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Straight Talk for Seniors®: Movement on FY18 Budget is Good News for Aging Services

September was shaping up to feature divisive budget debates in Congress, but within the past week, those deliberations have been averted or at least postponed.

With significant bipartisan support, the House and Senate last week passed legislation that provides an initial down payment on hurricane disaster relief, keeps government funding flowing past the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30 through a continuing resolution (CR), and raises the debt limit until Dec. 8.

This is good news for aging services programs in the short-term, as they will continue to be level funded through early December. Before then, House and Senate appropriators hope to pass final versions of all 12 annual funding bills for FY18, and there is potential for good news there, as well.

Senate committee preserves funding for key programs

The Senate Appropriations Committee approved its version of the FY18 Labor-Health & Human Services-Education bill last week. Because of how the Senate Committee chose to allocate resources among the 12 FY18 bills, the Senate Labor-HHS bill has $8 billion more than in the House and $3 billion more than appropriated in FY17.

With these additional resources, the Senate bill preserves current level funding for all aging services programs, including:

  • Medicare’s State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) is funded at $47.1 million, equal to the current funding level but $5 million (10%) less than last year. Both the House and the Administration proposed eliminating all funding.
  • The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is funded at $400 million, equal to the current funding level but $34.4 million (8%) less than last year. The House proposed a $100 million cut and the Administration proposed eliminating all funding.
  • Chronic Disease Self-Management Education (CDSME) is funded at $8 million, equal to the current funding level. Both the House and the Administration proposed a $3 million (37.5%) cut.
  • Elder Rights Support Activities are funded at $13.9 million, equal to the current funding level. The House proposed $2 million (14%) cut.

Check out our Aging Program Funding Table for all of the latest budget amounts.

House debates Labor-HHS appropriations

This week, the House will continue to debate a package of FY18 funding that includes their version of Labor-HHS appropriations bill. In July, the House Appropriations Committee passed a version that would have eliminated SHIP and cut SCSEP by $100 million.

Fortunately, several appropriators raised concerns about those cuts. This week, a few amendments scheduled for floor debate would increase funding for several aging services programs. These include:

  • An amendment by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) and Dave Loebsack (D-IA) to increase Older Americans Act (OAA) Supportive Services, Nutrition and National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) funding by $51 million to nearly match their authorized amounts in the last bipartisan OAA reauthorization.
  • An amendment by Reps. Martha McSally (R-AZ) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) to increase OAA Supportive Services funding by $14.2 million to match its authorized level for FY18.

However, an amendment proposed by Reps. Price (D-NC) and Castor (D-FL) to restore funding for SHIP was not approved for floor debate.

Next steps

The House is expected to pass the last of the FY18 appropriations bills sometime this week. It’s not clear when or if the Senate will vote on its version of these bills. Nevertheless, negotiations to reach a compromise between the House and Senate measures will occur throughout the fall, with the goal of finalizing this effort before the continuing resolution expires in December. A significant obstacle remains: The need to craft an agreement to raise the budget caps that are reducing the total amount of funding available for FY18 and could force sequester cuts across the board.

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About Marci Phillips

Marci Phillips is NCOA's Director of Public Policy and Advocacy. She oversees NCOA's advocacy efforts related to budget and appropriations for seniors’ programs, Older Americans Act, economic security and hunger, and elder justice.

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