The Presidential Budget and Federal Grants
Why performance measures are more important than ever.
On March 16, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) released the Trump administration’s budget blueprint for Fiscal Year 2018. The purpose of the Presidential budget is to identify and explain the administration’s priorities and policy proposals.
The Trump budget proposes funding decreases for nearly every Federal department, except for Homeland Security, Defense, and Veterans Affairs. Additionally, the budget proposes elimination for 19 independent agencies, including grant-awarding agencies such as the:
- African Development Foundation
- Appalachian Regional Commission
- Corporation for National and Community Service
- Delta Regional Authority
- Denali Commission
- Institute of Museum and Library Services
- National Endowment for the Arts
- National Endowment for the Humanities
OMB has only released a budget blueprint, which provides a high-level statement of policy goals. OMB expects to release the full budget later this spring. Even without the line-by-line budget requests detailed in the full budget, the budget blueprint does provide significant guidance for the grants community.
The budget blueprint proposes the following recommendations for specific grant programs and grant-awarding agencies:
Department of Agriculture
- Eliminating the Water and Wastewater loan and grant program
- Reducing funding for Rural Business and Cooperative Service by $95 million
- Eliminating the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education program
Department of Commerce
- Eliminating the Economic Development Administration
- Eliminating the Minority Business Development Agency
- Eliminating NOAA grants and programs supporting coastal and marine management, research, and education including Sea Grant
Department of Education
- Increasing funding for charter schools, new private school choice program, and Title I
- Eliminating Supporting Effective Instruction State Grant programs
- Eliminating the 21st Century Community Learning Centers program
- Eliminating the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant program
- Reducing the Federal TRIO and GEAR UP programs by $193 million
- Eliminating or reducing funding for over 20 categorical programs, including Striving Readers, Teacher Quality Partnership, Impact Aid Support Payments, and International Education programs
Department of Energy
- Reducing $900 million from the Office of Science
- Eliminating the Weatherization Assistance Program and the State Energy Program
Department of Health and Human Services
- Increasing SAMSHA funding by $500 million to expand opioid misuse prevention efforts
- Reducing NIH spending by $5.8 billion
- Restructuring similar HHS preparedness grants to “to reduce overlap and administrative costs and directs resources to states with the greatest need”
- Eliminating the discretionary programs within the Office of Community Services, including the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG)
Department of Homeland Security
- Eliminating or reducing State and local grant funding by $667 million including the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Grant Program, which is “unauthorized by Congress,” and Homeland Security Grant Program.
- Establishing a 25 percent non-Federal cost match for FEMA preparedness grant awards that currently require no cost match
Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Eliminating the Community Development Block Grant program
- Devolving community and economic development activities to the State and local level.”
- Eliminating funding “for a number of lower priority programs,” such as: the Home Investment Partnerships Program, Choice Neighborhoods, and the Self-help Homeownership Opportunity Program
- Increasing funding by $20 million for the mitigation of lead-based paint and other hazards in low-income homes
- Eliminating funding for Section 4 Capacity Building for Community Development and Affordable Housing
Department of the Interior
- Eliminating the Abandoned Mine Land grants, National Heritage Areas, and National Wildlife Refuge fund payments
- “[Reducing] funding for more recent demonstration projects and initiatives that only serve a few Tribes.”
- “[Leveraging] taxpayer investment with public and private resources through wildlife conservation, historic preservation, and recreation grants. These voluntary programs encourage partnerships by providing matching funds that produce greater benefits to taxpayers for the Federal dollars invested.”
Department of Justice
- “[Safeguarding] Federal grants to State, local, and tribal law enforcement and victims of crime to ensure greater safety for law enforcement personnel and the people they serve. Critical programs aimed at protecting the life and safety of State and local law enforcement personnel, including Preventing Violence Against Law Enforcement Officer Resilience and Survivability and the Bulletproof Vest Partnership, are protected.”
Department of Labor
- Eliminating the Senior Community Service Employment Program
- Eliminating the Bureau of International Labor Affairs’ grant funding
- Decreasing funding for job training and employment service formula grants
- Eliminating the Office of Disability Employment Policy’s technical assistance grants
- Eliminating the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s “unproven” training grants
Department of Transportation
- Eliminating funding for the TIGER discretionary grant program
Department of the Treasury
- Eliminating funding for the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) Fund grant
Environmental Protection Agency
- Reducing categorical grants by $482 million
- Eliminating more than 50 EPA programs, including: Energy Star, Targeted Airshed Grants, and infrastructure assistance to Alaska Native Villages and the Mexico Border
Small Business Administration
- Eliminating PRIME Technical assistance grants, Regional Innovation Clusters, and Growth Accelerators
Following the budget’s release, Congress reviews the proposal and adopts a budget resolution, which sets spending thresholds. Congress then begins the appropriations process, which determines funding for each program.
Since the President and members of Congress are elected by different constituencies, the priorities for Congress frequently differ from the President’s, therefore it is important to note that many of the budget’s proposals are unlikely to be enacted. For more on the budget process, you can review my blog post from last year.
When reviewing the budget process, one key theme was constant: accountability.
The budget justifies the elimination or reduction of many grant programs on the lack of measurable outcomes.
For example, the budget blueprint states the following:
- The Economic Development Administration “provides small grants with limited measurable impacts”
- The Supporting Effective Instruction State Grant program is “poorly targeted and spread thinly across thousands of districts with scant evidence of impact”
- The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program “lacks strong evidence of meeting its objectives, such as improving student achievement”
- “Funding to TRIO programs is reduced in areas that have limited evidence on the overall effectiveness in improving student outcomes”
- The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program “is unable to demonstrate strong performance outcomes”
- The Community Development Block Grant program “is not well-targeted to the poorest populations and has not demonstrated results”
Last year, I wrote about the importance of performance measures under 2 CFR 200, and based on the comments in the budget, it is abundantly clear that adequately measuring grant program outcomes is critical during the tenure of this administration.
To maintain the support of the administration, Federal grant officials and grant recipients will need to demonstrate that Federal funding is producing meaningful results.
- Re-reading 2 CFR 200.301
- Reviewing your funding agency’s strategic goals on Performance.gov
- Discussing your program’s performance measures with your colleagues
- Analyzing your performance measurement system to ensure data collection techniques are adequate
- Sharing and reviewing best practices for your program
Once OMB releases the full budget, and Congress begins its work, we will have a better understanding of how grant programs will fare in the coming years.
In the meantime, as always, stay up to date on all things related to the administration of Federal grants. Our Federal Grants Update course keeps you current, and covers a wide variety of developments and updates in just one day.