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Legislative Updates
Thursday, November 19, 2015 
Potential Appropriations Cuts
With the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 passed on November 2, 2015, Congress returned this week to finalize language for appropriations bills, using the new budget framework to decide how federal funding will be spent in 2016. Appropriation subcommittees in the House and Senate are finalizing their recommendations this week, and the full committees will make final decisions on proposed legislation in the next few weeks. While the recent budget shields social service programs from the full, devastating effects of sequestration cuts and even provided a potential for increased funding in the budget, it is still possible that programs of vital importance to AJFCA and Jewish Family & Children's Agencies could face funding cuts, particularly specific programs in the Older Americans Act (OAA)  and the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA).

OAA Potential Cuts
While we are pleased by the potentially available increased funding for social service programs, including OAA programs that are essential to keeping older adults healthy and at home, we are concerned that proposals offered earlier this year to cut certain OAA program funding could be included in new appropriations language. These included:
  • $34.4 million (8%) cut for Senior Community Services Employment Program (SCSEP)
  • $250,000 (5%) cut for Falls Prevention
  • $400,000 (5%) cut for Chronic Disease Self-Management Education (CDSME)
  • $360,000 (5%) cut for Aging and Disability Resource Centers (ADRCs)
We urge you to call your Representatives and Senators (especially if is they are members of the appropriations committees or House or Senate leadership) to urge them not to include such cuts in final appropriations and to encourage them to provide overall increased investment in older adult programs funded through the Older Americans Act and not make targeted cuts to the programs listed above. 
VOCA Potential Cuts
The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 took $1.5 billion from the Crime Victims Fund, a fund established by the passage of VOCA in 1984 to fund state and local programs for victims of crimes such as domestic violence, to offset spending in other parts of the budget. The Fund is paid for entirely from fines and penalties paid by offenders at the federal level, not taxpayer dollars. Because deposits into the fund can vary from year to year, Congress set a "cap" on withdrawals from the fund in 2000, limiting the amount of money distributed each year to states for much needed programs.
From Fiscal Year (FY) 2014 to FY2015, the cap increased from $745 million to $2.361 billion. Proposed legislation in the House earlier this year recommended increasing the cap to $2.7 billion. However, in light of the $1.5 billion that was taken from the Fund, we are strongly concerned that the new appropriations language may actually lower the cap below last year's funding level, which would significantly reduce new victim service programs across the country.

We urge you to contact you Representatives and Senators and tell them that it is crucial that to protect victim services the cap should be as high as possible in the final FY2016 appropriations bill.

Refugee Legislation 
Earlier this week, the House introduced the American SAFE Act (H.R. 4038), which would require that supplemental certifications and background investigations be completed prior to the admission of any refugees from Iraq or Syria. AJFCA has since joined humanitarian aid and faith, labor, and human rights organizations to express support for U.S. refugee resettlement and opposition to any legislation that would halt resettlement efforts or restrict funding for any groups of refugees, including Syrian refugees. Nonetheless, H.R. 4038 passed the house on Thursday, November 19. At the same time, Senator Cruz introduced a bill, S. 2302, in the Senate that would temporarily restrict Syrian refugees from coming to the United States.

We encourage you to call your Senators to state your support for U.S. refugee resettlement efforts and to urge that they vote against H.R. 4038 or S. 2302.