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Blunt Highlights Priorities in Senate-Passed Health, Education, and Labor Funding Bill

Blunt-Led Bill Continues Efforts to Prevent Waste, Fraud, and Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars

December 19, 2019

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 praised Senate passage of the fiscal year 2020 Labor/HHS appropriations bill. The bill includes several national and Missouri priorities, including the fifth consecutive increase for the National Institutes of Health and additional resources to combat the opioid epidemic, support high-quality early childhood care and education, promote college affordability and completion, and strengthen America’s workforce. The bill is now headed to the president’s desk.

“This bill funds a wide range of programs that have one thing in common: improving the quality of life for every American,” said Blunt. “The $2.6 billion increase for NIH marks more than a 38% increase over the past five years, paving the way for new medical advances that are giving hope to millions of families. The bill also focuses on giving every American the opportunity to be successful in whatever educational or career path they choose. This year, the bill begins a new initiative to ensure that high-school age kids have the ability to pursue a full-range of post-secondary options – whether it’s attending a four-year university, a community college, or entering an apprenticeship program. We have also, for a third year in a row, increased the maximum Pell Grant award and continued eligibility for Year-Round Pell, and increased investments in core elementary and secondary education programs. This bill reflects numerous priorities that have had broad support on both sides of the aisle and I look forward to seeing it signed into law.”

The bill also includes resources to prevent waste, fraud, abuse, and improper payments in the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs, saving taxpayers billions over the next decade.

Key Priorities Funded in the Labor/HHS 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 $2.6 billion increase for the NIH. Since Blunt became chairman of the Labor/HHS subcommittee in the FY2016 appropriations cycle, NIH funding has increased by $11.6 billion, or 38.6%. Missouri institutions received $640.5 million in NIH funding in FY2019. From 2015-2019, NIH funding to Missouri institutions increased by $168.9 million. More details here.

Ending the HIV Epidemic: The bill includes $295 million, an increase of $245 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.

Opioid Epidemic: The bill continues $3.8 billion 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 State Opioid Response grants on stimulants. Under Blunt’s leadership, funding for health-related opioid programs has increased by $3.6 billion.

Mental Health: As a critical part of both combating opioid use disorder and ensuring safety in our schools and communities, the bill provides $3.9 billion, a $328 million increase, for mental health research, treatment, and prevention, including:

o Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics: The bill provides $200 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 $12 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;

o Project AWARE: The bill provides $102 million, a $31 million increase, for this program that supports coordination between schools and State Mental Health Agencies to increase awareness of mental health among school-aged youth, train school personnel on detecting and responding to mental health issues, and connect school-aged youth and their families with needed services; 

o Mental Health Awareness Training: The bill provides $23 million, an increase of $2 million, for Mental Health Awareness Training in which Missouri was one of the first adopters;

o Suicide Prevention Programs: The bill provides $90 million, an increase of $16 million, to support the suicide lifeline and grants to help identify and help those at risk of suicide;

o Behavioral Health Workforce Education & Training: The bill provides $105 million, an increase of $30 million, to support new and existing workforce training programs, including $26.7 million to establish the Mental and Substance Use Disorder (SUD) Workforce Training Demonstration for grants to train professionals to provide SUD and mental health treatment and $10 million for peer support specialists and other types of behavioral health-related paraprofessionals.

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

o National Institute of Mental Health: The bill provides $2 billion for mental health research at the National Institutes of Health, an increase of $161.7 million.

Community Health Centers: The bill provides $1.63 billion for Community Health Centers. As co-chair of the Community Health Center caucus, Blunt has introduced legislation to reauthorize and increase mandatory funding for the program. There are more than 260 sites in Missouri, with Missouri health centers receiving over $100 million in federal grant funding to serve a total of 585,000 patients a year. Additionally, Community Health Centers received a five-month extension of their mandatory funding as part of the bill.

Medical Student Education: The bill provides $50 million, an increase of $25 million, for Medical Student Education funding for states with highest projected physician shortages in 2025. Missouri is one of eight eligible states. Funding includes $15 million for supplemental grants to 2019 grantees, including the University of Missouri, and $35 million to fund the remaining 2019 applicants.

