Trump to tap home energy aid, substance abuse programs to fight coronavirus

February 27, 2020

Pres. Trump intends to sweep at least $136 million from various (federal budget) health accounts including substance use treatment and mental health and Children and Families Program Services to name just a few. See the articles below for additional details.

Appropriators plan weekend work to prep coronavirus bill for passageBy Caitlin Emma, Politico02/27/2020 05:49 PM ESTCongressional appropriators are racing to pull together a multibillion-dollar emergency package to combat the coronavirus, aiming for passage as early as next week.Spending leaders in both chambers will keep talking over the weekend as they try to settle on an overall number, according to a person familiar with the negotiations. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said bipartisan discussions on a final figure are getting “close.”The total is expected to be lower than the $8.5 billion Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer proposed earlier this week, between $6 billion and $8 billion. And Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) confirmed Thursday that the package will exceed the $4 billion House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy has suggested.But the top four appropriators negotiating the emergency spending bill remain coy on the potential details of the measure, beyond that broad funding range.“We’re still in discussion!” House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) told reporters. “I don’t deal in ballpark figures. I deal in final numbers.”Spending leaders from both sides of the aisle have agreed it will be easier to pass a “clean” bill, without policy add-ons like reauthorizing expiring surveillance laws.The measure is likely to include orders requiring the Trump administration to replenish the $136 million it plans to transfer from various health accounts to pad out its coronavirus response.The Department of Health and Human Services confirmed Thursday that it is in the process of shifting $5 million from substance abuse and mental health programs, in addition to raiding $37 million from a program that helps low-income households pay their energy bills. The administration also wants to take $63 million from the National Institutes of Health, $4.8 million from Children and Families Services Programs, $4.2 million from Aging and Disability programs and $5.2 million from various CDC programs.“I’m very concerned about that, because we look at those bills very carefully,” said Rep. Kay Granger (R-Texas), the ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee. Granger said appropriators put careful thought into funding such efforts.Rep. Tom Cole (R-Okla.), ranking member on the Labor-HHS-Education spending subcommittee, said he is not opposed to the administration reshuffling the funds and noted the possibility of the money being restored through the forthcoming emergency package.Cole said he is more uncomfortable with the Trump administration’s $2.5 billion request for emergency money for coronavirus response , which proposed only $1.25 billion in new funding, in addition to draining $535 million from accounts intended to fight Ebola.“I know they’re trying to be prudent, and I applaud that, but I don’t want to take $500-million-plus dollars out of the Ebola fund,” Cole said. “I think that’s a mistake. That money is there for a reason. If that ever got out of West Africa and over here, it would be a whole lot worse than coronavirus.“

Trump to tap home energy aid, substance abuse programs to fight coronavirus

By Caitlin Emma, Brianna Ehley, Politico

02/27/2020 12:45 PM EST

The Trump administration will drain millions of dollars from substance abuse and mental health programs to free up cash for its coronavirus response, in addition to raiding a program that helps low-income households pay their energy bills, the Department of Health and Human Services confirmed on Thursday.

HHS is in the process of transferring a total of $136 million from various health accounts, an agency spokesperson said. The administration has also notified congressional appropriators of the transfers, a Democratic aide told POLITICO.

HHS Secretary Alex Azar said earlier this month that he could have to shift as much as $136 million to help fight the spreading epidemic, drawing ire from Democrats who said it would needlessly steal from important health programs. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has already tapped $105 million to combat the infectious disease.

The funding transfers — which are sure to stoke congressional furor over the Trump administration’s penchant for reshuffling appropriated dollars — come after Democrats and Republicans excoriated Azar and other Trump administration officials on Capitol Hill this week for requesting just $2.5 billion in an emergency package to fight the virus, only half of which would stem from new funding.

The other half of the administration’s request would require enhanced authority to move around federal money — a nonstarter with Democrats, who are already livid over White House moves to reshuffle existing federal funds toward the border wall.

Azar told lawmakers this week that the administration’s request is open to negotiation, and President Donald Trump said on Wednesday that he’s open to more than $2.5 billion in funding.

Of the $136 million that would be moved to fight the coronavirus, the administration wants to take more than $37 million from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, nearly $5 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration and nearly $63 million from the National Institutes of Health.

The decision to take from programs for substance abuse treatment and substance abuse prevention comes after Trump declared the opioid crisis a public health emergency in 2017.

The administration would also siphon $4.8 million from Children and Families Services Programs, $4.2 million from Aging and Disability programs and $5.2 million from various CDC programs, including those that deal with HIV/AIDS prevention, chronic diseases, birth defects and environmental health.

House and Senate appropriators are in the process of crafting an emergency package to tackle the virus, which is swelling into a pandemic. Senate Democrats have pitched a total of $8.5 billion, but a final package will likely provide less than that amount. Congressional leaders have said they’re aiming to move emergency money before the mid-March break.