Dementia, affordable housing advocates cheer spending bill provisions

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Dementia, affordable housing advocates cheer spending bill provisions
Dementia, affordable housing advocates cheer spending bill provisions

March 23 update: The Senate passed the bill early this morning, and President Trump has signed it.

Supporters of Alzheimer's disease-related health promotion, dementia research, falls prevention and affordable housing are cheering provisions contained in a $1.3 trillion, 2,232-page fiscal year 2018 spending bill released Wednesday evening. The bill would fund the federal government through the end of September.

The bill was passed by the House of Representatives on Thursday and that evening still was awaiting a vote in the Senate. Congress needs to pass a bill, and the president needs to sign it, by midnight Friday to avoid a federal government shutdown.

The proposed budget includes a $414 million increase in funding for Alzheimer's and dementia research at the National Institutes of Health that would put total funding for such research there at $1.8 billion.

“For the third consecutive fiscal year, Congress has approved the Alzheimer's Association's appeal for a historic funding increase for Alzheimer's and dementia research at the NIH,” Alzheimer's Association and Alzheimer's Impact Movement President and CEO Harry Johns said in a statement. AIM is the advocacy arm of the association. “This decision demonstrates Congress is deeply committed to providing the Alzheimer's and dementia science community with the resources needed to move research forward,” Johns added.

LeadingAge also noted that the bill provides $4.5 million for health promotion dedicated to Alzheimer's disease as well as $2 million for initiatives to prevent falls among older adults.

The omnibus bill also provides some of the highest funding levels most housing programs have seen in several years, including $678 million to the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program, enough to renew all existing contracts and provide $105 million for more than 760 new affordable homes for low-income seniors, according to LeadingAge and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

LeadingAge said it was pleased that the bill includes “RAD for PRAC” provisions that will give housing properties that have project rental assistance contracts access to the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Rental Assistance Demonstration program.

“This provision will bring new preservation opportunities to aging project rental assistance contract communities and is a key priority for LeadingAge,” the organization said in an online post. “We commend Congress for including this provision in the spending bill and congratulate the many LeadingAge members who joined us in advocating for it.”

LeadingAge also said it was pleased that low-income home energy assistance, social services block grants and other programs on which older people rely for home- and community-based services received increased funding.

“We commend Congress for the funding they provided for essential services for older individuals throughout the remainder of 2018, and we will continue working with legislators on the budget for fiscal 2019,” LeadingAge President and CEO Katie Smith Sloan said in the post.

The NLIHC noted that the omnibus includes a 12.5% increase in Low Income Housing Tax Credits for four years and the permanent authorization of income averaging, which it said could increase the ability of the tax credit to reach the lowest-income households.

“These changes could help offset the impact of the lowered corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, which effectively reduces the value of housing credits to corporate investors,” the organization said in a statement. “Some experts estimate that the lowered corporate tax rate will significantly reduce investor demand for the housing credit and could result in 20,000 fewer homes being built under the program annually.”

Overall, according to the NLIHC, the bill provides HUD programs with $4.6 billion in additional funding overall compared with FY17, which is more than $12 billion more than the president's FY18 request, and many programs were funded at levels “significantly” above what was proposed in either the House or Senate draft bills.

“The final FY18 spending bill is a clear repudiation of the president's budget request, which would have cut funding for HUD by nearly 15%, or $7.4 billion, compared to FY17 levels,” the organization said.

NLIHC said it will turn its full attention to defeating the president's FY19 budget request once a FY18 spending bill is passed.

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