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

By on 14/03/2022 | Updated on 15/03/2022
President Joe Biden signing legislation
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

President Joe Biden is expected to today sign a US$1.5 trillion spending bill that will fund the government through to the end of September, averting a partial government shutdown.

The omnibus funding bill – signed half way through the fiscal year – sees domestic agencies receive a 6.7% budget increase, while defence will get a 6% boost. The package includes US$13.6bn 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 on Thursday, the day before a government shutdown would have taken place had there been a delay on agreeing the package. A shutdown occurs when the US Congress cannot resolve disagreements about the federal budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

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“This bill makes bold investments in critical areas that went underfunded or even neglected in the previous administration, including education, childcare, healthcare, the environment, science and research, and many more,” said senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee and one of the chief architects of the bill, as reported by Government Executive.

Lawmakers had been negotiating the government funding package for months, forcing Biden to implement three stopgap measures to avoid a shutdown while discussions took place. Wrangling centred on Democrats’ proposal to dramatically raise domestic agencies’ budgets by as much as 16% while apportioning the Pentagon a much smaller increase. Republicans eventually got their wish for a near-equal boost for defence and non-defence agencies.

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

As well as the US$13.6bn in aid to Ukraine, a further US$4bn will provide humanitarian assistance 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 US$15bn in additional funding for COVID-19 relief efforts from the draft of the bill at the last minute over disputes over how to cover the cost. The Biden administration had originally requested US$30bn to prepare for the next wave of cases.

Michael T. Osterholm, the 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 funding boost winners is the Transportation Department, which has been allocated one of the largest increases, at 17%, to help it implement the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, while the Homeland Security Department has been allocated an 11% boost.

The Internal Revenue Service is to see its largest funding boost in more than 20 years as the agency faces an unprecedented backlog of tax returns. It said it would use the money to hire 10,000 new employees.

US$20bn has been allocated to climate change research and resilience efforts.

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Office of Personnel Management tasked with improving federal hiring processes

A requisite of the funding provided to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) – the federal government’s HR agency – stipulates that the agency and the Office of Management and Budget must brief lawmakers within 90 days about improving the federal hiring process.

“Many, if not all, of the agencies funded in this bill have raised concerns about the hiring process,” lawmakers wrote in a statement accompanying the legislation. “Often, when agencies are finally able to offer employment to a qualified individual, it is too late, and the candidate has accepted other employment.”

OPM is in the midst of changing how it assesses applicants for some federal jobs, focusing more on on-the-job experience and skillsets, rather than educational qualifications. The Chance to Compete Act, which is working its way through both the House and Senate, would codify those changes into law.

The House and Senate have been congratulated for working quickly to pass the bill after it was introduced last Wednesday, and avoid a shutdown. The last US government shutdown ran between 22 December 2018 and 25 January 2019, when president Donald Trump was in office.

It is estimated that 800,000 of the federal government’s 2.1 million civilian employees were affected. Nearly half of the 800,000 were furloughed or had to work without pay, and many saw their work either delayed or undermined. In the 2019 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey, 22% of respondents said they’d been hit “very” or “extremely” negatively by the shutdown, and 10% of respondents said that the experience had prompted them to look for a new job.

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About Mia Hunt

Mia is a journalist and editor with a background in covering commercial property, having been market reports and supplements editor at trade title Property Week and deputy editor of Shopping Centre magazine, now known as Retail Destination. She has also undertaken freelance work for several publications including the preview magazine of international trade show, MAPIC, and TES Global (formerly the Times Educational Supplement) and has produced a white paper on energy efficiency in business for E.ON. Between 2014 and 2016, she was a member of the Revo Customer Experience Committee and an ACE Awards judge. Mia graduated from Kingston University with a first-class degree in journalism and was part of the team that produced The River newspaper, which won Publication of the Year at the Guardian Student Media Awards in 2010.

2 Comments

  1. Daryl says:

    He didn’t sign the bill on Friday. He signed a CR through today March 15th. Per his public calendar, he is signing the bill today.

    https://factba.se/biden/calendar

    • Mia Hunt says:

      Hi there. Thank you for drawing our attention to the mistake. I have amended the article.

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