August 5, 2009
In this issue:
Currently in Washington
With the House already in recess for the summer district work period, this week the Senate is seeking to wrap up several legislative items before also adjourning until after Labor Day. The Senate’s agenda includes a $2 billion expansion of the wildly popular “Cash for Clunkers” program, the $23.7 billion FY10 Agriculture appropriations bill, and a vote to confirm Supreme Court Justice Nominee Sonia Sotomayor.
On Tuesday the Senate passed the FY10 Agriculture Appropriations bill by a vote of 80-17. The bill includes $23.7 billion in discretionary spending and must now be reconciled in a conference with the House, which passed a $22.9 billion version of the bill in July. In addition, the Senate Finance Committee continues to meet this week to negotiate details of a bipartisan healthcare overhaul bill. While details of the negotiations have not been released, one provision under consideration is thought to be the inclusion of an insurance co-op in lieu of a public option. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is also holding hearings this week to examine federal contracting practices and disaster preparedness efforts.
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American Recovery and Reinvestment Act
(FOAs for July 23 – July 31 only. Complete listing available in the working document)
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News & Highlights
8.3.09 - Department of Education to Accelerate $11.37 Billion in Stimulus Funds
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today announced that the Department will accelerate stimulus spending by making $11.37 billion in Title I, IDEA, and Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) funding, as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), available to states one month early to help save jobs and drive reform.
"The President and I directed the Cabinet to find ways to pick up the pace of Recovery Act implementation, and I applaud this critical step forward by the Department of Education," said Vice President Biden. "With over 30,000 Recovery Act projects already approved nationwide and billions in relief flowing to hard-hit families and businesses, we've made a lot of progress in a short time—but we continue to focus every day on finding ways to ramp up our efforts to put Americans back to work and rebuild our economy."
"After accelerating the release of $2.7 billion in Government Services funds earlier this month, we are now announcing another $11.37 billion in Title I, IDEA and VR funds that will be released early to help states and districts expedite stimulus spending," said Secretary Duncan.
On April 1, 2009 the Department awarded 50 percent of each state's Title I ARRA funds, 50 percent of each state's IDEA ARRA funds, and 50 percent of each state's VR ARRA funds. The remaining 50 percent, or $11.37 billion, was to be made available on September 30. Today's announcement will move up that timeline and ensure that these funds are made available to all states on or around September 1.
The early release of these funds comes on the heels of Department's publication earlier last week of the proposed requirements for approximately $12.6 billion in Phase 2 State Fiscal Stabilization Funds and $4 billion in Race to the Top competitive grants. In addition, the Department earlier last week also invited applications for $250 million in statewide longitudinal data systems competitive grants and released $650 million in Educational Technology funds.
"At the Department, we are doing everything possible to prevent spending decisions from being made in silos and we encourage states and districts to do the same," said Secretary Duncan.
The $5 billion in Title I funding being made available early will go to local educational agencies (LEAs) for schools that have high concentrations of students from families that live in poverty in order to help improve teaching and learning for students most at risk of failing to meet state academic achievement standards. These funds create an unprecedented opportunity for educators to implement innovative strategies in Title I schools that improve education for at-risk students and close the achievement gaps while also stimulating the economy.
The $6.1 billion in IDEA funding being made available early will provide an unprecedented opportunity for states, LEAs and early intervention service providers to implement innovative strategies to improve outcomes for infants, toddlers, children and youths with disabilities, while stimulating the economy. The $270 million in VR funding being made available early will provide state VR agencies an opportunity to further improve employment outcomes for individuals with disabilities, especially those with the most significant disabilities.
7.28.09 - Secretary Sebelius Makes Recovery Act Funding Available to Expand Health Professions Training
HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius today announced the availability of $200 million to support grants, loans, loan repayment, and scholarships to expand the training of health care professionals. The funds are expected to train approximately 8,000 students and credentialed health professionals by the end of fiscal year 2010.
