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Blunt Touts Missouri Priorities in Senate-Passed Labor, Health & Human Services, & Education Funding Agreement

Bill Focuses Resources on Rural Health, College Affordability, Workforce Training & More

September 18, 2018

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 applauded Senate passage of the Labor/HHS conference report. The bipartisan conference report, which was adopted by a vote of 93 – 7, reconciles the House and Senate versions of the Labor/HHS funding bills. Once the conference report is passed by the House, it will be on its way to the president’s desk.

“This bipartisan, bicameral agreement prioritizes resources for some of the biggest challenges facing our state and nation,” said Blunt. “As the opioid crisis continues to take a toll on individuals, families, and local economies, this legislation increases funding for programs to help ensure states have the support they need to address this crisis. The bill continues a pattern of sustained investments in NIH medical research, which has raised life expectancy, improved the quality of life for all Americans, and lowered health care costs. To help students get into college, complete their program or degree, and graduate with less debt, the bill maintains and builds on investments we’ve made in programs such as Pell Grants, TRIO, work study, and others. With more job openings than job seekers in our economy, this bill supports programs geared toward preparing and training workers with skills they need to get ahead.

“The Labor/HHS funding bill was considered through the regular order process, giving all senators a chance to help determine what our priorities should be. To continue making the investments we make in this bill, we can’t afford to waste taxpayer dollars where they aren’t needed or aren’t working. The measure continues efforts to crack down on waste, fraud, and abuse, which will save taxpayers billions over the next decade. Working together in a bipartisan way, we are on track, for the first time in 22 years, to get the Labor/HHS bill signed into law before the start of the new fiscal year. I thank my colleagues for their support in getting this critical measure passed in the Senate, and urge our House colleagues to quickly pass the measure and get it to the president’s desk.”

Key Priorities Funded in the Bill:

Supporting Groundbreaking Medical Research, Expanding Access to Mental and Behavioral Health Care, and Improving Rural Health Care:

  • National Institutes of Health (NIH): The bill includes a $2 billion increase for NIH. Since Blunt became Chairman of the Labor/HHS subcommittee in the FY2016 appropriations cycle, NIH funding has increased by $9 billion, or more than 30 percent. Missouri institutions received $537.5 million in NIH funding in 2017. More details here.

  • Opioid Epidemic: The bill includes $3.8 billion, an increase of $206 million, to continue combatting the opioid epidemic. Funds are targeted toward improving treatment and prevention efforts; finding alternative pain medications; workforce needs, especially in our rural communities; and expanding access to behavioral health services. Under Blunt’s leadership, funding for health-related opioid programs has increased by $3.5 billion. More details here.

  • Mental Health: As a critical part of both combatting opioid abuse and ensuring safety in our schools and communities, the bill provides $3.4 billion, a $187 million increase, for mental health research, treatment, and prevention, including:

    • Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics – $150 million, an increase of $50 million, for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics. This was a new discretionary grant program Blunt began in the last bill to target funding for specific community clinics that provide a comprehensive approach to mental health care treatment. 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;

    • Mental Health Awareness Training – $21 million, an increase of $1 million, for Mental Health Awareness Training in which Missouri was one of the first adopters; and

    • 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.

  • Community Health Centers: $1.63 billion for Community Health Centers, including $200 million for centers to expand behavioral health and substance use disorder prevention and treatment services, and provide access to overdose reversal drugs and recovery support services. As co-chair of the Community Health Center caucus, Blunt led efforts earlier this year to increase mandatory funding for the program to $4 billion for fiscal year 2019. There are nearly 200 sites in Missouri, with Missouri health centers receiving over $100 million in federal grant funding to serve a total of 527,000 patients a year.

  • Rural Health: $318.8 million, an increase of $27 million, for Rural Health Care programs. The obstacles faced by patients and providers in rural communities are unique and often significantly different from those in urban areas. The bill focuses resources toward efforts and programs to help rural communities, including:

    • Opioid Response: $130 million to support treatment for and prevention of substance use disorders in rural communities at the highest risk for substance use disorder. An additional $20 million is available for three centers of excellence to combat the opioid epidemic.

    • Delta States Network Rural Development Network Grant: $20 million, an increase of $6 million, to support the Health Resources and Services Administration’s collaboration with the Delta Regional Authority to continue a program to help underserved rural communities identify and better address their health care needs. This includes $8 million, an increase of $4 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. In December 2017, Pemiscot County Memorial Hospital in Hayti, Mo., and Iron County Hospital in Pilot Knob, Mo., were selected to participate in the DRCHSD program.

    • Rural Hospital Flexibility Grant (Flex) Program: $53.6 million, an increase of $4 million above FY2018. Flex grants ensure that residents in rural communities have access to high-quality health care services.

  • Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME): $325 million, $10 million above FY2018. The CHGME 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. Under Blunt’s leadership, funding for CHGME has increased $60 million, or 23 percent, in the past four years.

  • Graduate Medical Education: $25 million for a new program to support and expand graduate medical education at public institutions of higher education with a projected physician shortage in 2025.

  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): $3.7 billion, a $50 million increase, for home heating and cooling assistance for low-income households.

  • Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentives: The bill includes $75 million, maintaining the significant increase provided last year, for payments to states to incentivize improved performance in finding permanent homes for children in foster care through adoption or legal guardianship. This program has faced a funding shortfall in recent years, preventing states from receiving the full amount earned. The increase provided last year and continued funding this year will cover all prior-year costs and part of the current year costs to pave the way to stay current on payments in FY2020.

  • Public Health Preparedness: $3.5 billion, an increase of $133 million, to help communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from public health and medical disasters such as influenza, Ebola, Zika, and natural disasters. The level includes $50 million for a new Infectious Disease Reserve Fund which will allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to respond to immediate needs during an infectious disease emergency.

  • Victims of Trafficking: $27 million, $3 million above FY2018, for services for victims of human trafficking.

Improving School Safety and Supporting Students at All Stages of Their Academic Careers:

  • Access to High Quality Early Childhood Care and Education: The bill includes a $200 million increase for Head Start and a $50 million increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, building on the historic increase provided in FY2018.

  • Elementary and Secondary Education: The bill prioritizes funding that provides the most flexibility to states and school districts to decide how to best use limited resources to meet the educational needs of students and families. This includes a $100 million increase for Title I Grants to school districts; a $97 million increase for IDEA/Special Education State grants; a $70 million increase for Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants; a $32 million increase for Impact Aid; and a $10 million increase for 21st Century Community Learning Centers.

  • Campus-Based Student Aid: The bill maintains the significant increases provided in last year’s government funding bill for campus-based student aid programs like Federal Work Study and Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants; TRIO programs that help low-income and first-generation students prepare and complete college; and Public Service Loan Forgiveness to ensure more students qualify for loan forgiveness. In a recent Joplin Globe op-ed, Blunt outlined how Pell Grants and student support services are critical for increasing college affordability and completion.

  • Pell Grants: For a second year, the bill increases the maximum Pell Grant award – to $6,195 for the 2019-2020 school year, an increase of 1.6 percent or $100. This increase builds upon last year’s increase of 3 percent or $175. 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. 

  • STEM Education: $60 million, an increase of $10 million, in dedicated funding for evidence-based STEM education programs, including computer science education, within the Education Innovation and Research program. Further, the bill builds upon the almost three-fold increase in FY2018 and provides an additional $70 million increase for Student Support and Academic Enrichment formula grants that all school districts can use for activities, including STEM education. 

  • Safe Schools and Safe Learning Environments: The bill includes $246 million for evidence-based interventions at the Department of Education and HHS:

    • $95 million, an increase of $5 million, for the Department of Education for evidence-based programs to help improve school climates, prevent violence, and provide services in response to serious incidents. In addition, the bill builds off of last year’s nearly three-fold increase in Student Support and Academic Enrichment formula grants, flexible funding for all school districts that can be used to support school counselors, school-based mental health services, and other related activities, by providing a $70 million increase; and

    • Maintains HHS programs that provide mental health support to schools and school age children and begins a new telehealth program focused on school safety.

Preparing America’s Workforce: 

  • Career and Technical Education: $1.3 billion, an increase of $70 million, to support the recent reauthorization of the Carl D. Perkins Career and Technical Education Act and help states prepare the next generation of highly-skilled workers.

  • Adult Education State Grants: $642 million, an increase of $25 million, for Adult Education State Grants to provide basic education services for adults to prepare them for further education and careers in in-demand fields.

  • Apprenticeship Opportunities: $160 million, an increase of $15 million, for the Apprenticeship program. In a recent floor speech, Blunt highlighted the importance of apprenticeship programs in preparing a 21st Century workforce.

  • Veterans Employment Training (VETS) Programs: $300 million, an increase of $5 million, to provide separating service members with employment training and other services as they transition to the civilian workforce. Of this increase, $3.5 million will fund a new pilot program to facilitate veterans’ apprenticeship opportunities through the Veterans Transition Assistance Program. The bill continues to provide the Labor Department with the necessary resources to carry out the HIRE Vets Act that establishes a tiered recognition program within the Department of Labor to award employers based on their contributions to veteran employment. The bill was introduced by Blunt, a member of the Veterans Job Caucus, and signed into law last year.

  • Rural Workforce Training Initiative: $30 million for a rural training initiative started under Blunt’s chairmanship to provide reemployment and training assistance to dislocated workers in the Delta and Appalachian regions.

  • Workforce Training Programs: $2.8 billion 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.

  • Job Corps: $1.7 billion for Job Corps and $89.5 million for YouthBuild. Both programs provide at-risk youth with the opportunity to gain educational and occupational skills.

  • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS): $615 million, an increase of $3 million, for BLS to improve the accuracy and reliability of economic data. Inaccurate data can harm local employers and communities, as experienced recently by Cape Girardeau. BLS is directed to review the process for releasing preliminary data and to work to improve the accuracy, reliability, and timeliness of economic data. In April, Blunt questioned Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta about the BLS’s inaccurate reporting.

Reducing Fraud, Waste, and Abuse of Taxpayer Dollars:
  • Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments: $150 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): $765 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: $1.7 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.

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