Senate Bill Proposes '09 Funding in Job Training, Worker Protection

U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, chairman of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, this week unveiled the details of the subcommittee's funding package. The bill makes major investments in employment, health care, and education programs and proposes steps to save millions of dollars by reducing fraud, waste, and abuse practices found within federal agencies.

"This bill reflects the priorities and values of the American people," Harkin said Tuesday. "We have made major investments in everything from cancer research and special education to reducing the backlog at the Social Security Administration and preparing for a pandemic flu outbreak. The bill provides $30 billion for life-saving biomedical research at the National Institutes of Health, more than $2 billion for community health centers, and modest but much-needed increases for special education, nursing education, and Head Start. It also increases funding for job training, mine safety, and workplace safety. We have written a bipartisan bill that, I believe, reflects the real priorities and values of the American people and I look forward to working with my colleagues to make these goals a reality."

The subcommittee legislation provides more than $2.9 billion for state grants for job training, an increase of $25 million over last year and $499 million over the budget request. In addition, the bill includes more than $1.6 billion for the Office of Job Corps, an increase of $40 million over the FY 2008 level and $85 million more than the President's budget request. In the area of worker protection, the legislation provides more than $851 million, including $504 million for OSHA and $346 million for MSHA. This total is an increase of $33.7 million above the FY 2008 level.

Other highlights of the legislation include more than $30 billion to fund biomedical research at the 27 Institutes and Centers that comprise the NIH. This represents an increase of $1 billion over the FY 2008 level and President's budget request. The subcommittee's increase will allow the NIH to award the highest number of new research project grants in its history and keep up with the biomedical inflation rate for the first time in six years, Harkin said. The bill also provides more than $2.2 billion for community health centers, $150 million over the FY 2008 level, and more than $167 million for nursing education, $11.6 million over the FY 2008 level. The subcommittee recommendation includes $585 million to prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic. Funds are available for the development and purchase of vaccine, antivirals, necessary medical supplies, diagnostics, and other surveillance tools, Harkin said.

In addition, for FY 2009, the subcommittee has increased funding for a variety of activities aimed at reducing fraud, waste, and abuse of taxpayer dollars. Among the proposed measures, the subcommittee recommendation includes $50 million (an increase of $40 million) to conduct eligibility reviews of claimants of unemployment insurance; $504 million for conducting continuing disability reviews and redeterminations of eligibility for Social Security Disability and Supplemental Security Income benefits; and $198 million for Health Care Fraud and Abuse Control activities at the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services. No discretionary funds were provided for this activity in fiscal year 2008. In fiscal year 2006, Medicare and Medicaid outlays accounted for nearly $1 out of every $5 of the total federal outlays. Fraud committed against federal health care programs puts Americans at increased risk and diverts critical resources from providing necessary health services to some of the nation's most vulnerable populations, Harkin said.

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