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Senator Blunt Sets Priorities As Subcommittee Approves FY2016 Labor, HHS, Education Appropriations Bill

Within Budget Limits, Senate Bill Increases Funding For NIH, Community Health Centers, Title I Education, & Child Care

June 23, 2015

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), chairman of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and Related Agencies, today highlighted the fiscal year 2016 Labor-HHS Appropriations bill approved by the Subcommittee this afternoon. The $153.2 billion measure funds a range of priorities involving health, education, and workforce training and development. In addition, the bill includes $1.561 billion in cap adjustment funding for preventing waste, fraud, abuse, and improper payments in the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs.

The Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee approval of the bill sets the stage for consideration by the full committee Thursday. 

“This year’s Labor-HHS appropriations bill prioritizes programs that will provide a significant benefit to all Americans and, most importantly, provides the National Institutes of Health with a $2 billion increase to make critical life-saving medical treatments and high-quality cures available to all Americans,” Blunt said. “I’m pleased the Subcommittee has approved this important bill today and I look forward to moving it through the full committee this week.”

While the measure is $3.6 billion below the FY2015 spending level, the Subcommittee increased funding for the National Institutes of Health, Community Health Centers, Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant. In addition, the bill takes steps to prohibit the administration from improperly using discretionary funding to prop up state insurance exchanges and the Risk Corridor program established by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare.

The bill supports additional funding for Title I for low-income school districts, as well as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act grant program. It would also increase the maximum Pell Grant award for the 2016-17 school year. The legislation supports the Labor Department’s Job Corps and Veterans Employment Training programs, and provides for a new, dedicated training fund for dislocated workers from coal mines and coal-fired power plants.

Highlights of the Senate FY2016 Labor-HHS Appropriations Bill:


DEPARTMENT OF LABOR

Job Corps – $1.7 billion. Taken together, the 125 Job Corps centers in all 50 States, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico comprise the nation’s largest career technical training and educational program for youth. Almost 50,000 new student enrollments are expected for FY2016. About 94 percent of Job Corps students successfully attain industry-recognized certifications. Missouri has three Job Corps centers located in Excelsior Springs, Mingo, and St. Louis.

VETS – $270 million, level with FY2015. Veterans Employment and Training funding provides for intensive employment services to veterans and eligible spouses, transitioning service members, wounded warriors, and disabled veterans. In addition, skills training for up to 17,000 homeless veterans nationwide is also provided.

YouthBuild – $80 million, level with FY2015. This program helps at-risk high school drop-outs develop skills and knowledge to obtain industry-recognized job credentials, apprenticeships, and employment. Missouri has YouthBuild programs in Kansas City, Columbia, and St. Louis.

Governor’s Statewide Reserve – The bill allows the full 15 percent state training grant funding reserve for Governors to address a variety of statewide training needs, projects, expanded partnerships, emergency response, and other services as needed throughout their states.

Occupational Licensing Portability Initiative – $7.5 million to establish a consortium of states to begin the analysis and development of frameworks for reciprocity or other forms of portability for certain occupational licenses. This program will help eliminate unnecessary barriers to mobility and re-employment for thousands of dislocated workers, transitioning service members, military spouses, and others. 

H-2B Foreign Labor Certifications – The bill provides additional resources for the prompt processing of foreign labor certifications and blocks the most controversial portions of the Department of Labor’s new H-2B visa program and wage regulations. The H-2B program would inhibit the ability of small and large Missouri businesses to expand during temporary periods of peak seasonal demand in cases where insufficient numbers of American workers are available – especially in industries like landscaping, hotel and lodging, recreation, and entertainment.

DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES

National Institutes of Health (NIH) – $32 billion, an increase of $2 billion above FY2015.  This is the largest increase the NIH has received since 2003 when the doubling of the NIH budget ended. Last year, universities and research organizations in Missouri received more than $467.5 million in NIH funding.

  • $200 million for Precision Medicine;

  • $350 million increase for National Institute on Aging, the lead Institute researching Alzheimer’s disease;

  • $135 million for the BRAIN Initiative to map the human brain;

  • $461 million to Combat Antibiotic Resistance;

  • And increases to every Institute and Center to continue investments in innovative research that will advance fundamental knowledge and speed the development of new therapies, diagnostics, and preventive measures to improve the health of all Americans.

