Aging Services Appropriations in the Omnibus Package

Last week, the House of Representatives and the Senate voted to approve an omnibus appropriations act funding the federal government through the end of September at an overall cost of more than $1 trillion. The legislation covers “disrectionary” federal spending only, exclusive of the cost of social and health insurance programs, and interest on federal debt, which are regarded as “non-discretionary.” The package was approved more than six months into the 2016–2017 federal fiscal year, meaning that much of the funds appropriated have already been spent under the authority of previous continuing resolutions that allowed the government to continue operating, without providing authority for any changes to expenditures approved by the last set of appropriations measures.

Our colleagues at the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs and the Elder Justice Coalition have assembled a list of key aging services programs appropriations included in the omnibus measure, and compare those appropriations to their FY 2016 levels. Fortunately, many (though not all) programs maintained parity with or slightly improved from FY 2016. Here is the list:

Program FY16 Final FY17 Appropriated
OAA Congregate $448 million $450 million
OAA Home-Delivered $226 million $227 million
NSIP $160 million $160 million
OAA Nutrition Total ~$835 million ~$838 million
SCSEP $434.4 million $400 million
OAA IIIB HCBS $347.7 million $350.2 million
OAA VI Native Americans Nutrition $31.1 million $31.2 million
Elder Justice Initiative $8 million $10 million
Senior Corps $202.1 million $202.1 million
SHIPs (Health Insurance Assisters) $52.1 million $47.1 million
LIHEAP $3.39 billion $3.39 billion
Comm. Services Block Grant $715 million $715 million
Comm. Development Block Grant $3.06 billion $3.06 billion
Social Services Block Grant $1.7 billion $1.7 billion
Commodity Suppl.Feeding Program $222.2 million $235.1 million
Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program $20.6 million $18.5 million
SNAP $80.8 billion $78.4 billion
Section 202 Housing $432.7 million $502.4 million

The appropriations process for the federal fiscal year that begins October 1, 2017 is already far behind schedule. The Trump Administration has yet to supply a detailed budget request but its March appropriations request (the so-called “skinny budget”) indicated a policy direction of sharp reductions in non-defense discretionary spending to allow for significant increases in defense and homeland security expenditure. Aging services programs in this context should be seen as vulnerable, despite the fact that most programs barely cover existing needs, and the older adult population continues to be the fastest-growing segment of the population. We can certainly expect a interesting legislative drama to unfold as the Administration and party leadership in both Houses endeavor to converge on fiscal policy; the Administration has already signaled it’s willingness to use brinksmanship in the form of prospective government shut-downs in support of its policy objectives. In addition to targeting non-defense discretionary spending for reductions, the Administration and Republican legislative leadership have made no secret of their desire to make significant changes to federal health and social insurance programs. Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security comprise a large and growing share of federal expenditure, and new efforts to restrict eligibility, cap benefits or reduce benefit levels can likely be expected.