Legislative Update: The Post-Election Outlook

Despite nearly two years of campaigning and billions of dollars spent, last week’s election maintained the status quo – a Republican House, Democratic Senate, and another four years of President Barack Obama. This bodes well for the reauthorization of both the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP).

Sources inside the Obama Administration have said that green issues, including WAP, will garner a greater focus during a second term. This commitment will be tested early next year with the President’s budget request for WAP in FY14. The FY13 ask of $139 million, down from $320 million in FY12—which included $97 million for innovative projects—hampered efforts to increase the WAP allocation in Congress to the final FY11 level of $174.5 million. NASCSP, along with other national partners, has sent a letter to the White House asking for no less than $210 million to be requested for FY14, a significantly higher level than the current FY13 allocation of $68 million.

NASCSP is also working with members of Congress on both WAP and CSBG reauthorization. For WAP, this will likely involve changes to the program, including a greater focus on healthy homes and a closer working relationship with Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

For CSBG, NASCSP will continue to work with Congressional allies, the Administration, and Office of Community Service (OCS) on reauthorization. The principles for reauthorization developed by the board provide a foundation for our position moving forward. Despite the election, the economy, and Congressional divisiveness, one thing is certain: both the Administration and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) are poised to push for substantial changes to CSBG through reauthorization. NASCSP is working to promote the importance of State oversight and accountability as well as the value of the nationwide network. The Continuing Resolution this year resulted in level funding for the first half of FY13, but this is clearly in stark contrast to the President’s proposals for a 50% cut. Funding for the second half of this fiscal year continues to remain uncertain given the stark differences between the House, Senate, and Administration-requested funding levels. Sequestration could also have a major impact on programs funded by discretionary spending, including both CSBG and WAP, in the coming year.

Despite last week’s results, the situation in Washington will continue to remain difficult as we enter the lame duck session of Congress and beyond into the 113th Congressional Session. Sequestration combined with the expiration of a number of tax cuts and a growing deficit means that the cost cutting frenzy is anything but over. Nevertheless, NASCSP will continue to push our allies in Washington to ensure that our programs are supported at sustainable levels, we do not hurt the most vulnerable to solve our very real fiscal problems, and we reward innovation and success.