September 12, 2017 Federal Funding Update

As summer comes to an end, things are picking up again in Washington. President Trump struck a deal with House and Senate Democratic leadership last week to pass a continuing resolution that would fund the federal government through December 8 and avoid a government shutdown when the current fiscal year ends on September 30. The deal also includes an agreement to suspend the statutory limit on the debt ceiling for the same three-month stretch as well as $15 billion in preliminary disaster assistance for areas affected by Hurricane Harvey. The package quickly passed the House and Senate, with bipartisan but not unanimous support, and was signed by the President on September 8.

Meanwhile, the House and Senate are continuing their work on the FY18 appropriations process, which funds the federal government for the fiscal year beginning October 1, 2017.

Last week the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the FY18 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill, which includes funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and Department of Education, among other agencies.

The Senate bill includes several positive notable items:

  1. $36 billion in funding for the NIH (an increase of $2 billion or 5.9 percent above FY 2017, and $9.5 billion above the Trump Administration’s request).
  2. Language directing the NIH to continue to pay facilities and administrative(F&A) costs at negotiated rates and prohibiting the agency from altering F&A rates.
  3. A maximum individual Pell Grant award of $6,020 for the 2018-19 school year (an increase of $100 from the current maximum award and the first increase in discretionary funding added to the Pell Grant award in over a decade).
  4. Level funding for the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG) Program and the Federal Work-Study program (a rejection of President Trump’s recommendation to eliminate the SEOG program and cut Federal Work-Study in half).
  5. $953 million for the TRIO programs (a $3 million increase over FY17) and flat funding of $340 million for the GEAR UP program. 

The FY18 process is moving forward on the House side as well. Earlier this summer, a package of four of the twelve FY18 spending bills was approved by the full House of Representatives. This week the House is expected to take up a package of the remaining eight spending bills, including those that fund the NSF and NIH.

We are hopeful that the three-month continuing resolution will give Congress time to pass a final FY18 spending package for the remainder of the fiscal year, but many obstacles remain, with a limited number of legislative days left in the calendar and other priorities unfinished. In the coming weeks, I will be in Washington to continue to advocate for research funding, student aid, and other program priorities for Northeastern.