The 107th Congress adjourned November 21, 2002 and reconvened for the 108th Congress January 7, 2003. Before adjournment, Congress usually approves the annual appropriations bills that fund government-wide operations that include the National Family Caregiver Support Program (NFCSP) and other health programs. For fiscal year 2003, however, Congress departed from this tradition and simply extended current year funding levels and deferred debate on the spending bills until February 2003.
As we go to press, the level of proposed funding for the NFCSP is $157 million, which was approved by the Senate January 23, 2003 and is an increase of $15.5 million over last year’s funding. The proposed $157 million does not include a 2.9% rescission of funds that will be required of many government programs. The next step will be for the House and Senate to resolve differences in the funding legislation; the President must also approve
Other legislation of interest, such as Senator Clinton’s (D-NY) Lifespan Respite legislation and the Alzheimer’s Disease Research, Prevention and Care Act were not enacted before the end of the session. All legislation from the 107th Congress will have to be reintroduced to be considered in the 108th Congress.
At the state level, most legislatures ended the year still grappling with budget shortfalls and fiscal challenges. There had been a bipartisan proposal in Congress to help states by increasing funding for Medicaid and the Social Services Block Grant, both of which include services to seniors such as respite care. Like many other bills, no action was taken and many state budgets, including California, are still in a crisis state. Unfortunately, it does not look like 2003 will bring any clear solutions to problem of declining tax revenues and, in many cases, increasing expenditures.