- Congress acts on budget deal before leaving D.C. for August Recess
- Advocating to Congress at home during the August Recess – a free webinar today
- Kentucky signs pension bill into law, delaying cost increase and providing option to “buy out” of state system
- Housing First Model demonstrates impact and importance of providing a home people can afford
- Department of Health and Human Services releases report, progress in combatting opioid epidemic
Last week, the House of Representatives passed the budget deal that we have been discussing on these pages for several weeks. This deal sets top line spending levels for federal programs for FY 2020 and FY 2021, as well as lifts the debt limit, and removes the specter of sequestration. The Senate will vote on the deal this week, before they too leave for their August recess (the House left on Friday). It is expected that the Senate will also pass the budget deal. We have pointed out over the past few months that the House’s spending bills have funding increases for programs like HOME and USDA’s RD programs – this budget deal allows for less money to be spent overall than the House bills anticipated ($15 billion less to be exact). However, this budget deal still prevents cuts and allows for growth. After the Senate votes the budget deal through, the next hurdle is the passage of the twelve appropriation bills. Observers are already identifying pitfalls in that process.
The National Development Council is today hosting a free webinar on advocating to Members of Congress when they are home for the previously mentioned August Recess. Members are looking to visit with constituents and see the work of organizations in their districts. It is the perfect opportunity to connect not only with district or D.C. staff of a Member, but also to get to meet with the Member and show him or her the work you are doing year-round. This webinar is designed to help you think through how to conduct this sort of advocacy. It takes place today at 3:00 p.m., and you can register for free by clicking here.
In top-line state news, in response to Kentucky’s growing pension problem affecting smaller institutions like health clinics and smaller state universities, Gov. Matt Bevin signed into law a bill to allow six “quasi-state” agencies to delay a 70% pension increase and provide an option for those agencies to buy out of the state pension system. While Kentucky is presently facing a unique series of pressures upon its state pension system, years of disinvestment and budget cuts led to this point. Across the country, when elected leaders neglect to invest at the requisite levels, everyday working people are the ones that foot the bill.
A recent Bloomberg article has covered the success of national at-scale investments in combatting homelessness, this time in Finland. Finland has joined a number of jurisdictions in adopting a ‘Housing First’ model for combating homelessness. This model views a home that people can afford as the foundation of social wellbeing. Just as importantly, Finland has backed this model with sustained attention and investment. The government has built thousands of new homes, subsidized rent for low-income families, and provided education, work training, and job placements once people are housed. Keeping people in their homes, rather than scrambling support services once they have been made homeless, has reduced usage of emergency services and health care by $17,000 per homeless person, per year. These successes suggest that an investment platform operating at the scale of a nation’s housing challenges can provide the stable foundation our communities need.
A new report from the Department of Health and Human Services suggests Medicare has made progress in combatting the opioid crisis. Since governments started taking widespread opioid addiction seriously, we’ve seen a major increase in attention and funding for prevention and treatment programs. State and federal prevention efforts, including close tracking of patients using high doses of medication and efforts to flag doctors/providers who prescribe opioids to at-risk patients, have reduced new cases of addiction. At the same time, Medicare Part D has helped states expand access to treatment for existing cases; prescriptions for Naloxone are up 501% since 2016. While additional funding is needed, and the opioid crisis continues to devastate Appalachian communities, this data provides some evidence that ongoing work to end the crisis is having an impact and should continue to be supported.