FY 2018 Appropriations Update

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Compiled by Tom Branen, Chief Policy Officer, America’s Service Commissions (Sources: CQ, Politico)

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell hopes to advance FY 2018 spending bills using preliminary spending allocations, confirming that both chambers intend to move forward on the spending process without a budget resolution adopted.

McConnell has made the point that sooner rather than later the Senate will have to come to a bipartisan agreement on what the topline spending figures are on the discretionary accounts this year.

Congress will need to come to an agreement on lifting discretionary spending levels outlined in the Budget Control Act (BCA) of 2011, which set spending levels considered untenable by Democrats and defense hawks alike.

In the meantime, McConnell hopes to move forward with some of the appropriation bills at last year’s levels, and then adjust them once a bipartisan agreement is brokered.

It appears that Senate appropriators will use fiscal 2017 as their guide as kind of a bookmark for markups recognizing that it will be adjusted by whatever topline agreement is set. This would be a positive development for FY 2018 funding for the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), as key Congressional staff have indicated that increased spending caps would lessen the threat to any cuts to CNCS.

McConnell’s reference to the need for budget negotiations comes as a top House appropriator had little to report.

House Appropriations Labor-HHS-Education Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., suggested that House lawmakers may revert to spending levels in the BCA.  He said he hadn’t heard of any budget talks and at the end of the day it will wither be a year-long CR or a bipartisan negotiated omnibus, probably toward the end of the calendar year.

In the meantime, Cole said, as the committee writes bills, we can look at the BCA number, that is the law of the land. That discretionary level would be $3 billion less for nondefense discretionary than fiscal 2017 levels.

Debt Ceiling and Budget Deal

Senate Republicans are reportedly planning for a July vote to raise the debt ceiling.

Though the Treasury Department has said Congress can likely wait until September to avoid default, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell would like to clear the Senate’s agenda as much as possible before the August recess. Members of both parties are interested in a broad spending deal that would avoid the budget cuts of sequestration.

There is also an emerging consensus among Hill leaders that the debt ceiling — currently $20 trillion — should be raised by an amount large enough to preclude another vote for several years making it easier for most rank-and-file lawmakers to just have one vote this Congress.

There may be some rank-and-file support among House Republicans to piece together a bipartisan budget deal to raise spending caps, as is being discussed in the Senate. More than 141 defense-minded House Republicans signed a letter in early May asking GOP leaders to raise the cap on the Pentagon budget.

Senate Democrats would not support a military boost without increases for domestic programs as well. Some GOP defense hawks may be willing to negotiate to do both. It’s unclear, however, whether they would want to link that to a debt ceiling vote.

If a budget deal is completed before the August recess that lifted the spending caps, appropriators would be able to move forward with markups at the actual allotments for the various subcommittees. Therefore, the House and Senate Labor HHS subcommittees that determine the funding levels for CNCS would be able to move forward at hopefully a higher spending cap and have the ability to fully fund CNCS and all its programs in FY 2018.

In the meantime, we need to continue outreach to members of Congress and educate them on the critical role and impact CNCS is having in our communities.

Click here to read ASC’s previous Statement on the President’s FY 2018 Budget.

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Recognizing and Leveraging the Power of Senior Corps to Help Older Americans

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By Brianne Fitzgerald, Volunteer Iowa & Emily Steinberg, America’s Service Commissions

Did you know May is Older Americans Month? According to the Administration for Community Living (ACL), which leads the national celebration each year, older Americans more than ever before are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities. They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others.

One key example of this notable trend? Senior Corps. Last year, 245,000 seniors aged 55 and older gave back to their communities as Senior Corps volunteers, serving an impressive 74.6 million total hours. Collectively, these Senior Corps volunteers helped 845,000 additional older adults, according to the Corporation for National & Community Service (CNCS) which administers the Senior Corps and AmeriCorps programs.

At the state level, Governor-appointed state service commissions are also taking note of and partnering with Senior Corps to “get things done” for local communities. For example, Volunteer Iowa which is the Hawkeye State’s designated commission on volunteering and service, is proud of its strong involvement with and support for Senior Corps programs, including the Retired Senior Volunteer Programs (RSVP).

In July 2016, Volunteer Iowa announced an award of $279,000 in state-funded RSVP grants, leveraging over $1.2 million in federal funds, and supporting 5,498 RSVP Senior Corps volunteers.

This program, along with federal and state funding for AmeriCorps, is helping generate and support over 41,000 community volunteers working to improve hundreds of local nonprofits, schools and communities throughout Iowa.  Volunteer Iowa has over 7,000 National Service positions in the state, with 5,500 of those as Senior Corps volunteers.

And every dollar in state funding to RSVP leverages $27.80 in additional funding. Senior Corps work truly matters in Iowa!
RSVP connects volunteers age 55 and over with service opportunities in their communities that match their skills and availability. From building houses to immunizing children, from enhancing the capacity of nonprofit organizations to improving and protecting the environment, RSVP volunteers put their unique talents to work to make a difference. Volunteer Iowa supports Senior Corps members with training and networking opportunities and recognition events. Iowa is beyond grateful for the work that the RSVP volunteers are doing within the state.

In 2016, in Iowa alone:

  • 3,800 young Iowans were tutored by Foster Grandparents
  • 830 local organizations benefited from Iowa RSVP volunteers
  • 1,000 homebound seniors were assisted by Senior Companions
  • 362,355 hours of service were completed by Iowa RSVP volunteers

Continuing to support Senior Corps programs in the state of Iowa is a priority for the state commission.  Volunteer Iowa believes that RSVP provides and will continue to provide vital capacity-building services to non-profits and communities by building the infrastructure for volunteering overall. Volunteer Iowa recognizes how important it is for the state of Iowa that RSVP is well-positioned as a community resource for volunteerism and volunteer management, especially in areas where volunteer centers do not exist.

We believe that providing capacity building services is an activity that builds on RSVP Director’s skills and aligns with the current activities of programs in working with sites and partners, and will continue to position RSVP for secure funding so we can continue to serve Iowa’s communities moving forward.

Thank you to Senior Corps volunteers — and all older Americans who are making the time to volunteer — for taking the skills and wisdom you’ve learned over your lifetimes to make communities stronger!

To learn more about Volunteer Iowa’s Senior Corps RSVP grants, click here.

To learn more about Senior Corps and Senior Corps Week, click here.

Learn more about Older Americans Month here.