March 25, 2018; Atlantic
Last month, when the two-year budget deal was announced, NPQ noted that the main takeaway was that the “era of federal austerity [had] been severely interrupted, if not ended entirely.” We added that “many nonprofits will welcome the unexpected funding boost, even if that boost is primarily a result of federal government dysfunction rather than representing a newfound consensus to fund domestic needs appropriately for the long haul.”
Now the FY 2018 budget is law, and the gains are evident. In the Atlantic, Russell Berman writes that, “President Obama finally got a Republican-controlled Congress to fund his domestic budget. All it took was Donald Trump in the White House to get it done.” Berman adds that, “Across much of the government, Republican leaders agreed to spending levels that matched or even exceeded what Obama asked Congress to appropriate in his final budget request in 2016.”
Of course, the budget falls short in many ways. The plight of the Dreamers remains unresolved. Defense spending (the president’s top priority) gets a big boost, even though US military spending already dwarfs that of other countries. Then there is that pesky notion that running trillion-dollar deficits to boost the economy when jobless claims have already neared a 45-year low may not be a good idea.
Still, many nonprofits will benefit. As Berman writes,
The Department of Health and Human Services received $78 billion, nearly identical to the $77.9 billion Obama sought and almost 20 percent more than what the Trump budget called for. Ditto for the Department of Labor and the Department of Education, which got $1.5 billion more than Obama’s final request and nearly $12 billion more than the reduced level Trump sought. Obama-era priorities like Head Start and Pell Grants drew increases, too.
Congress eliminated none of the 18 independent agencies Trump wanted to scrap, including the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. And several of the programs he wanted to zero out won huge increases instead. Take the TIGER grants, an infrastructure program created by Obama’s 2009 economic stimulus package. Congress had allocated $500 million to it each of the last several years, despite annual Obama requests to boost it to $1.25 billion. Trump’s budget called for axing it entirely, but lawmakers went even higher than Obama, giving $1.5 billion to TIGER. Or the Community Development Block Grant, a…program that had been receiving $3 billion from Congress annually. Obama actually proposed cutting its funding by $200 million in 2016, while Trump called for chopping it altogether. In the end, it received $3.3 billion—a 10 percent boost.
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And there’s more. At Housing & Urban Development, it’s not just community development block grants that got a boost. Housing vouchers (government subsidized private housing) also got $1.72 billion more. American Indian housing got a $100 million increase. Public housing got $800 million more in capital funds and $150 million in added operating dollars. Homeless agencies will have $130 million more in federal grants. There is also $85 million more for lead abatement (nearly a 60 percent increase), $176 million in new funds for senior housing (a 35 percent increase), and a $412 million boost (43 percent increase) in the HOME program that supports first-time homebuyers.
The budget also allocates $4.65 billion to address the opioid epidemic, a $3 billion increase. And, based on research from Matt Hourihan and David Parkes of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Science reports that R&D spending in 2018 will reach “$176.8 billion, an increase of 12.8 percent or $20.1 billion above FY 2017 estimated R&D.… Total federal R&D spending would reach its highest point ever in inflation-adjusted dollars.”
As for specific agencies, the Environmental Protection Agency, where Trump sought to cut 31 percent, stayed at $8.1 billion. Climate change funding at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration held steady and the agency’s budget went up $234 million to $5.9 billion.
Additionally, the National Institutes of Health got a $3 billion boost (8.3 percent) to $37 billion. The National Science Foundation got $7.8 billion, a 3.9 percent or $295 million increase. The Department of Energy’s Office of Science got $6.26 billion, an $868 million increase (nearly 15 percent). Overall, NASA’s budget of $20.7 billion is $1.1 billion above 2017. Spending at the National Institute of Standards and Technology jumped to $1.2 billion, $247 million above 2017.
Even the arts were largely unscathed. The Los Angeles Times reports that, “The National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities will see funding climb to $152.8 million each, a $3-million increase….The National Gallery of Art gets $165.9 million, a $1.04-million jump. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will receive $40.5 million, which is $4 million more than the last fiscal year.” Public broadcasting funding remains unchanged at $465 million.
This review, of course, does not address how regressive policies may change funding at the community level, so don’t get too comfortable. And the two-year budget deal may well prove a blip in what has been a long-term trend of declining funding.—Steve Dubb