July 11, 2018 Federal Policy Update
House and Senate Largely
Level-Fund Aging Programs
The House and Senate Appropriations Committees are nearly finished considering their respective FY 2019 federal funding bills, including the measures that fund Older Americans Act and other key aging programs. Following the usual pattern, lawmakers in both chambers considered the $167+ billion Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) measure last among the 12 discretionary appropriations bills moving through committees.
On the heels of the significant increases for many OAA and other key aging programs that were secured in FY 2018, House and Senate Labor-HHS appropriators—working from mostly level overall funding—protected and maintained those increases and kept most programs’ funding the same in FY 2019. Both House and Senate committees also rejected the stringent cuts included in the Administration’s FY 2019 budget.
House lawmakers were first out of the gate with their Labor-HHS bill, which was considered by the subcommittee with jurisdiction over these programs in mid-June. The full House Appropriations Committee is expected to consider the bill later this week. In the Senate, both the Appropriations Labor-HHS Subcommittee and full Committee approved the bipartisan proposal in late June, which is now slated for full Senate consideration in the coming weeks. Both chambers are, as of right now, on track to pass their respective appropriations bills this summer, a feat not seen in years. However, Congress will need to work out differences between the two sets of 12 bills before the October 1 start of the fiscal year—or pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR) until it does so. Given that tight timing and the distraction of the mid-term elections, we predict at least one CR come October.
The following analysis and accompanying appropriations chart of the House and Senate Labor-HHS bills focus on key programs that serve older Americans and their caregivers.
Level Funding for Most Core OAA Programs
Administration for Community Living (ACL), HHS
Programs serving older Americans under OAA were primarily level-funded at FY 2018 amounts in both the House and Senate bills. Overall, House appropriators allocated $2.18 billion to aging and disability programs within ACL, which is $37 million more than last year and a significant $363 million more than the President’s budget request. At $2.177 billion, Senate ACL allocations are slightly lower than the House. However, other than another boost for OAA Title VI Native American aging programs, most of the House increases are due to shifting funding sources from mandatory to discretionary, resulting in no actual funding increase, or they are allotted to disability programs. Both House and Senate bills reject the Administration’s proposals to eliminate the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and OAA Title V senior workforce programs.
Older Americans Act Title III Programs
In what can be considered a win for advocates in this incredibly difficult political environment, the following programs received level funding: OAA Title III B Home and Community-Based Supportive Services ($385 million), III C Nutrition Services ($490 million for C1 Congregate Meals and $246 million for Home-Delivered Meals), and III E National Family Caregiver Support Program ($180 million). The Senate lawmakers boosted Title III E by $300,000 to provide funding to ACL to implement the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support, and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act, which was signed into law earlier this year.
Additional OAA and Aging Programs
Native American Nutrition, Supportive Services and Caregiver Support
Title VI Native American aging programs received a $3 million increase in the House, which reflects the fourth consecutive year that House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) has boosted funding for these critical yet underfunded programs. Chairman Cole funded OAA Title VI nutrition and supportive services programs at $35.2 million and caregiver services at $10.5 million. These increases would represent a nearly 8 percent growth in total Title VI funding over last year. The Senate proposed funding Title VI programs at FY 2018 levels, so there is opportunity for n4a and other Title VI stakeholders to advocate for a final funding bill that includes the House-proposed boosts.
Elder Justice and Adult Protective Services
The House and Senate level funded OAA Title VII Long-Term Care Ombudsman and Prevention of Elder Abuse and Neglect programs ($21 million). Additionally, both chambers slated Elder Rights Support Activities, including the Elder Justice Initiative, for funding equal to FY 2018 ($15.8 million total, which includes $12 million for the EJI).
Aging and Disability Resource Centers
Funding for Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) was also funded at the increased FY 2018 $8.1 million. Since $10 million in annual mandatory funding for ADRCs expired in September 2014, advocates and Administration officials have been unable to fill that gap with additional discretionary (annually appropriated) or restored mandatory funding, although the $2 million bump-up in FY 2018 was a strong step in the right direction.
State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP)
n4a was thrilled to see that for the first time in several years, neither chamber proposed a cut to the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, instead both funding it at the $49.1 million FY 2018 level. The SHIP program has been repeatedly targeted for cuts or elimination in both Congressional and Administrative budget proposals for the last several years. However, in FY 2019, both the House and Senate avoided cutting the program and rejected the Administration’s argument that SHIPs duplicate other federal resources such as 1-800-MEDICARE. Unfortunately, House and Senate lawmakers failed to fully make up for the $5 million cut to the program in FY 2017, restoring only $2 million in FY 2018. Aging advocates must continue to educate policymakers about the important role that these individualized, cost-effective, person-centered, volunteer-driven counseling services provide in every state.
SCSEP, Senior Corps
Lawmakers also rejected the President’s proposal to eliminate the OAA Title V Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), administered by the Department of Labor (DOL), and the Senior Corps programs (RSVP, Foster Grandparents, and Senior Companion) under the Corporation for National Community Service (CNCS). Both programs were funded at FY 2018 amounts in the House and Senate FY 2019 funding bills.
Appropriators again spared other critical state and community block grant programs, which supplement and support the work of the Aging Network, from elimination. Despite the Administration’s request to abolish the Community Services Block Grant ($715 million), the Social Services Block Grant ($1.7 billion) and the Community Development Block Grant ($3.3 billion million), lawmakers preserved funding for each of these programs. Senate appropriators even approved a $10 million boost for CSBG, recommending a $725 million allocation. To varying degrees, all of these programs fund state and local community and economic development efforts that provide key services to older adults. Additionally, at $3.69 billion, the Senate proposed a $50 million boost for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which assists low-income households and families, including number of older adults, with heating and energy bills throughout the year. The House included flat funding for LIHEAP at $3.64 billion.
What Happens Next?
While the House and Senate are efficiently moving through the FY 2019 appropriations process so far, there is a possibility that these negotiations could stall in the near future as the election approaches. A late-September continuing resolution (CR) to keep funding flowing until after ballots are cast remains likely. At this point, Aging Network advocates should be focused on thanking their Members of Congress for protecting last year’s significant increases for OAA and other aging programs in FY 2019 funding bills. Additionally, we will encourage lawmakers to adopt final funding levels that reflect the important and much-needed increases for OAA Title VI aging programs and other key services and supports for older adults. n4a will release additional advocacy details once the full chambers take up their respective spending bills.
ThisLegislative Update is an n4a membership benefit. For more information about these and other federal aging policy issues, please contact n4a’s policy team: Amy Gotwals (email@example.com) and Autumn Campbell (firstname.lastname@example.org), 202.872.0888.