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Moving the Federal Budget Process Forward

Background on the budget
The ruling on the ACA is exciting for the paralysis community and has the potential to have a great impact on the programs that are important to us. While Congress is figuring out what the next steps are in terms of implementing the ACA, they are also continuing to work on another very important issue - passing the federal budget.

In February we told you about how the President started the annual Federal budget process by submitting his draft budget to Congress. Over the past months, Congress has been working to draft and submit their individual spending bills – called appropriations – which provide funding for all Federal Agencies.

Of particular interest to the paralysis community is the Labor, Health and Human Services (LHHS) subcommittee spending bill. LHHS provides funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These agencies are important to our community as they oversee medical research, as well as disability programs, services and resources.

As for process, both the Senate and the House must first approve their own versions of spending bills. Typically, the House and Senate have a conference to discuss the differences in each, and then work to agree upon final language. They will either approve each measure individually, or they will include them in one larger package, called an omnibus.

Impact of the budget on the paralysis community
This complicated process moved a huge step forward in June when the Senate LHHS subcommittee approved its spending bill. The bill provides $158.8 billion in total funding for the Government and $71 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services. Of interest for the paralysis community, the bill includes: $3.2 billion for CMS, $ 30.7 billion for NIH and $ 7 billion for CDC.

Another important aspect of the Senate LHHS subcommittee bill is its strong rejection to consolidation of funding for disability programs supported through the National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD). For the past two years, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has proposed to consolidate disability programs supported through the NCBDDD. This is especially concerning to the paralysis community, as the NCBDDD supports the Paralysis Resource Center (PRC). CDC has provided no plan on how they attempt to move forward with consolidation, and if they move forward they are potentially putting valuable programs and services our community depends upon each day at great risk.

By rejecting the consolidation, Congress has shown that they listen to you on the importance of these programs and that they understand the impact consolidation could potentially have on our community. While this is great news for our community, it is only the first step. The House of Representatives still needs to approve its final spending bill, and we are unsure if the bill will include the same Senate language.

Now, Congress can move forward with passing individual appropriations bills for each committee, or they could decide to combine all of the individual appropriations bills into a one single package, which limits the ability to include our specific report language.

Whatever their path - our priority is to ensure that the needs of the paralysis community are represented in policies moving forward. We are focused on having the report language included in the final bill and acknowledged by CDC, so the programs that matter to you remain protected.

Next steps
As Congress determines their final bills and consolidation of NCBDDD is discussed, we will continue to work with Congress to let them know how important funding of NIH, CDC and the PRC is for the paralysis community. In the coming months, be on the lookout for alerts and updates telling you how to help and how to reach out to your Member of Congress on issues that matter to you.

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Continue Christopher Reeve's LegacyPhoto by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders