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Babies on the Bus: 2012 Appropriations Start to Move
With fiscal year 2012 a little more than a week old, the wheels have started to turn on funding decisions for many discretionary programs important to infants and toddlers.
These programs fall mostly in the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill. In the Senate, the Appropriations Committee approved a bill funding these programs on September 21. In the House, Congressman Denny Rehberg (R-MT), the Chairman of the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees this area of the budget, has introduced a bill (H.R. 3070) with proposed funding levels that may never be considered in Committee. Final decisions will likely come as part of negotiations over a larger bill, either an omnibus (a big bill that is a vehicle for all spending bills) or a minibus (a smaller vehicle that carries only a few individual spending bills), to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year. The Continuing Resolution currently keeping the government open runs out on November 18.
How do babies fare in these spending proposals? Both contain good news for Head Start and Early Head Start: the Senate proposes an increase of $340 million, which would sustain current enrollment; and the House bill would do even better, meeting the President’s request for a $540 million increase. Both would maintain current funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. Part C Early Intervention would receive a $5 million bump up in the Senate and no increase in the proposed House bill. The Senate would continue funding for Race to the Top, without a specific amount for the Early Learning Challenge, but with language expressing support for its continuation. Funding for Promise Neighborhoods would be doubled. The House bill would eliminate both Race to the Top and Promise Neighborhoods. Both bills would cut about $1.1 billion from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
On the health side of the ledger, the House bill would eliminate funding to implement programs under the Affordable Care Act, including all funding for the new Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting program that’s just getting up and running in the states as well as extra funding for Community Health Centers, where many low-income children and families receive their health care. The Senate bill reduced the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant by $50 million with the rationale that the home visiting program would make up for the loss in funds.
The mixture of good news and bad news for young children, as for other populations, reflects the hard decisions that have to be made in the current austere budgetary climate. And the road could get bumpier in the coming months. As the “Super Committee” works in comparative silence to come up with more than a trillion dollars in deficit reduction, no one knows what lies ahead.
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