Trump administration requests funds for agencies hurt by the pandemic

Farm support payments, submarines and missiles are among the programs that would benefit from the administration's requested budget changes

The National Archives building in Washington is pictured. The Trump administration has asked Congress for additional money for half a dozen agencies and programs it says have been hurt by the pandemic, including the National Archives and Records Administration.  (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
The National Archives building in Washington is pictured. The Trump administration has asked Congress for additional money for half a dozen agencies and programs it says have been hurt by the pandemic, including the National Archives and Records Administration. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted September 2, 2020 at 8:40pm

The White House is asking Congress to include half a dozen pandemic-related fixes in the next stopgap funding measure if they are not put into any future COVID-19 relief legislation first.

In a 23-page “anomalies” document obtained by CQ Roll Call, the Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday requested dozens more adjustments in spending in a continuing resolution that would extend fiscal 2020 spending levels into the next fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. The request would cover adjustments in appropriations laws funding agriculture programs, defense, homeland security and other federal programs needed through the middle or end of December.

Without adjustments, the stopgap would generally continue spending at current year levels until Congress passes and the president signs fiscal 2021 appropriations bills. A stopgap is needed because with only weeks until the next fiscal year begins, none of the 12 fiscal 2021 appropriations bills has been signed into law.

The House and Senate Appropriations committees have been working on a stopgap measure that Congress will seek to pass later this month before funding expires Sept. 30 in order to avoid a partial government shutdown. Congressional leaders and the White House also have been trying to reach agreement on another package to provide $1 trillion or more in aid to individuals, businesses and state and local governments hurt by the pandemic and economic shutdowns.

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In many cases the adjustments requested by the administration would allow federal agencies to access alternate sources of funds because the economic shutdowns across the country have caused regular funding sources to dry up.

For example, one request is to appropriate $92 million to the National Archives and Records Administration to pay for fixed operating costs at 18 federal records centers. Those centers rely on fee revenue from records services and those fees “have decreased significantly” because the centers have been closed due to the pandemic.

In another COVID-19-related request, the administration seeks authority for the Veterans Affairs Department to transfer up to $140 million in unobligated pandemic relief funding from one account to another for the Veterans Canteen Service, which makes food, coffee and other vending machine products available to veterans in health care facilities.

The White House document includes a request for accelerated reimbursement to the Commodity Credit Corp., a federal agency under the Department of Agriculture that supports farm income and prices. The document says the CCC anticipates it will not have sufficient borrowing authority available during the period of the stopgap. “Without the anomaly, CCC would have to stop making payments as soon as the borrowing ceiling is reached, posing a serious risk for the farmers and ranchers supported by these programs,” the document says.

USDA said it expects high demand for payouts from two major farm programs during fiscal 2021 triggered by declines in market prices or revenue levels. The department said there could be "a near 100 percent increase in Agriculture Risk Coverage and Price Loss Coverage payments in FY 2021 as compared to FY 2020."

The White House request also includes additional mandatory funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly known as food stamps, and for child nutrition programs such as school lunch and breakfast programs. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program has added nearly 5 million new recipients since the pandemic began.

Starting new programs is forbidden under a typical continuing resolution, unless an anomaly is included to make an exception. The administration is asking Congress to authorize in any fiscal 2021 stopgap the launch of two new parts of America's nuclear weapons arsenal.

The first is the next generation of nuclear missile submarines: the $110 billion Columbia class, consisting of a dozen vessels. The Navy has been developing technologies for the sub for years but needs congressional authorization to do final design work and construction. The first sub is projected to cost $14.4 billion.

The administration has requested $2.9 billion of that total to begin procurement in fiscal 2021, with the remainder to follow in subsequent fiscal years.

The fiscal 2021 request also includes $1.1 billion in advanced procurement for parts for future subs and $397 million to continue development work.

Another anomaly is needed, the administration argued, to begin designing the W93, a new type of atomic warhead that the Navy wants to one day be capable of launching from its Columbia subs.

The W93 initiative, which officials estimate could cost $14 billion, has earned support of the Armed Services committees in both chambers, but the House's Energy-Water spending bill would not allocate money for it in fiscal 2021, so lawmakers might not agree to the anomaly.

By contrast, Congress has manifested widespread support for building the Columbia class of submarines, which would replace the 14-sub Ohio class.

As in past requests, another adjustment would provide $10 million in funding for the General Services Administration to carry out ingoing and outgoing costs of a presidential transition if former Vice President Joe Biden wins the presidential race. Of the $10 million, $1 million would be required for “trainings and briefings” if President Donald Trump wins reelection and there is no transition.

Another expense that would occur should Biden defeat Trump is that the National Archives and Records Administration would need an additional $18 million to take custody of presidential records and artifacts by Inauguration Day.

John M. Donnelly, Ellyn Ferguson, Doug Sword and David Lerman contributed to this report.