GOP Retreat Lifts Youth Funding

Bill Howard
May 1, 1996

Summer jobs for youth and President Clinton's AmeriCorps have emerged from Capitol Hill's budget wars bloodied but intact.

Funding for the two programs has been assured by a sudden Republican retreat that finally yielded a spending agreement with the White House seven months into the 1996 fiscal year. The accord also has flung open the door to continuation in the FY '97 budget of other children and youth programs the GOP Congress had marked for extinction.

Some $625 million to support more than 600,000 summer youth jobs in cities across the country – about 75 percent of the FY '95 amount – was disbursed in mid-April by Labor Secretary Robert Reich, barely in time for this year's job programs to get cranked up. Funding for AmeriCorps, pegged at $400.5 million or 15 percent less than its $470 million for FY '95, will continue supporting 20,000 young national service workers.

Republicans claimed "victory" in shaving $23 billion from FY '96 spending that included killing some 200 human services programs.

Full details of the April 25 accord on a $163 billion omnibus appropriations bill restoring some $4 billion of $8 billion in cuts were not available at YOUTH TODAY'S press time. But the tip-off that GOP conservatives were conceding defeat came in mid-March with Senate acceptance of a bipartisan bill to "add back" $2.7 billion of funds Congress had chopped from FY '96 labor, health and education programs for needy young people, AmeriCorps' funding was part of the deal.

Even though House conservatives who had voted to zero out the summer youth jobs program and AmeriCorps didn't act formally on the Senate's "add backs," they didn't protest them, either. Instead, they acceded to the urging of Senate Majority Leader Robert Dole (R-Kan.), the presumptive Republican candidate for president, and House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.), to back off on their militant "revolution" to balance the budget In seven years by cutting social welfare programs while also dishing up a tax cut for the well off.

The change in game plan signaled a reluctant bowing to the reality that Clinton had whipped them on every issue - and to keep on battling him with more partial shutdowns of the government would only antagonize more voters in a presidential election year and surely blitz Dole's hopes of winning.

Clinton also forced Republicans to drop riders on the omnibus spending bill that would have weakened environmental protection laws as part of the agreement. Welfare reform proposals that would have erased federal protections for abused and neglected children got shoved aside.

Clinton FY '97 Program

The shift in political fortunes hands federal children and youth programs an opportunity to gain back lost ground next year, if not in the current half-finished fiscal year. No longer are Clinton's FY ’97 budget proposals considered "dead on arrival," as conservatives chortled back in March, but possess a "realistic chance" of passage, said one child advocate, as Congress rushes to wind up the session and hit the campaign trail.

The FY '96 battle has set precedents for maintaining – and even expanding — programs for young people. Here's a rundown of Clinton's major new proposals:

Labor Department

Opportunity Areas for Out-of-School Youth is a proposed new $250 million training initiative to help boost employment of young people lacking high school diplomas in high poverty inner-city and rural communities. The goal: lift the number with jobs from 50 to 80 percent. Built upon the Enterprise Zones/Empowerment Communities concept, demonstration projects currently are being funded in anticipation of Congress' approval.

Other Youth Training: Clinton is seeking only to restore two programs hit with 25 percent reductions in FY '96 to their FY '95 levels. They are $867 million for Summer Youth and $127 for year-round Youth Training (JTPA). Increases are sought for others. The Job Corps would be hiked by $32 million to a total of $1.154 billion. Both Labor and Education would each get $200 million to double the School-to-Work Opportunities program which they administer jointly.

Education Department

Goals 2000 would get $476 million, $114 million over FY '95, to enable some 12,000 schools to improve their educational resource materials.

Title I Grants to inner-city schools, hammered by a $1 billion cut later restored by the Specter-Harkin amendment, would go to $7.2 billion – a 7 percent increase over FY '95 – to help some 7 million students in learning the basics.

Clinton is seeking $250 million as a down payment on a new Technology Literacy Challenge Fund that would use federal matching to stimulate state, local and private investment in funds to buy computers and related equipment to help students become technologically literate.

