President’s Fiscal Year 2022 “Skinny” Budget Proposal

Recently, President Joe Biden released his “skinny” budget request. Every year the president puts out their request to Congress, but ultimately Congress decides what gets appropriated. Therefore, this budget is just a recommendation. That said, with a Democratic party-led Congress and administration, it’s important to pay attention to Biden’s budget priorities, many of which will be reflected in Congress’s work this year. The “skinny” budget was released in place of the full budget, as the Administration is new and hasn’t had the months required to draft the full program-by-program budget request. That, more comprehensive, version should come out in May. One notable trend in the president’s budget request was the shift away from “parity” between defense and non-defense spending, a decade-long tradition in budgets. Instead, President Biden recommends a 16% increase in domestic nondefense spending, as compared with a 1.7% increase for defense.

Department of Agriculture

  • Rural Connectivity/Broadband: $32 million for a renewed and expanded initiative, StrikeForce, to help people in high poverty rural communities tap into federal resources. Increases $65 million over the fiscal year 2021 level for Rural e-Connectivity Program “Reconnect.”
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children: $6.7 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children to help families put food on the table and narrow racial disparities in maternal and child health.

Department of Education

  • Title I Grants: $36.5 billion for Title I grants, a $20 billion increase, to help schools offer new and enriching learning opportunities and additional support for teachers in low-income communities. 
  • Head Start: $11.9 billion to Head Start to support high-quality early education and family engagement programs.
  • Behavioral Health in Schools: $1 billion for counselors, nurses, and mental health professionals in schools.
  • Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): $15.5 billion for IDEA for special education and services for students with disabilities.
  • Full-Service Community Schools: Increases funding from $30 million to $443 million for community schools with wraparound services for students and families, such as afterschool, adult education, and health services. 
  • Higher Education: Doubles the Pell Grant by proposing to increase maximum grant by $400, with an additional $3 billion. 

Department of Health and Human Services

  • Gun Violence as a Public Health Epidemic: $2.1 billion to support Community Violence Intervention initiatives, improve background check systems, and incentivize adoption of gun licensing laws and voluntary gun buyback programs. 
  • Substance Use Disorder Treatment: $10.7 billion to end the opioid epidemic. This is an increase of $3.9 billion above fiscal year 2021 enacted levels to support research, prevention, treatment, and recovery support services. Targeted investments to support populations with unique needs, including Native Americans, older Americans, and rural populations.
  • Community Mental Health Services Block Grants: $1.6 billion, doubling the fiscal year 2021 enacted level. It includes additional funding and support for those involved in the criminal justice system, resources to partner mental health providers with law enforcement, and funds to expand suicide prevention. 
  • Public Health System: $8.7 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to strengthen the public health system. Funds would be used to support states in modernizing data collection and hiring more epidemiologists and other public health experts.
  • Maternal Mortality: $200 million to end racial and ethnic disparities in maternal mortality rates.
  • Child Care and Development Block Grant: $7.4 billion for early care and education programs, including raising wages for early educators and family child care providers.
  • Administration for Community Living: $551 million for home and community-based services, doubles funding for Lifespan Respite Care program, increases funding for meal programs for older Americans, and expands services for individuals with disabilities.
  • Child Welfare: $100 million in new competitive grants for states and localities to advance reforms that would reduce overrepresentation of children and families of color in the child welfare system and address disparate experiences and outcomes of these families, in addition to providing more families with the support they need to remain safely together. Also provides $200 million for states and community-based organizations to respond to and prevent child abuse. 
  • Office of Refugee Resettlement: $4.3 billion to settle up to 125,000 refugees in 2022, connect unaccompanied minors with relatives, and provide trauma and mental health services to children. 

Department of Housing and Urban Development

  • Community Development Block Grant (CDBG): $3.8 billion, which includes a targeted increase of $295 million to incentivize communities to direct formula funds toward modernization and rehabilitation of public infrastructure and facilities in historically underfunded and marginalized communities facing persistent poverty.
  • Housing Choice Vouchers: $30.4 billion to provide low-income families with rental assistance in the private market and expand the program to 200,000 additional families. Vouchers can be used to move to higher-income neighborhoods.
  • Homeless Assistance Grants: $3.5 billion to assist individuals and families who are homeless or are at-risk of homelessness. This discretionary request will support 100,000 additional households.
  • HOME Investment Partnerships Program: $1.9 billion to construct affordable rental housing, plus $180 million to build 2,000 units for the elderly and persons with disabilities.

