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JULY 12, 2013
Senate Appropriations Committee Approves Sustained Funding for Key HIV-Related Programs

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies (Labor-HHS) Subcommittee met Tuesday morning to mark up their FY 2014 spending bill and approved it by a voice vote. The bill would provide funding levels for most domestic HIV federal programs, including the Ryan White Program, HIV prevention programs, and the Minority HIV/AIDS Initiative for the fiscal year beginning Oct 1, 2013. At Tuesday’s markup, subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) stated he hopes the bill will get to the Senate floor before this month is over. Full Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) reiterated that point by stating a Labor-HHS bill has not been on the Senate floor since 2007 and she wants to ensure it gets to the full Senate this year. Progress to achieve a floor vote was made on Thursday as the Appropriations Committee approved the FY ’14 Labor-HHS spending bill in a 16-4 vote along party lines.

The Senate FY ‘14 Labor-HHS bill calls for $164.3 billion in discretionary budget authority for the departments. This would be a $7.8 billion increase from the fiscal 2013 enacted level of $156.5 billion, and $42.5 million more than the $121.8 billion House appropriators have allocated for their entire FY ’14 bill. The House appropriations subcommittee has not released its Labor-HHS bill yet, however.

The Senate bill reflects strong support for domestic HIV programs even in a time of overall budgetary cutbacks. Overall funding for the Ryan White Program would be increased over the amount appropriated for the current FY ’13, including a $47 million increase for ADAP. The bill also would provide funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to implement the Affordable Care Act (ACA), including $5.2 billion for Program Management at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). CMS is playing a significant role in ACA implementation. The Prevention and Public Health Fund would be funded at $1 billion under the Labor-HHS bill.

All the Senators who spoke at the Subcommittee markup were extremely complimentary and bipartisan. Even though Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-KS) voted against the bill he thought the process working with Sen. Harkin was a good one. He voted against the bill since it increases funding for the ACA, which he believes is an entitlement the country cannot afford.

As encouraging as the Senate’s Labor-HHS funding amounts are, a very important caveat needs to be made. The total Senate FY ’14 budget and appropriations process, including the Labor-HHS bill, assumes that the automatic spending cuts known as sequestration will be replaced or repealed. Across-the-board sequester spending cuts of about 5% went into effect on March 1. Under the provisions of the Budget Control Act (BCA), an additional sequester of about $109.3 billion will be implemented in FY ’14 and each fiscal year through 2021. Spending cuts of this magnitude will have a devastating impact on domestic programs, including HIV-related programs. We cannot just applaud the Senate’s numbers; we must see them as an opportunity to remind Congress Members of the need to achieve a balanced plan to replace sequestration. We will only be able to avoid drastic spending cuts if the Republicans and Democrats in the Congress and the Administration come to address our fiscal issues.

The chart below compares the Senate’s FY ’14 Labor-HHS bill to FY ‘13 operating funding levels, which is the amount that the program received after across the board cuts (sequestration) and other transfers.

FY '13 Operating Funding FY '14 Senate Subcommittee Allocation
CDC Funding

-HIV Prevention

    $712.7 million $754.8 million
-DASH $28.3 million $29.8 million
-Viral Hepatitis $28.7 million $29.6 million
HRSA Funding
-Ryan White Program       $2.249 billion $2.369 billion
        -Part A $624.3 million $670 million
        -Part B Care $401.2 million $426 million
        -Part B ADAP $886.3 million $943.3 million
        -Part C $194.4 million $204.7 million
        -Part D $72.4 million $77 million
        -Part F AETCs $32.4 million $34.5 million
        -Part F Dental $12.6 million $13.5 million

House Passes Farm Bill Without SNAP, Nutrition Assistance Elements

In a 216-208 vote on Thursday afternoon, the House passed the Farm Bill without funding for the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) and other nutrition assistance elements. SNAP and nutrition assistance programs generally constitute about 80% of the Farm Bill, which is reauthorized every five years and mandates funding for farm, food and nutrition programs. Over 500 organizations opposed splitting SNAP and nutrition assistance programs from the Farm Bill; despite this, a united Democratic front in the House was not enough to prevent the bill from passing.

