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U.S. Senate advances health and human services spending bill

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Senate committee advances $179.3 billion health & human services appropriations bill for FY 2019, floor vote up next. The Senate's legislation boosts key county priorities, including early childhood education and opioid prevention.

On June 28, the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee voted 30-1 to approve $179.3 billion in Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 appropriations for the U.S. Department of Labor, U.S. Department of Education and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). The spending measure outlines funding levels for key federal programs and is the largest of the twelve annual appropriations bills considered by Congress each year.

As passed, the Senate bill boosts or maintains funding levels for many of the health and human services resources counties use to ensure the well-being of our residents.

For FY 2019, the Senate bill would allocate $90.1 billion for HHS, an increase of $2.3 billion above FY 2018 funding levels. The bulk of this funding would go toward the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which would receive $39.1 billion under the bill, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which would be funded at $7.9 billion.

Much of the FY 2019 appropriations for NIH and CDC would support research, prevention and education activities, including opioid overdose prevention and surveillance activities, as well as a public awareness campaign.

In addition, for FY 2019 the bill would increase funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), which plans and operates community-based services for people with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The State Opioid Response Grant would receive $1.5 billion, with a 15 percent allotment for states with the highest rate of opioid-related overdoses. The Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment (SAPT) Block Grant would also receive $1.9 billion for FY 2019, consistent with FY 2018 funding. These programs focus on opioid prevention activities and direct resources in accordance with local needs.  

In addition to these health-focused programs, several human services programs administered under HHS would receive increased or level funding for FY 2019. The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary federal funding source supporting child care for low-income families, would be funded at $5.2 billion for FY 2019, consistent with funding for the previous fiscal year.

For early childhood education, the Senate legislation builds on increased funding outlined in the FY 2018 omnibus package to make further investments in Head Start and would allocate $10.1 billion for the program FY 2019. Head Start ensures the educational, nutritional and social services supports for pre-school children.  

Going forward, the timeline for the full Senate voting on the health and human services appropriations bill remains unclear. The U.S. House of Representatives is also considering a companion measure, which currently contains significant differences with the Senate bill related to education programs and immigration.

Once both chambers pass a bill, any differences must be resolved before the legislation can be combined with other appropriations measures and sent to the president for his signature.

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