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From the President: Emerging Issues

 View from Washington

The Budget Deal and What it Means for MCH

By Brent Ewig, MHS
Director, Public Policy & Government Affairs, AMCHP

Amidst the gridlock and bitter partisanship in our nation's capitol, every once in a while something surprising happens. This was the case the last week of October when a breakthrough paved the way for broad bipartisan support to pass the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015. This law raises the debt limit and provides two years of sequestration relief. Specifically, it provides an additional $25 billion this year to Appropriation Committees struggling to craft spending bills under the previously imposed austere caps.

AMCHP joined with the entire public health community in advocating for this deal, especially because the caps were cited as the main reason a Senate Appropriations Subcommittee passed a proposed $21.7 million reduction to the Title V MCH Services Block Grant earlier this summer. This cut targets the Special Programs of Regional and National Significance (SPRANS) line. While the deal does not automatically restore this or any other previously proposed cut, it does however provide a higher top line dollar amount for the committee to now work with. In essence, it creates a more positive and potentially receptive environment for AMCHP and other MCH leaders to advocate for a restoration.

So what happens next? Appropriations Committees are reportedly meeting now to decide how to apportion the newly available funds. All health programs are making the case why they need to be restored or bumped up. There is considerable concern that the community supporting the National Institutes of Health, for example, could gobble up the majority of new resources.

Accordingly, AMCHP is reaching out to key leaders and is re-circulating our sign on letter joined by 30 organizations representing the public health community, health professionals, academic institutions and families reiterating support for the Title V MCH Services Block Grant in its entirety and opposing any cuts to SPRANS funding. In the letter, organizations across the country reinforce the integral part that SPRANS grantees play to improve maternal and child health, including training, research and promoting innovative practices. As Congress continues its work on FY 2016 appropriations in advance of the Dec. 11 expiration of the current continuing resolution, it is crucial that the Appropriations Committees are aware of the support for sustained funding for all of the Title V MCH Services Block Grant components. Click here to read the letter.