House Republicans are proposing to shortchange students, workers, our nation’s health, and the economy by cutting overall funding for the Departments of Labor, Education, and Health and Human Services by roughly $15 billion, or 9 percent, compared to the President’s Budget.
But the impacts can be measured in more than dollars. Through a combination of funding cuts and ideologically-motivated provisions, the Republican bill will, for example, leave millions of Americans without health insurance, reduce access to early education, make college students more vulnerable to poorly performing career colleges, and jeopardize worker rights and safety, among many other deleterious effects.
The deep cuts in the Republican bill are a direct result of locking in sequestration. In contrast, the President put forward a comprehensive budget proposal that reverses sequestration, invests in both our critical domestic and national security priorities, and cuts the deficit.
Compared to the President’s Budget, under the House Republican Labor- H bill:
Millions of Americans could lose their health care coverage, and innovations that are helping to slow health care cost growth and improve quality would be blocked. After five years of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), more than 16 million people have gained health insurance coverage, bringing the uninsured rate to the lowest level on record. Through a combination of funding cuts and ideologically-motivated restrictions, the House Republican bill would obstruct the functioning of the Health Insurance Marketplaces, jeopardizing or disrupting coverage for the more than 10 million people currently enrolled in health insurance plans through the Marketplaces. It would also deny assistance to States expanding their Medicaid programs under the Affordable Care Act, jeopardizing coverage for many millions more.
The bill also seeks to turn back the clock on the progress we’ve made in containing health care costs and improving quality. Recent years have seen exceptionally slow growth across a wide range of measures of health care costs. The ACA has contributed to these trends by reducing excessive Medicare payments to Medicare providers and private insurers and by supporting innovative new ways of paying for health care in Medicare and throughout our health care system that encourage lower-cost, higher-quality care. These effects will grow in the years ahead as successful delivery system reforms mature and are scaled up and additional innovative reforms are implemented. But the House Republican bill would block most of these innovations:
Young children would lose access to high quality early education. Motivated by evidence that students who spend more time in high quality early learning programs learn more, the President’s Budget provides a $1.5 billion increase for Head Start so that all Head Start children have access to a full school day and year of high-quality instruction and to increase enrollment. By contrast, under the funding provided by the House Republican bill, either more than 570,000 children in Head Start would not receive the full-day, full-year services they need to succeed, the program would serve some 140,000 fewer children as compared to the President’s budget, or some combination of both.
The bill also blocks major efforts to expand high-quality public preschool to more four-year-olds by eliminating Preschool Development Grant funding for the eighteen states that are creating or expanding high-quality preschool programs for low- and moderate-income children. Pulling these funds away from communities jeopardizes their plans to provide high-quality early learning for more than 100,000 children, including nearly 60,000 children who would lose access to public preschool entirely and thousands more who will lose out on key quality improvements to existing preschool programs. The President’s Budget, by contrast, expands the number of states that could undertake this important work.
The bill also fails to provide an increase in child care funding to help States implement the quality improvements and reforms called for in the recently-enacted bipartisan child care legislation.
K-12 students will be shortchanged. The House bill provides $2 billion less than current year funding and $5 billion less than the 2016 President’s Budget for our nation’s schools. It would eliminate 19 programs that serve primarily PreK-12 students and underfund core programs, including Title I, which supports educational improvements for our most vulnerable students. These eliminations take away critical resources being used to turn around low-performing schools, enhance STEM education, promote the arts, create safe school environments, and support educators who are doing the important work of preparing America’s students for the future.
Among the programs slated for elimination is the Investing in Innovation Fund (i3), which is helping to identify what works when it comes to supporting effective teachers and principals, turning around persistently low-performing schools, and leveraging technology to accelerate student learning. Without this unique initiative, there would be no robust mechanism to test innovative ideas and scale proven programs so that our education dollars have the greatest impact on achievement.
Colleges would become less accountable for providing a quality and affordable education. Even as students across the country are reeling from the actions of failed and fraudulent career colleges, the bill includes a series of ideologically-motivated provisions that roll back important efforts to hold schools accountable to both students and taxpayers. Recent school closures and evidence of fraud at certain for-profit institutions make it clearer than ever that we need more – not less – oversight, transparency, and accountability in higher education. Yet the House Republican bill would roll back a set of important accountability initiatives, including the “Gainful Employment” regulation, rules that are designed to bar poor performing career college programs from accessing student aid. The bill also would halt the Administration’s efforts to provide students and families with clear information about how students who attend different colleges fare.
Workers and the Economy
Enforcement of workers’ rights, benefits, and safety protections would be weakened. The bill includes deep cuts and ideological riders that would hamstring the agencies charged with protecting the safety, health, wages, benefits, retirement security, and collective bargaining rights of the nation’s workers.
Ideologically-motivated policy provisions would do further damage, such as:
Fewer workers would get job training or help finding a job. Under the Republican bill, two million fewer Americans would have access to services to help them find jobs and gain skills. At a time when workers need new skills to succeed in today’s economy and businesses are struggling to find skilled workers, the bill provides almost $500 million less for employment and training programs than the President’s Budget. The bill also slashes funding for grants to areas facing mass layoffs or natural disasters, denies needed support for implementation of the bipartisan Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, and provides none of the requested funds to expand apprenticeships so more workers and employers can benefit from this proven learn-and-earn model.
Social Security beneficiaries and applicants would see poorer service from the Social Security Administration. The House Republican bill provides $652 million less for the operation of the Social Security Administration, the agency charged with making sure retirees, people with disabilities, survivors and dependents of workers get the Social Security benefits their families have earned. This cut in funding compared to the President’s Budget could lead to reduced field office hours of service, longer in-office wait times, and longer phone service delays and more busy signals for those who call SSA for help. The bill also limits the resources SSA can use to conduct periodic eligibility reviews in its programs, making it harder for the agency to ensure that benefits are going to those who continue to meet the disability and income eligibility requirements.
The number of national service members working in communities across the country would be sharply reduced. The House bill includes almost $500 million, or 42 percent, less than the President’s Budget for national service programs. The Republican bill would mean that tens of thousands fewer AmeriCorps members would be able to serve their communities while earning money to cover college costs or repay student loans. AmeriCorps members serve in more than 25,000 locations across the country--including thousands of public schools, communities hit by disaster, organizations helping veterans, tribal nations, and faith-based groups. Under this bill, AmeriCorps would have to drop many of these service areas and projects.
Public Health and Safety
Our Nation would have fewer resources to effectively respond to and recover from public health emergencies and catastrophes, such as hurricanes, an anthrax outbreak, or a disease pandemic. The bill underfunds our ability to ensure safe and effective medical countermeasures are available through the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA) to protect Americans and does not support increased funding to procure new medical countermeasures through Project BioShield that are needed to protect against potential chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear attacks. Further, the bill fails to provide the $110 million requested in the President’s Budget to more effectively respond to urgent public health crises, like an infectious disease outbreak, that require immediate or sustained responses.
Millions of low-income women would not receive needed preventative and reproductive health services. The House Bill would eliminate funding for Title X Family Planning, which serves five million low-income women each year. These services, which do not include abortion, help avert approximately one million unintended pregnancies annually. Additionally, the bill appears to dramatically decrease funding for the evidence-based Teen Pregnancy Prevention (TPP) program that has made strides in teenage pregnancy prevention across the Nation. U.S. teen birthrates have fallen to record lows, and the reduction of TPP funding could hamper significant progress made in this healthcare area.
Shaun Donovan is the Director of the Office of Management and Budget.