The Safe and Drug-Free Schools program, knocked back to $400 million (even with a $200 million restoration by the Senate) is pegged at $540 million. That's an Increase of $74 million over its FY '95 figure of $466 million.

Health and Human Services

Funding for all Child and Youth Welfare services would maintained at FY '95 levels with the exception of Head Start which would be boosted to $3.981 billion, an increase of $350 million to enroll 40,000 more youngsters, and the Child Care Development Block Grant. The latter would be upped by $114 million to $1.049 million to add 70,000 children of low-income workers to the 750,000 already being served in day care centers.

Only one new program was proposed: a Teen Pregnancy Prevention Initiative setting up a $30 million demonstration grant program targeting locales with high teen pregnancy rates that also possess a "commitment to community problem-solving" and want to develop new strategies for reaching at-risk adolescents.

Could this be a new opportunity for Dr. Henry Foster, Clinton's rejected candidate for surgeon general, to head up Clinton's January 1995 call for waging a "national campaign" to curtail teen pregnancies and out-of-wedlock motherhood?

To help states deal with 3 million reported victims of child abuse and neglect, the budget earmarks $50.6 million for community-based resource centers out of a total of $127 million – the same as in FY '95 – for Child Welfare/Child Abuse programs run by the Children's Bureau and the National Center on Child Abuse and Neglect.

Also restored to its former level of $69 million would be the Runaway and Homeless Youth program, which had been cut by $12 million. Social Services Research, zeroed out in the current budget would be revived at $10 million, $5 million less than its FY '95 figure. Offsetting some of the increases would be a $39 million slice from the Community Services Block Grant – dropping it to $390 million.

In entitlement programs, the Social Services Block Grant would he held steady as it has for years at $2.8 billion; Foster Care/Adoption Assistance would rise $123 million to a projected $4.445 billion and Family Support & Preservation is pegged at $240 million, up $15 million.

On the youth health side, House Senate votes to zero out HHS's Center for Substance Abuse Prevention (CSAP) have prompted FY '97 budget writers to change the program's name to "Prevention KDA" which stands for "knowledge development and application." CSAP would survive to do business at the same old stand, but at $176 million – $70 million more than in FY '96 but $62 million less than in FY '95, trimming back on the number of its grantees.

Exactly what is being proposed on the drug abuse treatment side is still being juggled by the Substance And Mental Health Services Administration (SAMSA). One agency official says such programs as treatment improvement demos for pregnant women, new mothers and incarcerated youth that were halved in FY '96 to $218 million could be gone in FY '97. Without identifying any of those in danger, he said "many programs that under normal circumstances would be funded, will have to be terminated.

Elsewhere, Clinton is seeking $198 million for Title X Family Planning, a $5 million increase, but nothing for the $6 million Adolescent Pregnancy Prevention program. No change is sought in the $681 million Maternal and Child Health Block Grant.

A total of $617 million sought for HIV/AIDS Prevention programs – $34 million over FY '96 – includes $20 million targeted at injecting and other substance abusers, plus high-risk youth in and out of school.

AmeriCorps & Juvenile Justice

Senate capitulation on Clinton's AmeriCorps national service FY '96 program for young people also lifts its prospects for winning reauthorization this year. In his FY '97 budget, the president is proposing to continue full steam - expanding the program to a 25,000 enrollment with an expenditure of $545.7 million, $70 million more than in FY '95 and $145 million above the current program. A more modest $9 million hike would bring its sister agency – Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) – to $51.6 million.

A $1 million increase to $145 million is sought for the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention program which escaped unscathed in the frenzy of FY '96 budget-cutting. Extra funds would be directed at intervention of youth gangs.

Its Missing Children's Assistance program would carry on at the $5.9 million level.

In sum, the new proposal plays the spending game close to the vest while trying to keep all established children and youth afloat and viable – at least until the November elections.

Howard, Bill. "GOP Retreat Lifts Youth Funding."Youth Today, May/June 1996, p. 1.

©2000 Youth Today. Reprinted with permission from Youth Today. All rights reserved.