As efforts to reauthorize the Higher Education Act (HEA) continue, CSWE and other members of the Federation of Associations of Schools of the Health Professions (FASHP) have met with members of Congress, particularly those on education committees. Recently CSWE met with the offices of Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV) and Senator Jacky Rosen (D-NV). Increasing access to higher education, including at the graduate level, is a priority for Rep. Lee. Ensuring strong Title IX protections for sexual assault survivors is a priority for Senator Rosen. The meetings were an opportunity to encourage continued support for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program, which has been a significant component of HEA reauthorization efforts and is a CSWE priority.
CSWE joined the Society for Social Work and Research and several dozen representatives from universities across the country to participate in the 2019 Consortium of Social Science Associations (COSSA) Hill Day. COSSA is a nonprofit advocacy organization working to promote federal funding for and use of social and behavioral science research and federal policies that positively affect the conduct of research. Participants met with members of Congress and staff on May 1 to talk about the importance of supporting social science research and ask Congress to raise the budget caps for fiscal year 2020 in a bipartisan manner.
The House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2020 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill, which determines funding for several agencies of importance to CSWE. The bill would increase funding levels for several Department of Health and Human Services programs and initiatives important to CSWE members, including health workforce education and training programs at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Title VII health professions programs at HRSA would be funded at $455 million, an increase of $63.2 million above the FY 2019 enacted level. The House Committee would also provide first-time funding for new initiatives at HRSA, including $25 million for the new Loan Repayment Program for Substance Use Disorder Treatment Workforce, which was authorized in the opioid package that passed Congress last year, as well as funding for the Mental and Substance Use Disorder Workforce Training Demonstration, which was authorized in the 21st Century Cures Act. Within HRSA, the House Committee would also provide a $2.6 million increase for the Geriatrics Workforce Enhancement Program and $10 million above the FY 2019 enacted level for the Behavioral Health Workforce Education and Training Grant Program. The National Institutes of Health would receive a total of $41.1 billion, an increase of $2.0 billion above the FY 2019 enacted level and $6.9 billion above the president’s budget request.
The House Committee’s bill fully rejected the president’s proposed cuts to student aid and higher education programs at the Department of Education and largely affirms the higher education community requests for FY 2020. The bill would provide $6,345 for the maximum individual Pell Grant award for the 2020–2021 school year, a $150 increase over the current maximum. The bill would also provide significant increases for the Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants (SEOG) Federal Work-Study (FWS) programs, which would be provided $1.028 billion and $1.434 billion, respectively. The president’s budget request for FY 2020 proposed eliminating the SEOG program and funding FWS at $500 million.
The House Committee adopted a handful of amendments, including increased funding for mental health access initiatives on college campuses. An amendment to prohibit a new Trump Administration rule that would allow health professionals to refuse care based on personal beliefs was also adopted.
This is the first spending bill to be approved by the full House Appropriations Committee. Action now moves to the House floor for consideration, which is expected in June.
Education committees in Congress continued their press toward a Higher Education Act (HEA) reauthorization, holding several HEA-related hearings over the last month. In the House, the Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing on the higher education accountability system with discussion focused on updates to the current accreditation process and the role of state authorization in accountability.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee held two HEA hearings in April. The first considered campus sexual assault, with discussion focused on the Department of Education’s (ED’s) recent notice of proposed rulemaking that outlined significant changes for Title IX compliance. Members and witnesses challenged ED’s proposal to require live hearings for sexual assault proceedings and questioned off-campus assault procedures.
The second HELP Committee hearing delved into how to improve the current institutional accountability structure to ensure that students’ and federal taxpayers’ investments in higher education programs are well-spent. The discussion emphasized the congressional interest in moving toward programmatic level accountability and a loan repayment metric, as well as concerns over for-profit institutions.
The House Rules Committee held the first hearing on Medicare for All, specifically discussing H.R. 1384, which was introduced by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-WA). This bill would establish a Medicare for All program, including long-term care benefits. Witness statements for the majority highlighted the challenges and inequities individuals face when seeking to access care under the current status quo. Ady Barkan, founder of the Be a Hero Organization, shared his personal story of fighting ALS and navigating the current system and spoke about the challenges for others. Witness statements for the minority tended to focus on the difficulties regarding implementing a single-payer system and the cost of implementing Medicare for All legislation. Overall, the discussion focused on the feasibility and implementation of Medicare for All, especially under the compressed timeline the bill proposes for implementation.
This was the first hearing on this bill. The House Budget Committee and House Ways and Means Committee are also expected to hold hearings. Of note, following the hearing, the Congressional Budget Office Released Key Design Components and Considerations for Establishing a Single-Payer Health Care System, which discussed options and trade-offs for a single-payer system.
May is Older Americans Month and, in honor of this annual event, the Administration for Community Living (ACL) is encouraging individuals to get involved in the local community with a list of ideas about ways to connect, create, and contribute, the three themes for this year. The ACL also shared a list of resources to help participate. Individuals can find and share opportunities on Twitter using #OAM2019 and #OlderAmericansMonth.
The Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Federal Office of Rural Health Policy released a Notice of Funding Opportunity for the Rural Communities Opioid Response Program—Rural Centers of Excellence on Substance Use Disorders. HRSA will award up to three cooperative agreements to establish rural centers of excellence, totaling $20 million, over 3 years. Eligible applicants include public or private institutions of higher education. Selected applicants will be responsible for identifying, translating, disseminating, and providing technical assistance to implement evidence-based programs related to prevention and treatment of substance use disorders (SUD) in rural areas. Each center of excellence will adopt one of the following focus areas:
1) Innovative and effective treatment interventions for SUD, especially opioid use disorder (OUD), in rural communities
2) Best practices in recovery housing programs for SUD (especially OUD) intervention among low-income, high-risk individuals in rural communities
3) Addressing synthetic opioid-related overdose mortality in rural communities in the Delta and/or Appalachian regions