n4a Legislative Update: FY 2018 Funding Advances
FY 2018 Funding Advances
House Approves $14.2 Million Increase for OAA Title III B Supportive Services
September 14, 2017
The two weeks since lawmakers returned to DC have seen a flurry of legislative activity surrounding federal funding for FY 2018. Last week, Congress and the Administration avoided an impending shutdown threat after passing a short-term spending bill in advance of the September 30 end of FY 2017, but there are still many decisions to hash out before finalizing FY 2018 federal funding. Currently, both the House and Senate have until December 8 to either pass a final, long-term measure to keep federal dollars flowing through the full fiscal year or figure out another temporary compromise. n4a’s recent Legislative Update previewed what must-do’s are in store for Congress this fall, and while some progress has been made at least toward avoiding government default and shutdown at the end of the month, there is still a lengthy list of outstanding legislative priorities.
Status of FY 2018 Federal Funding
After a surprising concession from President Trump last week regarding the length of a debt limit extension, Congress passed a bill, known as a continuing resolution (CR), to keep federal programs funded at FY 2017 levels temporarily and to extend the debt limit until December 8. Because a first installment of more than $15 billion in emergency funding for Hurricane Harvey recovery was also included in the deal, lawmakers were able to hustle this package to a speedy approval.
The CR means that funding for Older Americans Act and other aging programs will continue at current levels through the first few months of FY 2018. This short-term funding agreement gives Members some more time to continue advancing final FY 2018 funding bills, but both lawmakers and advocates have a lot of work to do over the next two months to reach agreement on a longer-term measure, and House and Senate proposals look very different.
House Progress on Older Americans Act Funding
Appropriators in the House were first out of the gate with an FY 2018 OAA funding proposal. In July, the full House Appropriations Committee passed a spending bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) that would level fund most core OAA programs, but that would also eliminate funding for the State Health Insurance Assistance Programs (SHIPs) and drastically reduce funding for senior workforce development and elder justice programs.
In an effort to restore “regular order” to the appropriations process, House leaders bundled the eight remaining bills (out of a total of 12) into an “omnibus” package to advance it on the House floor in the fastest possible way. The omnibus passed on a largely party-line vote over Democratic objection to overall reduced funding for domestic programs and controversial policy riders. The $1.23 trillion package, which now includes all 12 House-passed measures, is now heading to the Senate. The austerity of the omnibus and the policy riders, however, mean the Senate won’t take it up as is.
OAA III B Amendment Success!
Debate over the House FY 2018 omnibus bill was the first time in many years that the Labor-HHS portion of the bill has been discussed on the House floor, which meant that there was an opportunity for Members to offer amendments to the measure. As detailed in our recent Advocacy Alerts, n4a has worked with several key offices to offer amendments to increase funding for core OAA Title III programs to the levels that were agreed to in the 2016 OAA reauthorization.
Both Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Martha McSally (R-AZ) offered amendments to increase funding for Title III programs. Rep. Bonamici’s amendment, which would have increased Title III B, C and E programs by a total of $51 million, failed on a voice vote on Tuesday night.
House floor statements from Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) in support of OAA programs are viewable here: https://youtu.be/GIKlryhpzdE.
However, we are thrilled that today the House agreed by voice vote to adopt the amendment from Rep. McSally to increase Title III B supportive services funding by $14.2 million to authorized amounts. With the exception of a very modest $2.5 million increase for III B services achieved in FY 2017, this is the first significant increase for these programs since they were slashed during sequestration, and it represents a major advocacy win for the Aging Network!
Senate Progress on Older Americans Act Funding
On the other side of the Capitol, Senate appropriators also made progress on their funding proposal for OAA and other aging programs. Last week both the subcommittee and full Appropriations Committee introduced a bill that would entirely flat fund OAA and many other aging programs at FY 2017 levels.
This bill rejects the House-proposed cuts to SHIP, SCSEP and Elder Justice programs, and ultimately would maintain the status quo for aging funding in FY 2018. While flat funding is often felt as a cut for many local agencies, in this very difficult budget environment, the Senate-proposed bill is also a major advocacy win. More details about both the House and the Senate spending bills are available in n4a’s updated Appropriations Chart.
Next Steps for FY 2018 Federal Funding
Whether or not lawmakers will be able to pass a full-year federal funding bill by December 8 depends on if they can reach a bipartisan agreement on overall spending levels. The end of FY 2017 on September 30 is also the end of the current, two-year bipartisan budget agreement that slightly raised budget caps and relieved both the pressure of and threat from sequestration. Because achieving a full-year plan to keep the government running will require support from at least some Senate Democrats, negotiators are discussing—though no public progress has been made on—reaching another bipartisan budget deal to lift current budget caps.
In the meantime, national and local aging advocates must respond to both the House and Senate funding proposals. Ultimately, we want Congress to adopt the Senate-proposed funding levels for SHIP, SCSEP, Elder Justice and several other key line-items that support aging programs. We also want Congress to adopt the House-passed increase for OAA Title III B programs, which is long overdue.
Stay tuned to n4a for updated resources and tools to use to promote both of these messages. We also encourage you to reach out to your Members of Congress now to secure meetings and site visits during the fall when they are back in their Districts and States during recess!