August 24, 2018 Federal Policy Update
Senate Approves Bill Funding Aging Programs
Last night Senators voted 85-7 to pass a massive $857 billion FY 2019 spending package combining funding for the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies. By merging annual defense spending with the majority of domestic discretionary spending, lawmakers passed the historically contentious Labor-HHS spending bill on the floor for the first time in 15 years.
Senate passage of this massive spending proposal means that this chamber has completed consideration for nine of the 12 FY 2019 bills. Leadership commitment to a bipartisan process during Senate appropriations negotiations paved the way for overwhelming approval of the majority of annual discretionary funding, including the measures that fund Older Americans Act and other key aging programs.
On the heels of the significant increases for many OAA and other key aging programs that were secured in FY 2018, Senate appropriators—working from mostly level overall funding—protected and maintained those increases and kept funding for most programs the same in FY 2019 while also rejecting stringent cuts included in the Administration’s FY 2019 budget.
While Senators achieved a feat not seen in years, both House and Senate Members will need to work out differences between the two sets of 12 bills before the October 1 start of the FY 2019 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 updated appropriations chart reflects final Senate Labor-HHS funding levels, with a focus on key programs that serve older Americans and their caregivers.
Level Funding for Most Core OAA Programs
Programs serving older Americans under OAA were primarily level-funded at FY 2018 amounts in the Senate bill, which are detailed in a previous n4a Legislative Update. Most important, the Senate bill soundly rejected the Administration’s proposals to eliminate the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) and OAA Title V senior workforce programs. Additionally, the final Senate bill included a $300,000 addition to OAA Title II funding to implement an Advisory Council to Support Grandparents Raising Grandchildren.
Senators preserved committee-endorsed funding levels for most other OAA programs, including OAA Title III B Home and Community-Based Supportive Services ($385 million), Title III C Nutrition Services ($490 million for C1 Congregate Meals and $246 million for Home-Delivered Meals), Title V Senior Community Service Employment Program ($400 million) and Title VII Ombudsman Programs. Senators boosted Title III E National Family Caregiver Support Program ($180 million) 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.
The Senate proposed funding Title VI Native America aging programs at FY 2018 levels. That means there is opportunity for n4a and other Title VI stakeholders to advocate for a final funding bill that includes the House-proposed boosts, which represent a nearly 8 percent growth in total Title VI funding over the last fiscal year.
Senators also largely level-funded other critical state and community block grant programs, which supplement and support the work of the Aging Network. Despite the Administration’s request to abolish the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) ($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 vital programs. Senators 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 provided 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 Senate is efficiently moving through the FY 2019 appropriations process and has nearly completed the full slate of spending bills, the House has some catching up to do. Given the limited number of legislative days left in the current fiscal year and some pending issues that are politically contentious, there is a strong possibility that Congress will need to pass a CR in late September to keep funding flowing until after the November election. Moving forward, n4a will encourage lawmakers to adopt final funding levels that reflect the important and much-needed increases for OAA Title VI aging programs, including in the House bill and other key services and supports for older adults that the Senate boosted. n4a will release additional advocacy details in the coming weeks.
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 (firstname.lastname@example.org) and Autumn Campbell (email@example.com), 202.872.0888.