The Budget Control Act of 2011 placed strict limits on overall spending. The Budget Control Act Caps, as they are known, place limits on the aggregate amount of domestic discretionary spending, which includes the majority of aging and disability programs administered by the Administration for Community Living. Medicaid and Medicare are not included in these caps. In late July 2019, Congress and the Administration announced that they had reached an agreement on total Federal expenditures for FY2020 and FY2021 that would raise the caps and provide some certainty around funding for this two-year period.
The agreement allows Congressional appropriators to begin the process of allocating funding for specific programs; however, longstanding disagreements over policy and funding for specific items – most notably, funding for President Trump’s proposed wall along the southern border – have not yet been resolved. Congress therefore passed, and the President signed, a continuing resolution that keeps the Federal Government operating at FY2019 funding levels through November 21st. Congress will continue to negotiate final appropriations bills for FY2020 during the period leading up to the 21st.
On April 30th, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, HHS, Education, and related programs, advanced its FY2020 appropriations bill that covers the period from October 1, 2019 through September 30, 2020. This appropriations package is important because it dictates funding levels for a wide range of health and human services programs, including the Older Americans Act and several related programs. We note, however, that this represented a proposal from the Democratic Majority in the House and the subcommittee voted on a party-line basis to move it forward. The proposals were advanced prior to the negotiated agreement for overall spending, so it is unlikely that Congress will pass appropriations bills that include the same level of funding for these programs.
With those caveats stated, there are a couple of important takeaways from the legislation, including that it proposes a total funding level for ACL of $2.294 billion, an increase of $180 million over last year’s level. Notably, $93 million of this increase is provided to senior nutrition programs, and $26 million is given to caregiver support programs.
The bill also proposed restorations to two important programs that received cuts in prior years:
- Proposed funding for SCSEP would increase from $400 to $464 million; and
- Funding for the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP) would increase from $49 million to $55 million.
The full House of Representatives passed this appropriations bill on June 19th.
In contrast, the Senate did not advance appropriations language, largely due the ongoing negotiations around overall spending levels that lasted through late July. The Senate majority released a proposal in September that largely level funded OAA and disability programs; however, the bill was not taken up due to objections over the process and the funding allocation raised by Senate Democrats. Given the passage of the continuing resolution through November 21st, Republicans and Democrats are expected to continue negotiating on this legislation in order to pass a final appropriations bill through the remainder of FY2020.