March 11, 2019 Federal Policy Update



n4a’s Analysis of the President’s FY 2020 Budget Preview

Today, President Trump sent preliminary details to Congress of his Administration’s FY 2020 budget, which would dramatically alter the course of federal investment in both defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs. The $4.7 trillion request to lawmakers and federal agencies is the third iteration of the Trump Administration’s funding priorities, which include deep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, significant increases for defense spending and major funding rescissions for many mandatory line items.
 
This winter’s partial government shutdown included the federal government’s primary budgeting agency, causing the Administration’s budget request to Congress to be delayed by more than a month. Overall, the budget proposes to cut mandatory and discretionary spending by $2.7 trillion over 10 years.
 
The measure would dismiss past bipartisan agreements that have ensured parity between defense and non-defense discretionary spending decisions. The President’s budget proposes $750 billion for discretionary defense spending, reflecting a five percent increase over FY 2019 outlays. For non-defense discretionary programs, the Administration seeks an across-the-board funding cut that would be five percent below the $597 billion appropriated for NDD outlays last year. However, many individual programs would see much more significant cuts due to the President’s inclusion of a nearly $9 billion request for border wall spending and other new funding priorities.
 
The Trump Administration also proposed deep cuts to Medicaid—in the form of state flexibility to enact block grants and per capita caps—as well as cuts to Medicare, SNAP and disability programs and would continue to roll back the Affordable Care Act.
 
The overview released today contains preliminary details about the President’s priorities for federal investments, but we expect to see specifics next week about legislative and programmatic priorities. The proposals included in the FY 2020 budget request echo many of the Administration’s past funding and policy priorities, and we can share the Administration’s proposals for many programs—including for Older Americans Act and other aging programs within the Administration for Community Living (ACL) and Administration on Aging (AoA).
 
What We Know—and Don’t Know—About Older Americans Act (OAA) and Other Aging Programs
 
President Trump proposed funding the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which houses the Administration for Community Living and its Administration on Aging, at $87.1 billion. This reflects a deep 12 percent cut from current funding. A significant portion of the overall decrease comes from a roughly $5 billion cut to the National Institutes of Health and from the elimination of critical block grant programs.
 
The budget released today does not contain the granular detail traditionally shared upon the budget’s release, but we expect that the full justification for the funding request for the ACL and AoA to be released next week. Those nuances may shed further light on the Administration’s thinking and additional details on its plans. For now, the budget in its current form gives us broad parameters.
 
The request would fund the Administration for Community Living at $2 billion, which is slightly below FY 2019 enacted funding. Core Older Americans Act (OAA) programs, Title III B Supportive Services and Title III C Nutrition Services were flat-funded, preserving recent appropriations increases. However, the funding request for Title III E Family Caregiver Support Services was rolled back by $30 million (17 percent) to $151 million. This level would eliminate recent funding increases for critical caregiver support programs.
 
While the budget does not repeat previous Trump Administration proposals to eliminate the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), it does include a $13 million (25 percent) cut to the only federally funded, unbiased resource for Medicare counseling, which is largely administered through Area Agencies on Aging. This will be an ongoing challenge for advocates as we continue to fight for adequate SHIP funding. The Administration also proposed cutting funding for Aging and Disability Resource Centers, the Elder Justice Initiative and significant cuts to several ACL disability programs.
 
President Trump’s budget includes a proposal that would eliminate many of the Department of Labor’s workforce development programs, including the OAA Title V Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP).
 
Other Key Programs Slated for Steep Cuts and Elimination
 
In addition to SCSEP, other programs on the chopping block that could affect services and support for older adults include the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides financial assistance for utility bills; the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which provide wrap-around services for older adults in many communities.
 
The budget would eliminate funding within the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), cutting CDBG funding to states that use it for a variety of programs, including a small amount that a few states and communities direct toward shoring up senior nutrition programs such as home-delivered meals. We don’t yet have full details about other HUD-funded programs, but we can share that the request would cut funding for Section 202 Senior Housing by $34 million (five percent) and would increase rents for HUD-assisted households, including those benefiting older adults. Overall, the budget requests $44.1 billion for Housing programs, which is a nearly 17 percent decrease over FY 2019 spending.
 
ACL Again Proposes Expanding OAA Funding Flexibility for States
 
The Administration repeated a proposal first introduced in last year’s budget to “maximize funding flexibility for Older American [sic] Act funding…[to] allow states to direct funding to activities that are most needed in their communities.” This request mirrors a concerning proposal that was included in the FY 2019 budget justification that would allow states to disregard provisions in the Older Americans Act Reauthorization of 2016 (P.L. 114-144) that limit the transfer authority between OAA Title III programs. While we haven’t yet seen details on the Administration’s FY 2020 proposal, we expect it would again permit states to override the appropriations decisions reached by Congress by enabling states to move “nearly all” of the funding for OAA Title III programs and services between subtitles as they see fit—without local input. n4a sent a letter to Congress opposing this request in the FY 2019 budget and will likely take action again this year.
 
What’s Next For Budget and Appropriations
 
It is important to remember that the President’s budget is a messaging document from the Administration. Presidents of either party rarely see many of their budget proposals enacted into law. Congressional appropriators will ultimately make funding decisions for most federal discretionary programs, and major changes to mandatory spending require a hefty legislative lift. However, n4a remains concerned by the overall tone the Administration’s budget sets for essential non-defense discretionary spending trends.
 
At this point, the President’s recommendations can be used effectively by advocates as we begin our FY 2020 appropriations campaign and continue our fight to stop sequestration and/or deeper NDD cuts. Stay tuned for n4a’s FY 2020 appropriations campaign resources. In the coming weeks n4a will send a letter to Congress outlining many of the specific funding requests that were included in our 2019 Policy Priorities released last week. We will also release resources for advocates in the very near future, so stay tuned for what you can do to push for maximum funding for Older Americans Act and other vital discretionary programs.
 
Additionally, because the current budget agreement setting overall spending levels expires at the end of September 2019, we will also need to advocate for another bipartisan budget agreement to prevent deep cuts to critical domestic discretionary programs, including aging services.
 
Stay tuned for more updates from n4a!

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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 (agotwals@n4a.org) and Autumn Campbell (acampbell@n4a.org), 202.872.0888.

View this Legislative Update as a PDF.