July 30, 2018 Federal Policy Update
ANNUAL CONFERENCE EDITION
Aging Program Funding, Money Follows the Person Reauthorization Slated for Fall
The pace of substantive congressional activity has significantly slowed in the run-up to the November elections as lawmakers of both parties avoid politically precarious votes before constituents cast their ballots. The calm accompanying this legislative eddy means that aging advocates have some time to regroup and develop strategies and priorities for advocacy calls to action this fall!
Finalizing FY 2019 federal funding for Older Americans Act and other aging programs; advancing the bipartisan Money Follows the Person Reauthorization; and preliminary discussion about OAA reauthorization and Member education will all likely be on the legislative docket for aging advocates in autumn. This special edition n4a Legislative Update includes the latest news from Washington about these key issues and an outlook for aging advocacy in the final months of the 115th Congress.
Funding Status of Federal Aging Programs
The February 2018 Bipartisan Budget Act established overall FY 2018 and FY 2019 funding levels for federal defense and non-defense discretionary programs, temporarily capping off a contentious debate about overall government spending. Subsequently in March, both chambers approved, and the President signed into law, the FY 2018 omnibus spending package that included significant boosts to funding for many OAA and other aging programs.
After nearly six months of delay and uncertainty on FY 2018, Congress wasted no time turning to FY 2019 spending bills this spring. Both the House and the Senate have hustled most of the twelve funding bills through both the subcommittees of jurisdiction and the full Appropriations Committees, including the reliably contentious Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) bill that allocates the bulk of funding for OAA and other critical aging programs.
This rapid progress, however, is likely to come to a halt as the November election approaches— especially for the most politically challenging measures, such as the Labor-HHS bill—as Members in both chambers predictably retreat from major policy decisions until after the midterm election. We have heard, however, that the Senate may try to move a combined Defense and Labor-HHS funding bill in the next few weeks. Given that the House will be in their districts most of August, at this point most legislative trackers in Washington are expecting at least one late-September continuing resolution (CR) to keep funding flowing through Election Day.
Level Funding for Most OAA and Other Aging Programs
On the heels of the significant FY 2018 increases for many OAA and other key aging programs, House and Senate appropriators—working from mostly level overall funding—protected and maintained those increases and held funding steady in FY 2019 (a detailed update is available in n4a’s July 11 Legislative Update). Both House and Senate committees also rejected the stringent cuts included in the Administration’s FY 2019 budget. n4a will continue to update Aging Network stakeholders about key opportunities to advocate for OAA funding and to encourage lawmakers to adopt proposed increases as FY 2019 appropriations bills move forward.
Administration for Community Living (ACL), HHS
Programs serving older Americans under OAA were largely level-funded 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, the Senate’s ACL allocations are slightly lower than the House. In the House, lawmakers again boosted OAA Title VI Native American aging programs by $3 million (8 percent) next year—a major n4a priority!
In what can be considered a win for advocates in this incredibly difficult political environment, all OAA Title III programs received at least level funding (details are included on the appropriations chart on the last page of this Update). Senate lawmakers are on track, however, to boost 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.
Other Vital OAA and Aging Programs
We were thrilled that for the first time in years, both House and Senate bills rejected previous attempts from Congress and the Administration to roll back the national State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and OAA Title V senior workforce development programs. Level funding in FY 2019 was the name of the game in both the House and the Senate, including for Elder Justice and Adult Protective Services, Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs), Senior Corps and other important block grant programs, such as the Social Services Block Grant, Community Services Block Grant, Community Development Block Grant and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (which actually received a small percentage increase in the Senate Labor-HHS bill).
Money Follows the Person (MFP) Program Advocacy Needed
Earlier this year, a bipartisan group of House and Senate Members introduced a bill that would extend MFP funding for five years. In both chambers, the Ensuring Medicaid Provides Opportunities for Widespread Equity, Resources and Care Act, or EMPOWER Care Act (S. 2227 and H.R. 5306) provides funding for MFP through 2022 and would make improvements to the program, including allowing beneficiaries living in institutional facilitates to access the MFP benefit sooner than they are currently allowed.
Not only does the MFP program increase the independence of older adults and people with disabilities, it has also helped states improve access to home and community-based services (HCBS). When people have access to less-expensive HCBS instead of institutional services, both state and federal governments save money. In fact, independent evaluations have proven that MFP improves the quality of life for individuals, and has reduced Medicaid and Medicare expenditures for participants by nearly a quarter. n4a and other national advocacy organizations are still working to ensure that Congress understands the importance of continuing this valuable program that improves lives and saves money and to take advantage of possible opportunities to advance the EMPOWER Care Act in the House and Senate this fall. It is crucial that MFP reauthorization move this fall, as funding in many states is dwindling or gone.
Currently the Senate bill has three Democratic and one Republican co-sponsors. The House bill has 15 Democratic and 10 Republican co-sponsors. Leaders on both sides of the Hill are still seeking assistance to encourage more co-sponsors for each bill—especially Republican co-sponsors—so please continue to encourage your elected officials to consider supporting the Money Follows the Person program by signing on as a co-sponsor. Stay tuned for additional calls to action later this summer and fall!
Older Americans Act Reauthorization on Tap!
The law authorizing Older Americans Act (OAA) programs will expire September 30, 2019. This fall and into the new Congress, n4a will develop priorities and advocacy strategies to advance 2019 OAA reauthorization and inform congressional decision-makers. n4a has also assumed a leading role in facilitating discussions to develop consensus recommendations from the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations, which reflects membership of over 70 national aging organizations.
But we can’t do this effectively without your help! To ensure that n4a advances reauthorization priorities that reflect the challenges and opportunities that our members are facing, we ask that directors or a designee complete our survey by Friday, August 10. To sweeten the deal, all agencies that complete the survey by this Wednesday, August 1 will be entered to win a free registration to the n4a Aging Policy Briefing in Washington, DC, March 5-6, 2019. Find the survey online at www.n4a.org/OAAsurvey.
This Legislative Update is an n4a membership benefit for AAAs and Title VIs.. 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.