NIH Institutional Development Award (IDeA) – The IDeA program broadens the geographic distribution of NIH funding. The program fosters health-related research and enhances the competitiveness of investigators at institutions located in states in which the aggregate success rate for applications to NIH has been historically low. A new provision has been added to make states that are eligible for similar programs throughout the federal government also eligible for the IDeA award. Under this provision, Missouri universities will now be able to compete for this funding.

Community Health Centers – $5.2 billion, an increase of $199.4 million above FY2015. There are over 9,000 Health Centers nationally, serving 21.1 million patients a year. There are over 200 sites in Missouri, with 28 organizations receiving over $70 million in federal funds, for a total of 460,000 Missouri patients served a year.

Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) – $270 million, an increase of $5 million above FY2015. 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, Mo. and St. Louis Children’s Hospital in St. Louis, Mo. each receive approximately $5 million a year in funding from this program.

Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant – $160 million, level with FY2015. The administration proposed to eliminate this program. The Preventitive Block Grants provide flexible funding for states to implement prevention activities according to local health needs. In FY2015, Missouri received approximately $3.8 million.

Rural Health Care – $150.6 million, an increase of $3.1 million above FY2015, for rural health programs. The obstacles faced by patients and providers in rural communities are unique and often significantly different than those in urban areas. Blunt held a rural health care hearing in May with HHS officials and members of the rural health provider community, including Tim Wolters from Citizens Memorial Hospital in Bolivar, Mo.

Breast Cancer Education – The bill includes Blunt’s Breast Cancer Patient Education Act of 2015. The HHS Secretary is directed to implement an education campaign to inform breast cancer patients about the availability and required insurance coverage of breast reconstruction surgery.

Medicare Appeals Process – $97.4 million, an increase of $10 million above FY2015, for the Office of Medicare Hearings and Appeals. The bill also directs CMS to implement the new Recovery Audit Contractor requirements without delay and directs the intra-agency working group to continue to monitor and evaluate the process until the backlog of appeals are resolved. This will help Missouri hospitals and providers focus on the quality of health care, instead of using resources and staff time to fight erroneous audits, which disproportionality affect rural and small providers.

Area Health Education Centers (AHEC) – $31 million, an increase of $750,000 above FY2015.  AHECs enhance access to quality health care, particularly primary and preventive care, by improving the supply and distribution of health care professionals through community/academic educational partnerships. There are seven regional AHECs in Missouri, providing over 400 health career recruitment events each year, connecting nearly 700 health professions students to rural and urban communities to receive training with local health professionals.

Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) - $2.585 billion, an increase of $150 million. This increase will help states implement key reforms in the CCDBG Act of 2014 to improve child care health and safety standards, and otherwise improve the quality of child care programs. Missouri receives $45 million in discretionary funding under this program. This would provide an approximately $2.8 million increase next year to support working families’ access to quality child care. 

Head Start - $8.698 billion, an increase of $100 million. Research increasingly points towards the importance and benefits of providing high-quality early childhood education beginning at birth, and for families before birth. The Committee recommendation provides a $100 million increase to expand Early Head Start, which provides high-quality early childhood services for children and families from before birth to age three, including through Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) - $3.39 billion, the same as the FY2015 level. LIHEAP provides critical home heating and cooling assistance for low-income households. Missouri receives approximately $73 million in funding annually, which supports home energy assistance for approximately 148,000 Missouri households.

DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Title I Grants to Local Education Agencies - $14.56 billion, a $150 million increase above FY2015. Title I provides basic and flexible funding to low-income school districts, that allows states, local school districts, and schools to decide how to best use to improve student outcomes. Missouri school districts receive approximately $240 million in Title I funding annually.

Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Grants to States– $12.4 billion for grants to states under part B and C of the IDEA, a $125 million increase above FY2015, including preschool grants and grants for infants and families. These programs support special education services for children with disabilities from birth through age 21. Missouri receives approximately $238 million in IDEA state grant funding annually.     

Charter Schools - $273 million, an increase of $20 million. This program supports school choice through the planning, design, initial implementation, and expansion of successful charter schools.

