By Abigail Pinkele, NACHC Federal Affairs
Last week, the Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) announced a new competition for $100 million in grant funding for 285 existing health centers to expand their oral health services. Awardees will receive $350,000 and, of those funds, may use $150,000 in year one for minor capital costs for equipment or minor renovations. More information on the funding can be found here.
These funds were made available through the Health Center Fund and the funds remaining from the FY15 appropriations process. Of the $1.4 billion increase in funding made available in FY15, HRSA has spent or publicly committed to spend $1.385 billion. Earlier in the year, both NACHC and a bipartisan group of Senators requested HRSA make the full $1.4 billion in funding available to health centers in FY15 due to need in local communities for services expansions, health centers renovations and improvements, and new health center sites. We are pleased nearly all of the funding has been allocated for those purposes, but are closely watching as Congress wraps up the FY16 appropriations process.
As discussed in an earlier blog, Congress and the Appropriations Committees have until the current continuing resolution (CR) expires on December 11th, to renegotiate the FY16 appropriations bills. At the time of our last post, the 12 appropriations committees were awaiting their new spending allocations from the passage of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, H.R. 1314. The passage of H.R. 1314 increased domestic spending by $25 billion in FY2016 and $15 billion in FY2017 and most of the appropriations subcommittees were anticipating an increased spending allocation from current levels. Last week the Appropriations Committees finalized their FY2016 allocations and while not official, some information is leaking out. We are hearing the House Labor, Health, and Human Services (LHHS) Subcommittee received an allocation of $161.69 billion, or about an $8.59 billion increase from the initial House and Senate FY16 LHHS bills.
While this increased allocation could be good news for the completion of the FY16 LHHS bill, it is important to remember the initial FY16 LHHS bill had an allocation of $4 billion below FY16 so this would only be approximately a $4 billion increase over FY15. The LHHS allocation has also been consistently cut since the implementation of sequestration and overall spending in the bill has been reduced by $21 billion since FY10 and was, prior to the potential FY16 allocation, at its lowest level since 2001. Many programs are still operating at reduced spending levels. Therefore, many programs are requesting at least funding levels on par with FY15 and may be requesting funding increases. In addition, many Members of Congress have their own spending priorities including the National Institutes of Health which received a $2 billion increase in funding in the Senate LHHS bill. The potential increased allocation is not so large once all of these factors are taken into consideration. NACHC is continuing to work with the Appropriations Committees to ensure Health Center Funding in the FY16 LHHS bill is maintained as the process moves toward completion.
Congress has 8 working days before the December 11th deadline to pass an appropriations bill. Once the LHHS Subcommittees in the House and Senate it is expected the bill will be rolled up into a larger package with the 11 other appropriations bills as was done in FY15 in what is called an omnibus. There has been speculation that the appropriators will need additional time to work out a deal and some brewing political issues may slow down a final vote. If this were to occur, it is widely expected Congress would pass another short-term CR to keep the government funded while they continue to work on final passage of an omnibus. Stay tuned for updates here on the Health Centers on the Hill blog as well as the Washington Update.