This is an unprecedented move, and it is unclear at this point what the exact repercussions will be. However, yesterday’s House vote undoubtedly leaves SNAP in an extremely vulnerable position. SNAP is an appropriated entitlement program and therefore must be authorized, either through the Farm Bill, a separate food and nutrition bill or through regular spending bills passed by Congress. If SNAP is not included in the final version of the Farm Bill (which will need to be reconciled with the Senate’s version of the Farm Bill and approved by the Administration for signing), Republicans will be more poised to make hard-hitting cuts to SNAP and other nutrition assistance programs through the regular appropriations process. AIDS United is deeply concerned about SNAP’s vulnerability, and will be working with coalition members to ensure that SNAP is preserved and that no further cuts are introduced to put already vulnerable populations at even greater risk.

Click here to read a statement by our friends at Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).

Senate HELP Committee Passes Employment Non-Discrimination Act with Bipartisan Support

Following on the heels of the historic Supreme Court decisions last month on marriage equality, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension (HELP) Committee passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), with three of seven Republicans joining all 12 Democrats on the committee voting in favor. Advocates believe that the 60 votes needed to pass ENDA in the Senate can be achieved, and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will bring the bill to the floor as the possibility of at least 60 votes is confirmed. ENDA would prohibit discrimination in the workplace based on sexual orientation or gender identity, and the passage of this landmark civil rights legislation would be another step forward in the fight for equality. Though the companion bill in the House only has three Republican sponsors, the Senate HELP committee vote, the recent Supreme Court decisions, and increasing public support for LGBT rights may sway the House closer to equality and non-discrimination.

HHS Announces $150 Million to Support Health Centers Enrolling Uninsured Americans

This week, Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Kathleen Sebelius announced that $150 million in grants would be provided to health centers across the country to support enrolling uninsured Americans in the new health insurance marketplaces beginning October 1, 2013. 1,159 health centers located in all 50 states will receive grants to “help consumers understand their coverage options through the new Health Insurance Marketplace, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program; determine their eligibility and what financial help they can get; and enroll in new affordable health coverage options.” Due to these grants, health centers will be able to hire nearly 3,000 outreach and eligibility assistance workers to support access to affordable health coverage for millions of Americans.

The press release can be found by clicking here.

House GOP Announces It Will Not Pursue Comprehensive Immigration Reform

After a party conference, House Republican leaders announced they would not pursue a comprehensive immigration reform strategy like the one passed by the Senate last month. Instead, they will pursue immigration reform piece-by-piece. Republican leadership in the House is united against the Senate-passed bill, which provides for a pathway to citizenship. However, it is unclear exactly when and what kind of steps House majority leadership will be taking to achieve immigration reform. AIDS United continues to support a plan for comprehensive immigration reform that not only includes a pathway to citizenship, but also ensures health care and safety net program access for aspiring citizens who will be working, paying fees and taxes and paying into such programs.

After DOMA: 23rd Day of New and Re-Affirmed Rights

After the historic Supreme Court decision in United States vs. Windsor that struck down section 3 of DOMA, Americans had much to celebrate. The extension of federal rights to legally married same-sex couples is a confirmation of what an increasing majority of Americans believe to be true: same-sex couples are just as real, just as normal, just as beautiful as heterosexual couples, and deserve equal treatment under the law.

Symbolically, the decision is momentous, but now the administration and government agencies are tasked with turning this ruling into practical legal and administrative changes. President Obama hopes that these changes will come into effect “swiftly and surely,” a sincere hope for the many couples and their loved ones who await their rights. So what, exactly, can we expect in the near future as a result of the DOMA ruling?

Obviously, government agencies like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, and the Department Veteran’s Affairs will have to assess their options in extending the benefits, a process that may unfortunately be a long and complicated one. These agencies have not yet issued guidance. The government is moving faster in reviewing visa petitions filed by a same-sex partner, and this ruling has ensured that if an immigration bill passes it will apply equally to all couples. Additionally, on the heels of the end of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”, married service men and women can be assured that their same-sex spouses will receive military benefits like housing and healthcare. These rights, and others sure to come, will be possible in the wake of the Supreme Court’s United States vs. Windsor decision.

What the Supreme Court's Decision in Shelby Means for Voting Rights

By Wade Henderson, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights

The Supreme Court’s decision on June 25 in Shelby County v. Holder will have a real and detrimental impact on the voting rights of Americans. The Court dealt a significant blow to civil and human rights. As such, all Americans should be concerned about what this means for the continued health of our democracy.

