Congress Aims to Stop a Repeat Partial Government Shutdown

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Congress is on the path to approve all 12 annual spending bills this week before a looming midnight Friday deadline, at which time government funding would lapse and trigger a federal government shutdown. The 12 fiscal year 2020 appropriations bills are being packaged together in two “minibus” bills that will allow Congress to significantly speed up consideration. If all goes according to the plan of Congressional leaders, the two packages will be sent to the White House for enactment before Congress recesses for their holiday break.

“The National League of Cities applauds Congress and the Administration for granting local leaders peace of mind this holiday season by eliminating the potential of another federal government shutdown,” said NLC President Joe Buscaino, councilmember, Los Angeles. “Approving the annual spending bills will ensure federal funding is available to help local governments build better communities and provide assistance to our most vulnerable residents. Cities, towns and villages are especially pleased to see funding increases for housing programs that local leaders have been clamoring for, including CDBG, public and affordable rental housing, and homeless assistance.”

The first package is a “National Security Minibus” composed of FY2020 Appropriations bills for Defense, Homeland Security, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Financial Services-General Government.  The remaining bills will comprise a “Domestic Priorities and International Assistance Minibus” including  Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, Agriculture, Energy and Water Development, Interior-Environment, Legislative Branch, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, State-Foreign Operations, and Transportation-Housing and Urban Development.

Although a complete analysis of the approximately 2300 pages of bill text will take some time, it’s clear that the federal advocacy by local leaders for their communities has made a difference this year. The minibus packages contain a number of significant funding increases and policy priorities called for by NLC, including:

  • An increase of $125 million for the Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), totaling $3.425 billion, which is the highest amount since FY2011; and an increase of $100 million for the HOME program, totaling $1.35 billion.
  • $25 million to maintain the Housing Choice Voucher Mobility Demonstration Program to help low-income families with children move to higher opportunity neighborhoods.
  • Other HUD programs important to cities receiving funding increases include Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing Capital Fund, Homeless Assistance Grants, Choice Neighborhoods, Housing for Persons with Disabilities, Housing for the Elderly, and Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes’ grants.
  • Full funding for the new aviation technician and pilot workforce grant programs created by Section 625 of last year’s FAA bill, of which NLC was a strong supporter.
  • Near level funding for the Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving funds compared to FY19, with $1.6 billion and $1.1 billion respectively.
  • Although efforts to regulate PFAS chemicals were not included, funding is included for chemical clean-up efforts at military bases and in drinking water. (See related article.)
  • $25 million in new CDC and NIH funding for comprehensive research on the underlying causes of gun violence and mass shootings in communities, which is an area of research that has been effectively prohibited from federal funding for 20 years.
  • A full repeal of the 40 percent “Cadillac Tax” on premium health benefits for municipal employees and others relying on employer-provided health care.
  • Provisions requiring HUD to release long-delayed disaster assistance and mitigation funds to cities and towns in Puerto Rico.

NLC is disappointed that once again Congress is providing more than $1.5 billion to the States for Opioid Response Grants with no accountability and assurance that this money will get down to local programs that help people in cities, towns, and villages that are in the most need of federal assistance. We urge Congress to ensure that this money, and any additional funding that is awarded to the States for substance abuse makes it down to local substance disorder treatment and prevention programs.

Following a more complete analysis of the two minibus spending packages, and assuming they are ultimately enacted before the Friday deadline, NLC will be posting additional updates on our Budget Tracker here.

About the Author: Michael-Wallace-small.jpgMichael Wallace is the Program Director for Community and Economic Development at the National League of Cities. Follow him on Twitter @MikeWallaceII.