Washington Watch: Congress releases FY 22 spending bill


Congress released on Wednesday an omnibus fiscal year (FY) 2022 appropriations bill that will fund the entire federal government for the remainder of the current fiscal year, which began on October 1.

As expected, the final bill contains smaller increases for education and workforce training programs than were contained in either the House or Senate bills advanced by Democrats last year. In some cases, increases were less than anticipated even with tempered expectations.

President Joe Biden’s FY 22 budget proposal and the House legislation increased domestic programs by 16% and the Senate bill was close behind at 13%. All three would have increased spending for defense by much smaller percentages. This was unacceptable to Congressional Republicans, whose votes would be needed to pass the bill in the Senate. They demanded “parity” between defense and non-defense programs. In the end, defense programs will be increased by $42 billion (5.6%) and domestic programs will go up $46 billion (6.7%).

The House will take up the legislation next Wednesday and send the bill to the Senate. The federal government is currently operating under a continuing resolution that expires March 11. Congress may need to pass another continuing resolution to give the Senate a few more days to pass the omnibus bill.

$400 increase to Pell maximum

The key Labor, HHS and Education (LHHSE) appropriations bill increases spending for programs under its jurisdiction by $15.3 billion (7.7%). Of the three major agencies funded by the bill, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services was the big winner, netting an increase of $11.3 billion (11.6%). In comparison, the Education Department (ED) was increased by $2.9 billion (3.9%) and the Department of Labor (DOL) by $653 million (5.2%). Biden had proposed increasing ED’s budget by 41%.

The highlight of the bill for community colleges and their students is a $400 bump to the Pell Grant maximum award, which will increase to $6,895 in the 2022-23 award year. This is the largest increase to the maximum award since the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act in 2009. As it has in recent years, Congress was able to raise the maximum grant without appropriating more money because the program continues to run a significant surplus.

Higher Education Act (HEA) Title III and V programs targeted to minority-serving institutions would see modest increases (see table below). The HEA Title III-A Strengthening Institutions program lagged considerably behind the others, scoring only a 1% increase. The bill also sports a provision to allow institutions that received Higher Education Emergency Relief funds set aside for HEA Title III and V institutions to use those funds to purchase real property or construction that is directly related to preventing, preparing for and responding to the coronavirus.

The Child Care Access Means Parents in School (CCAMPIS) program fared relatively better, and the bill lifts a cap on CCAMPIS grants that limited an institution to receiving 1% of its Pell Grant receipts, enabling ED to make larger grants.

Increases also were generally modest for DOL workforce training programs. The Strengthening Community College Training Grants (SCCTG) were increased by $5 million to $50 million. This was a relatively good increase on a percentage basis but fell well short of the $105 million that was dedicated to the program in the House bill. Apprenticeship grants were among the big winners at DOL.

In a late-breaking development, the legislation also includes a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, a provision of which will require institutions to administer biennial campus climate surveys.

Select program increases are included in the table below.

About the Author

Jim Hermes
Jim Hermes is associate vice president of government relations at the American Association of Community Colleges.