Public Policy Update

At the conclusion of our November column, we urged you to stay tuned for Part II of the legislative highlights of the final days of the 106th Congress. Little did any of us know at the time how much drama would unfold during the intermission, with important ramifications for psychological research, education and public interest.

Supporting science

Although we fell slightly short of the projected increases in federal research funding in the final appropriations bill signed by President Clinton on Dec. 21, the outcome could have been much worse. One of the options on the table was to keep all agencies operating at the Fiscal Year (FY) 2000 level. APA's Public Policy Office joined many other science organizations in an eleventh hour rally to maintain the proposed 15 percent budget increase for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which ultimately received 14 percent. However, that is still $2.5 billion more than it received in FY 2000 and keeps the agency on track to double its budget by FY 2003.

Funding for the National Science Foundation (NSF) also fell slightly below expectations, but still received the largest increase in its history (14 percent). This puts the agency on track to double its budget in about six years. The final appropriation included a nearly 21 percent increase in funding for the Social, Behavioral and Economic Sciences Directorate. Worthy of note within the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Life and Microgravity Sciences Division, home for much of NASA's ongoing behavioral research, received a 14.4 percent increase, and the Aero-Space Technology account, which funds human factors research within the aviation safety research initiative, received a 10.5 percent increase.

Gains for education

The Public Policy Office, working with the Health Professions and Nursing Education coalition, was successful in advocating for an unprecedented $51 million increase over FY 2000 for the Bureau of Health Professions in the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Psychology is eligible for a number of the agency's programs, including those for minority graduate students. The National Health Service Corps, also in HRSA, received an increase of $10 million to support psychologists and other health professionals in underserved areas who are participating in the Loan Repayment Program but not receiving funds. In addition, the Indians-Into-Psychology program will provide $250,000 for the University of Alaska; the University of Montana received comparable funding through a different federal source.

Within the U.S. Department of Education, the Federal Work Study Program received a $93 million increase, bringing the FY 2001 level to $1.2 billion to provide part-time internships and research assistantships to undergraduate and graduate students. A number of other education programs received increases, including Special Education with a 23 percent increase and Title I of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (for disadvantaged students) with an increase of $660 million. Considering that the final Labor­Health and Human Services­Education appropriations bill was reduced by $3.7 billion, the HRSA and education programs fared well.

Promoting the public interest

The final appropriations numbers offered mixed news for the broad array of programs in the public interest:

• Within the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, the Children's Mental Health Program received an increase of $9 million to $91.7 million, and the Mental Health Block Grant received an increase of $64 million to $420 million.

• The Social Services Block Grant, which in part funds mental health services for children, seniors and people with disabilities, was slated for $1.725 billion, a $50 million reduction from FY 2000 levels, and a significant cut from the $2.8 billion it received only five years ago.

Head Start won a $933 million increase to $6.2 billion, the largest one-year increase ever. To promote community-based care for Americans with disabilities, the budget allocates $50 million to help states develop comprehensive plans.

• The Ryan White AIDS Program was increased $213 million over last year for a total of $1.8 billion.

• Funding for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention was increased $213 million over last year to $3.9 billion and includes $767 million for HIV/AIDS.

--APA'S PUBLIC POLICY OFFICE

Further Reading

For a detailed list of other federally funded health programs, go to APA's Public Policy Office Web site: www.apa.org/ppo/homepage.html. For access to the full text of the federal appropriations legislation funding science, health, education and other programs, you can go to the Thomas Web site at: http://lcweb.loc.gov/global/legislative/appover.html.