Take Action Now: Support House Funding Levels for Health and Human Services Programs

Over the next several weeks, the House and Senate will be working on drafting a final fiscal year (FY) 2020 omnibus appropriations bill in hopes of meeting the November 21 continuing resolution deadline. As is so often the case, the House and Senate Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (Labor/H) appropriations bills differ. 

Overall, the House FY 2020 Labor/H appropriations bill – passed through the chamber as a part of the H.R. 2740 legislative minibus package – offers more favorable funding levels for the Older Americans Act (OAA) and other key health and human services programs. It would increase funding for a wide range of human services programs important to regions, especially those regions that are also designated as the Area Agency on Aging (AAA). In contrast, the draft fiscal year 2020 Senate Labor/H bill would maintain funding at current levels. 

The proposed Senate Labor/H appropriations bill would level fund Title III of the Older Americans Act (OAA). The House, in contrast, would increase overall funding by $151 million – a 10 percent increase over fiscal year 2019. The same is true for Title V programs. The Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), a program operated by the Department of Labor, would be level funded. By contract, SCSEP funding would increase by approximately 15 percent if the House funding proposal is adopted. 

Other HHS programs such as the Community Services Block Grant and the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program would also see a funding increase if the House Labor/H appropriations bill becomes law. While none of the proposed increases are large, all represent movement away from last year’s appropriations amounts that either level funded or reduced funding to these important programs.

A current appropriations chart developed by the National Association of Area Agencies on Aging (n4a) is available here.

Here are some ways you can take action now:

  1. Send a letter to your Members of Congress. Use this template to send your own messages to you members of Congress about the importance of a long-term funding bill and funding increases for OAA and health and human services programs.
  2. Does Your representative or senator serve on an Appropriations Committee? Advocacy with Members on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees is especially important. If your representative or senator serves on one of these key committees, your letter should request that they share your messages with their committee leaders. At this point, many funding decisions are being made at a leadership level, and the more they hear from their committee colleagues, the more seriously they will consider these requests. You may wish to add: As a member of the {SENATE/HOUSE] Appropriations Committee, I urge you to work with your fellow committee members to ensure that the House language is adopted.
  3. Engage your grassroots. Using n4a’s toolkit or your own approach, get the word out in your networks that action is needed now! Here are some approaches you could take:
    • Ask your grantees to email or post a short note to lawmakers on social media. Members monitor their email/website/social media traffic for constituent correspondence, and personal messages resonate most. Ask your advocates to share why the OAA is important to them. 
    • Ask local advocates to call Congress. Included in the n4a toolkit’s grassroots template alert are instructions on calling lawmakers and a short sample script that constituents can use.
    • Share stories in person. Encourage your advocacy stakeholders to attend the next town hall your federal representatives have in the region to share the importance of funding for OAA. Invite your senators and member(s) of Congress to come see your agency in action and meet some of their constituents receiving OAA and other senior services.

NARC would like to thank n4a and Sandy Markwood, n4a’s Chief Executive Officer, and Autumn Campbell, n4a’s Senior Director, Public Policy and Advocacy, for their assistance and support addressing OAA, AAA, and other programs for seniors, as well as permission to use their funding documents and draft templates. 

Neil Bomberg

Senior Policy Advisor at National Association of Regional Councils
I am a highly experienced public sector lobbyist committed to ensuring that the issues important to regions and the local governments they represent are heard in Congress and the Administration. My issue areas include: budget and appropriations, human services, health care, workforce development, and economic and community development. I worked as a lobbyist at the National Association of Counties and National League of Cities for more than 26 years where I focused on labor and employment, and human development, respectively.
Neil Bomberg

About the Author

Neil Bomberg
I am a highly experienced public sector lobbyist committed to ensuring that the issues important to regions and the local governments they represent are heard in Congress and the Administration. My issue areas include: budget and appropriations, human services, health care, workforce development, and economic and community development. I worked as a lobbyist at the National Association of Counties and National League of Cities for more than 26 years where I focused on labor and employment, and human development, respectively.

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