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House Passes Funding Measure for Fiscal Year 2007

February 1, 2007

By a vote of 286-140, the House, on January 31st, passed a massive $463 billion funding measure for the current fiscal year covering the budgets for dozens of federal departments and agencies.  The measure, known as a “continuing resolution” would extend most agencies and programs at their FY 2006 level for the remainder of the current fiscal year (FY 2007). 

Action on this "continuing resolution" (H.J.Res. 20) was made necessary when the Congress last year was unable to come to agreement on 11 separate spending bills before the fiscal year began back on October 1.  Since then, most departments and agencies have been operating under a separate “continuing resolution” that will expire on February 15 (this funding resolution is currently holding many agencies, including NIMH, at a level below FY 2006).   

Yesterday, the House passed H.J.Res. 20 with only an hour of debate, and no amendments.  By contrast, when the Senate takes the measure up as early as next week, there is expected to be extensive debate and numerous amendments.  Congress will need to reach agreement with the President and pass this "continuing resolution" by February 15, in order to avoid a government shutdown.  This is expected to occur since all sides recognize the imperative of getting the current year funding bills out of the way, in order to focus on the President’s FY 2008 budget proposal that will be issued on February 5.

As noted above, most federal agencies and programs are held in this "continuing resolution" at their FY 2006 levels.  However, there are several important exceptions for critical NAMI priorities.  Among these are:

Veterans’ Medicare Care – The funding resolution includes an increase of $3.6 billion over the FY 2006 level, bringing total VA medical care to $23.3 billion.  This will make up for the projected shortfall in funding at the VA that was expected to endure in the coming months.  Preliminary indications are that a $2.2 billion set aside that had been proposed last year for mental illness treatment services in the VA is still included in H.J.Res. 20.

Biomedical Research – An additional $619.5 million is included in the "continuing resolution" for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for FY 2007, bringing total NIH funding up to $28.931 billion.  However, it is important to note that this $619.5 million increase will not be proportionately allocated to the 27 institutes and centers across NIH (including the National Institute of Mental Health, NIMH). 

Instead, $483 million of the increase will be directed to the new "Common Fund" authorized as part of legislation (P.L. 109-482) enacted last month that overhauls the structure of NIH.  More information on the NIH reauthorization legislation is available here.  This new "Common Fund" is under the control of the NIH Director and is set aside for promising research grants that cuts across multiple NIH institutes.  At the same time, each institute, including the NIMH, will receive a slight increase above its FY 2006 level.  This results from the fact that previous assessments taken from each institute for the NIH Director’s office are not included in this "continuing resolution."  This also means that Congress is rejecting the cuts that the President had proposed for NIH for FY 2007, including a $9.5 million reduction for the NIMH. 

The final result is that the NIMH budget for FY 2007 will be at least $1.404 billion.  In addition, additional funds are expected to be returned to NIMH from the NIH Director’s budget, as well as new funds allocated by Congress to support grants for new investigators.    

Housing and Homeless Funding – The "continuing resolution" includes a $115 million increase for programs under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act at HUD.  This will bring FY 2007 funding up to $1.44 billion and help ensure that we continue progress in moving toward the goal of ending chronic homelessness.  In addition, the bill also includes restoration of $487 million in funding for renewal of Section 8 rental vouchers. 

More importantly, the "continuing resolution" also contains long overdue changes to address inefficiencies in the Section 8 rental voucher funding formula that has been used over the past three years to allocate renewal funding for the 2,400 state and local agencies that administer the program.  This new formula (based on 12 months of cost experience) will replace one that was based on outdated information that has resulted in the net loss of as many as 150,000 vouchers since 2004, basing funding closer to actual rental costs and leasing rates.  Likewise, the "continuing resolution" also includes a $939 million increase for Section 8 project-based vouchers.  This will bring total FY 2007 funding for Section 8 project-based to $5.98 billion and ensure adequate funding for renewal of all project-based contracts, including all expiring long-term contracts. 

Finally, the “continuing resolution” restores funding for the HUD Section 811 program, back to the FY 2006 level of $238 million, rejecting the Bush Administration’s proposal impose a 50% reduction in funding for Section 811 for FY 2007 and near complete elimination of the capital advance/project-based side of the program.

SAMHSA Funding – H.J.Res. 20 holds most programs at the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) at their FY 2006.  This includes:  the Mental Health Block Grant ($428 million), PATH Homeless Services ($54 million), Garrett Lee Smith Act Suicide Prevention ($26.7 million), Jail Diversion Grants ($6.93 million), and Mental Health Transformation State Incentive Grants ($25.7 million).