First things first, if you haven’t read the previous post “Unraveling the Mysteries of the Federal Budget Process” you probably should before reading on! If you have already read it (or if just want to skip the wonky info and get to the good stuff) read away. . .
When some folks hear that the President’s budget proposal level funds health centers, they assume that’s it, FY2010 is over, no health centers program increase. But they’d be WRONG! Assuming that means forgetting the power of our health center grassroots, and all the efforts you have already made this year!
Our Health Centers program request for FY2010 is $2.602 billion- which is our authorized level that Congress unanimously approved just last fall. Earlier this spring, thanks to your efforts, almost 200 House members and 60 Senators of both parties signed letters of support to the Labor-HHS Appropriations Chair and Ranking Member in each chamber supporting this exact funding level for health centers for FY2010. The Appropriations Committees have yet to start work on the FY2010 appropriations bills that will determine our actual funding (that will happen over the next month or so), but the support for a significant increase in health centers funding has already been demonstrated through these letters.
That is the good news. The not-so-good news is that there is a limited amount of non-defense discretionary funding for Congress to work with given their budget resolution. The President has also communicated his preferences for how to use the limited increase, and most programs who got significant stimulus funding- including the Health Centers- were not included. The Administration would argue that because stimulus is two-year funding that lasts through 2010, health centers do not need an increase this coming year.
Health Centers know, however, that with health reform on the horizon and the likely increase in patients and demand for access it will cause, now is not the time to freeze the number of health centers. We’ll be making this case to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees in the months to come. As always, support from our health center grassroots will be key to achieving success.