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 in tight budgets, is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) which received a $2 billion boost for the second straight year. The Committee also 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. During the full Committee debate several members offered up amendments to increase treatment funding. Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Senator Jack Reid (D-RI) are likely to offer a further amendment on the floor.
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.