Last week, the Senate Appropriations Committee released the contents of its bill to fund the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services and Education in fiscal year 2018.

This measure will have sweeping implications for the public health community. As the main mechanism by which programs at federal public health agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Health Resources and Services Administration receive funding, APHA closely monitors which programs lost or gained funding in each version of this bill annually.

CDC

The Senate Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which has already passed the full committee, provides $7.119 billion in program level funding to the CDC. This total is about $44.95 million less than what the agency was allocated in FY 2017.

The biggest cut to CDC is the elimination of the REACH program, totaling $50.9 million annually. REACH is a national program administered by CDC to reduce racial and ethnic health disparities. The REACH program was also proposed for elimination in the House version of the bill, making its fate moving forward highly uncertain. APHA has long advocated that addressing health disparities should be a public health priority.

Most other CDC programs were level funded and a few programs got small increases in the Senate bill. For comparison, the House bill provides $118 million less to CDC than the Senate version. On a positive note, the cuts proposed in the House bill to CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health, including the elimination of the Climate and Health Program and the nearly $9 million reduction to the National Environmental Public Health Tracking Network, were not included in the Senate version, which provided level funding for all NCEH programs.

HRSA

Overall, HRSA fared well in the Senate bill. Funding for HRSA totaled $6.218 billion for the agency’s discretionary budget authority. This represents a $4.45 million increase over FY 2017.

In good news for maternal health, the bill provides $5 million for a new Screening and Treatment for Maternal Depression program as authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act to make grants to states to establish, improve or maintain programs to train professionals to screen, assess and treat for maternal depression in women who are pregnant or have given birth within the preceding 12 months. A handful of programs received small increases in funding, including rural health and workforce programs.

Last week, the House did not complete consideration of its FY 2018 omnibus bill as planned but will continue its consideration this week, including the consideration of amendments related to the Labor-HHS-Education section of the bill.

‘Lift the current spending caps’

“While the bipartisan Senate version of the bill represents an improvement over many of the more egregious cuts proposed in the House bill, we continue to encourage the House and Senate to work together and pass legislation to lift the current spending caps on discretionary funding,” said Georges Benjamin, MD, executive director of APHA. “Lifting the strict spending caps is essential to ensuring we can restore proposed cuts and adequately fund all the important public health and prevention activities at CDC, HRSA and other critical federal agencies.”

For more information on how public health professionals can take action to make their voice heard in federal budget conversations, visit APHA’s advocacy page.