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Blunt Touts Investments in Workforce Development, Education, & Health Research in Government Funding Bill

December 18, 2019

WASHINGTON – Yesterday, U.S. Senator Roy Blunt (Mo.), Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor/HHS), spoke on the Senate floor to highlight several of the health, education, and workforce development priorities he worked to include in the fiscal year 2020 Labor/HHS bill. The legislation includes resources to expand medical research, fight the opioid epidemic, support high-quality early childhood care and education, promote college affordability and completion, and strengthen America’s workforce.

The bill includes the fifth consecutive funding increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), bringing the five-year total for NIH funding to an increase of more than 38%.

Following Are Excerpts From Blunt’s Remarks:

“I am glad to be finally here today talking about the final conclusions we've reached on the appropriations bill generally, but specifically the Labor and Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill. We're now a bipartisan Congress, Democrats in control on one side, Republicans on another. And on this side, of course, we always have to have 60 people to go forward on these bills, so we generally have had to have a bill here that would appeal to enough Democrats or enough Republicans to make this happen. But we've come to the conclusion on what is normally the hardest bill to negotiate. …

“So for the fifth straight year, after 12 years of no increase, the National Institutes of Health, in this bill, gets a significant increase, an additional $2.6 billion, which increases them in the last five years over 40%. Again, at a time when this investment can mean so much to so many people. We've specifically targeted the investment toward Alzheimer’s disease. …The president's childhood cancer data initiative is here. Precision medicine, combating foreign threats to research, addressing the facilities backlog on the campuses, all those are here. Our investments in NIH are making a difference for families and making a difference, we hope, for the future.

“That NIH-based research has helped raise like expectancy, has vastly improved the quality of life for many Americans, has lowered health care costs, very much dramatically decided in some health care situations how either invasive you need to be or how much pain has to be involved and getting you headed in another direction. …

Third, this bill, the FY 2020 bill, continues our commitment to the opioid epidemic, providing money to do that, providing money for prevention, for education, for research, and for treatment as well as recovery programs. In this bill, Madam President, we put new flexibility in for the opioid epidemic to where those things that you may go to after you become addicted to opioids, like meth, can also qualify for the kind of help that people need who are trying to escape their addiction to pain medications or other things that they have become critically linked to.

“This bill includes new and substantially expanded investments in Head Start, in high-quality early childhood care, programs that provide more flexibility to school districts to use the limited resources they have, whether that's Title I if you're a school person and know what that means, or Title II - supporting effective instruction state grants, IDEA - the ability to help people with disability education issues, Impact Aid in communities that have significant federal investments in military bases or a national forest or things like that. These are all things we deal with in this bill. We also target STEM education, including a focus on computer science. …

 “And then, Madam President, there's something I call the ‘lost decade.’ I've talked to so many people in the last two years who are about 28 years old and the story over and over again was so similar: went to college for a year or a semester and then a series of jobs that were not too hard to get but didn't lead anywhere. Landscapers or Uber drivers or bartenders or whatever else with no sense that that was a career and not the underpinnings that you'd like to have. And then finally, in your mid-20s, somebody tells you or you figure out on your own, ‘I’ve got to have something that can support me the way I’d like to be supported, can help me with a family, might have retirement, certainly has benefits.’ We're trying to do what we can to be sure that that focus comes earlier as you begin to think about what do you like to do, what do you find fulfilling. …

“And if you miss that launching point, frankly, if you miss that 10 years, that lost decade, it's pretty hard to ever catch up. Like your seatmate at school who understood what they wanted to do and maybe had no more resources than you and no more capacity than you, but they get an extra 10 years on you in preparing for the career they would like to have, the work they'd like to do, and where that might lead them.

“The president's really been focusing on apprenticeship programs. An apprenticeship, a good way to learn firsthand, but also to see firsthand, what you want to do. Whether it's an apprenticeship program or a community college or a traditional college or skills you learn in the military that you should be able to immediately transfer into a private sector, non-military opportunity, we need to spend some time on that and some money on that. And this bill does.

“The bill continues to try to do what we can to be looking carefully for reducing fraud, reducing waste, seeing that tax dollars are spent properly. And a lot of them are spent right here in this bill. We prioritize programs that really will provide benefit, we hope, to large groups of our country. The bill reflects compromises on both sides. But people send a hundred different people to the Senate and 435 different people to the House to vote and to make decisions that reach conclusion. This bill does that.” 

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