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Blunt Highlights Critical Investments in FY2021 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Funding Bill

December 21, 2020

WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), today announced key priorities that were included in the fiscal year 2021 Labor/HHS funding bill. The bill is the product of bipartisan, bicameral negotiations and is part of the larger government funding bill Congress will consider shortly.

“This bill provides resources for critical programs that impact the lives of nearly every American – from educating students and providing workforce development opportunities to improving health care and paving the way for new treatments and cures,” said Blunt. “This bill includes the sixth consecutive significant increase for the National Institutes of Health. As we have seen first-hand this year, medical research is key to responding to diseases we have fought for years, like cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, as well as novel viruses like COVID-19. The bill continues our commitment to fighting the opioid and stimulant epidemic, which is unfortunately on the rise during the pandemic. The bill provides funding for education and early childhood programs, from helping hardworking families afford high-quality early childcare, to investing in Career and Technical Education, to making college more affordable. Finally, as our economy continues its recovery, the bill focuses investment in workforce programs, like the apprenticeship program, to ensure Americans can compete in a global economy.”

In addition to funding a range of health, education, and workforce programs, the bill includes resources to prevent waste, fraud, abuse, and improper payments in the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs. Since becoming chairman, over the last six years Blunt has led the effort to reprioritize funding within the Labor/HHS bill, including eliminating 30 programs representing over $1 billion in annual savings.

Key Priorities Funded in the Bill:

Supporting Groundbreaking Medical Research and Expanding Access to Health Care Services, Including Mental and Behavioral Health Care:

      National Institutes of Health (NIH): The bill includes a $1.25 billion increase for NIH. Since Blunt became chairman of the Labor/HHS subcommittee in 2015, NIH funding has increased by $12.85 billion, or nearly 43%. According to data from United for Medical Research, NIH funding supported nearly 476,000 jobs and more than $81 billion in economic activity nationwide in FY2019. In Missouri, NIH funding supported $1.6 billion in new economic activity and more than 9,000 jobs. Through December 1, 2020, Missouri institutions received $670.8 million in NIH funding for 1,351 grants. From 2015-December 1, 2020, NIH funding to Missouri institutions increased by $199.2 million or 42.2%.

      Ending the HIV Epidemic: $443.3 million, an increase of $132.3 million, to support the president’s HIV initiative and other high priority HIV efforts to reduce the number of new HIV infections by 90% in 10 years. The majority of these resources will be targeted to 48 counties and seven states, including Missouri, for prevention, diagnoses, research, and response activities. Missouri received over $4.5 million in fiscal year 2020 for these efforts.

      Opioid Epidemic: $4 billion, an increase of $85 million, to combat the opioid epidemic. Funds are targeted toward improving treatment and prevention efforts; finding alternative pain medications; workforce needs, especially in our rural communities; and treating behavioral health. Importantly, the bill gives states flexibility to use opioid response funds on stimulants across multiple government programs. Preliminary 2020 numbers show that the challenges of this year are likely to increase the number of opioid-involved deaths, emphasizing the need to continue these critical investments. Under Blunt’s leadership, funding for health-related opioid programs has increased by $3.7 billion.

      Mental Health: As a critical part of both combating opioid abuse and ensuring safety in our schools and communities, the bill provides $4 billion, a $188 million increase, for mental health research, treatment, and prevention, including:

o   Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics: $250 million, an increase of $50 million, for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. In 2018, Blunt targeted funding to community clinics that provide a comprehensive approach to mental health care treatment. To date, Missouri clinics have received $26 million in funds from this program. Blunt has led efforts to expand access to mental health care, including through his Excellence In Mental Health Act, which created a pilot program in Missouri and seven other states to advance progress toward treating mental health like all other health. The bill also extends the Excellence program for three years. The program was extended and expanded to two additional states in the Blunt-backed CARES Act;

o   Mental Health Block Grant Crisis Set-Aside: $35 million for a new mental health block grant set-aside which will support state efforts to build much needed crisis systems to address the needs of individuals in mental health crisis in a high quality, expeditious manner. The development of these services will promote 24/7 access to well-trained mental health professionals in the time of acute mental health crisis;

o   Project AWARE: $107 million, a $5 million increase, for the Project AWARE program that supports coordination between schools and state mental health agencies to increase awareness of mental health among school-aged kids, train school personnel on detecting and responding to mental health issues, and connect school-aged kids and their families with needed services. Within this funding, the bill provides $12.5 million, an increase of $2.5 million, to address areas that have experienced civil unrest;

o   Mental Health Awareness Training: $24 million, an increase of $1 million, for Mental Health Awareness Training in which Missouri was one of the first adopters;

o   Suicide Programs: $102 million, an increase of $12 million. This increase provides support to the suicide lifeline and grants to help identify and help those at risk of suicide;

o   Behavioral Health Workforce: $150 million, an increase of $11 million, to support Behavioral Health Education and Workforce Training programs and Mental and Behavioral Health programs. Funding includes $29.7 million for the Mental and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Workforce Training Demonstration for grants to train professionals to provide SUD and mental health treatment;

o   Pediatric Mental Health Access Grants: $10 million for Pediatric Mental Health Access Grants to expand access to behavioral health services in pediatric primary care settings; and

o   National Institute of Mental Health: $2.1 billion for mental health research at NIH, an increase of $60.7 million.

