Congress Approves Bills to Maintain Funding Levels for Overseas Development Assistance
Congress has left town for the next six weeks for the Republican and Democratic conventions and its annual August recess, but before departing, both the House and Senate appropriations committees approved legislation to fund humanitarian and development budget accounts for the upcoming fiscal year.
To sum things up briefly, it would seem that everything old is new again: most of the funding levels approved by both House and Senate for the Fiscal Year 2017 State and Foreign Operations bills are similar or identical to last year’s. However, there are a few differences worth noting.
- Nutrition: Both the House and Senate provided $125 million for the nutrition budget account. This amount is identical to the level of funding for this account in Fiscal Year 2016, and represents an increase over the President’s recommendation of $108 million. However, this allocation falls below the $230 million that Action Against Hunger and many others in the community had urged Congress to provide for the nutrition account, especially in light of the Nutrition for Growth summit which is expected to happen in the near future and provide a pledging moment for the world on nutrition issues.
- Maternal/Child Health: The Maternal/Child Health (MCH) account received increases in both the House and Senate budget. The Senate allocated $814 million for this account, an increase from last year’s level of $750 million. The House provided $997 million for MCH, but this number was inflated by the inclusion of UNICEF funding under the MCH account in the House bill. It’s promising to see increases being provided to improve the health of mothers and children around the globe.
- Feed the Future: The Feed the Future program, President Obama’s flagship food security initiative (which was permanently established with the passage of the Global Food Security Act in July), was flat-funded by the House at $1 billion. The Senate provided slightly more funding, with an allocation of $1.053 billion.
- International Disaster Assistance: As numerous humanitarian crises continue to rage around the planet, the House provided the International Disaster Assistance (IDA) account with $2.794 billion, the same level as last year, with the Senate coming in at $2.394 billion. Hopefully the higher funding level for IDA will prevail in the final version of the legislation, as critical humanitarian needs continue to be deeply felt in so many places around the globe.
- WASH: Both the House and Senate provided $400 million for water, sanitation, and hygiene funding, which is identical to the FY16 level. While Action Against Hunger had supported an increase to $425 million in order to meet continuing WASH needs around the globe, it’s good to see that the funding level has held steady, particularly in light of the fact that the President’s request for WASH this year was $256 million. We appreciate Congress maintaining WASH funding at its current level rather than reducing it.
While both the House and Senate have now approved their State/Foreign Operations appropriations bills, it’s unlikely these bills will receive votes by the full House and Senate in time to avoid the need for a continuing resolution, which would fund the government at last year’s level until new appropriations bills can be approved for all departments in the U.S. government. A continuing resolution would likely last at least until December, and it could possibly extend into the new year. We will keep you posted as more information becomes available.
Action Against Hunger urges Congress to fund development and humanitarian accounts as robustly as possible for the upcoming year. The needs are profound and the stakes are high for our work and for the lives, health, and well-being of millions of people around the globe.