n4a Legislative Update - July 24, 2019

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Two-Year Budget Deal Poised for Approval
Bipartisan Agreement Would Lift Budget Caps Through FY 2021

On the cusp of the upcoming congressional August recess, this week President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced an outline for a two-year agreement that would lift budget caps for discretionary programs and mitigate the threat of another round of sequestration cuts. The measure would also suspend the federal debt limit through July 2021, which removes the issue of the debt limit and defaulting on the federal debt until after the 2020 election.

The 2019 Bipartisan Budget Agreement for FY 2020 and FY 2021 would increase overall budget caps for non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs by $88 billion in FY 2020 to $621.5 billion, which is approximately a 16 percent boost from the budget limits established in the 2011 Budget Control Act (BCA) and a $34 billion (5.6 percent) increase over FY 2019 funding. In FY 2021, the NDD funding cap would be $626.5 billion. The draft agreement would also increase funding for defense discretionary spending and includes one-time funding of $2.5 billion for the 2020 Census.

The bipartisan deal would be the latest in a series of two-year deals to lift the BCA’s too-stringent caps on discretionary programs. While previous budget agreements have included “policy riders” (legislative language unrelated to budget levels) and other must-pass bills, the current draft is limited to increasing the budget caps and suspending the debt limit.

What Does a Deal Mean for Aging and Health Programs?

Assuming this bipartisan deal passes both chambers and is signed into law—which is likely but never certain these days—congressional appropriators would have until September 30 to negotiate the details of their FY 2020 spending bills.

While it is good news that the agreement boosts overall caps for NDD funding, we don’t yet have specific details on what this would mean for individual agencies and line-items such as OAA and other aging programs.

The good news is that the House approved their funding proposals earlier this summer for the spectrum of discretionary programs supporting older adults and caregivers. The appropriations bills that passed the House include a number of important funding increases for OAA and other aging programs, which puts advocates in a good position to encourage the Senate to adopt the House-passed funding levels. The Senate has not yet produced its spending bills, instead choosing to wait until an overall budget deal is passed. Given the timing, the Senate is likely to start working directly with the House to negotiate the final appropriations measures.

Next Steps for Aging Advocates

If this 2019 Bipartisan Budget Agreement is approved, advocates should once again weigh in with their lawmakers—particularly in the Senate—to encourage adopting House-approved funding increases for aging and other NDD programs in FY 2020. Aging advocates must continue the drumbeat to increase funding for OAA Title III B Supportive Services, III E Family Caregiver Support and Title VI Native American aging programs; to protect SHIP funding, which was had been threatened in recent years; and to increase funding for all Older Americans Act programs and other essential aging and health care services. For more information and resources to assist you in your appropriations advocacy, check out n4a’s FY 2020 Appropriations Campaign page.

Stay tuned to n4a’s Legislative Updates and Answers on Aging weekly member newsletter as this bipartisan budget agreement moves forward, and watch for additional Advocacy Alerts with messaging for your Members of Congress about appropriations priorities as lawmakers finalize FY 2020 spending bills!

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