      Public Health Preparedness: $4.1 billion, a $58 million increase, for programs that help America’s communities and hospitals prepare for, respond to, and recover from public health and medical disasters and emergencies. These events include natural disasters, pandemic diseases, and man-made threats. This includes $6 million to support the pediatric pandemic network to prepare for and respond to global health threats. Since FY2015, the committee has increased public health preparedness funding by $1.3 billion, or 46%.

      Alzheimer’s Research and Care: The bill increases investments in groundbreaking Alzheimer’s research and caregiver support for one of America’s most costly and prevalent diseases. The cost of caring for people with Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia is expected to increase from $305 billion this year to $1.1 trillion by 2050, with Medicare and Medicaid paying roughly 70% of the total cost.  The bill provides:

o   $3.1 billion for Alzheimer’s disease research, an increase of $300 million. Under Blunt’s chairmanship, there has been nearly a five-fold funding increase for Alzheimer’s research;

o   $15 million, an increase of $5 million, for the BOLD Infrastructure for Alzheimer’s Act to create a national public health infrastructure to increase early detection and diagnosis and support prevention efforts; and

o   $27.5 million, an increase of $1 million, for expanding direct services through the Alzheimer’s disease program at the Administration for Community Living.

      Community Health Centers: $1.68 billion for Community Health Centers, an increase of $57.3 million. The bill also reauthorizes funding for CHCs for three years. As co-chair of the Community Health Center caucus, Blunt previously introduced legislation to reauthorize and increase mandatory funding for the program. There are more than 300 sites in Missouri, with Missouri health centers receiving over $115 million in federal grant funding to serve a total of more than 606,000 patients a year.

      Medical Student Education: $50 million for Medical Student Education for states with the highest projected primary care physician shortages in 2025. Funding will provide supplemental grants to both the University of Missouri and University of Missouri-Kansas City.

      Pediatric Pandemic Network: $10 million for a new regional pediatric network made up of children’s hospitals to prepare for and respond to global health threats.

      Rural Health: $329.5 million for Rural Health Care programs, an increase of $11.2 million. The obstacles faced by patients and providers in rural communities are unique and often significantly different from those in urban areas. Funding for rural health care programs has more than doubled under Blunt’s chairmanship.

o   Delta States Network Rural Development Network Grant: $24 million, an increase of $2 million, to continue a program to help underserved rural communities in the Delta identify and better address their health care needs. This includes $12 million for the Delta Region Community Health Systems Development (DRCHSD) program, which started under Blunt’s chairmanship, to help small rural hospitals improve their financial and operational stability. Pemiscot County Memorial Hospital in Hayti, Mo., and Iron County Hospital in Pilot Knob, Mo., have participated in the DRCHSD program since December 2017 and Ste. Genevieve County Memorial Hospital in Ste. Genevieve, Mo. has participated since October 2019.

      Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME): $350 million, a $10 million increase, for the CHGME program, which protects children’s access to high quality medical care by providing freestanding children’s hospitals with funding to support the training of pediatric providers. In Missouri, Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City and St. Louis Children’s Hospital received more than $13 million last year in combined funding from this program. This funding level represents an increase of $85 million for CHGME under Blunt’s chairmanship, or 32%.

Promoting State and Local Flexibility in Education, From Birth Through College and Career:

      Head Start: $10.7 billion, an increase of $135 million, to help all Head Start programs keep up with rising costs, maintain enrollment, and continue to provide high-quality services for children and families. Missouri Head Start programs receive more than $167 million annually and provide high-quality early childhood services to 15,000 children and their families.

      Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): $5.9 billion, an increase of $85 million. Over the last three years, funding for CCDBG has more than doubled, which has helped improve the safety and quality of child care programs, including increasing provider payment rates, and expand working families’ access to high-quality child care. Missouri receives over $106 million from the CCDBG annually.

      Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): $13.8 billion, an increase of $181 million, to support the educational needs of students with disabilities, which includes an increase of $3.5 million for preschool grants and an increase of $4.9 million for grants for infants and families. Missouri received approximately $262 million from these programs for this school year.

      Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies: $16.5 billion, an increase of $227 million, for grants to school districts to help all children meet challenging state academic standards. Missouri received approximately $260 million in Title I funding for this school year to support schools with a significant number or percentage of low-income students.

      Impact Aid: $1.5 billion, an increase of $15 million. Missouri school districts receive approximately $28 million to help compensate for the presence of federal activities and land, including lost revenue.

      STEM and Computer Science Education (CSE): $67 million, an increase of $2 million, in targeted STEM education funding, including specifically prioritizing CSE.

      21st Century Community Learning Centers: $1.3 billion, an increase of $10 million, for before- and after-school programs.

      Career and Technical Education State Grants: $1.3 billion, an increase of $52 million. Missouri received approximately $25 million to support CTE programs across the state this school year.    

