December 19, 2011
By Neal Tepel
House and Senate leaders agreed to a combined fiscal year 2012 spending bill “megabus” for the nine federal funding bills that remained unfinished. Its expected that both houses of Congress will pass the bill, and President Obama will sign it. Congress has passed a one-week continuing resolution to keep the government open.
The overall funding complies with the budget limits set in the Budget Control Act passed over the summer which set budget caps in an attempt to limit spending and reduce the deficit. Spending is reduced $7 billion below last year’s funding levels, and some programs fare better than others.
Labor, Health and Human Services and Education programs will be cut around 2% across the board, excluding Pell grants. Cuts are devastating to communities as state and local governments continue to struggle with their own budget cuts, reduced revenues, and slow economic growth. In spite of many domestic spending cuts, defense programs received a $5.1 billion increase. Some specific program funding levels include:
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) is cut by $41 million. This agency funds many health care programs, including community health centers.
Head Start received an additional $424 million, which will allow the program to expand using Recovery Act funds.
The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) received an additional $60 million.
The Community Services Block Grant escaped the harsh cuts proposed earlier with an increase of $12 million.
Education funding included a boost of $60 million for Title I, a continuation of the maximum Pell award at $5,550, an increase of $100 million for special education, and Race to the Top is cut $148 million.
The Labor Department’s budget for training programs is cut $68 million, but training funds directed at veterans are increased by $9.3 million.
Homeland Security is cut by $2 billion, including a $1 billion reduction from FEMA First Responder Grants.
Environmental Protection Agency funding includes a $101 million cut from the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.