Congress Deflects President’s Budget Ax on Seniors’ Programs

 

In a rare victory for seniors, the passage of the FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill in Congress increases funding for several programs that assist the elderly – and gives a much-needed boost to the beleaguered Social Security Administration.  The bill favorably responds to a March 14 letter from the National Committee to House and Senate Appropriations Committees members, urging them to prioritize funding for federal programs and agencies vitally important to older Americans.  In passing this bill, Congress defied President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, which called for severe cutbacks to – or outright elimination of – several federal programs which vulnerable seniors depend upon.

In the omnibus bill, the Social Security Administration (SSA) gets an increase of $480 million over the previous fiscal year, including $100 million for reducing the backlog in Social Security Disability Insurance hearings – which some 10,000 Americans died waiting for in 2017.  The funding bump – which the National Committee has long advocated – should also alleviate some of the excessively long wait times for customer service on SSA’s toll-free phone line and in-person at SSA field offices.

On March 7th, National Committee president Max Richtman testified before the House Social Security subcommittee, urging members to adequately fund SSA.  The agency had been subject to an 11% budget reduction since 2010, causing severe cutbacks in customer service at a time when 10,000 Baby Boomers turn 65 every day.

The Omnibus bill also includes $59 million more for Older Americans Act Senior Nutrition programs and an increase of $250 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), while the State Health Insurance Program (SHIP) receives a modest increase in funding.  The spending plan also gives a $414 million boost to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for Alzheimer’s and dementia research.

We applaud Congress for maintaining spending for senior programs that President Trump proposed to eliminate in his FY 2018 budget, including the Senior Community Service Employment Program, the Community Development Block Grant, and the Community Services Block Grant, which helps to pay for Meals on Wheels.  In a Congress besieged by partisan battles over healthcare and taxes, we welcome the parties coming together to make the wise choice and adequately fund vital government services for America’s seniors.  We call on President Trump to sign this bill and not deny millions of seniors the funding increase they  need and deserve.”  – Max Richtman, National Committee president, 3/23/18

This morning, President Trump threatened to veto the Omnibus bill, but changed course and signed it this afternoon, averting a government shutdown.

*************************************************************************

Read the National Committee’s analysis of the FY 2018 Omnibus Appropriations bill here.