December 16, 2019
This evening, congressional leaders released the text of two massive spending bills aimed at funding all agencies of the federal government through the remainder of the federal fiscal year. In the legislation funding the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (“LHHS”), TRIO programs received a $30 million or 3% increase for a final appropriation of $1.09 billion for FY 2020. (The legislation also includes a $5 million funding increase for GEAR UP and raises the maximum Pell Grant award by $150 for a $6,345 award for the 2020-2021 academic year.)
The report language to the bill also includes language addressing the pending Student Support Services grant competition, stating:
The Department is directed to allocate any grant funding not needed for non-competitive continuation awards or for programs up for re-competition in fiscal year 2020 to provide inflationary increases for current grantees and to increase the number and size of new awards in the Student Support Services grant competition. The Department is further directed to include proposed funding levels for each of the TRIO programs in the operating plan required under section 516 of this Act. There is great concern and disappointment that the Department has yet to issue a notice inviting applications for new awards for TRIO Student Support Services grants. The Department is directed to publish such notice inviting applications for new awards for TRIO Student Support Services grants no later than December 30, 2019 and take steps necessary to award funding as early as possible before the beginning of the academic year. (emphasis added)
Lawmakers in the House of Representatives are expected to pass the funding bills on Tuesday. The appropriations measures are then expected to move onto the Senate for passage before the current funding measure — the continuing resolution — expires on Friday. The White House has signaled an intent to sign the legislation.
In a narrow budget environment in which House Representatives, in particular, had to shave $10 billion from their LHHS bill in order to meet the spending caps imposed by last summer’s budget agreement, this gain is an important victory for TRIO programs and students. Our entire community is to be commended for their continuing work to educate legislators about the life-changing impact of TRIO.