President Obama’s $4.2 trillion Fy 2017 budget request seeks funding for important child welfare and education programs that will address the needs of low-income and out-of-school youth while improving the social safety net for the poor and underserved.
The president’s budget stays within the 2017 discretionary spending levels agreed to with Congress last fall, while proposing additional “mandatory” spending and sequester relief in later years. The new spending would be offset by new revenue measures for high-income individuals and corporations. Congressional appropriators have already started their budgetary process and although it’s unlikely they will embrace everything in Obama’s blueprint, some of the items have bipartisan support.
Highlights of the Obama FY 2017 request include:
Child Care and Early Education
Child Care: A $200 million increase in discretionary funding to help states implement changes required by the 2014 Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) reauthorization, including a $40 million competitive pilot to build the supply of high-quality child care in rural areas and during non-traditional hours. $3.7 billion in additional mandatory dollars in FY 2017, as a first installment of investments totaling $82 billion over 10 years, to ensure high-quality child care access for low- and moderate-income families with children under age four.
Head Start:. An increase of $434 million for Head Start that would boost the number of full-day, full-year slots, maintain children served through Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships, and provide a cost-of-living increase for Head Start programs.
Preschool for All and Home Visiting: $75 billion—to be funded with an increased tobacco tax—to support access to high-quality preschool for all four-year-olds from low-income families and evidence-based home visiting.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA): $3.08 billion for the WIOA Adult, Dislocated Worker, and Youth funding streams, which is an increase of $150 million over the FY 2016 enacted level of $2.93 billion, representing the full authorized level for the first time since the law’s enactment.
Reintegration of Ex-Offenders (RExO): A $7 million increase for the RExO program, which helps prepare adults and youth for reentry into the job market, for a total request of $95 million.
Apprenticeships: Continued discretionary funding of $90 million for expanding apprenticeships, a portion of which will be used for increased access to apprenticeship opportunities for under-represented populations through pre-apprenticeships and career pathways. In addition, $2 billion in mandatory spending over five years for a new Apprenticeship Training Fund to double the number of apprentices across the country.
American Technical Training Fund (ATTF): A new investment of $75 million to support tuition-free, short-term job youth training in high-demand fields.
Low-Income and Out-of-School Youth
In addition to fully funding the WIOA Youth program at its authorized level the Obama budget also underwrites an innovative program to support low-income and out-of-school youth. These include:
Open Doors for Disconnected Youth: $5.5 billion to connect low-income and out-of-school youth with education and employment pathways through the Open Doors for Disconnected Youth program.
Paid Work Experience: $1.5 billion to support summer job opportunities, and $2 billion to create year-round first jobs for out-of-school youth.
Re-Engaging Youth: $2 billion to help local governments struggling with high rates of youth disengagement and youth unemployment and high school dropout rates to reengage youth, create local dropout recovery systems, and connect them to education, employment and social supports.
Safety Net Programs
While America’s safety net programs are generally highly effective at reducing poverty and preventing hardship, the growth of low-wage, unsteady work has created an enormous headwind. Gaps in programs include insufficient funding, excessive variation across states, and limited support for some populations, such as workers without children. The budget proposal would strengthen the safety net, with evidence-based proposals to improve a wide range of programs.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF):An additional $8 billion over five years for the TANF block grant, with corresponding increases to the requirement that states invest their own funds in programs for low-income families, as well as a new Economic Response Fund to provide additional assistance to states with high unemployment.
Medicaid:Allowing states that adopt the Medicaid expansion to receive three years of full federal funding for newly eligible individuals. This would encourage all states to expand Medicaid, providing millions more poor individuals with access to health insurance
The budget also calls for expanding the Summer Nutrition Assistance program bybuilding on a successful pilot. The an expanded program would provide low-income children with supplemental food benefits during the summer, when they are not able to receive free- or reduced-price meals from school.
Outlook: The House and Senate Budget Committees are developing their own budget proposals on a parallel track. The House Budget Committee is expected to discuss its budget resolution soon and the Senate Budget Committee will likely take up its resolution in early- to mid-March. However, if they cannot come to agreement, the appropriations committees can move forward with funding the discretionary portion of the budget at spending levels for next year set by last fall’s budget deal.