Government Relations Update

Psychology's advocates found little to cheer about in the Fiscal Year 2009 budget sent forward by the Bush administration on Feb. 4. The president's proposal takes a particularly tough stand on domestic, non-security discretionary spending, which is provided through the annual appropriations process, calling for an increase of less than 1 percent, to $393 billion, in FY 2009. The proposal would then freeze spending at that level for the next four years.

It is important to note, however, that the president's budget is a non-binding document that serves to inform Congress of what the administration believes federal fiscal policy and priorities should be for a given year.

Below is a look at proposed funding for federal programs of interest to psychology in the areas of education, science and public interest.

National Institutes of Health (NIH). The administration's request would provide $29.2 billion for the NIH in FY 2009, which represents the sixth consecutive year that the NIH budget has failed to keep pace with biomedical inflation. APA supports $31.1 billion for NIH, an increase of $1.9 billion over the FY 2008 funding level.

National Science Foundation (NSF). The administration continues to support a strong increase for the NSF-16 percent for the Research and Related Activities account. Within that increase, however, NSF's Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate would receive a much lower 8.5 percent increase.

Department of Defense (DoD). The department's Science and Technology (S&T) account would fall from its 2008 level, although funding for basic research would rise by 4 percent to $1.7 billion for FY 2009.

Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The DHS came out on top, with the president requesting a 7 percent increase over 2008. However, two programs within the Science and Technology Directorate could suffer: The relatively new Human Factors Division is slated for a cut of 12.3 percent, and while that will surely crimp programs in what is already the smallest of eight S&T Divisions, Human Factors did more than double its funding from FY 2007 to FY 2008. DHS's University Programs, which fund both the University Based Centers of Excellence and the Scholars and Fellows Program, is slated for a 11.2 percent cut.

Department of Veterans Affairs (VA). The administration's FY 2009 budget for the VA proposes $3.9 billion to continue efforts to improve access to mental health services for veterans across the country. But even with the proposed increase, medical and prosthetic research would be decreased from $480 million in FY 2008 to $442 million.

National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). The president seeks a 2.9 percent rise to set NASA's budget at $17.6 billion in 2009, but the entire increase would go to space exploration, leaving research programs, including life sciences and aeronautics research, in serious decline once again.

Department of Justice. The National Institute of Justice, which is the research and evaluation arm within this department, would receive $37 million in the president's budget, equal to its FY 2008 funding level and a dramatic 32 percent decrease from the FY 2007 level of $54.3 million.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). The president's budget proposes $5.9 billion for HRSA, a net decrease of $992 million below current funding. Most of the cuts would be achieved by eliminating support for all the Bureau of Health Professions programs, including the Graduate Psychology Education Program and one of the nurse education programs and terminating the Pediatric Graduate Medical Education Program. The budget does include modest increases for the National Health Service Corps (up $11 million) in the Bureau of Clinical Recruitment and Service and the Community Health Centers Programs (up $21 million) in the Bureau of Primary Health Care.

The Graduate Psychology Education (GPE) Program. As in past years, the president's proposed budget would eliminate funds for this program, which currently operates on a $1.8 million budget, an amount that has further reduced funding for the remaining 18 grants and eliminated the geropsychology training set-aside.

Department of Education. The department's Institute of Education Sciences would receive a $7.5 million increase to support a new research initiative on the identification and evaluation of school reform models, boosting FY 2009 funding to $167.2 million. No increases were proposed for the $70.5 million budget at the National Center on Special Education Research or for the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research's $105.7 million budget.

Postsecondary education. The president has proposed a modest increase of $69 to the maximum Pell grant, bringing the total maximum grant to $4,800.

The administration seeks to eliminate a number of programs designed to provide postsecondary study support for low-income students, including Perkins Loans and the Leveraging Educational Assistance Partnership. Other higher education access programs available to undergraduates received the same level of funding as last year: GEAR UP ($303.4 million) and TRIO ($885.2 million). The Federal Work Study program is also steady at $980.5 million. Two grant programs that support graduate students were provided small boosts: Javits fellowships at $9.8 million and Graduate Assistance in Areas of National Need at $32.5 million. Investing in the quality of prospective teachers has been a subject of significant attention by APA. The president's budget proposes eliminating the Teacher Quality Enhancement grant program, which supports pre-service teachers at institutions of higher education.

