By: Anne Morris, MPH
Late last Friday, Congressman Pallone (D-NJ) and Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) began circulating a draft bipartisan sign-on letter indicating support for the Health Centers program to the House Labor-Health and Human Services (HHS)-Education Subcommittee on Appropriations. This letter is a key development that enables House members to publicly show their support for health centers. Unlike previous years, this letter does not include a specific funding level but instead includes a general statement of support for the Health Centers program. The decision to not include a specific funding level was made to ensure a strong bipartisan response to the letter, given the current climate on the Hill.
Now that there is a House sign-on letter, there are two important ways that individual House Members can indicate their support for the Health Centers program: (1) sign on to the Pallone-Bilirakis letter, and (2) submit a programmatic request through the House Appropriations online system for the Health Centers program – ideally at the discretionary funding level NACHC is recommending. As you’ll recall from our blog post last week, NACHC is recommending that Members request $1.79 billion in discretionary funding for FY2012.
House Members have until Friday, May 20th to submit programmatic requests; however, Congressman Pallone and Congressman Bilirakis are asking that Members sign-on to their letter by NOON on Wednesday. While it’s possible that this sign-on letter deadline will be extended, we encourage all health center advocates to operate as if the deadline will in fact be Wednesday, and encourage their Representatives to lend their support to this letter in the next few days. Advocates should also ask their Representatives to submit a programmatic request for the Health Centers program through the online system.
Looking ahead, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rogers has announced the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee will begin consideration of its appropriations bill on July 26th, with full Committee action expected the following week (on August 2nd). The appropriations bill that the Subcommittee will prepare is expected to reduce funding for Labor-HHS-Education programs by $18 billion, or nearly 12 percent, below the FY2011-enacted level. For context, the cumulative impact of the FY2011 budget deal and FY2012 proposed funding level for Labor-HHS-Education programs is worse than H.R. 1 and takes us back to pre-FY2005 funding levels. Nonetheless, as House Appropriations Committee Members and their staff are making decisions about the funding levels for individual programs, it is important for them to know that the Health Centers program is widely-supported and a priority for House Members.
We’re still awaiting official word on when Senate Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee action on an appropriations bill is anticipated, though it’s just been announced that the deadline for programmatic request submissions is June 10th.