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Straight Talk for Seniors®: Federal Funding for Aging Services

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It’s budget season in Washington, DC, and funding for senior programs is at stake for two time periods—the rest of fiscal year 2017 (FY17, ending Sept. 30) and all of fiscal year 2018 (FY18, starting Oct. 1).

FY17: April 28 deadline

First up is finalizing FY17 funding before the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on April 28. This will provide funding for discretionary programs such as Older Americans Act (OAA) senior nutrition and supportive services, elder abuse protections, transportation, and energy assistance.

Last week, the Trump Administration requested additional FY17 funding for defense and the border wall. To offset the cost, it proposed $18 billion in cuts to non-defense spending, including eliminating senior programs like the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), and Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), and nearly eliminating the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).

However, it appears lawmakers plan to keep FY17 funding straightforward by avoiding projects such as the border wall. House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) also has stated that lawmakers want to pass a bill in time to avoid a government shutdown when funding runs out on April 28.

As a result, FY17 funding for senior programs is expected to be largely equal to FY16 levels.

FY18: President’s budget blueprint

The FY18 budget process starts with budget requests from the President and budget resolutions by Congress. Both are broad blueprints that outline funding, savings, and revenue targets for the year.

In March, the Trump Administration issued a blueprint (or “skinny” budget) briefly detailing its priorities for discretionary spending. In terms of senior programs, the proposal would:

  • Eliminate SCSEP, which provides job training and placement for adults aged 55+ who have limited incomes. Last year under SCSEP, 70,000 older adults received on-the-job training while providing nearly 36 million hours of staff support to 30,000 organizations.
  • Eliminate LIHEAP, which provides assistance to low-income households to meet the costs of electricity, heating, and cooling. About a third of the nearly 7 million households receiving LIHEAP include an older adult aged 60+.
  • Eliminate CSBG, which provides states and localities with funding to improve economic security and independence for low-income families and seniors. For 2.4 million people aged 55+, services include home care, congregate and home-delivered meals, and transportation.
  • Eliminate CNCS, which includes three Senior Corps programs—the Foster Grandparent Program, Senior Companion Program, and Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP), which provide approximately 96 million hours of volunteer service at a value of $2.1 billion.

FY18: Challenges for Congress

It’s possible that Congress will not draft its own budget blueprint until after it receives a more detailed budget request from the Administration, likely in May.

Congress will face many challenges when drafting its bill. Budget caps could push lawmakers to include drastic cuts in discretionary spending. If they have to find more dollars for defense, they may have to abandon the long-standing bipartisan agreement to spread funding cuts across defense and non-defense programs. In that case, there may be even bigger cuts to programs like the OAA, senior housing, transportation, and other services.

Congress is supposed to send FY18 appropriations to the President for his signature by Oct. 1. These bills require 60 votes to pass the Senate, and if that level cannot be reached, it’s possible short- and long-term CRs will be needed to keep the government funded.

FY18 budget proposals also are expected to include cuts to mandatory spending to pay for potential tax cuts. This could affect programs such as SHIP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), which supports state and local services like elder justice, senior nutrition, and adult day care. Medicaid cuts proposed during the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal debate also could be on the table again.

In April: Educate your lawmakers

Both the House and Senate are on recess from April 8-23, and members will be back in their home districts. This is a great opportunity to educate your lawmakers about these senior programs and the benefits they provide for your community.

Find a town hall event in your area and use our Advocacy Toolkit to find tips, talking points, and more.

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Howard Bedlin

About Howard Bedlin

Howard Bedlin is NCOA's Vice President of Public Policy and Advocacy. He is responsible for all of NCOA’s federal and state legislative advocacy efforts on issues and programs of concern to older adults, which include the Older Americans Act, Medicare, Medicaid, long-term care, income security, and community services programs.