Elementary/secondary education. The president's budget proposes eliminating a wide variety of programs including the Javits Gifted and Talented Education; Advanced Placement; Mental Health Integration in Schools; Women's Educational Equity; Character Education; Civic Education; and Elementary and Secondary School Counseling programs. The Title I program received a small increase over its FY 2007 level to $14.3 billion. The Safe and Drug Free Schools State Grant program received $100 million in the budget, a reduction of $194 million, and the national programs received proposed funding of $182 million. Within the Safe and Drug Free Schools program, the Alcohol Abuse and Reduction program and the Mentoring program were zeroed out.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The budget proposal includes $3.2 billion for SAMHSA, or $198 million below FY 2008. The request includes an increase of $20 million for the substance abuse block grant, an increase of $12 million for children's mental health, and $40 million for treatment courts. The budget also allocates $4.95 million for the Campus Suicide Prevention program, a small increase over the $4.91 million the program received last fiscal year. The mental health block grant would remain at $421 million. The Center for Mental Health Services would receive a $126 million reduction, including cuts to youth-violence prevention, suicide prevention, transformation grants and trauma-informed services, and the elimination of programs such as Programs of Regional and National Significance for older adults, disaster response, children and families, and at-risk adolescents. In addition, the budget calls for $17.4 million in cuts to the national Child Traumatic Stress Initiative.

Older adults. The administration proposes $1.4 billion in funding for the Administration on Aging (AoA), a $32 million decrease from 2008. The most significant of these cuts would eliminate Preventive Health Services and Alzheimer's Disease Demonstration Grants. Also proposed is a slight decrease in funding for Aging Network Support Activities, which provides critical support for the national aging services network and assists AoA's core service-delivery programs. In addition, Family Caregiver Support Services, nutrition services, services for American Indians and programs to protect vulnerable elders would be funded at the same level as last year. The budget includes a $12 million increase to the Choices for Independence program, which would provide greater individual choice in home and community-based alternatives for long-term care needs.

HIV/AIDS. The FY 2009 budget includes a mix of small increases and funding cuts within several federal HIV/AIDS programs, including: a $1 million increase for the Ryan White Care Program for a total of $2.143 billion; a $2 million decrease in Centers for Disease Control and Prevention funding for HIV/AIDS, viral hepatitis, sexually transmitted infections and tuberculosis prevention; and a proposed $200 billion cut in funding over five years on Medicaid and Medicare, which are the two largest payers of health care for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Women and their families. The FY 2009 budget proposes flat funding for family planning services, the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, Healthy Start, the National Domestic Violence Hotline and shelters for victims of family violence and their dependents. In addition, the budget recommends $120 million in cuts to the Office on Violence Against Women, a $3 million decrease in funding for the Office on Women's Health and the elimination of Women's Educational Equity Act funding.

Administration for Children and Families (ACF). Overall, the FY 2009 budget request seeks a $1.8 billion decrease in funds to ACF. This includes a $570 million cut to the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program and decreases in funds for the Social Services Research and Demonstration program and Community Service Block Grants. The president has proposed level funding for child abuse programs, child welfare programs and the Child Care and Development Block Grants. The budget also seeks increases of $28 million for Abstinence Education Discretionary Grants, $149 million for Head Start and $15 million for Adoption Incentives.

Federal Housing Assistance. The FY 2009 budget proposes level funding for several homelessness programs, including the Runaway and Homeless Youth Program and Education for Homeless Children and Youth. While increased funding was recommended for the Health Care for the Homeless program, the Emergency Food and Shelter program would lose some of its funding. Funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would increase, but the additional funds would be reserved for the Samaritan Housing Initiative, which provides a bonus to communities that prioritize service to chronically homeless individuals. Unfortunately, this could result in cuts for several other important HUD programs, such as Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing, Housing for the Elderly and Housing for People with Disabilities. 

Further reading

To learn more about APA's efforts to improve policies affecting psychology—and to get involved—visit the Government Relations Office.