Department of Justice

  • Civil Rights: Supports significant budget increases for civil rights offices and activities across federal agencies to ensure that laws are enforced fairly and equitably.
  • Police Reform: Invest in programs that support community-oriented policing and practices. Proposes expansion of grants that support efforts to reform state and local criminal justice systems, including funding to support juvenile justice programs, drug courts, and alternative court programs, public defenders, and Second Chance Acts. 
  • Community Oriented Policing Services: $1.2 billion to build relationships between police and community, provide racial sensitivity and bias training, hire more police officers that reflect the diversity of the community. 
  • Criminal Justice Reform: Supports key investments in First Step Act (FSA) implementation, advancing the provision of high-quality substance use disorder treatment, reentry, and recidivism reduction programming. Building on the bipartisan FSA, the discretionary request also incorporates savings from prison population reduction measures that prioritize incarceration alternatives for low-risk offenders.
  • Gender-Based Violence: $1 billion for the Violence Against Women Act. Doubles the fiscal year 2021 level, including funding for new programs to expand restorative justice efforts; protect transgender survivors; and support women at historically black colleges and universities, Hispanic-serving institutions, and tribal colleges and universities to ensure these higher education institutions have same resources as other schools to address these issues.  Discretionary request also provides funding for domestic violence hotlines, cash assistance, medical support and services, emergency shelters, etc. 
  • Executive Office for Immigration Review: $891 million to address the backlog in immigration courts by hiring 100 new immigration judges and support personnel.

Department of Labor

  • Registered Apprenticeships: $285 million to provide registered apprenticeships to historically underrepresented groups, including people of color and women.
  • Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act: $3.7 billion to make employment services and training accessible to dislocated workers, low-income adults, and disadvantaged youth.

Department of Treasury

  • Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI): $70 million, an increase of $22 million over fiscal year 2021, to fund investments in economic development grants and research to ensure policies effectively support the minority business community. This adds $3 billion in direct funding, $9 billion for investments in CDFI and Minority Depository Institutions, and provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 encouraging CDFI participation in the $10 billion State Small Business Credit Initiative.
  • Internal Revenue Service: $13.2 billion to increase oversight and compliance of high-income households and corporate entities and to expand outreach and assistance to underserved communities.

Boost to Equity Initiatives in Biden Budget

President Biden’s recently released fiscal year 2022 budget proposal includes targeted investments in civil rights offices and equity programs across the federal government. For instance, the Office for Civil Rights at the Education Department would receive a boost of $144 million. At the Justice Department, the Civil Rights and Community Relations Division would receive an extra $33 million in funding that could be used for police reform, hate crime prosecution, and protecting voting rights. Under the president’s budget proposal, the Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights would receive a 24% boost in funding, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would get $153 million to enhance data collection by race and ethnicity. 

Biden’s budget also allocated $65 million for the Department of Agriculture to support rural broadband, particularly for tribal communities, and proposed the creation of a commission to study how farm policy negatively impacts farmers of color. Finally, the Environmental Protection Agency would be allocated $936 million for its External Civil Rights Compliance Office to pursue environmental justice for communities disproportionately affected by pollution. 

Source: Bloomberg Government

Infrastructure Discussions Begin in Congress

House and Senate Democrats have begun the process of putting together their versions of an infrastructure bill. The Biden administration has already offered a $2.25 trillion broad spending package that would fund everything from roads, bridges, airports, public transportation, and broadband—to research and development, affordable housing, and elderly care. The package would be funded by a hike in the corporate income tax, from 21% to 28%. 

To pass in the current political climate, Democratic leaders in both chambers will have to walk a delicate line between progressives who want to see a much larger package; centrist Democrats like Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia who are wary of a significant tax hike; and the Republican party, which does not want to raise corporate taxes at all. Republican lawmakers are putting together a pared down package between $600-$800 billion that tackles traditional infrastructure, like roads, bridges, and transit. Democrats are considering passing such a package on a bipartisan basis and then passing the rest of the Democratic priorities through the reconciliation process, which requires only a simple majority plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie breaking vote.

Source: Bloomberg Government

Substance Use Disorder Bill Introduced in Senate

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Shelley Capito (R-W.V.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), and Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.) introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) 3.0, which helps to address the nation’s growing drug addiction epidemic. COVID-19 exacerbated the rise of despair, unemployment, and substance use, leading to suspected overdoses rising 18% nationally during the first three months of the pandemic. CARA 3.0 would dedicate $785 million toward evidence-based substance use prevention; treatment; criminal justice; and recovery programs, including more training and employment opportunities for substance use professionals, funding for community-based prevention efforts and recovery housing, and support networks for youth. CARA 3.0 improves upon similar substance use legislation, the first of which passed on a bipartisan basis in 2016.

Public Health Workforce Program Seeks Applicants

On the heels of the American Rescue Plan, which allocated $9.1 billion in public health workforce-related support, the National Health Service Corps has initiated its application process. The Corps, which has placed more than 63,000 primary care providers in rural, urban, and tribal areas since 1972, is offering scholarships and loans of up to $100,000 to encourage medical professionals to help address the workforce shortages in high-need areas. This increase in public health workforce will help struggling communities recover from the short and long-term effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

President Biden Executive Order on Gun Violence

On April 9, President Biden announced six executive actions to combat gun violence in America. These reforms work within his limited executive power to regulate guns, with most major reforms requiring legislative action. The executive orders include cracking down on “ghost guns,” which are homemade firearms that lack traceability and can be purchased without a background check. They also tighten regulations on pistol-stabilizing braces. Meanwhile, Democratic leaders in the House and Senate would like to move gun control legislation forward in Congress, but it will be difficult to do with a very slim majority in the Senate. While the House has already passed two bills this spring to expand and strengthen background checks, these have mostly been along party lines. These bills are unlikely to succeed in the Senate, but a more tailored approach could help create the bipartisan support needed to pass.

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