      Charter Schools Program: $440 million, the same as the FY2020 level, to help support the creation, replication, and expansion of high-quality charter schools.

      Pell Grants: For the fourth year in a row, the bill increases the maximum Pell Grant award, an increase of $150, or 2.4%, for the 2021-22 school year, from $6,345 to $6,495. Approximately 90,000 students receive over $350 million in Pell Grant funding to attend Missouri colleges and universities. The bill continues support for year-round Pell Grants, which help students complete post-secondary education programs faster and enter or re-enter the workforce sooner. Blunt successfully led efforts to restore eligibility for year-round Pell Grants in the FY2017 omnibus appropriations bill.

      TRIO: $1.1 billion, an increase of $7 million, to help low-income and first generation students get into college and succeed when they are there.

      Strengthening Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and other Minority Serving Institutions (MSI): Includes an increase of $32 million for programs specifically targeted at strengthening HBCUs and MSIs.

Preparing America’s Workforce:

      Career Pathways: $10 million to continue an initiative at the Department of Labor to improve career pathways for students that can lead to the full-range of post-secondary college and career options.

      Rural Postsecondary Education and Economic Development Program: $10 million for a new initiative to improve postsecondary access and completion among rural students by providing services for students from middle school through college, and promoting partnerships between school districts, institutions of higher education, and regional economic development organizations. 

      Apprenticeship Opportunities: $185 million, an increase of $10 million, for the Apprenticeship Program to expand flexible and effective workforce training opportunities.

      Veterans’ Employment and Training (VETS) Programs: $316 million, an increase of $5 million, for VETS programs. Funding supports veterans in the transition assistance program as they move into the civilian workforce and helps homeless veterans attain skills for meaningful employment.

o   The bill continues to provide the Department of Labor with the necessary resources to carry out Blunt’s HIRE Vets Act, which established a tiered recognition program within the Department of Labor to award employers based on their contributions to veteran employment. Seven employers in Missouri received a HIRE Vets Medallion in 2019, and seven employers were recognized in 2020.

      Rural Workforce Training Initiative: $35 million, an increase of $5 million, to continue the Workforce Opportunity in Rural Communities program started in 2018 under Blunt’s chairmanship to provide reemployment and training assistance in the Delta and Appalachian regions. This year, Blunt recognized three Missouri grant recipients for their awards totaling more than $3.5 million.

      Workforce Training Programs: $2.85 billion, an increase of $25.5 million, for state workforce training programs. These funds are distributed by formula to states and localities to meet each state’s unique job training and reemployment needs. Missouri received $35.6 million for training and employment services grants in 2020.

      Youth Workforce Training Programs: The bill increased funding for programs that provide at-risk youth with the opportunity to gain educational and occupational skills:

o   Youth Training Grants to States: $921 million, an increase of $8 million;

o   Job Corps: $1.75 billion, an increase of $5 million. Missouri has three Job Corps centers located in Excelsior Springs, Puxico, and St. Louis; and

o   YouthBuild: $96.5 million, an increase of $2 million. Missouri has four current YouthBuild grantees located in Columbia, St. Joseph, and St. Louis.

Reducing Fraud, Waste, and Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars:

      Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments: $200 million to conduct enhanced, in-person assessments to accelerate the reemployment of Unemployment Compensation recipients to reduce the duration of their time receiving benefits and the likelihood of exhausting benefit coverage. These actions also help protect the integrity of the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund by reducing improper payments. This program has been shown to save $2.60 for every $1.00 spent.

      Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC): $807 million, an increase of $21 million, is provided by utilizing the cap adjustment in the Budget Control Act. For every $1.00 spent on HCFAC, $2.00 is recovered by the U.S. Treasury. This will create over $10.2 billion in savings to the Treasury over 10 years.

      Preventing Social Security Disability Fraud, Abuse, and Improper Payments: $1.6 billion is provided to support periodic reviews to ensure that individuals receiving Social Security disability benefits are still eligible under program rules. This funding is estimated to save approximately $9 billion over 10 years for the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs.

Other highlights of the bill include:

      Adoption Opportunities: $44 million, an increase of $2 million, to help remove barriers to adoption and find permanent homes for children, particularly children with special needs.

      AmeriCorps: $455 million, an increase of $27 million, for AmeriCorps State and National grants and $225 million, an increase of $4 million, for AmeriCorps Seniors programs. Last year, more than 1,300 AmeriCorps and 3,500 Senior Corps members helped address local needs in schools and communities across Missouri, including responding to natural disasters. Blunt has also cosponsored legislation to expand national service programs to help the nation respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic. 

      Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention: $61 million, an increase of $5 million, to support community-based efforts to prevent child abuse.

      Family Violence and Prevention Services: $182.5 million, an increase of $7.5 million, to provide services and temporary shelter for victims of domestic violence, and $13 million, an increase of $1 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline.

      Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): $3.75 million, an increase of $10 million, to help low-income households with home heating and cooling costs.

      Runaway and Homeless Youth Program: $137 million, an increase of $4.4 million, for services and temporary shelter for homeless youth.

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