Aug 23 2018

Blunt Touts Health, Education, & Workforce Priorities in Senate-Passed Funding Bill

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 funding bill.

“For the first time in eleven years, the full Senate had the opportunity to debate and pass a Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill that focuses resources on programs that will significantly benefit all Americans,” said Blunt. “The bill includes the fourth consecutive increase for the National Institutes of Health, paving the way for medical advancements that will save lives and lower costs over the long term. Alzheimer’s is the most expensive disease in America and, without a breakthrough, by 2050 we’ll spend $1.1 trillion treating people with Alzheimer’s each year – twice as much as the annual defense budget. This bill not only meets, but surpasses the $2 billion research goal of the National Plan to Address Alzheimer’s Disease.”

In remarks on the Senate floor earlier this week, Blunt outlined the medical research investments included in the bill, which marks a $9 billion increase for NIH over the past four years. Blunt also discussed health-related funding priorities targeted toward addressing the opioid epidemic.

Blunt continued, “The opioid crisis continues to take a toll on our communities, and this bill provides the fourth consecutive funding increase to expand access to treatment, prevention, and recovery programs. Further, the bill prioritizes education programs that support students at every age, from helping children enter school ready to learn, to making college more affordable, to preparing students for in-demand careers. Finally, the bill continues key program integrity activities that reduce fraud, waste, and abuse and return billions of taxpayer dollars to the U.S. Treasury every year. I’m proud we were able to pass this bill with overwhelming bipartisan support, and I look forward to continuing our work to 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, with this bill, 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 $3.7 billion, an increase of $147 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 $3.45 billion, or 1,275 percent. 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 $195 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 – $22 million, an increase of $2 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 $28 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 – $100 million to support treatment for and prevention of substance use disorders in rural communities at the highest risk for substance use disorder. An additional $30 million is available for this program through the National Health Service Corps;

    • Telehealth – $25.5 million, $2 million above FY2018. The Telehealth program expands the use of telecommunications technologies within rural areas that can link rural health providers and patients with specialists; and

    • 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 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.
  • 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.

  • 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 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 $113 million, to help communities prepare for, respond to, and recover from public health and medical disasters such as influenza, Ebola, Zika, and natural disasters.

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

Increasing 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 $250 million increase for Head Start and continues the historic funding level of $5.2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant.

  • 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 $125 million increase for Title I Grants to school districts; a $125 million increase for IDEA/Special Education State grants; a $125 million increase for Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants; and a $25 million increase for Impact Aid. The bill also maintains funding levels for several other programs including Career and Technical Education, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, and Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants.

  • 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 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: $65 million, an increase of $15 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 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 Department of Health and Human Services:

    • $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 $125 million increase; and

    • Maintains Department of Health and Human Services programs that provide mental health support to schools and school age children.

Preparing America’s Workforce: 

  • 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, for the Veterans Transition Assistance Program, which provides separating service members with employment training and other services as they transition to the civilian workforce. 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.