A Federal Budget that Supports Women & Families: An Analysis by the YWCA USA Advocacy Department

The annual federal budget process kicked off on February 9 when President Obama released his Fiscal Year 2017 (FY 2017) federal funding proposal.  The “president’s budget,” as it is commonly referred to, is the opening step in an annual federal budget process that typically also involves passage of budget resolutions in the House and Senate, budget hearings in House and Senate appropriations committees, and ultimately the passage of an operating budget by the October 1 start of the federal government’s fiscal year.

In an effort to sidestep the political rancor, continuing resolutions, and near-continuous threat of government shutdown that has predominated the budget process in recent years, the FY 2016 budget agreement that was finally signed in December included agreed-upon funding levels for FY 2017. Even with this agreement in place, however, the President’s budget was greeted with immediate criticism and calls by House Republicans for reconsideration of the already-negotiated funding levels.

As the political process moves forward, the president’s budget remains an important framing document for the FY 2017 federal appropriations process. YWCA USA commends the president’s budget, which illustrates his continued commitment to women and families and to addressing economic disparity. Specific elements of the president’s budget that are of particular interest to YWCA include the following:

Funding for Domestic Violence:

For providers of domestic violence services in the country, the president’s budget includes increases in Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs that would provide legal assistance to victims, provide grants to campuses to address dating violence and sexual assault, and increased resources to investigate campus sexual assault.

However, the president’s proposed budget includes increases in VAWA programs only by transferring funds from the Victims of Crimes Act (VOCA), which will impact states in the long run as it decreases the amount of funds available. Additionally, the proposed budget includes cuts to a critical VAWA program, the STOP program (Services, Trainings, Officers and Prosecutors), which is a key outreach component that enhances the capacity of local communities to develop and strengthen effective law enforcement and prosecution strategies to address violence against women.

Here is a  comprehensive chart on the president’s proposed VAWA and VOCA funding for FY 2017.

Head Start & CCDBG Funding:

The president’s budget includes $9.6 billion for Head Start, an increase of $434 million over FY 2016 funding levels. Within this total, the president’s budget provides an additional $292 million in 2017 to increase the number of children attending Head Start in a full school-day and -year program, which research shows is more effective than programs of shorter duration and also helps meet the needs of working parents.

The president also requested $2.961 billion in CCDBG funding for FY 2017, which is a $160 million increase from FY 2016, with $127.2 million aimed at improving the quality for infant and toddler care, and $40 million for states and local communities to develop, implement, and evaluate new, innovative models of care.

Read more about the president’s early childhood funding proposals.

Paid Leave:

President Obama’s FY 2017 budget proposal encourages states to establish paid leave programs, providing more than $2 billion for the Paid Leave Partnership Initiative to help up to five States launch paid family and medical leave programs, as well as small grants to help States and localities conduct analyses to inform the development of paid family and medical leave programs. These investments complement the President’s executive actions to expand paid sick leave for employees of Federal contractors.

Housing & Homelessness:

The president’s budget sustains funding to support programs dedicated to ending veteran homelessness, while also funding housing vouchers and rapid rehousing over the next ten years to reach and maintain the goal of ending family homelessness by 2020. The investment is based on research that found that families who utilized vouchers – compared to alternative forms of assistance to the homeless – had fewer incidents of homelessness, child separations, intimate partner violence and school moves, less food insecurity, and generally less economic stress.

YWCA USA has signed onto this letter, calling on Congress to increase the 302b funding allocations, which are an important resource for many local YWCAs. As emphasized in this letter, recent budget cuts have reduced the availability of rental assistance for low income families, straining local housing agencies’ efforts to maintain and preserve public housing, diminishing the resources available to revitalize distressed communities, and undermining efforts by Mayors, Governors, business leaders, and others around the country to end homelessness for veterans and for children, youth, and families, and to end chronic homelessness. A strong increase in the FY2017 allocation for the THUD subcommittees is required to provide needed rental assistance for currently-assisted families, to keep federal efforts to end homelessness on track, and to preserve important community development programs.

21st Century Justice Initiative:

The Obama Administration continues to support criminal justice reform that enhances public safety, avoids excessive punishment and unnecessary incarceration, and builds trust between the justice system and the community. President Obama’s FY 2017 Budget includes a $5 billion investment for a new 21st Century Justice Initiative that will focus on achieving three objectives: reducing crime, reversing practices that have led to unnecessarily long sentences and unnecessary incarceration, and building community trust.