Federal Budget Watch 2012

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Congress has approved deep cuts in federal juvenile justice funding for 2012, but neither the House nor the Senate has voted on spending bills to fund the other major programs for disadvantaged youth and low-income families. For the second year, the House is trying to shut down most Corporation for National and Community Service programs, including AmeriCorps.

A mini-omnibus agreement – nicknamed the “minibus” deal – was reached last week to fund the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development. It includes $262.5 million for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, but only $90 million of the appropriation is directed at programs related to the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.

One of the most important aspects of the minibus bill is the continuing resolution it contains; it would keep the entire government open until Dec. 16.

A joint conference of Senators and Represents has been named to work on the remaining nine appropriations bills, and began its work on Dec. 8 with hopes of getting a deal passed before the deadline next week.       

Appropriators responsible for funding child welfare, education and health services must continue their negotiations in the shadow of the super committee’s failure to complete a package of spending cuts that trims $1.2 trillion from the deficit over the next 10 years. The failure means sizable cuts in domestic and defense spending in fiscal 2013 will be triggered.

This is the breakdown of the latest developments on 2012 spending for youth services:

 

Juvenile Justice

The minibus spending deal continues to reduce the relevance of the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and may jeopardize the office’s connection with state governments. It drops the allocation from $275 million in 2011 to $262.5 million for fiscal 2012, more than $100 million below what the office received in fiscal 2009.

The cuts “destabilize and jeopardize states’ ability to maintain protections for youth, reduce delinquency, and … promote community safety,” the Coalition for Juvenile Justice said in a statement after details of the minibus agreement were released.

The additional spending reductions create a problem for Justice on how to allocate JJDPA Title II grants to states. The funds are allotted to states in exchange for their compliance with four core standards of juvenile justice operations: not detaining or incarcerating status offenders; keeping all juveniles out of adult jails; separating them by sight and sound from adults in the rare exceptions when jail is allowable; and addressing disproportionate minority contact in the system.

Title II funds are disbursed based on the under-18 population in each state, but nearly two dozen states receive the “minimum allocation” of $600,000. OJJDP can lower that minimum if the total amount for Title II drops below $75 million, as it did in the last-minute 2011 spending deal, falling to $62 million.

Justice chose to keep the $600,000 minimum allocation in 2011, and make the states with larger youth populations absorb 36 percent cuts.

If the department maintains the minimum again in 2012, the more populous states would receive an even larger cut, and some states have said they could consider opting out of participation in the JJDPA.

On the other hand, if Justice lowers the minimum allocation, some juvenile justice advocates believe several smaller states will almost certainly opt out.

The entire Title V appropriation in the bill is consumed by tribal youth programs, Enforcement of Underage Drinking Laws (EUDL), and gang prevention, which means there is no money for state advisory groups (SAG) to use for delinquency prevention projects.  

Appropriators also provided $10 million for Attorney General Eric Holder’s Defending Childhood Initiative, which seeks to assist children who have witnessed or experienced violence, and $63 million for the Second Chance Act, which assists adult and juvenile offenders who are re-entering the community after incarceration. Second Chance had been zeroed out of the Senate’s appropriations bill.

Labor

There are significant differences between the chambers on job-training programs for youth and young adults. The Senate bill includes $825 million for Youth Activities under the Workforce Investment Act and $79.8 million for YouthBuild, both the same as their 2011 appropriations. The House bill cuts WIA-Youth Activities nearly in half, to $413 million, and does the same to YouthBuild ($40 million).

The House proposes to increase Job Corps funding to $2.2 billion, a $500 million increase; the Senate proposes level funding.

Health and Human Services

The House and Senate both funded most services for child welfare systems and runaway/homeless youth programs at 2011 levels. The major difference is Head Start. Oddly enough, it is the Republican-led House that is proposing the larger increase – from $7.6 billion to $8.1 billion – compared with a Senate-proposed bump to $7.9 billion.

The House is also seeking to defund all of the heath reform provisions, and, as part of that, rescinds $350 million for Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visitation. The program predates the Affordable Care Act – it received $13.5 million as a stand-alone program in 2009 – but its funding line in appropriations was moved into the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act when President Barack Obama signed it in 2010.

 
Education

The House has been slow to develop an overhaul of the No Child Left Behind Act while the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee has already approved a bill. But on 2012 appropriations, the two chambers appear to be in harmony on all but one major program: Race to the Top, which received $698 million in 2011. The House wants to zero out the incentive-based scheme, conceived by the Obama administration and originally funded by of the Recovery Act. The Senate proposes to appropriate another $698 million.

The proposed House bill maintains the current maximum Pell Grant award of $5,550 for students, but would cut more than $2 billion in education spending, mostly by restructuring the Pell Grant system. Proposed reforms include lowering the number of years of Pell Grant eligibility from nine years to six years, and eliminating eligibility for students who attend school less than half time or have not obtained a high school diploma or GED.

The Senate bill maintains the maximum Pell Grant and cuts spending by eliminating the six-month grace period on interest on federally subsidized student loans.

Corporation for National and Community Service

For the second consecutive year, the House appears poised to dismantle CNCS and its signature AmeriCorps program, saving only the senior volunteer programs and funding for foster grandparents ($110 million). The Senate would take the CNCS budget down slightly from $1.1 billion to $916.4 million, and leave AmeriCorps at $347.4 million.

“At a time when the nation’s investment in service should be growing to create jobs and better provide services to local communities, the House bill shuts down the Corporation for National and Community Service, eliminating funding for AmeriCorps, the Social Innovation Fund and Learn & Serve America,” AnnMaura Connolly, director of the Save Service in America Campaign, said in a statement. “Innovative and fiscally efficient initiatives that they are defunding account for over 100,000 jobs and provide vital services to communities in need across the nation.”