Rural Health: $318.3 million for Rural Health Care programs. The obstacles faced by patients and providers in rural communities are unique and often differ greatly from those in urban areas. The bill focuses resources toward efforts and programs to help rural communities, including:

o Opioid Response: $110 million to support treatment for and prevention of substance use disorders, with a focus on rural communities at the highest risk for substance use disorder;

o Telehealth: $29 million, an increase of $4.5 million, to expand the use of telecommunications technologies within rural areas that can link rural health providers and patients with specialists; and

o Delta States Network Rural Development Network Grant: $22 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 $10 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. Madison Medical Center in Fredericktown, Mo., was selected to participate in the DRCHSD program in August 2019; Pemiscot County Memorial Hospital in Hayti, Mo., and Iron County Hospital in Pilot Knob, Mo., have participated in the in the program since December 2017.

Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME): The bill provides $340 million, a $15 million increase, for the CHGME program. The program 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 in St. Louis both receive approximately $6 million a year each in funding from this program. This funding level represents an increase of $75 million for CHGME under Blunt’s chairmanship the last four years, or 20 percent.

Supporting Education from Early Childhood through Career:

Early Childhood Care and Education:

Head Start: The bill provides $10.6 billion, an increase of $550 million, for Head Start. This includes funding to help all Head Start programs keep up with rising costs, maintain enrollment, and continue to provide high-quality services for children and families. In 2018, Missouri Head Start programs received more than $167 million to serve 15,000 children and their families. The increase includes:

o $250 million in new funding for all Head Start programs targeted at improving trauma-informed care practices to address adverse childhood experiences, including those related to substance use disorders;

o $100 million to expand Early Head Start, which serves children and families from before birth to age three, including partnerships with child care providers to leverage investments in child care and improve the quality of those programs.

Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG): The bill provides $5.8 billion, an increase of $550 million, for CCDBG. This funding will help ensure and 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 $95 million from CCDBG annually, and an additional $56 million from related mandatory programs. Blunt previously highlighted the importance of CCDBG during a roundtable discussion led by Ivanka Trump in Kansas City.

Preschool Development Grants: The bill provides $275 million, an increase of $25 million, to help improve the coordination of existing early childhood programs for children from birth to five. Missouri received a $6.5 million planning grant in January 2019.

Elementary and Secondary Education:

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): The bill provides $13.6 billion, an increase of $410 million, to support the educational needs of students with disabilities. Missouri received approximately $254 million from these programs for the 2019-2020 school year.

Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies: The bill provides $16.3 billion, an increase of $450 million, for grants to school districts to help all children meet challenging state academic standards. Missouri received approximately $249 million in Title I funding for the 2019-2020 school year to support schools with a significant number or percentage of students from low-income families.

Title II Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants: The bill provides $2.1 billion, an increase of $76 million, to support teacher professional development.

Impact Aid: The bill provides $1.5 billion, an increase of $40 million, for Impact Aid. Missouri school districts receive approximately $26 million annually to help compensate for the presence of federal activities and land, including lost revenue.

STEM and Computer Science Education: The bill provides $65 million, an increase of $5 million, in targeted STEM and computer science education funding, including supporting STEM/CSE teachers.

Higher Education:

Pell Grants: For the third year in a row, the bill increases the maximum Pell Grant award, providing an increase of $150 or 2.4%, for the 2020-21 school year, from $6,195 to $6,345. Approximately 90,000 students receive over $350 million in Pell Grant funding to attend Missouri colleges and universities. In 2018, Blunt successfully led efforts to restore funding for year-round Pell Grants.

Campus-Based Student Aid Programs: The bill provides $865 million, an increase of $25 million, for Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and $1.2 billion, an increase of $50 million, for Federal Work Study. These programs provide flexibility for colleges and universities to design financial aid packages to best meet their students’ needs.

TRIO: The bill provides $1.1 billion, an increase of $30 million, for the TRIO program to help low-income and first generation students get into college and succeed when they are there.                       

