Statement by HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra on the President’s Fiscal Year 2022 Budget
"HHS is at the center of many challenges facing our country today— the COVID-19 pandemic, mental and other behavioral health challenges, the opioid addiction crisis, racial inequality and more. The President's FY 2022 budget invests in building a healthier America by giving us the resources we need to protect and invest in the wellbeing of families nationwide today and the years to come. With these new investments, we are on better footing to take on the next public health crisis, partner with states and support families right now who have struggled as a result of the pandemic. The increased investment supports families in areas such as behavioral health (mental health and substance use), maternal health, emerging health threats, science, data and research, tribal health, early child care and learning, and child welfare. To build back a prosperous America, we need a healthy America, and President Biden's budget builds on that vision while investing in the many programs housed at HHS to save lives."
Program Examples --
Preparing and Responding to Public Health Crises
The Strategic National Stockpile, within the HHS Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, has served a critical role in the COVID-19 response, deploying personal protective equipment, ventilators, and medical supplies to states, cities, and territories across the country. The budget provides $905 million for the stockpile, $200 million above FY 2021, to ensure the stockpile is ready to respond to future pandemic events and any other public health threats, including maintaining a robust inventory of critical medical supplies and modernizing the stockpile's distribution model.
The budget also supports a strong public health workforce, and addresses gaps in the existing public health infrastructure, including at the state and local levels. In addition to discretionary investments, the budget includes mandatory funding, $30 billion over four years, in HHS, the Department of Defense, and the Department of Energy for medical countermeasures manufacturing and related activities to create jobs and prepare Americans for future pandemics. During this pandemic, we have seen the critical role of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). To ensure that CDC is well positioned to address current and emerging public health threats, the budget restores capacity to the world's preeminent public health agency, by investing an additional $1.6 billion over the FY 2021 level for a total discretionary level of $8.7 billion. This is the largest budget authority increase for CDC in almost two decades.
Expanding Affordable Health care
The FY 2022 Budget makes expanding affordable health care access a priority across Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services programs. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) has expanded health insurance coverage to millions of Americans, and the budget goes even further. It builds on the groundbreaking reforms included in the American Rescue Plan Act by extending the premium subsidies that put affordable health care coverage within reach of millions more Americans. One out of four enrollees on Healthcare.gov will be able to upgrade to a new or different plan that offers better out of pocket costs at the same or lower premiums compared to what they were paying before the American Rescue Plan Act.
In addition, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, an ongoing opportunity to enroll for healthcare coverage through a Special Enrollment Period will be available to individuals through August 15. This effort provides a desperately needed opportunity for individuals and families to apply and enroll in the coverage. As of May 10, over 1 million additional Americans have signed up for health insurance in the Marketplace, and an additional 2 million returned to the Marketplace to obtain improved benefits, both in terms of reduced premiums and more affordable cost sharing.
Investing in Children's Futures
Our experiences as children shape the adults we become, and support in childhood can mean success in the future. As Frederick Douglass wrote, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." High-quality early care and education lay a strong foundation so that children can take full advantage of education and training opportunities later in life. Both the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan invest in school and child care infrastructure and workforce training, ensure that low and middle-income families pay no more than 7 percent of their income on high-quality child care, and invest $200 billion in a national partnership with states to offer free, high-quality, accessible, and inclusive preschool to all three- and four-year-olds, benefitting five million children.
The budget also invests $250 billion over ten years to make child care affordable. The budget also provides $19.8 billion in discretionary funding for the Department's early care and education programs in ACF, $2.8 billion over FY 2021 enacted. This includes $11.9 billion for Head Start, which helps young children enter kindergarten ready to learn.
Combating Mental Health and Substance Use Crises
HHS must address the public health crises associated with mental health and substance use disorders. This need is especially urgent given that both crises have accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic. Calls to mental health helplines have increased across the country as Americans struggle with increased anxiety, depression, risk of suicide, and trauma-related disorders resulting from the pandemic. Younger adults, racial minorities, essential workers, and unpaid adult caregivers are particularly impacted. Similarly, preliminary data from 2020 suggests that overdose deaths, which were already increasing, accelerated during the pandemic. Provisional data suggest that over 90,000 drug overdose deaths occurred in the United States in the 12 months ending in September 2020. That represents a year-over-year increase of close to 29 percent. The budget addresses these crises through investments in the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration.
In a historic investment, the budget provides $1.6 billion to the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant to respond to the systemic strain on our country's mental health care system—more than double the FY 2021 level. To address the undeniable connection between the criminal justice system and mental health, the discretionary request will also invest in programs for people involved in the criminal justice system. HHS will also focus on the behavioral impact of COVID-19, including on children. When children and young people face trauma, it can continue to affect them across their lifespan, so it is critical we intervene now to support their social, emotional, and mental well-being.
Complete HHS budget information is available here.