The Voting Rights Act (VRA) has long been considered the most successful civil rights law Congress ever passed. Section 5 of the VRA played a critical role for decades in stopping voting discrimination against racial minorities.

Shelby County, Alabama, challenged Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (VRA), which requires state and local jurisdictions with a history and ongoing record of voting discrimination to receive preclearance from the Department of Justice or a federal court in Washington, D.C., before any voting-related change can take effect. The Court did not rule on the constitutionality of Section 5. Instead, the 5-4 majority ruled that Section 4a, which determines which jurisdictions are covered under Section 5, was unconstitutional. The decision effectively shuts down Section 5 until Congress creates a new formula for deciding which parts of the country are subject to preclearance.

To read more about the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby and its implications, click here.


Get Ready for the August Recess!

August is right around the corner, which means Congress is about to be on a month-long recess! So your Members of Congress will be in their districts, conducting town halls and meeting with constituents to understand what issues are impacting them the most. The August recess is the perfect time for individuals and organizations to meet with their Members of Congress to remind them that HIV is an issue that impacts YOUR community! AIDS United is putting together an August recess toolkit that can be used by individuals and organizations to make the most out of this time. We will be sending out the toolkit soon, so be on the lookout and start thinking about the meetings you’ll want to have with your Members of Congress!

Positive Women’s Network – USA Seeking HIV-Positive Women for Survey

Positive Women’s Network – USA (PWN-USA) is celebrating its fifth birthday! To mark the occasion, PWN-USA is seeking input from women living with HIV in the United States, including trans women, to help build a stronger future for women living with HIV/AIDS in the US. Click here to access the survey, and please share widely.

Pledge to Take Action on Global Female Condom Day, September 16, 2013!

September 16, 2013, marks the second annual Global Female Condom Day, and the National Female Condom Coalition and Universal Access to Female Condoms Joint Programme are seeking your support! Click here and pledge to take action along with female condom advocates across the globe on September 16, 2013.

Email your Republican Members of Congress TODAY to Support the REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act!

Last month marked the 32nd anniversary of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) that first identified AIDS. Five patients in Los Angeles were treated for Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia and were the first to be identified in the MMWR with symptoms of what would later be known as AIDS. Thirty-two years later, we finally have the tools, scientific knowledge, and expertise to see the end of HIV.

Despite our wealth of knowledge now, 32 states and 2 U.S. territories still have criminal statutes based on perceived exposure to HIV. H.R. 1843, the REPEAL (‘‘Repeal Existing Policies that Encourage and Allow Legal”) HIV Discrimination Act, is bipartisan legislation that addresses the serious problem of discrimination in the use of criminal and civil commitment laws against those who test positive for HIV. This bill would modernize current criminal law approaches that target people living with HIV for felony charges and severe punishments for behavior that is otherwise legal or that poses no measurable risk of HIV transmission.

The time to sign is NOW. CLICK HERE to email your Republican Member of Congress and encourage her or him to sign on as a cosponsor to the bipartisan REPEAL HIV Discrimination Act! It is crucial to have significant Republican support for this bill before reaching out to Democratic Members. Without strong initial Republican backing, we will be unable to achieve full bipartisan support for this critical issue.

AVAC Accepting Applications for 2014 Advocacy Fellowships

AVAC, Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, is accepting applications now until August 5, 2013, for their 2014 HIV Prevention Research Advocacy Fellowships. The goal of AVAC’s Advocacy Fellowship is to expand the capacity of advocates and organizations to monitor, support and help shape biomedical HIV prevention research and implementation of proven interventions worldwide. The Advocacy Fellowship is guided by AVAC’s conviction that effective and sustainable advocacy grows out of work that reflects organizational and individual interests, priorities and partnerships.

The Advocacy Fellowship provides support to emerging and mid-career advocates to design and implement advocacy projects focused on biomedical HIV prevention research and implementation activities in their countries and communities. These projects are designed to addresses locally identified gaps and priorities. Fellows receive training, full-time financial support and technical assistance to plan and implement a targeted one-year project within host organizations working in HIV/AIDS and/or advocacy.

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