September 17, 2018 Federal Policy Update
Congress Announces Funding Compromise for Aging Programs
Key Boosts and Level Funding for Many OAA Programs
In a dash to meet a commonly missed end-of-September deadline to finalize FY 2019 federal funding proposals, House and Senate appropriators made unusual and surprising progress last week when they announced a bipartisan, bicameral compromise bill to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS). Following Senate passage of their measure this summer, and earlier approval by the House Appropriations Committee of their bill, this conferenced bill represents great progress for Congress in advancing a final Labor-HHS bill before the start of a new fiscal year, as that measure in particular is frequently one of the last bills up for consideration and hasn’t been finalized in time for many years.
This funding compromise, which includes $178 billion for Labor-HHS programs which cover the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and the Administration on Aging (AoA), and nearly $675 billion for the Department of Defense, comprises the bulk of FY 2019 federal discretionary funding. The two bills were intentionally paired to ensure bipartisan support for passage. The Senate is expected to take up the measure next week, but the path forward in the House is slightly less clear due to objections from fiscal conservatives who are balking at the bill’s $850 billion price tag.
To attract additional support on a tight timeline, appropriators also attached a provision to the measure that would continue current funding for discretionary programs that have yet to receive congressional approval, thus dodging the threat of a partial government shutdown ahead of the November elections. The White House reaction to this spending strategy remains uncertain. However, legislative negotiators hope to avoid a veto by including military spending in with the bulk of funding for other federal programs.
On the heels of the significant increases for many Older Americans Act (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 those increases, found room for a few additional boosts to OAA programs and funded several new aging services initiatives. Both House and Senate committees also rejected the stringent cuts included in the Administration’s FY 2019 budget.
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; Increases For Meals
Administration for Community Living (ACL), HHS
Programs serving older Americans under OAA were primarily level-funded at FY 2018 amounts in the agreement reached by the House and the Senate. Overall, House appropriators allocated $2.2 billion to aging and disability programs within ACL, which is $25 million more than last year and a significant $350 million more than the President’s budget request. This funding increase includes increases for OAA Title VI Native American aging programs, OAA meals programs and $6 million for new programs and initiatives. Fortunately, the conference bill rejects 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 a challenging budget environment, 2018 increases were preserved for OAA Title III-B Home and Community-Based Supportive Services ($385 million). The OAA Title III-C Nutrition Services received a total increase of $10 million, which was split evenly between Title III-C1 Congregate Meals ($495 million) and Title III-C2 Home-Delivered Meals ($251) million. Appropriators funded an additional $600,000 in the Title III-E National Family Caregiver Support Program to provide funding to ACL to implement the Recognize, Assist, Include, Support and Engage (RAISE) Family Caregivers Act and the Supporting Grandparents Raising Grandchildren Act, both which were signed into law earlier this year.
Additional OAA and Aging Programs
Native American Nutrition, Supportive Services and Caregiver Support
One of n4a’s top appropriations priorities, Title VI Native American aging programs received a $1.5 million increase in the House, which reflects the fourth consecutive year that House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK) has championed a funding boost for these critical yet underfunded programs. Chairman Cole funded OAA Title VI nutrition and supportive services programs at $34.2 million and caregiver services at $10.1 million. These increases would represent a roughly four-percent growth in total Title VI funding over last year.
Elder Justice and Adult Protective Services
The compromise measure provided level funding for OAA Title VII Long-Term Care Ombudsman and Prevention of Elder Abuse and Neglect programs ($21 million) and Elder Rights Support Activities, including the Elder Justice Initiative ($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 increased to $8.1 million for FY 2018. 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)
For the first time in several years, lawmakers maintained funding for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program, at the $49.1 million FY 2018 level. The SHIP program has been repeatedly targeted for cuts or elimination in budget proposals from Congress and the Administration for the last several years. This year, however, appropriators rejected the Administration’s argument that SHIPs duplicate other federal resources such as 1-800-MEDICARE. Unfortunately, House and Senate lawmakers still failed to fully make up for the FY 2017 $5 million cut to the program, 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). SCSEP was level-funded in the final bill ($400 million), and Senior Corps programs received a $6 million boost ($208 million), which is the first increase for these programs in many years.
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 proposed 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, appropriators adopted a Senate-proposed $50-million boost for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which assists low-income households and families, including a number of older adults, with heating and energy bills throughout the year.
What Happens Next?
With only a few legislative days until the end of the fiscal year, we will soon know whether the strategy combining Defense and the bulk of Non-Defense Discretionary spending is successful. We will release additional advocacy messages as both chambers consider the compromise funding proposal. Time is short, but lawmakers have a real chance at making considerable progress on FY 2019 funding before the fiscal year begins.
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.