One of the drumbeats of the current Congress is the need to be more fiscally responsible. That makes sense. Our current national debt is $26,536,793,171,015 – and growing. The federal deficit – so far for 2020 – is $2.744 trillion. That’s following a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report showing a deficit of $864 billion in June, more than 100 times larger than last June’s deficit of $8 billion. And we know the reasons: revenues are down, and spending is up.
Get started on your cybersecurity degree at American Military University.
(As a quick explainer, the federal deficit is the overage of expenditures versus revenue/receipts in a fiscal year (June was the 9th month of the fiscal year). The federal debt is more or less the aggregate of all of the deficits that we amass and represents borrowed money. You can read more here.)
And we don’t expect things to turn better quickly because we are in the middle of a pandemic.
Enter Congress with various plans to prop up the economy. In March of 2020, the Senate passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act, which was criticized because of its size (it was either too big or too small, depending on who you listened to). In May of 2020, the House introduced and passed a new COVID-19 economic relief proposal known as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act. The massive bill was not taken up by the Senate. Now, the Senate has introduced the “HEALS Act” (Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection, and Schools Act), which is being rolled out as a series of proposals Senate floor.
The American Workers, Families and Employers Assistance Act introduced by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) focuses on stimulus checks, unemployment benefits and the like (you can read about it here). A supplemental proposal, led by Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), tackles the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and business tax incentives (you can read about it here).
There are two at least two additional bills focusing on funding. One is the “Coronavirus Response Additional Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020″, and it purports to provide discretionary appropriations to address COVID-19. How much, exactly? There are total discretionary appropriations worth $306.066 billion.
(Quick note: Almost all of the provisions – from NASA to the Library of Congress to the military – are tagged “to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, domestically or internationally.” That phrase appears as a modifier 107 times over the 177 pages of the bill.)
So it’s all coronavirus-related, right? It says so right in the bill. Here’s a closer look at what’s inside:
Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Related Agencies: $20.457 billion. The bulk of these funds ($20 billion) are headed to the USDA to support agricultural producers, growers, and processors impacted by COVID-19.
Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies: $4.747 billion. Most of these funds are earmarked for the Department of Justice ($2.279 billion. Here’s some of what is also included:
- $1,750,000,000 for the design and construction of a Washington, DC headquarters facility for the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI);
- $224,000,000 for “Science.” Nope, I didn’t shorten that for you. It’s just labeled “Science” for National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA);
- $29,750,000 for “Space Technology”;
- $818,200,000 for “Exploration” (also NASA); and
- $181,650,000, for “Space Operations.”
Defense: $29.400 billion. $2,607,275,000 of those funds are for operations for the Armed Forces with the lion’s share ($969 million) headed to the Air Force (in case you’re curious, as of last month, the Air Force was the third largest of the armed forces behind the Army and the Navy, according to the Department of Defense).
- $1,128,000,000 for a “Defense Industrial Base Resiliency Fund—Army”;
- $4,664,000,000 for a “Defense Industrial Base Resiliency Fund—Navy and Marine Corps”;
- $4,273,400,000 for a “Defense Industrial Base Resiliency Fund—Air Force and Space Force”;
- $783,100,000 for a “Defense Industrial Base Resiliency Fund—Defense: Special Operations Command and Missile Defense Agency”;
- $283,000,000 for “Aircraft Procurement, Army” – it’s worth noting that these amounts “shall only be for AH–64 Apache Block IIIB New Build”;
- $375,000,000 for “Weapons and Tracked Combat Vehicles, Army” – these “shall only be for Stryker Upgrade: Stryker DVHA1″ (these are basically tanks);
- $1,068,000,000 for “Aircraft Procurement, Navy” only for “P–8A Poseidon”;
- $41,400,000 for “Weapons Procurement, Navy for LCS OTH Missile: Naval Strike Missiles 21 and Launchers;
- $2,210,000,000 for ‘‘Shipbuilding and Conversion, Navy’ with $1,450,000,000 being used for four expeditionary medical ships, $260,000,000 for one EPF Expeditionary Fast Transport ship, $250,000,000 for amphibious shipbuilding and $250,000,000 for the surface combatant supplier base program;
- $49,100,000 for “Other Procurement, Navy” for Sonobuoys (sonobuoys allow Navy forces to detect and track submarines that could be threats to Navy carrier battle groups or other forces, and provide info useful for air-launched torpedoes);
- $2,056,000,000 for “Aircraft Procurement, Air Force” for F–35A, C–130J and A–10 wing replacements;
- $359,695,000 for “Procurement, Defense-Wide” to be used for THAAD Battery #8, BMDS AN/TPY–2 Radars and Manned ISR: One DHC–8 combat loss replacement; and
- $595,000,000 for “Research, 24 Development, Test and Evaluation, Defense-Wide” for Missile Defense Agency: Hypersonic Defense unfunded requirements, Missile Defense Agency: Cruise missile defense indications and warning unfunded requirements, Missile Defense Agency: Ground-based Midcourse Defense SLEP and Space Development Agency: Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor.
