Budget Update: Still Opportunities for Advocacy
In our last blog post, we expressed our concern for the nearing debt ceiling default date and the ending of the temporary continuing resolution for the nation’s budget. Along with many other human service organizations, we asked congress to prevent the U.S. from going into default on its ability to pay its loans and grant sequestration relief to both defense and non-defense discretionary spending. It appears that the work of our sector has paid off, as the House and Senate passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 Oct. 30. The deal lifts the amount the U.S. can borrow, increasing our debt ceiling, and providing a two-year budget that contains sequestration relief. This is great news for human services! Without having to worry about funding and government shutdowns for the next two years, we can focus our attention on advocating for the necessary funding needed to support our programs, such as childcare and early education programs, nutrition, and work-training programs.
Although, this deal still does not provide all of the funding necessary to support all of the programs aiding families and communities and there are still obstacles to face until the new appropriations are divided, this deal represents a significant accomplishment and offers more substantive change than even the Murray-Ryan two-year sequestration deal accomplished.
The budget deal of 2015, restores $33 billion of the $37 billion slated to be cut in 2016, and $23 billion of the $37 billion to be cut in 2017. It also equally reduces sequestration for defense funding. Not perfect, as NDD will still be funded at historically low terms—12 percent below the 2010 level for 2016, but much better than what our programs and the people they serve could have experienced. Additionally, this deal provides some security for Social Security Disability Insurance and Medicare premiums. Quite a phenomenal feat during such a partisan congress.
We are not out of the woods yet. Appropriations still need to be fully marked up and allocated to individual NDD funding areas; diplomacy and international affairs, law enforcement and governance, science, environment, and technology, economic security, health care and health research, transportation and economic development, and education and training.
One concern is ensuring that the categories supporting programs that members of our network operate, obtain adequate funding. For example, the second largest discretionary funding category, Labor, Health, Human Services and Education, has yet to be marked up and leaves opportunity for advocacy. The second concern, is that appropriations time is typically when controversial riders are attached to the funds. Riders are an additional provision added to a bill or other measure, having little connection with the subject matter of the bill, and are usually created as a tactic to pass a controversial provision that would not pass as its own bill. The current budget deal, did not address the already controversial riders, so they along with any additional riders will need to be dealt with during the final passage of the budget. All of this needs to happen before Dec. 11, when the temporary mechanism funding our country expires.
The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities public policy team is staying very close to this issue. Stay tuned as we continue to provide updates and information on how you can raise your voice to ensure necessary funding needed to support vital human service programs.