Last week we shared how budget cuts could lead to a dramatic reduction in foreign assistance, depending on decisions that Congress makes over the upcoming week or so. On Monday, release of the President’s budget request reignited conversations about protecting critical accounts. But, these are not the decisions Congress is making right now, though they will be on their minds soon. Currently there are two budget conversations happening in D.C., one around 302(b) allocations to wrap up the budget for FY18, and the President’s proposed budget, starting the process for the FY19 budget.
We will start with the basics
302(b) Allocations: When there is news of Congress passing a budget, this typically refers to a budget resolution that determines overarching numbers. One way to think of this is if you were remodeling a home and you and your family make a decision on the total amount of money you will spend for the remodel – this would be your budget resolution.
You know that some costs are necessary and fixed, such as for permits. In the U.S. budget resolution this is considered mandatory spending, and includes programs like Social Security and Medicare. After considering the things you know you need, you must determine the amount available that is flexible – this is the 302(a). You have many options around how you can use this money. The specific amount of money you allocate to different aspects of the remodel, such as the kitchen, master bedroom, or landscaping – this is like the 302(b) allocations.
Congress allocates money between 12 subcommittees covering a wide range of things important to the American people. This includes agriculture, defense, education, energy, and foreign assistance. The State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) subcommittee is where money for foreign assistance programs lies.
The President’s Budget Request: Each year, with the first Monday in February as a target date, the President submits a budget request for the upcoming fiscal year for Congress’ consideration. This includes program specific funding levels, positions on spending, and acknowledgement of surpluses or deficits this budget could lead to. This is simply a request and does not dictate decisions that Congress makes, but it does show the priorities of the Administration and can influence the decisions that Congress makes.
Where are we now?
For the FY18 budget, currently 302(b) allocations are being debated within the appropriations committee and subcommittees in Congress. This process is designed to lead to 12 appropriations bills, but more typical is that the final numbers will be passed within an omnibus bill. The literal translation of Omnibus is ‘for everything.’ In this case an omnibus bill will encompass the many decisions made related to the federal budget and will finalize spending limits for individual programs. World Vision advocates have been contacting Congress during this final piece of the process to make sure funding for foreign assistance remains at FY17 levels, without any cuts.
To stay on track for FY19, the President released his budget this week. These are the numbers being debated more publicly, numbers that you may hear on the news or read articles about. There is so much in the budget it is important to highlight for your members of Congress what you care about. While this is only a request right now, it will be taken into consideration down the road as future decisions are made.
The budget process is not easy to follow, but it is incredibly important. Not engaging in this process could mean that programs proven to save lives are unfunded or that measures to help lift the vulnerable out of extreme poverty are halted.
If you are signed up for updates, you will receive a debrief of the President’s budget and what it could mean for people who live in under-resourced parts of the world. For now, continue to take action for FY18 – success in passing a budget can only be declared if American values, the strengthening of the economy and national security, and life-saving programs, are upheld – otherwise said, preserving strong foreign assistance.