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Who Gets Spared and Who Still Suffers Under Congress’ Latest Budget Deal

Who Gets Spared and Who Still Suffers Under Congress’ Latest Budget Deal

Written by Bryce Covert

On Monday evening, House and Senate negotiators unveiled a bill that fills in the details of the budget agreement reached at the end of last year. If passed, the appropriations bill doles out specific funds to a huge variety of government programs. It now heads to the House and Senate, where it will likely be voted on Wednesday in the former and before the weekend by the latter.

A second round of sequestration cuts would have taken place if Congress hadn’t reached a deal and would have been even more damaging than the reductions in 2013, but instead lawmakers increased spending to partially undo the automatic cuts. But until yesterday’s bill, it wasn’t clear which programs would get complete relief and which would still have reduced budgets. Here’s how the negotiators handled some of the programs that suffered from sequestration last year:

Head Start
Negotiators parceled out $8.6 billion for Head Start, $612 million more than what the program received in 2013. Democrats on the Committee on Appropriations say this is enough “to both fully restore the cuts to Head Start and to invest in the Administration’s Early Head Start-Child Care Partnerships.” That could mean re-opening slots for the more than 57,000 children who were kicked out of Head Start last year and allow programs to bring back bus services that had been eliminated and longer hours and more days of service that had been reduced.

Meals on Wheels
The Seniors’ Nutrition programs, which fund Meals on Wheels, gets $815 million, $46 million more than it got after sequestration cuts kicked in. Democrats say that is enough to fully restore meals. In the face of last year’s cuts, nearly 70 percent of Meals on Wheels programs reduced the number of meals they served, cutting 364 per week on average. But it had a larger impact than just cutting meals, forcing one in six programs to close home meal programs or congregate meal sites and about 70 percent to create or add to waiting lists for those who wanted to join the programs.

Scientific research
While the appropriations bill gives the National Institutes of Health $1 billion more than what it got under sequestration, the $29.9 billion allotted to it is still $714 million less than what it was meant to get in 2013 before the cuts. The National Science Foundation gets $7.2 billion, which is nearly $70 million below what it was meant to get in 2013. Sequestration cuts had significant impacts on scientific research projects last year after many of these agencies already had to deal with falling budgets for the past three years. The cuts meant that some projects closed, nearly half of the country’s scientists had to fire people, and about 70 percent couldn’t expand their research operations. Without significantly increased investment, the Huffington Post’s Sam Stein has warned that “the nation’s role as an international leader in scientific research is at risk.”

Food safety
The Food and Drug Administration will get $2.55 billion, $96 million than what it would have gotten before sequestration, and the Department of Agriculture food safety and inspection program gets $24 million more than it did under the automatic cuts. The FDA had already experienced rounds of budget cuts to its food safety programs before sequestration came around, and the budget cuts hampered the agency even more, putting more Americans at risk of contracting food-borne illnesses.

Heating assistance
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program will get $169 million more than under sequestration, but still $40 million less than it would have otherwise last year. The program had already absorbed a 25 percent reduction in funding between 2011 and 2012, even though the number of households who rely on the program to stay warm in the winter has remained steady. That means less of their heating bill is covered by the subsidy, which can lead people to turn their heat down too low or rely on heating their homes with ovens or space heaters, which can end up being fatal.

Rental assistance
The Section 8 program, which helps low-income people afford their rent, will get $123 million more than it would have pre-sequestration for tenant-based assistance and $596 million more for project-based assistance. That may not bring relief to the people who had moved off of waiting lists for assistance right before sequestration but had their vouchers rescinded, but it would hopefully mean that more people can start moving off the waiting lists and into their own housing.

The bill also restores cuts to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and should restore funding to domestic violence programs and child care assistance. A variety of other programs will be impacted by the deal if it passes.

But one area that wasn’t spared was Obamacare, which got no new funding under the appropriations deal and some pieces were even chipped away. The Prevention and Public Health fund, meant to support preventative health and public health measures, would get reduced by $1 billion after being cut a handful of times. The Independent Payment Advisory Board, the board tasked with cutting costs in Medicare, would be cut by $10 million.

This post was originally published in ThinkProgress

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Photo Credit: Neighborhood Centers

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64 comments

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4:48AM PST on Jan 20, 2014

Policies should be made beneficial to at least the most

4:15AM PST on Jan 20, 2014

noted

9:30PM PST on Jan 17, 2014

Screw job all around.

9:42AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

Jenny "Bring back our jobs!" Excellent point.

May I add....CREATE A REAL LIVING MINIMUM WAGE!

Then....watch what happens to welfare rolls and public assistance programs.

As Bill Maher says..."I'm tired of subsidizing big business by making up for what they refuse to pay their workers."

9:12AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

Bruce K- People just died. That's what we did before this. These programs and laws were set up because we needed them and still do. ALL our current problems could be SOLVED with ONE simple thing: BRING BACK OUR JOBS!! If we get working again, we pay into SS again. People won't NEED unemployment bennies anymore. Folks could keep their houses or buy houses and markets would get back on their feet. People could buy health insurance on the exchanges with help from ACA. We'd start spending money again and the economy would improve. Why is this not hapening? Because the 1% would like for the working class to be satisfied working in jobs without safety regulations, benefits, decent wages or upward mobility. Basically, if we, the work force, wish to be able to feed ourselves, then we must be willing to work under these conditions, similar to those prior to Union intervention in the 1940's. We would become like the thrid world countries they took our jobs to. OPEN YOUR EYES AND STOP DEFENDING PEOPLE WHO WOULD RATHER SEE YOU STARVE than pay the taxes they owe here on our soil. If they want to take their businesses over-seas, then they should be forced to drop their American Citizenship altogether and live in those countries as they are.

7:42AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

I still favor butter over guns, but I have a sneaking suspicion that while funding may be "restored" that it will not be sufficient to meet the needs of the vulnerable who remain at risk because corporations and the 1% refuse to pay a fair share of taxes.

Can you imagine what we could have done with all the money wasted on endless wars?

2:53AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

Stanley is right!!!!

2:53AM PST on Jan 17, 2014

very sad

8:02PM PST on Jan 16, 2014

Yeah, Bruce K, white middle class conservative voters are just longing for the days when they would have been responsible, all on their own, for the feeding, housing and medical care of their parents and their adult children who can't find jobs that pay a living wage. There was a lot to be said for those multigneration households (I grew up in one and know a lot more about the real history of this country than those who did not), but that includes long bathroom lines, a lot less meat per plate, lots of hand me downs and far fewer creature comforts than we are accustomed to. Those days also included a lot more petty crime by desperate people, stealing because they were hungry. In the 20th century, the thieves were often children trying to steal for the whole family, because we'd 'evolved' where criminal justice and children were concerned from the 19th century, where stealing a loaf of bread in London could get a 10 year old transported to a penal colony in Australia, which was an improvement over the 18th century model, which included execution or sale as a slave in the West Indies. Reform schools cost money too, Bruce, and Father Flanigans are in mighty short supply these days.

7:12PM PST on Jan 16, 2014

You can breathe easy 2%ers, you came out all right on this.

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