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LEARN > FY Appropriations > Exclusive Analysis of FY 2023 Appropriations

Exclusive Analysis of FY 2023 Appropriations

Late last year, Congress approved the FY 2023 omnibus spending package. The $1.7 trillion package will provide federal agencies with discretionary spending through September 30th, 2024, and also includes an additional $44 billion supplemental package to provide funding for the CHIPS and Science Act, emergency funds for relief for recent weather disasters as well as aid to Ukraine. 

The final spending package falls well short of the President’s requested budget level of $5.8 trillion, which is not surprising. In the exclusive analysis we provided for our members early in 2022, we noted that the Biden Administration was focused on creating a “whole of government approach,” with initiatives that promote partnerships and interagency cooperation. Some of these goals made it through the legislative process, with improving capacity at the state and local level remaining a strong theme throughout as well as  encouragements to disaggregate demographic data to the extent practicable. Some highlights of the final appropriations are: 

  • Increased funding for some statistical agencies, including National Center for Health Statistics (NCHS), Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), and the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES)
  • Funding for improving state capacity for data reporting, with increases to Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act programs and the State Longitudinal Data System (SLDS) grant program  
  • Language calling for  health data sharing across federal, state, tribal, and local public health departments 
  • $10 million for the House Modernization Initiatives Account, an increase of $8 million above the fiscal year 2022 level, to make Congress more effective, efficient, and transparent on behalf of the American people. (Read more about the House Select Committee on the Modernization of Congress.)

In addition to these investments, there are some interesting call outs to specific data projects and policies across the government, including: 

  • $5 million for Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to purchase school-level poverty data from the Census Bureau
  • $7 million for the national homeless data analysis project at the the Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • A report from the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) after a complete review of the data that is publicly available on the Access to Care, including an analysis of the access to and useability of publicly available data. This bill also expanded the hiring authorities at the Department of Veterans Affairs by adding “statisticians, informaticists, and data scientists” to the list of occupations the Secretary may find necessary for the health care of veterans
  • The Department of Housing and Urban Development and the VA are directed to work together to develop a system for effectively sharing and reporting data between the two agencies’ homelessness programs, and are given 3 years to ensure this sharing is operational 

Data and Evidence

Funding for data and evidence continues at a level pace. Evaluation set-asides remain the same, and the General Services Administration’s Federal Citizen’s Services Fund provides $5 million for Evidence Act implementation, consistent with previous years. The Technology Modernization Fund, which helps agencies fund technology improvement efforts, received $50 million in the package. (It is worth noting that the American Rescue Plan also provided this fund with $175 million.)

Importantly, the National Science Foundation (NSF) received significant funding – $1.8 billion – through the supplement package for programs included in  the CHIPS and Science Act, which authorized the National Secure Data Service (NSDS). At this time, it is unclear how much of that will go to the National Center for Science and Engineering Statistics at NSF to develop the NSDS, but it is a positive signal that there should be funding available. The Data Coalition will be watching this with great interest. 

Education and Workforce

Investment in education and workforce data included both bright spots and missed opportunities. Many important programs received level funding, such as the Workforce Data Quality Initiative, and the 0.75 percent set-aside for evaluation continues. Some important appropriations include: 

  • $2.9 billion for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act State Grants, an increase of $50 million above the fiscal year 2022 enacted level
  • $38.5 million for Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems, an increase of $5 million over FY 2022 
  • $10 million in additional funds for the BLS to support the new National Longitudinal Survey of Youth (NLSY) cohort established by the FY 2020 Appropriations Act, as well as continue fielding the NLSY79 and NLSY97 cohorts

Together, these funding increases at the Department of Labor and Department of Education can provide some support to state-level education and workforce data systems as well as help improve the availability of data and evidence related to education and workforce. However, years of underfunding mean that this may not be enough, and these programs will need ongoing reinvestment in subsequent years. The Data Coalition is working to help agencies think creatively about approaching capacity building with flexible funding sources in order to meet data and evidence needs. 

The omnibus package continues to clarify the intended use of funds made available under the SLDS grant program, stating “grant programs may be used to link Statewide elementary and secondary data systems with early childhood, postsecondary, and workforce data systems” and that up to $6 million of the $38.5 million available may be awarded to “public or private organizations or agencies to support activities to improve data coordination, quality, and use at the local, State, and national levels.” Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) funding may also be used for improving data collection, coordination, and quality. 

One additional policy provision the Data Coalition will be watching closely is the request for the IES, NCES, and the National Assessment for Education Progress (NAEP) to respond to three reports from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) providing recommendations for education research and statistics.

Public Health

The public health provisions in this package contain important investments in public health data. NCHS, which is responsible for collecting, analyzing, and disseminating health data and statistics, received an additional $7 million to their budget, bringing their total to $187 million. The package also includes key provisions from existing legislative proposals, such as making the Director of the Centers of Disease Control (CDC) a Senate-confirmed position, which will take effect in January of 2025. 

The package includes $175 million, an increase of $75 million above the fiscal year 2022 enacted level, to modernize public health data surveillance and analytics at CDC and state and local health departments. This public health data modernization agreement aims to advance progress with state, tribal, local, and territorial (STLT) partners. The CDC is urged to work with STLT health departments to establish a public health data sharing process to ensure more timely and efficient case data are reported to the CDC in a public health emergency, including the use of “an established minimal data set and transmission.” This language largely followed the proposal from Representative Underwood’s Improving DATA in Public Health Act introduced last Congress. 

Further,  Health and Human Services will be able to award grants, contracts, or cooperative agreements to eligible entities for “purposes of identifying, developing, or disseminating best practices in electronic health information and the use of designated data standards and implementation specifications, including privacy standards, to improve the quality and completeness of data, including demographic data used for public health purposes.” This language is similar to provisions within the Health STATISTICS Act, introduced by Representative Scott Peters in the 117th Congress and endorsed by the Data Coalition. 

While these provisions are important pieces in creating better reporting to the CDC and standardizing electronic health reporting by identifying best practices, they appear to be addressing the challenges with reporting data into the CDC, rather than helping data exchange between federal systems and STLT systems. Though there are other public health provisions that explicitly call out two-way data sharing in the package – such as ensuring that aggregated information collected from call centers in the Suicide Prevention Lifeline program are made available in a useable format to the state and local agencies – as implementation of these grants and data modernization efforts are considered, it is important to keep in mind that valuable data must also be provided back to the communities, ensuring that there are meaningful benefits for entities reporting data. Mechanisms such as a data linkage pilot, including in the Heath STATISTICS Act or the recently authorized National Secure Data Service, could provide a venue for these provisions to ensure that data are shared back with the communities they represent. 

Lastly, of note, the appropriations package also calls for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to issue a report assessing practices, objectives, and association progress and challenges of the CDC with respect to the collection and dissemination of public health data related to the pandemic. 

Next Steps

As to be expected, this spending package did not fulfill all of the requests set out by the Biden Administration early last year to foster a whole of government approach to building evidence and data systems. Rather, this bill is the result of long compromises between the two parties and the two chambers. But despite not fully funding or making explicit calls for evidence-based policymaking, there are some much needed investments in key areas. 

The Data Coalition will continue work with Congress on providing appropriate funding to data systems while also working with the Executive branch agencies to find new efficiencies in developing their data systems. With new authorizations like the National Secure Data Service and Financial Data Transparency Act, there will be many opportunities to improve our data infrastructure and capabilities in FY 2023. 

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