6/09/2016 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, U.S. Senator Jack Reed helped advance a key spending bill that would boost funding to fight opioid abuse and Alzheimer’s disease, and restore year-round Pell grants.  The Senate Appropriations Committee voted to approve the fiscal year 2017 Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-H) Appropriations bill.  Overall, the bill would provide $163.8 billion in discretionary funding for the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), the U.S. Department of Labor, and related agencies such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH). 

Senator Reed, a member of the Senate Labor-H Subcommittee, backed several key measures in the bill, including a $2 billion increase for NIH medical research, bringing NIH’s annual funding up to about $34 billion, as well as a $126 million boost for programs targeting opioid abuse.  This year’s bill funds overdose prevention programs at $26 million, in line with Senator Reed's bill, the Overdose Prevention Act. 

And while the President’s budget proposed cutting funding for the library grants to states program by nearly $1 million, Senator Reed successfully reversed those cuts and included a $314,000 increase, with an overall increase of $1 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), funding the agency at $231 million.  IMLS supports programs for museums and libraries that encourage innovation, provide life-long learning opportunities, promote cultural and civic engagement, and improve access to a variety of services and information.

“We are under austere budget caps so strengthening our public schools and libraries, advancing medical research, and bolstering economic growth is a real challenge.  This is an important step forward and I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make critical investments that benefit the American people and strengthen the middle-class,” said Senator Reed.

Highlights of the bill include:

•  $34 billion for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), this marks the second consecutive year the Senate has included a $2 billion increase for NIH over the previous year, including a $400 million increase for Alzheimer’s research and a $100 million increase for the BRAIN Initiative.

•  $22.5 billion in discretionary spending for Pell Grants in fiscal year 2017 and authorizes year-round or summer Pell grants, benefiting roughly one million students.  This expansion will provide them up to 150 percent of their current Pell award, which could amount on average to an additional $1,650 Pell award. 

•  $15.4 billion for Title I funding, a $500 million increase above FY2016. These funds help schools, particularly those with concentrations of economically disadvantaged students, meet high academic achievement standards. 

•  $11.95 billion for IDEA/Special Education, an increase of $40 million.

•  $9.2 billion for Head Start, an increase of $35 million, to help Head Start programs keep up with costs, recruit and retain highly qualified staff, maintain enrollment, and provide high-quality early childhood service for children and families.

•  $3.7 billion for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which is $8 million more than the President’s request.

•  $3.39 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

•  $2.8 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), an increase of $25 million.

•  $2.64 billion for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grants to states to provide job training skills and assistance to low-skilled adults, dislocated workers, and low-income youth with barriers to employment.

•  $1.7 billion for Job Corps to help young Americans receive education, job training, and employment assistance.  The bill also includes $100 million for Apprenticeship Grants to support the ApprenticeshipUSA Initiative, an increase of $10 million from fiscal year 2016.  This funding will expand innovative, job-driven approaches that expand apprenticeship programs to train workers with the 21st century skills that meet employer and industry workforce needs.  The bill directs the Department of Labor to generate and respond to new employer demand for apprenticeship programs and to recruit and serve under-represented populations, with a particular emphasis on increasing the representation of women in apprenticeships.

•  $1.5 billion for Community Health Centers to provide comprehensive, quality health care services to medically underserved communities and vulnerable populations.

•  $1.22 billion to help low-income and first generation college students plan, prepare for, and succeed in college through the TRIO ($900 million) and GEAR UP ($322.75 million) programs.

•  $541.5 million for the Mental Health Block Grant and continues the set-aside for serious mental illness activities at 10 percent.  The Block Grants represent the primary sources of mental health funding for state programs. The bill also provides $50 million within the funding for CHCs to provide mental health services at health centers across the country.

•  $300 million for Children's Hospitals Graduate Medical Education (CHGME).   This is $300 million more than the President’s request and $5 million more than fiscal year 2016.  This funding supports freestanding children’s hospitals’ training of resident physicians, research capabilities and care for vulnerable and underserved children.

•  $274.5 million for Veterans Employment and Training to expand employment services to transitioning servicemembers, veterans with disabilities, and their spouses and caregivers.

•  $84.5 Million for YouthBuild, which helps young people get a second chance at earning their General Education Development (GED) diploma while learning valuable occupational and life management skills.

•  $582 million for million for Adult Education State Grants to support basic literacy, GED, and English as a Second Language programs for adult learners.

•  $250 million for Preschool Development Grants to expand access to high quality pre-school programs.

•  $190 million for Comprehensive Literacy Development Grants to strengthen literacy instruction from early education through high school graduation.

•  $43 million for the Teacher Quality Partnership Grant program to continue this partnership program between colleges of education and high need school districts.

•  $27 million for Innovative Approaches to Literacy, Senator Reed’s initiative to support school libraries and literacy programs that ensure that children have access to books in the home.  This funding will allow for a new grant competition.

The bill does not include new language restricting HHS’ authority to administer or enforce the Affordable Care Act.  The bill provides the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) with funding and program authorities that are consistent with those in fiscal year 2016, thereby protecting its ability to administer Medicare, Medicaid, and the ACA. 

Senator Reed also backed inclusion of a new provision that requires CMS to cover patient-centered comprehensive Alzheimer’s disease care planning services.

Now that the bill has been approved by the Appropriations Committee, it must be voted on by the full Senate, before it can be reconciled with a version making its way through the U.S. House of Representatives.