Capitol Correspondence - 11.17.20

Senate Kicks Off Its 2021 Budget Proposals

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With the short-term extension that currently funds the federal government due to expire on December 12, Politico Pro reported that the Senate “released a slate of spending bills on Tuesday that kick off negotiations with the House on a trillion dollar-plus funding deal to ward off a government shutdown next month.” We remind our readers that while Medicaid is not affected by federal shutdowns, federal programs such as food and housing aid on which people with disabilities rely—particularly during this pandemic —would be vulnerable if Congress cannot reach an agreement on a short-term budget extension.

Politico Pro shared a list of the total sums per department in these Senate bills, along with the text for the relevant bill and a summary. For the convenience of our members, we have reduced this list to key departments overseeing disability programs, with a short description of these departments’ relevance.

  • Labor-HHS-Education, $195.1 billion (committee summary)
    • The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funds the federal share of the Medicaid program, which is the largest funder of disability programs in the US. It also funds the Administration for Community Living, which supports community disability programs. The Senate proposal would increase HHS funding by $2 billion.
    • The Department of Labor is responsible for regulations overseeing employment, including enforcing the Fair Labor Standards Act, and shares enforcement duties with the Department of Education for the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), which contains provisions specific to disability employment programs. It also directs apprenticeship programs, which ANCOR monitors given their potential to help address the Direct Support Professional workforce crisis.
  • Agriculture-FDA, $23.3 billion (committee summary)
    • The Department of Agriculture oversees food assistance programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), on which many people with disabilities rely.
    • The Food and Drug Administration will be responsible for regulating and approving the COVID-19 vaccine once it is available to the public. A vaccine could be available at some point in 2021, with confidence increasing given  promising recent developments in trials by Pfizer and Moderna.
  • Transportation-HUD, $74.8 billion (committee summary)
    • The Department of Transportation oversees and funds many modes of affordable transit on which individuals with disabilities rely, including local and state public transportation grants. It is also responsible for testing self-driving vehicles and preparing to regulate them when they are available to the public; ANCOR has been engaged in policy discussions surrounding accessible self-driving cars given their potential to enhance the independence of individuals with disabilities.
    • The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) oversees housing assistance programs, including programs specific to people with disabilities.

Politico Pro also elaborated on the lame duck period: “It’s unclear how much progress lawmakers will make during a lame duck session of Congress, as congressional leaders also look to resolve stalled fiscal stimulus talks, navigate a presidential transition and pour their energy into two Senate runoff races in Georgia that will decide party control of the upper chamber next year.

Bipartisan, bicameral agreement on all 12 bills shouldn’t be too big of a lift, because fiscal 2021 budget caps don’t allow for huge increases in spending.

Defense funding this fiscal year is capped at $740.5 billion, while overall funding for non-defense programs is capped at $634.5 billion. Both levels received about a $2.5 billion increase over the previous fiscal year.”