President Joe Biden signed into law a $1.7 trillion yearlong federal government spending package on Thursday, after the House and Senate passed it last week.
The legislation includes $772.5 billion for nondefense discretionary programs and $858 billion in defense funding. That represents an increase in spending in both areas for fiscal year 2023.
The sweeping package includes roughly $45 billion in emergency assistance to Ukraine and NATO allies, an overhaul of the electoral vote-counting law, protections for pregnant workers, an enhancement to retirement savings rules and a TikTok ban on federal devices.
It also provides a boost in spending for disaster aid, college access, child care, mental health and food assistance, more support for the military and veterans and additional funds for the US Capitol Police. And the legislation contains several major Medicaid provisions, particularly one that could disenroll up to 19 million people from the nation’s health insurance program for low-income Americans.
However, the law, which runs more than 4,000 pages, left out several measures that some lawmakers had fought to include. An expansion of the child tax credit, as well as multiple other corporate and individual tax breaks, did not make it into the final bill. Neither did legislation to allow cannabis companies to bank their cash reserves – known as the Safe Banking Act – or a bill to help Afghan evacuees in the US gain lawful permanent residency. And the spending package did not include a White House request for roughly $10 billion in additional funding for Covid-19 response.
The spending law, which will keep the government operating through September, the end of the fiscal year, is the product of lengthy negotiations between top congressional Democrats and Republicans.
Congress originally passed a continuing resolution on September 30 to temporarily fund the government in fiscal year 2023, which began October 1.
Here’s what’s in the law:
More aid for Ukraine: The spending law provides roughly $45 billion to help support Ukraine’s efforts to defend itself against Russia’s attack.
About $9 billion of the funding will go to Ukraine’s military to pay for a variety of things including training, weapons, logistics support and salaries. Nearly $12 billion will be used to replenish US stocks of equipment sent to Ukraine through presidential drawdown authority.
Also, the law provides $13 billion for economic support to the Ukrainian government. Other funds address humanitarian and infrastructure needs, as well as support European Command operations.
Emergency disaster assistance: The law provides more than $38 billion in emergency funding to help Americans in the west and southeast affected by recent natural disasters, including tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding and wildfires. It will aid farmers, provide economic development assistance for communities, repair and reconstruct federal facilities and direct money to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Disaster Relief Fund, among other initiatives.
Overhaul of the electoral vote-counting law: A provision in the legislation aims at making it harder to overturn a certified presidential election, the first legislative response to the US Capitol insurrection and then-President Donald Trump’s campaign to stay in power despite his loss in 2020.
The changes overhaul the 1887 Electoral Count Act, which Trump tried to use to overturn the 2020 election.
The legislation clarifies the vice president’s role while overseeing the certification of the electoral result to be completely ceremonial. It also creates a set of stipulations designed to make it harder for there to be any confusion over the accurate slate of electors from each state.
Funding for January 6 attack prosecutions: The law provides $2.6 billion for US Attorneys, which includes funding efforts “to further support prosecutions related to the January 6 attack on the Capitol and domestic terrorism cases,” according to a fact sheet from the House Appropriations Committee.
The package also gives $11.3 billion to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, including for efforts to investigate extremist violence and domestic terrorism.
The funding measures are part of nearly $39 billion for the Justice Department.
Retirement savings enhancements: The law contains new retirement rules that could make it easier for Americans to accumulate retirement savings – and less costly to withdraw them. Among other things, the provisions will allow penalty-free withdrawals for some emergency expenses, let employers offer matching retirement contributions for a worker’s student loan payments and increase how much older workers may save in employer retirement plans.
TikTok ban from federal devices: The legislation bans TikTok, the Chinese-owned short-form video app, from federal government devices.
Some lawmakers have raised bipartisan concerns that China’s national security laws could force TikTok – or its parent, ByteDance – to hand over the personal data of its US users. Recently, a wave of states led by Republican governors have introduced state-level restrictions on the use of TikTok on government-owned devices.
Protections for pregnant workers: The law provides pregnant workers with workplace accommodations – such as additional bathroom breaks, stools or relief from heavy lifting duties – needed for healthy pregnancies. It will prevent them from being forced to take leave or losing their jobs, as well as bar employers from denying employment opportunities to women based on their need for reasonable accommodations due to childbirth or related medical conditions. Also, another provision in the package guarantees workplace accommodations – particularly time to pump – for more nursing workers.
Changes to Medicaid and other health care programs: The law phases out the requirement that prevented states from disenrolling Medicaid recipients as long as the national public health emergency was in effect in exchange for an enhanced federal match. This continuous coverage measure was enacted as part of a Covid-19 relief package passed in March 2020 and has led to a record 90 million Medicaid enrollees, many of whom may no longer meet the income requirements to qualify.
Under the law, states will be able to start evaluating Medicaid enrollees’ eligibility and terminating their coverage as of April 1. The redetermination process will take place over at least 12 months. Also, the enhanced federal Medicaid funding will phase down through December 31, 2023, though the states will have to meet certain conditions during that period.
Up to 19 million people could lose their Medicaid benefits, according to estimates, though many would be eligible for other coverage.
