased need. The Labor-HHS bill includes several improvements over the House bill, including:

  • Level funding for the Unaccompanied Children Program in the Office of Refugee Resettlement, which was cut by 60% in the House bill.
  • Level funding for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Title II Community Based Child Abuse Prevention grants; although the House bill report isn’t publicly available yet, we have been advised that the House bill proposes a $15 million cut to this funding.
  • A small increase of $3M for Child Welfare Training, Research, or Demonstration projects
  • Increased funding for early childhood programs, such as a $700 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block grant, a $275 million increase for Head Start; a $20 million increase for the Special Education Part C Grants for Infants and Families program, and $5 million increase for the Child Care Access Means Parents in School program.
  • Increased funding for Mental Health, such as a $35 million increase for the Mental Health Block Grant including a $19 million increase for the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Program, a $15 million increase for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics, and an $18 million for the 988 Suicide Prevention Lifeline.
  • Increases for education, including a $175 million increase for Title I-A grants and a $175 million increase for the primary IDEA Special Education State grant program.

The Senate bill does include some cuts in child welfare programs, including a $14 million cut to Title IV-B discretionary funds, a $5 million cut to Adoption Incentives payments, a $1 million cut to Chafee Education and Training Vouchers, and a $5 million cut for Family Violence Prevention and Services. CWLA will continue to advocate for fully funding these important programs in the final Appropriations bill.

The House, meanwhile, did not pass it’s Labor-HHS bill through the full House Appropriations Committee and will need to take it up in September. The House only brought one bill to the full House floor, the Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies bill, which passed nearly along party lines, with two Republicans joining the Democrats in voting against it.

When Congress returns in September, they will have only a few weeks to finish passing the bills through the respective chambers and then negotiate and pass final bills through both the House and Senate before the end of the Federal fiscal year on September 30th. More likely, Congress will pass a continuing resolution to give them more time to finish the process, though advocates are bracing for the possibility of a government shutdown as well.