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JAN
19
2018

POLICY
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Federal funding battle triggers government shutdown

By Erik Peterson

Update: Jan. 22, 3 p.m.: A little after noon (ET)  today (Jan 22), Senate Democrats accepted Majority Leader McConnell’s commitment to bring stand-alone immigration reform legislation to the Senate floor by February 8 for an up or down vote to include provisions to extend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) protection program for “DREAMers,” border security, and other issues in exchange for support for a new three-week continuing resolution to keep the government funded. Once passed by the House and signed by the President, which is anticipated to occur in the next few hours, the new funding bill will re-start full government operations until February 8. The government officially shut down at midnight last Friday, when the current CR expired. 

Once this immediate funding crisis is resolved, Congress still needs to agree on a budget deal to complete the FY2018 appropriations process. Specifically, Congress needs to determine how much to raise the defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) caps, and then enact that change into law with an omnibus appropriations package that funds government programs at the new levels. If no budget deal is reached, the only long-term alternative would be to enact a continuing resolution for the whole year that funds programs at FY2017 levels minus a small across-the-board cut to get funding down to the FY2018 spending caps for defense and NDD, which are below those for FY2017. 

Update: Jan. 20, 8 a.m.: Just after 10 p.m. on Friday night January 19, the Senate voted on the FY2018  CR but was unable to pass the measure that would have kept the government open through February 16 and fund CHIP for six more years.  Four Republican senators —Lindsay Graham (S.C.), Rand Paul (Ky.), Jeff Flake (Ariz.), and Mike Lee (Utah) — voted with the majority of Democrats against passage of the CR. Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) missed the vote and is home in Arizona battling brain cancer. Democratic Senators Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Joe Manchin III (D-W.V.), Heidi Heitkamp (D-N.D.), and Doug Jones (D-Ala.), all of whom face tough paths to reelection in states that supported Trump, voted with the majority of Republicans in support of passage. 

The House of Representatives will reconvene at 9 a.m. this morning and the Senate will reconvene at noon as talks continue to reach an agreement that would reopen the government. Most members believe a resolution can be found by the end of the weekend; however right now the path forward remains unclear. 

We will continue to keep you informed while discussion (and debate) continue over the weekend. 

With the Jan. 19 midnight deadline for federal spending just a few short hours away, Congress and the Administration are scrambling to pass a fourth Continuing Resolution (CR) in order to prevent a government shutdown. An FY 2018 CR (H.R. 195) that cleared the House on Jan. 18 by a vote of 230 to 197 would extend government funding through Feb. 16 and reauthorize the expired Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for six years.

Among items missing, however, are longer-term funding for FY 2018 (or parity between defense and non-defense spending), protection for Dreamers/DACA recipients, more relief for disaster areas, and community health centers funding. Senate Democrats have publicly announced that they will oppose the measure. Unsure of passage in the Senate, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) advised senators to prepare to meet through the weekend. (A weekend or three-day stopgap CR has also been floated as a way to buy more time for negotiations. You can track legislative developments, as they are very fluid.) It is interesting to note that if funding were to lapse at midnight, it would be the first government shutdown in the modern budgeting era—dating back to the 1970s— that’s overseen by a party that controls the House, Senate and White House.

In the event of a shutdown, the impact will largely be felt by federal agencies and employees. Each agency has a shutdown “contingency plan” that describes which functions would remain open and which would close. Some of them provide specific numbers of employees who would remain at work and how many would be sent home on unpaid furlough; others don’t.

A shutdown should not impact federal grants like 21st Century Community Learning Centers (21st CCLC), Childcare Development Block Grant vouchers, or school meals. Federal offices that support programs, like U.S. Department of Education staff, Corporation for National and Community Service staff, and others, will not be accessible by phone, email or in-person during a shutdown. Questions or support needed from these offices will have to wait until the government is funded again.

With regard to education funding, Impact Aid to schools and Head Start Centers could feel the direct negative impacts of a shutdown, as was the case during the 2013 federal government shutdown. In 2013, afterschool programs housed at federal properties, including military bases, museums, U.S. Department of Interior and/or National Park Service facilities, were forced to close for the duration of the shutdown.

Once the immediate impasse is overcome, a two-year FY18 and FY19 spending deal still needs to be reached. Once top-level spending numbers are reached, House and Senate Appropriations Committees estimate they will need at least three weeks to craft an omnibus spending bill with individual funding levels for each government program. Funding for 21st CCLC or Community Learning Centerswas set at $1.192 billion by the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this fall; however the House has proposed $1.1 billion. While final spending levels will most likely fall within that range, the lower level of $1.1 billion would mean almost 100,000 youth could lose access to programming.

Friends of afterschool can weigh in with Congress here about the importance of federal afterschool funding, whichprovides support for local school and community-based organizations that serve almost 1.8 million children.