Earlier this month, President Biden unveiled hisFiscal Year 2024 (FY24) Budget Request, which officially kicked off this year’s appropriations cycle in Congress. Though lawmakers, knowing that the President’s request would be delayed by a month, did not sit around waiting and began preparing prior to its official publication.SenateandHouseappropriators announced their respective Committee guidance for members of Congress to submit requests to the Committee, along with deadlines, and changes to the process brought forth as a result of the new majority in the House. Notably, Republicans in the House opted to maintain Community Funding Projects – historically known as earmarks – as part of the bill, albeit with many new requirements and restrictions.
The FY24 appropriations cycle will be a challenging one, after two years of having a unified government, we now face a divided Congress, with one of the majorities focused on reducing federal spending to at least FY22 levels. Add in outside factors like the looming Debt Ceiling deadline, and we start to picture a protracted funding battle on several fronts with little hope of coming to an agreement by the end of the current fiscal year on September 30, 2023. One thing that is certain, we should not expect monumental increases in federal spending as we saw the past two years. That being said, it’s worth looking at where we are starting; below we will share some information on what is currently on the table and what we can expect from this year’s appropriations cycle.
The President’s Budget
In what is being seen as a potential campaign messaging platform, President Biden proposes increases to several domestic programs, calls for an increase to our defense budget, and brings back some signature policy proposals seen in his first (ambitious) budget request but that were not included in last year’s. The proposal is very favorable to many community college priorities, and it provides budget increases for the Departments of Education and Labor.
For theDepartment of Education (ED), the budget requests $90 billion in discretionary budget authority for 2024, a $10.8 billion or 13.6-percent increase from the 2023 enacted level. Some of the key highlights of this proposal include:
An $820 increase to the maximum award of the Pell grant through a combination of discretionary ($500) and mandatory ($320) increases.
- A $429 million increase to Title III and Title V programs to support HBCUs, TCCUs, HSIs and other MSIs. This includes an $87 million increase to the Strengthening Institutions Program (SIP), for a total funding of $209 million.
- A $20 million increase to the Child Care Access Means Parents in Schools (CCAMPIS) program for a total of $95 million in funding.
- Modest increases to the GEAR UP and TRIO programs.
- A $120 million increase to the Postsecondary Student Success Grant, for a total of $165 million.
- A new discretionary program calledAccelerated Success: Free Community Collegewith $500 million in funding to provide free tuition at community colleges for select programs that lead to articulation or well-paying jobs.
In addition to these discretionary program increases; the President’s budget also calls for changes in mandatory spending for programs community colleges have long advocated for: A state-federal partnership to provide free community college and financial aid eligibility for students who have DACA or TPS.
For theDepartment of Labor (DOL), the budget requests $15.1 billion in discretionary budget authority for 2024, a $1.5 billion or 11-percent increase from the 2023 enacted level. The proposal for DOL also includes favorable increases to community college programs, including:
- A $35 million increase for Strengthening Community College Training Grants (SCCTG) for a total of $100 million for FY24.
- A $96.4 million increase to WIOA State Grants for a total of $3.019 billion.
- A $50 million increase for Registered Apprenticeships for a total of $335 million.
While the numbers in the President’s budget will not be the final numbers that are enacted into law – they seldom ever are even with a unified government, much less in a divided Congress – the numbers are a baseline starting point for negotiations and provide advocates with data to justify needed investment in critical programs.
Congressional Appropriations Process
While we do not expect Congress to complete their federal funding duties in time for the start of the 2024 fiscal year, the leaders of the appropriations committee in both chambers have indicated their intent to return to regular order and pass appropriations bills in a timely manner. After the annual appropriations process in Congress kicks off with the unveiling of the President’s budget, individual Senators and Representatives can submit requests to the appropriations committee in three different categories:
- Programmatic requests:Lawmakers may request specific funding levels for agencies and programs funded in the twelve appropriations bills.
- Language requests:Lawmakers may request bill language or report language directing or encouraging specific actions by federal agencies.
- Community Project Funding/Congressionally Directed Spending requests: Lawmakers may request funding for specific projects in their communities, so long as the projects meet requirements established by federal law, House and Senate Rules, and the Appropriations Committees to ensure only high-quality projects are requested and funded.
These requests are submitted through a portal set up by the Appropriations Committee in each chamber, with each of the 12 appropriations bills having their distinct deadlines and sets of guidance. You can find the guidance and deadlines for the Househere, and for the Senatehere. An unfortunate development for the FY24 cycle is that the House has excluded the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (LHHS) bill from the list which members can submit Community Funding Project requests. This is the bill that funded the majority of community college projects the last two years. However, there is still an opportunity to secure funding through other bills such as the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies (Ag) bill, or the Transportation, Housing and Urban Development (THUD) bill. ACCT compileda list of projects funded in different bills in FY23, which you can use to find examples of projects that could be viable options outside of LHHS.
In addition to accepting member requests, the Appropriations Committees in both chambers will hold several hearings over the next couple of months inviting Agency leads and Cabinet Secretaries to testify in front of Congress justifying their respective budget requests on behalf of the President. Once these hearings are completed, each subcommittee will work on drafting their FY24 proposals. They will then unveil their proposals during subcommittee and then full committee markups where they will review them, possibly make changes, and then report them out to be considered by the entire Chamber on a vote.
What Now? What’s Next?
Congress is currently busy with many deadlines for member requests in the House occurring this and last week. In the Senate, lawmakers will have a couple more weeks to submit their requests. In the meantime, both chambers are holding several hearings a day to hear from administration officials on their justifications for their budget requests. The budget justification hearings for the Departments of Education and Labor have not been scheduled in either chamber but they will likely take place in April or May.
A final reminder that Congress should finish this cycle by September 30, 2023, in time for the start of the 2024 Fiscal Year. That being said, we can safely assume we will be talking about FY24 appropriations well into the end of the calendar year.
José Miranda is the Director of Government Relations at ACCT