What the President’s Budget Request Could Mean for OEHS Programs
On Thursday, March 16, President Donald J. Trump submitted his budget request to Congress for Fiscal Year 2018. The request provides a scant level of detail typical of Presidents early into their first term, but even at this stage, the picture looks less than rosy for Federal programs related to occupational and environmental health and safety.
Under President Trump’s budget request, the Department of Labor would see a 21 percent cut, compared to the current levels, and funding would be completely eliminated for OSHA’s Susan Harwood Training Grant Program, which falls under the agency’s Compliance Assistance Training Grants funding stream. Grant funds are competitively awarded to nonprofit organizations for the purposes of providing training and education to employers and workers on how to identify, avoid, and prevent workplace safety and health hazards, with a focus on providing assistance to workers who are low-literacy, underserved, or in high-hazard industries.
According to OSHA, from 1978 to present, over 2.1 million workers have received training through the Susan Harwood Training Grant Program; however, President Trump argues in his budget that these grants are unproven, and should thus be discontinued.
NIOSH falls under the Department of Health and Human Services, which would receive a 17.9 percent cut in President Trump’s budget. Because of this and other language providing hints throughout the document, NIOSH is likely threatened under the President’s request. However, at this point it’s difficult to gauge exactly how much NIOSH could be cut, as the request doesn’t drill down deep enough into spending details.
President Trump wants to eliminate all funding for the Chemical Safety Board, which is a non-regulatory, independent Federal agency that conducts investigations into industrial chemical accidents and related hazard examinations, and provides recommendations to OSHA, the EPA, trade associations, labor groups, and other entities. The President provided no explanation for his recommendation.
As expected, EPA would see one of the biggest cuts under the President’s budget. The Agency’s funding would be reduced by 31 percent, which would be achieved by eliminating funding for regional efforts, such as the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and Chesapeake Bay Program, eliminating the Endocrine Disruptor Screening Program, and more than 50 other programs that aren’t actually named in the budget proposal. The President would also reduce funding for the Hazardous Substance Superfund Account by $330 million.
Not everything in the President’s budget is about cuts and consolidations, however. For instance, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) would receive an additional $20 million for lead-based and other hazard mitigation in low-income homes. An additional $4 million would be given to EPA’s State Revolving Funds Program, which helps finance water quality infrastructure projects. The budget would also level-fund EPA’s Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act Programs at $20 million.
Despite controlling both chambers of Congress, the Republican Party’s ideological rifts and opposition from Democrats mean that President Trump will need all of his negotiating skills to push even some of his spending priorities through the legislature. That said, the President has, in a way, already achieved success, as his budget framework is driving the focus of debate, and will be a key benchmark for all involved going forward.