By Lewis-Burke Associates, LLC
On May 8, the House Appropriations Committee amended and approved its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS-ED) Appropriations bill. This action followed the Labor-HHS-ED Subcommittee’s advancement of the bill on April 30. The bill, approved by the full Committee, would provide $189.9 billion in discretionary funding for programs at the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and other related agencies. This is an $11.8 billion increase above the FY 2019 enacted level.
The bill would provide a total of $41.1 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), an increase of $2.0 billion above the FY 2019 enacted level and $6.9 billion above the President’s FY 2020 budget request. The overall funding is intended to raise the amount of support for peer-reviewed research at all NIH institutes by at least 5 percent. The House Committee bill would also fund the Department of Education (ED) at $75.9 billion in discretionary funding, which is $4.4 billion above the FY 2019 enacted level and $11.9 billion above the President’s budget request for the agency.
Following the Committee’s approval, the bill will now move to the House floor to be considered by the full House of Representatives. However, Congress has not yet agreed on a budget agreement to lift the caps on discretionary spending for both defense and nondefense programs, as required under the Budget Control Act of 2011. While this law is only in effect for two more years, it will automatically force drastic cuts to agencies across the board if Congress is not able to negotiate a bipartisan budget agreement for FY 2020 and 2021.
Below is a brief overview of impacts and new initiatives at agencies of interest for HFES:
Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
While the President’s budget request again proposed to move activities from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) into a new National Institute for Research on Safety and Quality at NIH, Congress once again reject this proposal, instead increasing AHRQ by $20.2 million to $358.2 million. During the appropriations process, HFES submitted written testimony to the House Appropriations Committee in support of AHRQ, among other agencies, and signed on to a letter urging Congress to fund ARHQ at $460 million.
Of note, Patient Safety activities would be funded at $80.9 million, $8.6 million above the FY 2019 level, and Health Services Research, Data, and Dissemination would receive $105.2 million, an increase of $8.9 million over the FY 2019 level. The committee report notes the importance of reducing the amount and impact of diagnostic errors, which has been a focus of AHRQ in recent years. The Committee includes $4 million in funding “to support improving diagnosis in medicine, including a multiyear competitive grant program to address diagnostic errors.” In addition, the Committee notes that this funding may be used for establishing “Research Centers of Diagnostic Excellence to develop systems, measures, and new technology solutions to improve diagnostic and quality.”
The bill would also fund the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) at $346.3 million a $10 million increase over FY 2019, including a $2 million increase above the FY 2019 enacted levels for Education Research Centers; Agriculture, Forestry and Fishing (AFF) Program; and the Total Worker Health Program. This increase is in line with HFES’s request, as noted in the Society’s written testimony to the Committee, as well as the priorities of other organizations in the research community.
Department of Education
The House Committee’s bill fully rejected the President’s proposed cuts to student aid and higher education programs at ED and largely affirms the higher education community’s priorities for FY 2020.
The bill would provide $6,345 for the maximum individual Pell Grant award for the 2020-2021 school year, a $150 increase over the current maximum award level. The bill would also provide significant increases for the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG) program and Federal Work-Study (FWS) program, which would be provided $1.028 billion and of $1.434 billion, respectively. The President’s budget request for FY 2020 proposed eliminating the SEOG program and funding FWS at $500 million.
Because of known problems with ED’s management of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, the bill would provide $350 million for the Temporary Extended Public Service Loan Forgiveness (TEPSLF) program aimed at helping borrowers who were denied forgiveness and building on similar appropriations in previous years. The report would also direct ED to report on efforts aimed at “improving the effectiveness of current federal policy in supporting first generation students.”
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