Also, under a provision in the law, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, will offer 12 months of continuous coverage for children. This will allow the 40 million children on Medicaid and CHIP to have uninterrupted access to health care throughout the year.
In addition, the law makes permanent the option for states to offer 12 months of postpartum coverage for low-income mothers through Medicaid, rather than just 60 days. More than two dozen states, plus the District of Columbia, have implemented the measure, which was available on a temporary basis through the American Rescue Plan, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. Another seven states are planning to implement the option.
Plus, the package provides more money for the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response. The funds are intended to speed the development of new therapies, diagnostics and preventive measures, beef up public health activities and strengthen the nation’s biosecurity by accelerating development of medical countermeasures for pandemic threats and fortifying stockpiles and supply chains for drugs, masks and other supplies.
Increased support for the military and veterans: The package funds a 4.6% pay raise for troops and a 22.4% increase in support for Veteran Administration medical care, which provides health services for 7.3 million veterans.
It includes nearly $53 billion to address higher inflation and $2.7 billion – a 25% increase – to support critical services and housing assistance for veterans and their families.
The law also allocates $5 billion for the Cost of War Toxic Exposures Fund, which provides additional funding to implement the landmark PACT Act that expands eligibility for health care services and benefits to veterans with conditions related to toxic exposure during their service.
Beefing up nutrition assistance: The legislation establishes a permanent nationwide Summer EBT program, starting in the summer of 2024, according to Share Our Strength, an anti-hunger advocacy group. It will provide families whose children are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals with a $40 grocery benefit per child per month, indexed to inflation.
It also changes the rules governing summer meals programs in rural areas. Children will be able to take home or receive delivery of up to 10 days’ worth of meals, rather than have to consume the food at a specific site and time.
The law also helps families who have had their food stamp benefits stolen since October 1 through what’s known as “SNAP skimming.” It provides them with retroactive federal reimbursement of the funds, which criminals steal by attaching devices to point-of-sale machines or PIN pads to get card numbers and other information from electronic benefits transfer cards.
Higher maximum Pell grant awards: The law increases the maximum Pell grant award by $500 to $7,395 for the coming school year. This marks the largest boost since the 2009-2010 school year. About 7 million students, many from lower-income families, receive Pell grants every year to help them afford college.
Help to pay utility bills: The package provides $5 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Combined with the $1 billion contained in the earlier continuing resolution, this is the largest regular appropriation for the program, according to the National Energy Assistance Directors Association. Home heating and cooling costs – and the applications for federal aid in paying the bills – have soared this year.
Additional funding for the US Capitol Police: The law provides an additional $132 million for the Capitol Police for a total of nearly $735 million. It will allow the department to hire up to 137 sworn officers and 123 support and civilian personnel, bringing the force to a projected level of 2,126 sworn officers and 567 civilians.
It also gives $2 million to provide off-campus security for lawmakers in response to evolving and growing threats.
More money for child care: The legislation provides $8 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, a 30% increase in funding. The grant gives financial assistance to low-income families to afford child care.
Also, Head Start will receive nearly $12 billion, an 8.6% boost. The program helps young children from low-income families prepare for school.
More resources for children’s mental health and for substance abuse: The law provides more funds to increase access to mental health services for children and schools. It also will invest more money to address the opioid epidemic and substance use disorder.
Investments in homelessness prevention and affordable housing: The legislation provides $3.6 billion for homeless assistance grants, a 13% increase. It will serve more than 1 million people experiencing homelessness.
The package also funnels nearly $6.4 billion to the Community Development Block Grant formula program and related local economic and community development projects that benefit low- and moderate income areas and people, an increase of almost $1.6 billion.
Plus, it provides $1.5 billion for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, which will lead to the construction of nearly 10,000 new rental and homebuyer units and maintain the record investment from the last fiscal year.
More support for the environment: The package provides an additional $576 million for the Environmental Protection Agency, bringing its funding up to $10.1 billion. It increases support for enforcement and compliance, as well as clean air, water and toxic chemical programs, after years of flat funding.
It also boosts funding for the National Park Service by 6.4%, restoring 500 of the 3,000 staff positions lost over the past decade. This is intended to help the agency handle substantial increases in visitation.
Plus, the legislation provides an additional 14% in funding for wildland firefighting.
What’s not in the law:
Enhanced child tax credit: A coalition of Democratic lawmakers and consumer advocates pushed hard to extend at least one provision of the enhanced child tax credit, which was in effect last year thanks to the Democrats’ $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan. Their priority was to make the credit more refundable so more of the lowest-income families can qualify. Nearly 19 million kids won’t receive the full $2,000 benefit this year because their parents earn too little, according to a Tax Policy Center estimate.
New cannabis banking rules: Lawmakers considered including a provision in the spending bill that would make it easier for licensed cannabis businesses to accept credit cards – but it was left out of the legislation. Known as the Safe Banking Act, which previously passed the House, the provision would prohibit federal regulators from taking punitive measures against banks for providing services to legitimate cannabis businesses.
Even though 47 states have legalized some form of marijuana, cannabis remains illegal on the federal level. That means financial institutions providing banking services to cannabis businesses are subject to criminal prosecution – leaving many legal growers and sellers locked out of the banking system.