On Tuesday, November 10, 2020, the Senate Appropriations Committee released a full package of 12 appropriations bills nearly a month before the temporary funding for fiscal year 2021 runs out. Last week Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had agreed to complete the FY 2021 appropriations with an omnibus bill rather than a continuing resolution (CR).  


The Senate package hews close to last year’s spending levels for most of the HHS spending categories. The Senate bill provides $96.3 billion compared to the House total adopted last summer, which set funding at $96.4. There are differences in some of the categories.  


The House bill provided the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) an increase to $92 million ($2.5 million increase), and the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention grants received $63 million (an increase of $7.5 million). Both were small but significant increases because they maintain some recent momentum to increase funding. The Senate bill rejected those increases, however small. The Senate totals are frozen at FY 20 levels.  


The Adoption Opportunities program received an increase of $4 million to $46 million from FY 2020, while the House figure remained at the funding of $42 million. Both bills include $75 million for adoption and subsidized guardianships incentive funds, which is the same level as 2020. The funding should help states catch up on past shortfalls of awards. The Senate also continues the extra appropriations of $20 million to develop kinship navigator programs as well as the additional $10 million for regional partnership grants to develop family-based substance abuse treatment for mothers with children in foster care.


Regarding early childhood education, the Senate allows for a $50 million increase in child care funds to a total of $5.876 billion compared to the House’s $100 million increase to $5.926 billion. It is unclear if there will be increases in the pandemic relief bill. Head Start, now funded at $10.613 billion, received an increase of $100 million in the Senate bill compared to the $150 million increase in the House legislation.


In an apparent response to pandemic-driven concerns over child abuse reporting, the Senate bill designates $2 million: 


“The Committee recognizes that workforce development is needed to ensure that professionals are trained to respond to incidences of child abuse. Effective responses to child abuse involve a wide array of professionals, including social workers, teachers, law enforcement, prosecutors, healthcare providers, lawyers, and faith-based leaders, among others. All of these individuals need to be trained in how to properly handle the unique circumstances around responding to child abuse and child mistreatment. Therefore, the Committee provides $2,000,000 to fund the first year of a pilot project to develop best practices for a statewide child advocacy studies training program network to provide training both through institutions of higher learning and through continuing education. Preference shall be given to States that have both existing infrastructure built to train a large number of individuals and existing partnerships with a high percentage of the State’s public and private higher education institutions, including community colleges, 4-year universities, and professional schools. A successful project shall include collaboration among the State’s Child Advocacy Centers, the State child welfare agency, and the State’s Attorney General’s office.”


To read a chart of various key spending categories, go here.


The next steps appear to be negotiations over the various allocations of federal spending between the 12 bills. There are some items such as $2 billion for the Trump border wall, which is sure to be rejected by House Democrats. It is also uncertain how any relief measure might supplement some of the needs in this appropriation if one is agreed to. There were no significant discussions on a COVID-19 relief package this week. The appropriations budget caps Congress is still operating under was negotiated last year as part of a two-year deal. This is the last year for the budget caps. Any new deals or even having caps will be negotiated by the incoming Biden Administration and the new Congress. 


Funding under the current continuing resolution runs out on December 11, 2020.