US federal agencies get 6.7% budget increase on $1.5 trillion spending bill

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Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

President Joe Biden on Friday signed a $1.5 trillion spending bill that will fund the government through the end of September, avoiding a partial government shutdown.

The omnibus funding bill – signed mid-year – sees national agencies receiving a 6.7% budget increase, while defense will get a 6% increase. The package includes $13.6 billion in emergency aid to Ukraine and NATO allies.

The bill was approved by the House of Representatives shortly after being introduced on Wednesday last week and by the Senate the following day, allowing Biden to sign the bill the same day a government shutdown would have taken place. if there had been a delay on accepting the package. A shutdown occurs when the US Congress fails to resolve disagreements over the federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

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“This bill makes bold investments in critical areas that were underfunded or even neglected in the previous administration, including education, child care, health, environment, science and research, and many more,” said Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee. and one of the main architects of the bill, as reported by Government Executive.

Lawmakers had been negotiating the government’s funding package for months, requiring Biden to implement three stopgap measures to avoid a shutdown during the talks. The wrangling has centered on the Democrats’ proposal to dramatically increase national agency budgets by up to 16% while giving the Pentagon a much smaller increase. Republicans finally got their wish for a nearly equal boost for defense and nondefense agencies.

White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the bill “ends a damaging series of ongoing short-term resolutions that have undermined the government’s ability to address pressing challenges.”

In addition to the $13.6 billion in aid to Ukraine, another $4 billion will provide humanitarian aid such as food and shelter to Ukrainian refugees in Europe, while additional funds have been set aside to help agencies enforce sanctions against Russia.

There has been controversy over the House’s decision to remove $15 billion in additional funding for COVID-19 relief efforts from the bill at the last minute due to disputes over how to cover the costs. The Biden administration initially requested US$30 billion to prepare for the next wave of cases.

Michael T. Osterholm, director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, described the move as “playing with infectious disease fire,” according to The New York Times.

Among the winners of the increased funding is the Department of Transportation, which received one of the largest increases, at 17%, to help it implement the Investment and Jobs in Cities Act. infrastructure, while the Department of Homeland Security received an 11% increase.

The Internal Revenue Service is set to see its largest funding increase in more than 20 years as the agency faces an unprecedented backlog of tax filings. He said he would use the money to hire 10,000 new employees.

$20 billion has been allocated for climate change research and resilience efforts.

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The Office of Personnel Management tasked with improving federal hiring processes

A prerequisite for funding provided to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – the federal government’s human resources agency – stipulates that the agency and the Office of Management and Budget must notify lawmakers within 90 days of improving the federal hiring process.

“Many, if not all, of the agencies funded by this bill have expressed concerns about the hiring process,” the lawmakers wrote in a statement accompanying the legislation. “Often, when agencies are finally able to offer a qualified person a job, it’s too late and the candidate has accepted another job.”

The OPM is changing the way it assesses applicants for certain federal jobs, focusing more on on-the-job experience and skills, rather than credentials. The Chance to Compete Act, which is making its way through both the House and the Senate, would codify these changes into law.

The House and Senate were praised for working quickly to pass the bill after it was introduced last Wednesday and avoid a shutdown. The last U.S. government shutdown occurred between December 22, 2018 and January 25, 2019, when President Donald Trump was in office.

An estimated 800,000 of the federal government’s 2.1 million civilian employees were affected. Nearly half of the 800,000 people have been laid off or forced to work without pay, and many have had their jobs delayed or compromised. In the 2019 Federal Employee Views Survey, 22% of respondents said they had been “very” or “extremely” negatively affected by the shutdown, and 10% of respondents said the experience made them to look for a new job.

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