Congress Sets Stage for Funding Battle Next Year

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On December 21, 2010, the U.S. Congress passed a “continuing resolution” (CR) to temporarily fund federal programs until March 4, 2011. The bill is expected to be signed by President Obama today.  As cleared, the bill would increase government spending by $1.16 billion in fiscal 2011 compared with fiscal 2010. The bill also includes millions of dollars in additional funds for a variety of federal programs, including some aimed at aiding veterans and students.

Because Congress failed to pass annual FY 2011 spending bills before the fiscal year started on October 1, 2010, Congress has had to pass a series of CRs in order to keep the federal government operating. Congress reconvened in a “lame duck session” after the November election to work on passing a FY 2011 appropriations bill; however negotiations broke down thus forcing Congress to pass the CR it passed last night.

The March 4 deadline sets the stage for a clash in Congress early next year with Republicans pushing to reduce discretionary non-military spending to fiscal 2008 levels as outlined in their Pledge to America, and Democrats seeking to protect programs that they consider vital. While Democrats wanted to pass a CR that would be good until September 30, 2011 – the end of FY 2011 – Republicans wanted a deadline taking effect early in 2011 when their new majority in the House and larger number in the Senate could influence the final outcome.

While Goodwill supplements federal funds for employment programs with the bulk of the revenues it generates in its business enterprises – roughly $3 billion last year – local Goodwill agencies would be directly affected if Congress cuts funding in FY 2011 and beyond for federal programs that support job training and workforce development, vocational rehabilitation, and other programs that help people to overcome their employment challenges to find jobs and careers.

Cuts to these programs would result in reduced referrals and contracts for services from systems that have been consistently stretched thin for years before and after the recession.  Therefore it is important that local Goodwill leaders, staff, and public supporters capitalize on opportunities to communicate with elected officials about the importance of funding for critical job training programs. An alert has been posted to GII’s legislative action center, and GII’s public policy team will continue to closely monitor this issue and will alert stakeholders in the future when Members of Congress need to hear more specific messages from Goodwill’s grassroots supporters.

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