Congress Approves FY 2017 Budget Deal

Congress reached a deal Sunday night on a massive spending package funding the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year, Politico reported. The $1 trillion omnibus bill would increase funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and reinstate year-round Pell Grants.

The U.S. House of Representatives and Senate approved the measure on Wednesday and Thursday, respectively, The Hill reported. The legislative package now moves to President Trump's desk for signage into law.

The agreement would increase defense spending and provide $1.5 billion in new border security spending aimed at repairing existing infrastructure and increasing technology, though it would not allocate any new funding for President Trump's border wall plans or his crackdown on sanctuary cities.

The deal would include a $2 billion increase in funding for the National Institutes of Health, despite Trump's request that its budget be reduced for the rest of the fiscal year. In the proposed "skinny budget" laid out in March, the administration called for an 18-percent cut in the NIH's funding and a reorganization of its institutes and centers.

The latest budget measure would also restore year-round Pell Grant eligibility, which would provide roughly a million students with an additional $1,650 each, according to estimates. Year-round Pell Grants were previously offered, but the option was cut in 2011 over concerns about the program's cost. At the time, an influx of students attending college had eliminated the program's surplus, and cutting year-round Pell was one of several adjustments made to lower costs. At the end of the last fiscal year, the program had an $8.5 billion surplus fund, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

The budget agreement would, however, cut $1.3 billion from that excess funding in the Pell Grant program. Democrats and student aid advocates had pushed against such a move, which they call "raiding" the program's surplus, reported Politico Morning Education. Still, the legislation would maintain the level of discretionary spending on the Pell Grant program this year. Because of mandatory funding increases, the maximum award will increase $105 to $5,920 starting in the 2017-18 school year.

The spending deal would also include a $8.7 million boost in funding for the National Science Foundation and a $2 million increase to both the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. It would provide an extra $50 million for the Federal TRIO Programs and $17 million for GEAR UP.

In addition, the legislation would require the Education Department to allow all federal student loan borrowers who are consolidating their loans to have a choice in which company collects and processes their monthly payments. "This will allow borrowers to stay with their existing servicer if they wish to, limit unnecessary disruption for borrowers, and provide another incentive for servicers to provide high-quality service to borrowers," reads the explanatory statement from Congressional appropriators.


Related Links


Politico Morning Education

The Hill