November 17, 2016
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In the wake of an announcement that Maine has experienced a record number of drug-related deaths this year, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) is calling on the leaders of the Senate Appropriations Committee to fully fund the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act as they work on additional spending bills related to the remainder of the fiscal year. The Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act, which is aimed at bolstering treatment, recovery, education, and prescription monitoring programs to fight the opioid and heroin epidemic raging across Maine and the nation, has not been fully funded by Congress yet. In his letter today, Senator King urged the Appropriations Committee to finally fund the law.
“As the nation’s opioid epidemic continues to worsen, it is imperative that we fund authorized HHS provisions in the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA),” Senator King said in his letter, “I believe that the provisions authorized in CARA addressing these issues can make a significant impact. Therefore, I urge you and your colleagues to fund the HHS components in CARA so that we can make progress in addressing this public health crisis.”
Senator King has been a tireless advocate for federal funding to fight the heroin and opioid epidemic that is affecting communities across Maine and the country. As a cosponsor of the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA), he was encouraged to see the bill signed into law. However, he has repeatedly encouraged his colleagues and the Obama Administration to meet words with action and fully fund CARA programs.
Along with his call for opioid funding, Senator King’s letter also advocates for additional Maine health and education priorities that either went underfunded or unfunded in the related appropriations bill passed earlier in 2016. Those programs include the Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grants (SSAEG) program, the Assets for Independence (AFI) program, the Medicare State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP), and federal TRIO programs.
The SSAEG program is a formula-funded block grant intended to support school districts in their efforts to bolster student learning and success. SSAEG is designed in part to provide specific funding for education technology and professional development opportunities for teachers using technology in the classroom.
The AFI program helps low-income workers save money and build assets for the future. It has made a significant difference in Maine and provides tens of thousands of families across the country with support and financial education to help lift them out of poverty.
SHIP-funded programs provide one-on-one assistance to millions of Medicare beneficiaries throughout America. Because signing up for Medicare can be complicated, this support can be critical to making sure beneficiaries receive coverage that fits their needs.
By enabling low-income and first-generation college students to succeed in postsecondary education, TRIO programs work to end generational cycles of poverty. In Maine, 6,000 students benefit from the TRIO programs each year.
Senator King’s letter to appropriators is available HERE and the text is below:
November 17, 2016
The Honorable Thad Cochran The Honorable Barbara Mikulski
Chairman Vice Chairwoman
Committee on Appropriations Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate United States Senate
Washington, DC 20510 Washington, DC 20510
Dear Chairman Cochran and Vice Chairwoman Mikulski,
As you work with your colleagues in the House of Representatives to make additional spending decisions related to Fiscal Year 2017, I urge you to prioritize a few key items in the jurisdiction of the Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Subcommittee. The items I highlight below would have a tremendous impact in Maine and deserve your full consideration.
In addition to providing funding to fight the opioid epidemic, I ask that you give attention to four additional priorities that were either underfunded or unfunded in the Labor-HHS Subcommittee bill that passed the Senate Appropriations Committee earlier this year. These priorities are:
In recognition of the broad range of supports funded by the SSAEG program, ESSA authorized SSAEG at $1.65 billion for FY17. Unfortunately, the Committee-approved Labor-HHS bill funds the program at just $300 million, dramatically less than what was authorized. If this low funding level is carried over into a final FY17 funding bill, states and school districts will find it extremely challenging to implement high-quality programming that promotes the range of opportunities SSAEG is intended to support. Underfunding this program in its first year would set a troubling precedent and run counter to the intent of the program’s authorizers, who intended a robust funding level that would enable a meaningful distribution of funds across our nation’s school districts.
Small districts like those in Maine would be particularly impacted by insufficient SSAEG distributions. The House Appropriations Committee approved FY17 SSAEG funding at $1 billion – much closer to the recommendation in ESSA. I strongly urge you and your colleagues to increase the SSAEG allocation to ensure that implementation of the new education law is a success.
I understand that many challenging questions face you and your colleagues as additional spending decisions are made regarding the remainder of Fiscal Year 2017. I appreciate your consideration of these requests and look forward to working together in the coming weeks and months to continue our support for these vital programs and services.