Key America Priorities Included in FY21 House LHHS Funding Legislation

Late last month, the House of Representatives passed a six-bill appropriations “minibus” that included Fiscal Year 2021 funding for Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Throughout the appropriations process, America Forward advocated for funding decisions that would help advance equity, support innovation, increase efficiency, and reward results; America Forward summarized several Coalition funding priorities in a letter to key appropriators in April.   

The final bill passed by the House includes critical funding increases for major education programs like Title I, teacher training and preparations programs, Pell Grants, and IDEA; as well as, more funding for job training, Head Start, and other programs important to our Coalition. 

As Congress continues to deliberate funding for the next fiscal year, along with the significant support needed for our country to respond and recover during the COVID-19 pandemic, we will continue to strongly advocate for those programs and policies that best serve our Coalition members and the communities they represent.  

Along with these funding increases for major programs noted above, America Forward was encouraged by support for specific programs and policies that reflect the priorities of the Coalition, including: 

Whole Learner Education. The legislation passed by the House includes $172 million for a new Social-Emotional Learning (SEL) Initiative to support SEL and “whole child” approaches to education, including $110 million, an increase of $45 million over the FY 2020 enacted level, for grants for evidence-based, field-initiated innovations that address student social, emotional, and cognitive needs within the Education Innovation and Research program. This provision comes shortly after America Forward released Advancing Whole-Learner Education – a new initiative aimed at deepening public engagement and expanding federal support for whole-learner approaches to education.

Support for the study of a new, innovative public sector fellowship program. The report language that accompanied the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education funding bill in the House authorized up to $500,000 for an interagency feasibility study to explore an innovative new mid-career public sector fellowship that would bring top talent into the public sector from from non-traditional sources like the private, nonprofit, philanthropic and academic sectors to help break down barriers across federal, state and local government; increase diversity, equity, and inclusion among senior staff at agencies; achieve positive systems change; and make government more focused on outcomes. A version of this proposal was included in United to Move America Forward: A Policy Playbook from 100+ Social Innovators to Advance Equity and Opportunity in America. 

Focus on evidence and outcomes. In our April letter (linked above), America Forward advocated for $6 million for the Workforce Data Quality Initiative, to continue helping to build state and local data capacity for tracking employment and educational outcomes of Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) program participants, specifically workforce and job training. We are encouraged that the House bill includes this funding, continuing the 2020 enacted level, despite the President’s budget request proposing to eliminate this program.

The legislation also includes continued authority for Performance Partnership Pilots – to blend certain discretionary funding in order to improve education, employment, and other key outcomes for opportunity youth – funding for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program to support the implementation of national, evidence-based health programs, and an increase in funding for YouthBuild, an America Forward Coalition member. These are all provisions for which America Forward specifically advocated in our April letter to appropriators.

America Forward also joined several Coalition members and partners in signing a letter led by Results for America to appropriators earlier this year with specific additional requests to support evidence-based approaches, data-driven government and effective performance management. We are encouraged that the House bill includes several additional provisions that are responsive to these requests, including provisions across many major departments that make progress by allowing federal dollars to fund rigorous evaluations, and permit or encourage federal grants to be awarded based on rigorous evidence of effectiveness.

Pay for Success. Following our many years of advocacy for Pay for Success approaches that link federal dollars to measurable outcomes, we were also encouraged that the final legislation funding the Department of Justice allowed for up to $7.5 million to be used for Pay for Success projects, with up to $5 million allocated to “Pay for Success programs implementing the Permanent Supportive Housing Model.”

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