Legislative Update: WAP, CSBG FY 13 Appropriations Advance on Hill

— Brad Penney, General Counsel for the Advocates for The Other America (AFTOA) —

The House has now completed consideration of the FY 13 Energy & Water Appropriations bill, containing $54.6M for Weatherization – the same number as contained in the bill reported by the House Appropriations Committee last month. AFTOA and NASCSP staff met with both the Republican and Democratic staffs for the Energy and Water Subcommittee in the House two weeks ago, and argued forcefully that the unacceptably low number contained in the House bill would force many States out of the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) in FY 2013. The good news is that the House passed bill is going nowhere (which is very good because the House bill contained several mischievous provisions, including one denying funding to Department of Energy (DOE) to implement the eligibility under the Recovery Act to 200 percent of poverty level, up from pre-Recovery Act 150 percent).

The Senate is in the process of doing its own bill (see previous post on Senate funding). There are no prospects for a House-Senate Conference in the near future, and the White House has stated its determination to veto the House bill if it ever reaches the President’s desk. That means the most probable outcome for WAP funding is another Continuing Resolution (CR) at last year’s funding levels of $68 million to begin on October 1, 2012, the start of Fiscal Year 2013. This is a dire scenario with the prospect of automatic sequestration on January 1, 2013 taking something in the range of 8% off of all domestic discretionary programs.

We are fighting hard to persuade the Administration to recommend a number north of $210M in the FY 2014 budget that will be submitted to Congress next February. AFTOA and NASCSP staff met yesterday with the newly confirmed Assistant Secretary of Energy, Dr. David Danielson, to press our case for FY 2014 funding.  We are also working closely in the Senate on a WAP Reauthorization bill which may be introduced this summer (the current WAP Authorization expires this year). We will keep you informed as additional developments unfold in relation to the FY 2013 Appropriations bill and the probability of a CR.

The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) is also in line for major legislative action in the next two weeks, starting next week in the Senate, where the Department of Labor (Labor)/ Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) bill will be marked up. This will continue in the House the week of June 18th with a mark-up tentatively slated at Subcommittee level on June 20th. We will inform you of the numbers from these mark ups as soon as we have them. Once again, while the House wants to report all 12 Appropriations bills by July, the great probability on Labor/HHS Appropriations is that CSBG will be funded by yet another CR in FY 2013. The chance of getting a Labor/HHS bill Conferenced this summer, especially with a Supreme Court decision anticipated late this month on the President’s Health Care law, are slim to none.

We are hearing strong indications that an Administration drafted CSBG Reauthorization bill will be introduced very soon on the Hill, and we are planning on meeting with Hill staff in both the House and Senate authorizing committees soon with our own NASCSP policy recommendations for the Reauthorization. We will report to you on these Hill meetings as soon as they occur.

A busy start to summer on the Appropriations front! Once again the probability is another CR for both programs, but we are seizing every opportunity to defend each program on the Hill and make the case for continued federal investments in proven programs like CSBG and WAP that are critically important especially in the period of economic stagnation that our nation is currently experiencing.