Action Alert

What the $1.3 Trillion Omnibus Bill Passed by Congress Means for America

What the $1.3 Trillion Omnibus Bill Passed by Congress Means for America
At the Los Angeles March for Immigrant Rights, 2017.

On March 23, President Trump signed a $1.3 trillion omnibus spending bill that will provide funding until September 30th—the end of the 2018 economic year. Prior to signing the legislation, the President threatened a veto because it did not include language to support constructing a wall along the border of Mexico nor did it provide a solution for the Dreamers—young undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children and were protected by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Program (DACA). Last year, DACA was terminated by President Trump.

According to Federal News Radio, the funding package only included $1.6 billion to build new sections and replace older segments. There are funding boosts for defense as well as for domestic programs on the nondefense side.  The spending package increases domestic funding by $63 billion over last year's levels, and it boosts military spending by $80 billion. 

Gains and Shortfalls in Spending

After major public opposition, including by United Methodist Women members, the omnibus “included a provision that makes it clear that employers may not keep any tips received by their employees and ramps up the punishment for violations.”  Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, said, “The law cannot be more clear: Tips belong to workers and no one else. This landmark victory belongs to all the restaurant servers, bartenders, car wash workers, valets, attendants, and all the other tipped workers in America who fought back when the Trump administration proposed its misguided tip-stealing rule. They wrote in, held protests, signed petitions and spoke out. That’s what brought Labor Department officials and lawmakers to the table to hash out this historic agreement.” 

The budget bill will also fund increases for health programs and money to fight the opioid crisis, cuts that had been called for by the president.  President Trump had called for reducing funding for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), but the omnibus mandates a budget increase for both agencies, to $8.3 billion for the CDC and $37 billion for the NIH. The bill also increases funding for Mental Health First Aid to $19 million, supporting first responders training to those with help mental health or addiction crises to community services. Also, funding was maintained to provide screening and treatment for conditions such as diabetes and heart disease for more than 98,000 people at more than 213 sites.

The bill included the “Fix NICS” legislation (the National Instant Criminal Background Check System) Act, which aims to help fix a nationwide problem of individuals abusing firearms, by making it mandatory for federal agencies to report criminal convictions to the Attorney General. According to the Washington Post, the incentives and penalties would encourage federal agencies and states to send records to the federal database. 

The STOP (Students, Teachers, and Officers Preventing) School Violence Act, supported by, the non-partisan grassroots group, Sandy Hook Promise, was among the programs in education gaining funding increases. The STOP Act is the first federal school safety law since the Parkland shooting and fosters violence prevention. The act provided $75 million in 2018 and $100 million from 2019-2028 for schools to add security systems, improve coordination with local law enforcement agencies and train students, teachers and police on identifying and preventing violence. However, the STOP School Violence Act does not include gun control measures. 

The bill also includes small increases in spending for the key provisions of the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA). JJDPA is the principal federal program through which the federal government sets standards for juvenile justice systems at the state and local levels, providing direct funding for states, research, training and technical assistance, and evaluation. The Campaign for Youth Justice (CFYJ) is a national initiative focused on ending the practice of prosecuting, sentencing and incarcerating youth under the age of 18 in the adult criminal justice system. Working in coalition with other national juvenile justice organizations, CFYJ tracks and educates policy makers on JJDPA. The bill provides $60 million for Title II of the Act, which supports innovative state efforts that reduce the risk of harm to court-involved youth, ensure fair treatment of minority youth, reform the way systems address youth impacted by the criminal courts and ensures citizen involvement and knowledge through the State Advisory Groups.

There is also $27.5 million for Title V of the Act, which is one of the only federal programs specifically designed to prevent offending at the local level.  “We are glad to see an increased investment from the federal government in these critical programs that help keep our kids and communities safe. States rely on this money to ensure that children receive the services they need to lead safe and productive lives. Without serious investments in the JJDPA, we put our children, our communities, and the programs that serve them at serious risk,” says Naomi Smoot, Executive Director of the Coalition for Juvenile Justice and Co-chair of the Act4JJ Campaign. 

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is getting a budget increase as well, with $379.5 million to spend, in the agreement to help the agency address a heavier workload of sexual harassment cases and severe staffing shortages. The American Federation of Government Employees’ National Council of EEOC Locals (Council 216) Chair Gabrielle Martin stated, “We are on the front lines and know what would make a difference in more efficient service and help for those experiencing discrimination, including sexual harassment, and to prevent it in the first place.”

Planned Parenthood, will continue to receive $500 million in funding through Medicaid and Title X grants for family planning.  Planned Parenthood provides essential healthcare services to 2.7 million women, men and young people across the country, the majority of whom have low incomes or live in underserved communities.

The bill also includes a first-time tribal funding set aside within the Victim of Crime Act’s (VOCA) Crime Victims Fund. The bill includes a 10 percent budget increase for Indian Health Service (HIS) and a 7 percent increase for Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) and the Bureau of Indian Education. The increase at the BIA includes an additional $2 million for implementing Violence Against Women Act services for the agency’s public safety and justice programs and a $9 million increase in criminal investigations and police services.

There is an increase of funding from $109 million to $117 million for the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights (OCR), which enforces Title IX, which is a federal civil rights law that prohibits discrimination based on sex in any education program or activity that receives federal funding. The bill also boosts the maximum Pell Grant award by $175, to $6,095 for the 2018-19 academic year. The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program receives an additional $107 million for a total of $840 million. The Federal Work-Study program receives an additional $140 million for a total of $1.13 billion. Head Start for preschoolers would also get a $610 million boost, while an additional $2.4 billion would go for childcare grants. “This bill, while not perfect, takes the first step in reinvesting in education funding and prioritizes programs which help students most in need,” wrote Marc Egan, director of government relations at the National Education Association in a letter to Congress.

What Was Left Out of the Bill

Not only did the omnibus bill exclude a permanent relief or solution for the recipients of the DACA program, it also failed to shore up the Obamacare individual insurance markets, and provide coverage for people with high medical costs. Obamacare funded “cost-sharing reduction” would have payments to health insurers established under the Affordable Care Act to offset the cost of lowering co-payments and deductibles for low-income people. 

Posted or updated: 6/11/2018 12:00:00 AM
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As Congress now moves to focus on the FY 2019 budget process, we must act to protect and restore funding levels for our priorities—programs that are crucial to the well-being of women, children and families. Contact your local congressional representative at Capital Switchboard 202-224-3121 or in their district office and urge them to fight for funding that meets the needs of all Americans. Tell them the President’s budget is not law and that you want robust funding for FY19 appropriation bills. 
  • No to slashing SNAP—the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—that is critical to preserving economic and food security, health, employment and learning.
  • No cuts to housing assistance sections and vouchers
  • No reduction in Medicaid, which will jeopardize health benefits for children
  • No to cuts in federal disability programs
  • No cuts to food stamps and employment training
  • No to the President’s FY 2019 budget proposal that would cut an estimated “3 trillion over 10 years from basic needs programs”

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  • Read pages 237-264, 343-348, 441-454 on Health Care, Education, and Welfare (Chapter 162.III. The Social Community and Chapter 163. IV. The Economic Community) of the Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church