Today’s funds are part of the $500 million allotted to HHS’ Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), to address workforce shortages under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA).
“Health care reform cannot happen without an adequate supply of well-trained, well-distributed providers,” said Secretary Sebelius. “These ARRA funds provide targeted investments in primary care, nursing, faculty development, and equipment purchases that will shore up the workforce as we prepare for reform.”
“Our health professions programs have been significantly underfunded these past few years,” said Mary Wakefield, Ph.D., R.N., administrator of the Health Resources and Services Administration. “These funds will help us begin to rebuild the infrastructure that is so essential to producing the number of skilled health professionals the Nation needs.”
The $200 million will be directed to the following program areas:
- $80.2 million for scholarships, loans, and loan repayment awards to students, health professionals, and faculty. Of those funds, $39 million will be targeted to nurses and nurse faculty, $40 million to disadvantaged students in a wide range of health professions, and $1.2 million to health professions faculty from disadvantaged backgrounds.
- $50 million in grants to health professions training programs. Funds will be used to purchase equipment needed to expand programs and improve the quality of training.
- $47.6 million to support primary care training programs. These funds will support the training of residents, medical students, physician assistants, dentists and individuals, many of whom will practice in underserved areas.
- $10.5 million to strengthen the public health workforce. Funds will support public health traineeships and increase the number of individuals trained through preventive medicine and dental public health residencies.
- $10.2 million to increase the diversity of the health professions workforce.
- And $1.5 million to support the efforts of state professional licensing boards in reducing barrier to telemedicine.
HRSA is using a competitive process to award all funds. Some awards will be made over the next several months. In addition, funding opportunities for some programs will be announced over the next several months, giving applicants adequate time to prepare materials.
The remaining $300 million in ARRA workforce funds is being used to expand HRSA’s National Health Service Corps, which provides scholarships and loan repayment for primary care providers who serve in health professional shortage areas. In addition, HRSA received $2 billion through ARRA to expand health care services to low-income and uninsured individuals through its health center program.
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Secretary of Education Webinar
Education Secretary Arne Duncan will participate in a webinar on Aug. 7 to discuss the Obama administration’s higher education agenda and take questions from campus leaders. American Council on Education President Molly Corbett Broad will also participate.
The webinar is scheduled for 2 p.m. EDT and is co-sponsored by the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO). Those interested in joining the webinar should click here to register. A confirmation email with additional details will be sent on Thursday.
On August 1st, the new GI bill went into effect which allows eligible veterans, service members, Reservists, and National Guard Members to receive any in-state, undergraduate education at any public college or university for free. Stipends are also provided for housing and books. Scholarships are available under the Yellow Ribbon Program for tuition exceeding the highest in-state undergraduate tuition for students attending a private institution, graduate school, or out-of-state school.
Benefits range from 40% of tuition benefits covered to those with 90 days to 6 months of service since September 11, 2001, to 100% for those with at least 36 months of cumulative service, or 30 continuous days with a discharge because of a service-related disability.
The new law is expected to add $78 billion in benefits over the next decade. The Department of Veterans Affairs has already processed 112,000 claims for tuition under the law.
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Health Care Reform
Right before the House left for its August recess, the House Energy and Commerce passed the America’s Affordable Health Choices Act (H.R. 3200) by a narrow vote of 31-28. Now the House must reconcile three different versions of health care reform legislation after the House Ways and Means, and Education and Labor Committees approved bills earlier. The bill passed due to a compromise between conservative members of the Democratic Party (Blue Dogs) and Chairman Henry Waxman (D-CA). Some key aspects of the compromise include requiring business with a payroll of $500,000 or more to provide health benefits. The previous limit was set at $250,000 or more. Also, the $1 trillion, 10-year price tag is cut by 10 percent by limiting subsidies to people not insured. Instead of using Medicare payment rates in a public plan option, rates can be negotiated with health care providers. House liberals were quick to denounce the compromise with over 50 liberal Democrats signing on to a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi which stated that they would vote against a bill if it contained the terms included in the compromise. One of the leaders of the Blue Dogs, Congressman Mike Ross (D-AK), acknowledged that one of the goals of the compromise was to slow down the process in guarantee of a full floor vote after the recess. Members will need more time to work out the differences contained in the different versions.
