On Thursday, July 29, 2010, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved a $732 billion fiscal 2011 spending bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. The draft bill would provide $169.6 billion in discretionary funding - a $5.9 billion, or 4 percent, increase from the level for the current fiscal year, but $986 million less than President Obama requested. The bill also includes $562.3 billion in mandatory spending.
BIAA's appropriations advocacy efforts in the midst of Brain Injury Awareness Month campaigns and the final health care reform vote paid off with proposed increases in both Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Act programs and the Department of Education's National Institute for Disability and Rehabilitation Research (NIDRR), which houses the TBI Model Systems of Care program.
The Senate Committee included $9,939,000 million, comparable to $9,918,000 million in FY2010, to continue programs authorized by the TBI Act including public awareness and education efforts, state grants, studies on incidence and prevalence, and protection and advocacy.
With regards to NIDRR, the committee recommended $111,919,000 million, comparable to $109,241,000 million in FY2010, for research, demonstration projects and related activities. The committee specified that resources should focus on "statutory research priorities to ensure the advancement of economic and social self-sufficiency and full community inclusion and participation. Future Rehabilitation Research Training Centers' priorities should advance knowledge of effective strategies to reduce the impact of poverty, promote affordable housing and independent living with improved access to long-term supports, and facilitate greater individual choice and control of individualized plans under the Rehabilitation and Social Security Laws."
The Committee also detailed the need to "facilitate the development and implementation of a comprehensive Government-wide long-term strategic plan for disability and rehabilitation research by the spring of 2011. The strategic plan should reflect the active involvement of disability senior policy advisors, program directors and other staff from NIDRR and the Department of Health and Human Services, in partnership with stakeholders conducting disability and rehabilitation research." BIAA has advocated as a part of the Disability and Rehabilitation Research Coalition (DRRC) for these specifications and is encouraged by their inclusion.
It is important to note that with the increased federal deficit largely due to stimulus spending, this appropriations cycle has been extremely tight and sometimes uncertain. Lawmakers have been forced to cut programs and lower funding levels, making BIAA's advocacy, including grassroots activity, vital to achieving these proposed increases found in the Senate committee report. The House has yet to unveil their Appropriations Committee report, but BIAA will continue to monitor the situation and will call on grassroots advocates if action becomes necessary.