Preparing America’s Workforce:

Career Pathways Initiative: Too many students leave high school without a clear understanding of the full range of post-secondary options, from apprenticeship programs to advanced degrees, that can lead to good, high-paying careers. Creating these connections for students beginning when they are high school-age can be critical to improving educational and employment outcomes. The bill provides $20 million to establish new initiatives at the Departments of Labor and Education:

o $10 million for a new initiative to help school districts, institutions of higher education, and area CTE schools implement a wide-range of activities, such as aligning curriculums with academic standards and occupational licensing and credentialing, and providing direct services to students, with the goal of improving pathways for students beginning in high school that can lead to the full-range of post-secondary college and career options.

o $10 million for a new youth career pathways demonstration program at the Department of Labor to improve workforce readiness, employment and training opportunities, and provide early exposure to multiple career pathways. 

Apprenticeship Program: The bill includes a $15 million increase for the Apprenticeship program, bringing the overall funding level to $175 million. That marks an $85 million increase since Congress began funding this program in FY2016. Blunt has advocated for increased apprenticeship opportunities to close the skills gap.

Veterans Employment and Training (VETS): The bill provides $311.3 million, an $11.3 million increase, for VETS. VETS provides intensive employment services to veterans and eligible spouses, transitioning service members, and disabled veterans. This increased funding will support veterans in the transition assistance program as they move into the civilian workforce, and allow the Department of Labor to implement reforms required by the 2019 National Defense Authorization Act and assist military spouses in addressing occupational and credentialing barriers.

HIRE Vets Medallion Program: The bill continues to provide resources to carry out the HIRE Vets Act, a bill authored by Sen. Blunt which established a tiered recognition program within the Department of Labor to award employers based on their contributions to veteran employment. In November, the department announced that seven Missouri employers received HIRE Vets Medallion Program Awards. 

Rural Workforce Training Initiative: The bill provides $30 million in continued funding for the dislocated worker training initiative, Workforce Opportunity for Rural Communities, to provide reemployment and training assistance to dislocated workers in rural areas of the country hit hardest by the recession and recovering more slowly.  Funding is devoted to training those who have lost their jobs in the Appalachian and Delta regions to ensure they can adapt existing skills and learn new skills demanded by other growing industries and return to work as soon as possible.

Strengthening Community Colleges Initiative: The bill provides $40 million for a new initiative to better align workforce development needs for in-demand industries with post-secondary education.

Workforce Training Grants: The bill includes $2.8 billion in grants to states, an increase of $30 million. These funds are distributed by formula to states and localities to meet each state’s unique workforce training and development needs. Missouri received $38.2 million in training and employment services grants in 2019.

Youth Workforce Training: The bill increases funding for several other programs to provide at-risk youth with the opportunity to gain educational and occupations skills:

           o Youth Grants to States: $913 million, an increase of $9.7 million;

o YouthBuild: $94.5 million, an increase of $5 million.  Missouri has four current YouthBuild grantees located in Columbia, St. Joseph, and St. Louis; and

o Job Corps: $1.7 billion, an increase of $25 million.  Missouri has three Job Corps centers located in Excelsior Springs, Puxico, and St. Louis.

Reducing Fraud, Waste, and Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars:

Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments: $175 million to conduct enhanced, in-person assessments to accelerate the reemployment of Unemployment Compensation recipients in order to reduce the duration of their time receiving benefits and the likelihood of exhausting benefit coverage. These actions would 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): $786 million is provided by utilizing the cap adjustment provided in the Budget Control Act. For every $1 spent on HCFAC, $2 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 $9.6 billion over 10 years for the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs.

Other highlights of the bill include:

Child Welfare and Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Programs: The bill includes $90 million, an increase of $5 million, for Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment State Grants and $56 million, an increase of $16 million, for Community Based Child Abuse Prevention Grants. In addition, the bill includes funding to accelerate review of programs and interventions potentially eligible for mandatory funding to leverage those resources to prevent children from entering the foster care system.

Family Violence and Prevention Services: The bill includes $175 million, an increase of $10.5 million, for domestic violence shelters and services, and $12 million, an increase of $2 million, for the national domestic violence hotline.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): $3.7 billion, an increase of $50 million, for home heating and cooling assistance for low-income households. Missouri receives approximately $80 million which provides home energy assistance to approximately 124,000 households.

Corporation for National and Community Service: $1.1 billion, an increase of $20 million, including $428.5 million for AmeriCorps grants, an increase of $3.5 million, and $221 million for Senior Corps, an increase of $13 million, including funding to increase the Senior Companion and Foster Grandparent Program stipends.

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