House and Senate Release Final FY 2016 Funding Bill
Few Increases for OAA Programs But No Cuts
December 16, 2015
In the early hours of this morning, House and Senate leaders released details of the negotiated final FY 2016 federal spending bill. The $1.15 trillion spending package, once passed in the next few days by Congress and signed into law, would ensure consistent funding flowing to federal discretionary programs for the rest of this fiscal year and marks the end of the FY 2016 budget process.
The measure rolls all 12 appropriations bills into one massive spending package, which is why it is called an omnibus. The compromise includes FY 2016 discretionary funding levels for the often-contentious Labor, Health and Human Services and Education (Labor/HHS), which funds the bulk of federal workforce, education, health and social services programs—including the Older Americans Act and other aging programs.
The spending bill is a direct result of the bipartisan budget negotiations that took place in the fall, which raised overall funding levels for discretionary programs for FY16 and FY17 by $80 billion. With the top-line funding levels established in October, lawmakers have spent the past few months hammering out funding levels for the thousands of individual programs on the federal discretionary ledger, while also negotiating contentious policy issues that are attached to the spending measure as “riders.” More details about the fall budget agreement are available in our October 28 Legislative Update.
The spending bill, which still must pass the House and Senate and be signed into law by President Obama, does contain some good news for aging advocates, although it’s certainly not all we wanted: most OAA programs included some much-needed funding increases or were level funded at FY15 amounts. See n4a’s appropriations chart and read on for more details.
Funding for OAA and Other Key Aging Programs
The fact that any OAA increases are in this final bill is in itself a victory because, as we reported this summer, both the House and the Senate proposed sweeping cuts to Labor/HHS programs overall and further squeezed funding available for these programs by proposing huge increases for NIH and CDC, including major new investments in Alzheimer’s research. While the October budget deal gave appropriators more dollars to work with, the percentage increase for Labor/HHS’s piece of the pie was far lower than the overall increase, even with the continued interest of lawmakers in boosting NIH and CDC funding.
The largest increase in terms of dollars for OAA programs is the $20 million (3 percent) boost to Title III C nutrition programs, split roughly evenly between the C1 Congregate and C2 Home-Delivered subtitles.
Appropriators also included a $5 million (3.4 percent) increase for Title III E Family Caregiver Support, as well as a $1 million (42 percent) increase for the non-OAA Lifespan Respite program, also administered by the Administration for Community Living (ACL).
One of n4a’s perennial top priorities is to boost funding for the Title VI Native American aging programs, therefore, we are thrilled to report that thanks to the leadership of House Labor/HHS Chairman Tom Cole (R-OK), these much-needed, long-overdue increases were included in the final bill. Specifically, Title VI Part A (nutrition and other aging services) will increase by $5 million (19 percent) and Part C (caregiver supports) will increase $1.5 million (25 percent)!
In a big win for the elder justice efforts at ACL, appropriators boosted funding for Adult Protective Services (APS) by $4 million, doubling the current level of federal investment in these vital elder abuse prevention and remediation activities. As you may recall, the Elder Justice Initiative made a repeat appearance in the President’s budget this year, proposing federal support of APS to the tune of $25 million. In FY 2015, advocates secured first-time funding from Congress for Elder Justice Act–related activities included under this request, but that appropriation only totaled $4 million. With $8 million in FY 2016, it will be exciting to see the work advance in a larger way than has previously been possible.
One surprising victory in the bill is the boosting of the Community Services Block Grant(CSBG), which received a $41 million increase for a final funding level of $715 million.
Unfortunately, this trend of increases did not carry across all the vital OAA core programs.Title III B Supportive Services and Title VII Ombudsman programs were both level funded, as was the Title V Senior Community Service Employment Program.
In the “level funding is a victory” category, n4a is especially pleased that lawmakers rejected the massive Senate-proposed cut to the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), and level funded SHIP activities at $54.1 million.
Also of note in the level-funded category, the evidence-based programs focused on Chronic Disease Self-Management ($8 million) and falls prevention ($5 million) will continue to be funded at last year’s level under the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF). The PPHF is an ACA fund which has provided a major new source of mandatory funding for activities devoted to boosting public health and using proven prevention strategies to reduce Americans’ rates of illness and disability. What is unique about the PPHF, however, is that while the funding is set statutorily by ACA, the determination on which programs it will be spent on in any given year is up to Congress. So appropriators don’t have to “find” the money, but they do get to divvy it up, which is slightly different than regular appropriations. It should be noted, however, that n4a has reported on the proposed elimination of the PPHF via the reconciliation bill moving through Congress—as we expect the President to veto that measure, we believe these PPHF funding levels will proceed as directed this year.
Unfortunately, the bill failed to provide additional funding for Aging and Disability Resource Center (ADRC) activities beyond last year’s $6.1 million, to fill the $10 million shortfall after mandatory program dollars included in the Affordable Care Act expired in September 2014.
Level funding was also included for other HHS programs such as the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) at $1.7 billion, Senior Corps at $202 million and Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) at $3.39 billion.
While we are happy to see critical increases included for some of the most important core OAA programs (and no cuts!), we must keep up the drumbeat about the need for funding increases for OAA into 2017. These funding levels still are not adequate to either meet the need or make up for federal and state funding cuts over the last several years, and we will stay heavily focused on that message when the FY 2017 budget process begins in just a few short months.
Lawmakers will have to pass another short-term funding bill to keep the government running beyond tonight while the omnibus makes it through the legislative process. Both chambers are expected to move to vote on this measure this week, with the House expected to pass it easily by Friday and the Senate possibly following suit. However, the Senate passage could be complicated by debates over the bill’s riders or the tax break legislation that is moving hand-in-hand with the spending bill, so it could be a long weekend for the Senate. But ultimately, we expect the President to receive the legislation early next week and the White House had indicated he will sign the measure.
This Legislative 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.