Impact Aid - $1.289 billion, the level as of FY2015. The Committee recommendation maintains support for the Impact Aid program which provides flexible support to local school districts impacted by the presence of federally owned land and activities, such as military bases. The Committee rejects the administration’s proposed elimination of the federal property program. Missouri school districts receive approximately $26 million in Impact Aid payments annually, including $925,000 for 20 school districts under the federal property program that would have been eliminated under the administration’s budget request.

Increase in Maximum Pell Grant – The Committee bill provides more than sufficient funding to increase the maximum Pell Grant award from $5,775 in the 2015-16 school year, to an estimated $5,915 for the 2016-17 school year.  Students at Missouri colleges and universities will receive approximately $619 million in Pell Grants this coming school year.

Supports State and Local Flexibility in Education – The Committee recommendation includes a new general provision affirming that the federal government cannot mandate or incentivize in any way the adoption of any specific standards or assessments, including Common Core.

Provides a Check on Expanding Federal Authority Over Higher Education – The Committee bill includes a new provision prohibiting the Department of Education from moving forward with several new regulations expanding the federal government’s role in higher education, until Congress has an opportunity to weigh in through the authorization process, as appropriate. Specifically, it prohibits the Department from moving forward with regulations or policies to develop or implement a college ratings system, define gainful employment, establish requirements for the state authorization of higher education programs, define credit hour, and establish a new accountability framework for teacher preparation programs.

RELATED AGENCIES

Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) – The bill fully funds CPB at $445 million for fiscal year 2018, level with FY2017. The bill also allows CPB to use previously appropriated FY2016 funding to initiate the first phase of replacing and upgrading the public television interconnection system.  The four Missouri public TV stations and the 11 public radio stations receive approximately $9.7 million per year through the CPB formula distribution.

Institute for Museum and Library Services – $228 million, level with FY2015.  This agency supports programs for museums and libraries that encourage innovation, provide life-long learning opportunities, promote cultural and civic engagement, and improve access to a variety of services and information. Missouri received a Library Grants to States allotment of $2.9 million in FY2015.

OTHER PROVISIONS OF INTEREST

Taxpayer Transparency – The bill includes Blunt’s Taxpayer Transparency Act requiring agencies funded under the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill to disclose when advertising materials are paid for with federal funds.

Dietary Guidelines – The bill includes a provision to prohibit the 2015 Dietary Guidelines from moving forward unless they are solely nutritional and dietary in nature and based on a preponderance of scientific evidence. 

Support for Ferguson and other communities facing civil unrest – The Committee bill includes new provisions to support flexible solutions for communities like Ferguson, Mo. and others across the nation facing intense periods of civil unrest, including help to address underlying challenges facing these communities. This includes programs and resources across the bill, including the Departments of Labor and Education, and AmeriCorps.  

Increasing the Efficiency and Cost Effectiveness of Government – The Committee provides funding for a variety of activities aimed at reducing fraud, waste, and abuse of taxpayer dollars, including:

  • Fighting Healthcare Fraud and Abuse

  • Preventing Improper Social Security Payments

  • Strengthening Oversight of Social Security Disability Benefits

  • Eliminating Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication as recommended by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Program Integrity Initiatives

  • Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments – An additional $20 million is provided to conduct enhanced, in-person assessments to accelerate the reemployment of Unemployment Compensation recipients into good jobs, reduce the duration of their time receiving benefits and their likelihood of exhausting benefit coverage, and protect UI Trust Fund integrity by reducing improper payments.

  • Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control (HCFAC) - $706 million, an increase of $34 million above FY2015, by utilizing the cap adjustment provided in the Budget Control Act. Every $1 spent on HCFAC, $8.10 is recovered by the U.S. Treasury. This will create over $5.7 billion in savings to the Treasury.

  • Preventing Improper Social Security Payments - $1.4 billion, an increase of $43 million above FY2015. This funding supports periodic reviews to ensure that individuals receiving Social Security disability benefits are still eligible under program rules. This funding is estimated to save approximately $10 billion over ten years for the Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid programs.
Program Eliminations – A tight budget environment requires tough choices and a critical review of all programs in the bill, even those that have been funded for decades. The Committee recommendation includes 44 program eliminations, equating to $1.26 billion in spending reductions.


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