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Congress is expected to take up an “omnibus” appropriations bill next week that would finalize Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 funding levels across the federal government, including for key workforce and education programs. The government is currently operating under a continuing resolution (CR) that expires on Friday, but Congressional leaders have indicated they will pass a short-term CR to extend spending authority through the weekend, allowing lawmakers to complete negotiations on the final bill before the holiday recess begins on December 18th.
Overall, the omnibus is expected to reflect the higher spending levels agreed to by the White House and Congressional leaders as part of last month’s Bipartisan Budget Act, which lifted discretionary budget caps by $50 billion for FY 2016 and an additional $30 billion in FY 2017. However, the raised caps may not lead to increased funding for education and workforce programs; while it has been reported that overall allocations for the bill funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) are approximately $5.2 billion above FY 2015 levels, it is unclear whether appropriators will distribute that increase evenly across agencies or prioritize funding for specific programs.
Congressional appropriators had hoped to release a draft bill on Monday in order to complete work on the omnibus before the December 11 deadline, but negotiations have been slowed over disagreements about a range of policy proposals – including provisions relating to the treatment of Syrian refugees and changes to environmental and financial regulations – that are popular with House conservatives but opposed by many Democrats.
National Skills Coalition sent a letter to the House and Senate appropriations committees last month encouraging lawmakers to take advantage of the increased FY 2016 budget levels to fund critical workforce and education programs at statutorily authorized levels. We will provide updated information and analysis on FY 2016 funding levels for specific programs once the draft omnibus is released, and will continue to weigh in with lawmakers about the importance of continued investments in the skill of the U.S. workforce.