Omnibus Spending Bill: Clear Progress for Everyday Americans, But Much Left Undone

Washington, D.C., March 23, 2018—Congress has passed an omnibus spending bill that will fund the federal government through the end of fiscal year 2018 (FY 2018) on September 30. The $1.3 trillion bill includes support for programs important to households with low incomes—although it ignores a number of pressing issues.

The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is pleased with several important elements of the bill that lay a strong foundation for addressing major national needs—notably increasing funding for child care, education and workforce programs and protecting the tips earned by vulnerable low-wage workers. However, we are disheartened with the significant unfinished business that compromises the wellbeing of millions of everyday Americans. Congress has once again failed to act on a fix for young immigrants who came to the United States as children.

Among key highlights in the spending bill for low-income children, families, and individuals are:

  • A historic $2.37 billion increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the nation’s primary source for child care assistance for low-income families and improvements in the quality of child care for all children. This boost in CCDBG funding will help an additional 151,370 children whose hard-working parents struggle to afford quality child care. After years of budget neglect, today CCDBG serves the fewest children in its history. This major investment expands access to care and lays the groundwork for future investments.
  • An increase of $610 million for Head Start, including $115 million for Early Head Start expansion and Early Head Start-Child Care partnerships.
  • A prohibition on employers stealing workers’ hard-earned tips, a critical protection for tipped workers who are three times more likely than other workers to experience poverty. The language in the bill is a powerful bipartisan rebuttal to a Trump-era Department of Labor rule that would have allowed employers to take their workers’ tips after paying them no more than the minimum wage.
  • Increases to education, training, and workforce programs that support low-income youth and adults, including returning citizens, to gain critical skills and earn postsecondary credentials that lead to pathways to employment. Among the highlights:
    • $30 million increase to the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Adult program
    • $30 million increase to WIOA Youth programs
    • $20 million increase to the WIOA Dislocated Worker state grants
    • $35 million increase for WIOA adult education state grants
    • $50 million increase for apprenticeship grants at the Department of Labor
    • $5 million increase for ex-offender grant programs
    • $17 million increase for Second Chance Act programs, $5 million increase for YouthBuild
    • $75 million increase in career and technical education state grants under the Carl Perkins Act
    • an increase in the amount of Pell Grants for low-income students to an annual maximum of $6,095
    • almost $250 million in increases to critical student aid programs like the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants and Work-Study
    • $82 million for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and other Minority Serving Institutions

These increases in spending come after many years of federal disinvestment in domestic discretionary programs that cover most federal funding for education, workforce and career development, early care and education, youth programs, and public health. Thus, today’s increases simply patch an already-eroding foundation of public support to working families, children, seniors, and other Americans of modest means. Looking ahead, we call on Congress to shore up the foundation of public support for everyday people with a FY 2019 budget that takes major next steps in funding for key programs.

CLASP continues to stand firmly with immigrant youth in calling on Congress to pass a legislative fix for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and other Dreamers. While we are disappointed Congress included additional funding for border and interior immigration enforcement, we are heartened by the success of advocates who were able to scale back funding for Trump’s mass deportation force and deny funding for construction of a concrete border wall.

We are also pleased that the committee’s report language includes strengthened accountability for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). In particular, the report reinforces the expectation that ICE must continue to follow existing sensitive locations policy—which restricts ICE enforcement actions in places like child care centers, schools, hospitals, and churches—and policies like the parental interest directive that help ensure detained and deported parents are able to make decisions about their children’s care. Our new research on the effect of immigration enforcement on young children demonstrates that recent immigration policy and actions are undermining the development of our youngest citizens, and we call on Congress to strengthen ICE enforcement policies to mitigate the harm to children.

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The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is a national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty organization advancing policy solutions that work for low-income people. With nearly 50 years of trusted expertise, a deeply knowledgeable staff, and a commitment to practical yet visionary approaches to opportunity for all, CLASP lifts up the voices of poor and low-income children, families, and individuals, equips advocates with strategies that work, and helps public officials put good ideas into practice. The organization’s solutions directly address the barriers that individuals and families face because of race, ethnicity, and immigration status, in addition to low income. For more information, visit www.clasp.org and follow @CLASP_DC.