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Dec 04, 2018

No Threat of Government Shutdown for Agencies that Oversee Counseling Initiatives

Many agencies in the federal government will run out of money on Dec. 21 if Congress and the president can’t agree on a new budget—but the agencies that fund and oversee counseling initiatives are not among them.

Earlier, in the fall, Congress passed the annual funding bills that will keep the Departments of Education, Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services open for Fiscal Year 2019. These agencies’ FY19 spending bills include the following:

Department of Education

  • $1.17 billion for Student Support and Academic Enrichment grants, which include school counseling and school mental health programs.
  • $10 million for the Safe Schools and Education pilot program, which will test and evaluate partnerships between universities and state and local education agencies to train school counselors and other mental health professionals for positions in public school systems serving low-income communities. 

Department of Veterans Affairs 

In a report accompanying the Veterans Administration appropriations bill, Congress instructed the VA to:

  • Work with the Office of Personnel Management to create an Occupational Series for Licensed Professional Mental Health Counselors and Marriage and Family Therapists to facilitate hiring and to create a staffing plan to fill such open positions and assess shortages.

     

  • Conduct more aggressive outreach to at-risk, non-citizen veterans to offer mental health counseling and other early intervention drug and alcohol services.

Department of Health and Human Services

Congress and Spending Bills

Congress theoretically should pass 12 separate spending bills that fund all of the federal agencies for each fiscal year. In recent years, this contentious process led to rolling all of the bills into a single measure, known as an omnibus spending bill, or simply “the Omnibus.” Members of Congress vote on this all-or-nothing approach to keeping the government running—and the president decides whether or not to sign the bill.

This year Congress, to its credit, passed several of the 12 individual bills well before the budget deadline. As a result, several agencies—including the two largest, the Defense Department and Health and Human Services, as well as the Education and Veterans Affairs departments—are not in danger of running out of money.

The December Outlook

Other agencies, including the Department of Commerce and the Department of Agriculture, could run out of money on Dec. 21. Congress already extended the deadline by two weeks from Dec. 7 because of the funeral events surrounding the death of President George H.W. Bush. Several options are available: Congress can roll the remaining spending bills into one larger bill, an Omnibus, and pass it, or give itself a short extension to keep working on a package of bills that the president will sign. The alternative is a partial government shutdown.

We’ll see what happens by Dec. 21. In the meantime, keep in mind that the programs that involve counselors at the departments of Education, Health and Human Services and the Veterans Administration are not at risk.

 

 

 

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