September 19, 2019
Yesterday, the Senate Appropriations Committee released the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (“LHHS”) Appropriations bill for FY2020. As expected, the Senate bill recommended level-funding TRIO at $1.06 billion. (This action is unsurprising as Senate appropriators have proposed level funding for TRIO for the last several years and then, when negotiating the final bill with their House counterparts, yielded to a higher number for TRIO.) What is most meaningful is the accompanying report language (.pdf) that unequivocally states that “[t]he Committee does not support the fiscal year 2020 budget proposal to transform TRIO into a single State formula grant….” The report language also directs the Department to allocate any unused monies in TRIO towards providing inflationary increases in existing awards and increasing the number and size of the grants awarded in the upcoming Student Support Services grant competition.
The immediate outlook for the overall appropriations process remains somewhat unclear as the House and Senate still remain far apart on several funding issues, including border security. Currently, both chambers are preparing to act on a continuing resolution (C.R.) that would level fund all government programs through late November in an attempt to buy more time to iron out the differences between their respective funding bills.
In the meantime, however, the Senate action on its LHHS bill does clear the path for the U.S. Department of Education to move forward with the SSS grant competition.
Last week during COE’s annual conference in Chicago, Deputy Under Secretary Diane Auer Jones shared that the Department did not need to wait until Congress finalized the FY20 appropriations process in order to proceed with the SSS competition. She did state, however, that without any finality in the appropriations process, conducting such a competition posed the risk that the competition could be cancelled. (This would happen if, for instance, Congress ultimately zeroed out funding for a program.) By providing at least level funding and flatly rejecting the proposal to transform TRIO into a block grant program, the Senate bill clears the path for the Department to take action more decisively on the SSS competition. As Auer Jones announced, the Department expects to release the final application in late October/early November.
Given this information, the Council for Opportunity in Education is currently scheduling its third proposal writing workshop. Details will be released as soon as they are available.