National Budget Proposed By President

600px-Great_Seal_of_the_United_States_(obverse).svgThis week, President Obama sent his FY 2017 budget request to Congress, thus beginning the annual process of setting spending levels for all discretionary federal programs. While the President’s budget theoretically serves as a starting point for congressional budget discussions, a Republican Congress is expected to reject most of his proposals. Despite this fact, the Administration’s budget still serves as an important framer for the public on its federal investment priorities. It also annually kicks off the larger conversations on our nation’s budget, deficit and debt that Congress and the President will have to resolve before year’s end.

In total, the budget reflects $4.23 trillion in spending authority, $4.15 trillion in actual anticipated spending and $3.64 trillion in proposed revenue—resulting in an anticipated $503 billion deficit for FY 17. Unlike last year, the FY 17 budget conforms to budget caps signed into law last fall under the Bipartisan Budget Agreement (BBA), which lifted, by a total of $80 billion for FY 16 and FY 17, the sequester-driven budget caps mandated for FY 16 by the Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). The President also proposed eliminating the budget caps entirely, as well as the threat of future sequestration, starting in FY 2018.

For this year, however, because the President proposed spending in line with the BBA, spending increases proposed for many programs were more modest than we saw in last year’s budget proposal. This strategy was anticipated by n4a based on our meetings with budget officials last fall.
 
n4a examined the President’s budget with special attention given to programs that help older adults remain in their homes and communities. The following analysis focuses on key programs that serve older Americans and their caregivers.

Administration for Community Living (ACL), HHS    
 
ACL/AoA fared relatively well in this year’s budget, with a nearly $2.1 billion proposed budget that reflects both discretionary and mandatory investments in core Older Americans Act programs, as well as funding for existing disability programs that were shifted to ACL under the workforce investment reauthorization. This total includes an increase of $28.4 million (1.4 percent) over FY 16 final funding.

Older Americans Act Title III B and III C
 
In a win for advocates, increases for III B Home and Community-Based Supportive Services and III C Nutrition Services totaled $24.4 million. An increase of $10 million (3 percent) for III B services; $5.8 million (1.2 percent) for III C1 Congregate Meals; and $8 million (3 percent) for III C2 Home-Delivered Meals reflects the bulk of the overall boost for ACL. Additionally, ACL proposes making one percent of III C available for national innovations investments to improve and modernize nutrition delivery models.

Aging and Disability Resource Centers
 
Funding for Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs) also received a modest, but important, increase of $2 million (32 percent), which reflects the Administration’s continued commitment to evolving and building out the ADRC/No Wrong Door (NWD) network across the country. However, this proposed funding, which is significantly below recent requests, also indicates a shift in investment strategy for ADRCs.
 
Since $10 million in annual mandatory funding for ADRCs expired in September 2014, advocates and Administration officials have been unable to fill that gap with additional discretionary (annually appropriated) or restored mandatory funding. The $2 million increase in the FY 17 request for the ADRC program represents the commitment to providing additional technical assistance to ADRC networks, but also recognizes that the bulk of infrastructure funding for ADRCs is occurring via investments by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) through other initiatives (e.g., the Balancing Incentive Program and Veterans-Directed Home and Community-Based Services program). In a briefing call with advocates yesterday, Assistant Secretary for Aging and ACL Administrator Kathy Greenlee specifically cited recent CMS guidance released to states to support state operations of ADRC/NWD networks. While n4a will continue to advocate for increased ADRC funding with Congress, the FY 17 ACL budget reflects the reality that major investments in ADRC/NWD networks are being implemented at a state level.

Elder Justice and Adult Protective Services
 
Again, in a pivot from ambitious investments included in previous budget requests, but still reflective of Administration priorities, a $2 million increase (25 percent) was included for the Elder Justice Initiative—specifically to continue developing a national Adult Protective Services (APS) data system and to continue APS research. This approach mirrors the slow and steady, yet significant, increases in Elder Justice and APS over the last several years. In FY 15, advocates secured first-time funding from Congress for Elder Justice Act–related activities included under this request, with an appropriation of $4 million. Last year, Congress doubled that funding to $8 million. The Administration’s FY 17 request would continue to promote incremental investments in developing a national APS data system, including grants to states to test and develop infrastructure.
 
Commitment to Caregivers 
 
The budget request includes a $1.6 million boost (nearly 50 percent) for the Lifespan Respite care program to support state initiatives and programs to provide respite care to the nearly 44 million caregivers of older adults and people with disabilities of all ages across the country. The Lifespan Respite Care program was targeted for investments in this budget because of systems innovations initiatives and the focus on caregiver respite services that the program fosters in states. Recent studies have shown that requests for respite are second only to direct financial assistance as an instrumental service to caregivers. The Administration’s budget reflects a targeted approach and effort to leverage relatively small investments in priority areas with the opportunity to innovate.

Senior Housing 
 
In a major win for the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program that is consistent with the budget’s overall focus on reducing homelessness, the President’s budget provides a total of $505 million—a massive $72.3 million increase (16 percent). Section 202 Housing provides funding to create and support multifamily housing for very low-income elderly people. Nearly 400,000 units for low-income senior households have been produced to date, and Section 202 is currently the only federal program that expressly addresses this need for affordable senior housing.

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