Education: $105.1 billion. Most of the DoE money would be directed to the Education Stabilization Fund ($105 billion), intended to get students back to school. Some of the grants are restricted to in-person classes, and others require “assurance that the local educational agency will offer students as much in-person instruction as is safe and practicable, consistent with maintaining safe and continuous operations aligned with challenging state academic standards.”
- In related agency news, $175,000,000 is earmarked for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting to maintain programming and services and preserve small and rural stations threatened by declines in non-Federal revenues.
Energy: $307.3 million. Most of these funds ($306 million) target research and development and related cybersecurity and information technology.
Financial Services and General Government: $2.469 billion. Treasury would gobble up most ($2 billion) of these funds for business systems modernization. That still leaves room for $377,000,000 for the West Wing Phase Modernization and Pennsylvania Avenue Screening Facility.
Health and Human Services: $118.4 billion. It’s not surprising to see these kinds of numbers for HHS during the pandemic. Here’s how some of it breaks down:
- $3,400,000,000 for Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
- $290,000,000 for National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute;
- $200,000,000 for National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases;
- $480,555,000 for National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (of that, $55,000,000 shall be for Regional Biocontainment Laboratories);
- $172,680,000 for the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development;
- $200,000,000 for the National Institute of Mental Health;
- $64,334,000 for the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities;
- $1,224,750,000 for National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (from its website: NCATS transforms the translational science process so that new treatments and cures for disease can be delivered to patients faster);
- $12,905,337,000 for the Office of the Director (not less than $10,100,000,000 is targeted to offsetting the costs related to reductions in lab productivity);
- $4,500,000,000 for Health Surveillance and Program Support;
- $78,100,000,000 for Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund;
- $16,000,000,000 for testing, contact tracing, and surveillance in states.
Homeland Security: $3.014 billion. The largest share of DHS funds is $930 million for emergency grant programs, including $365,000,000 for Assistance to Firefighter Grants, $365,000,000 for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants, and $200,000,000 for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program.
Housing: $3.2 billion. These funds are largely divided into two pieces:
- $2,200,000,000 for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance; and
- $1,000,000,000 for Public Housing Operating Fund.
Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies: $1.605 billion. The entirety of this fund is earmarked for healthcare needs and operations for Native Americans (tribes and tribal organizations under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act).
Labor: $2.5 billion. About half of this money ($1.15 billion) is targeted to states to assist in processing unemployment claims and making needed IT upgrades to their unemployment systems. The remainder is work-related grants and management.
Legislative Branch: $77.676 million. More than half of these funds ($43.9 million) are directed to Architect of the Capitol (AOC) for, among other things, cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment (PPE) across the Capitol campus (fun fact: when the Internal Revenue Service was ordered back to work, they were told to bring their own PPE). Other expenses include:
- $6,345,000 for Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper of the Senate;
- $400,000 for Office of the Attending Physician (Senate);
- $1,260,000 for Capitol Police salaries;
- $600,000 for Congressional Budget Office (CBO) salaries;
- $6,980,000 for Library of Congress salaries;
- $6,891,000 for Government Publishing Office Business Operations Revolving Fund; and
- $11,300,000 for Government Accountability Office (GAO), “which shall be for audits and investigations and for reimbursement of the Tiny Findings Child Development Center for salaries for employees.”
State, Foreign Operations, and Related: $4.435 billion. Most of this money ($4 billion) is earmarked for International health efforts. Still, there’s room for:
- $425,000,000 for Consular and Border Security Programs; and
- $10,000,000 for Operating Expenses for the President.
Transportation: $10.151 billion. Here’s how some of that money would be distributed:
- $26,200,000 for salaries and expenses;
- $75,000,000 for Essential Air Service and Rural Improvement Fund;
- $50,000,000 for Operations for the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA);
- $10,000,000,000 for Grants-In-Aid for Airports (not less than $9,500,000,000 shall be available for any purpose for which airport revenues may lawfully be used, including operations, public health, cleaning, sanitization, janitorial services, combating the spread of pathogens, and debt service payments);
Veterans Affairs: 0. That’s right: zero dollars. There’s no new funding for the VA, but the bill would allow internal transfers of previously appropriated CARES funds.
So, there you go. This is by no means an exhaustive list. The bill is 177 pages long. You can find it here.
And to be clear, I’m all for paying for existing services. These have been introduced as “emergency supplemental appropriations” because of the pandemic. I’ll leave it to you to decide whether these are COVID-19 related.