The Senate Finance Committee is close to striking a compromise. The committee is considering the creation of member-owned health cooperatives instead of a public option. Also, instead of a mandate on employer health benefits, Senators are considering an idea that would require employers to reimburse the government the cost of enrolling their employees in Medicaid or providing subsidies for private insurance. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee has already passed legislation.
The House is already in its recess while the Senate will be in recess starting next week, but staff and Members will be continuing their work behind the scenes.
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FY10 Appropriations Update
The House has approved all appropriations bills for FY10, while the Senate continues to work its way through its bills. Senate bills have all been approved at the full committee level with the exception of Defense. The Labor/HHS/Education bill was approved by the Senate appropriations committee last week. Highlights include $30.8 billion for biomedical research at NIH; $217 million for nursing education; and $19.296 billion for financial aid with the maximum discretionary Pell Grant Program award level maintained at $4,860.
Click here for a summary of the Labor/HHS/Education Senate Appropriations Full Committee Mark
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"Cash for Clunkers"
After unexpectedly exhausting the original $1 billion in congressional financing for the “Cash for Clunkers” program, Senate leaders have indicated their support for a House-passed extension of the program that would add an addition $2 billion in funding. The Car Allowance Rebate System (CARS) is a government program that helps consumers buy or lease more environmentally-friendly vehicles from participating dealers when they trade in a less fuel-efficient car or truck. The program is designed to energize the economy, boost auto sales and put safer, cleaner and more fuel-efficient vehicles on the road. The National Traffic Safety Administration estimates that the program will increase the average fuel efficiency of vehicles by 9.6 mpg, or 61 percent, over trade-in vehicles. This increase in fuel efficiency is estimated to save consumers between $700 and $1000 annually in gas. Senate Democratic leaders will try to reach an agreement on the supplemental funding in time to vote on the measure before taking up the confirmation vote on Supreme Court Justice Nominee Sonia Sotomayor later this week. Republicans have not indicated that they will attempt to stall the measure, which will finance the $2 billion through unspent stimulus money originally intended for renewable energy loan guarantees.
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Wind Energy Research Bill
Last week the House Science Committee approved legislation that would significantly increase the Energy Department's investment in wind energy technologies. The bill (H.R. 3165), which passed on a voice vote, provides $200 million a year for FY10 through FY14 to improve the energy efficiency, reliability and capacity of wind turbines and to reduce the cost of construction, generation and maintenance of wind energy systems. It also calls for research to optimize the design and adaptability of wind energy systems. DOE would be tasked to ensure the wind energy demonstration program created in the bill is widespread enough to measure performance in a full range of wind conditions across the country. An amendment by Rep. Randy Neugebauer, R-Texas, was adopted by voice vote, requiring DOE to ensure that the demonstration program contains sufficient geographic diversity to measure wind system performance in varied wind conditions.
Behavioral Sciences Research Program
Last Wednesday the House Science and Technology Committee approved a bill (H.R. 3247) that would establish a social and behavioral sciences research program at the Department of Energy. The program provides grants to examine the behavioral factors that influence decision-making and the use of energy technology. The bill authorizes the Secretary of Energy to appoint a director to oversee the program, which will receive $10 million a year for FY10-FY15. Republicans on the committee oppose the program, citing concerns that the program is duplicative to research already conducted at the National Science Foundation.
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Recently introduced legislation
For a listing of recent legislation sponsored by members of the Texas delegation, visit the Recent Legislation page of our Web Site.
To view Roll Call votes recently passed legislation, click here: (House, Senate)
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