Federal agencies

OSHA in line for funding boost after congressional conference committee agrees on appropriations ‘minibus’

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Photo: Senate Appropriations Committee

UPDATE: This story has been updated to reflect the House passing the minibus on Sept. 26.

Washington — OSHA is set to receive a $5 million budget increase, after the House and Senate resolved their differences in a Sept. 13 congressional conference committee meeting on a “minibus” appropriations bill. The spending package includes funding for the Department of Defense and a continuing resolution to keep the government open until Dec. 7.

The minibus, which includes the Department of Defense and Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act of 2019 and the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2019, was passed by the Senate on Sept. 18 and by the House on Sept. 26. It still needs President Donald Trump’s signature.

The appropriations bill provides about $557.8 million for OSHA in FY 2019, a $1 million increase from the Senate’s initial minibus – which passed Aug. 23 – and $12.5 million more than the House’s proposed budget. The agency received $552.8 million in FY 2018; the Trump administration allocated $549 million.

The conference committee also chose to allocate no more than $102.4 million to OSHA State Plans, an increase of $1.5 million. It would be the first hike since FY 2014, according to a post from the agency’s former Deputy Assistant Secretary Jordan Barab on his “Confined Spaces” website. The Susan Harwood Training Grants Program is slated to remain viable for another fiscal year, receiving around $10.5 million. The administration’s previous attempts to cut that program have failed so far, and the House slated it for elimination in its budget proposal.

OSHA’s federal compliance assistance efforts are scheduled for a $2.5 million increase to $73.5 million, and at least $3.5 million is going to the Voluntary Protection Programs. OSHA’s enforcement budget is slated for a $1 million boost to $209 million.

The Mine Safety and Health Administration would receive level funding at $373.8 million, with up to $2 million going to mine rescue and recovery and at least $10.5 million to state assistance grants. The House initially proposed $367.6 million for the agency, and the Trump administration allocated $375.9 million.

The bill includes a provision that some of the state assistance grants “may be used for the purchase and maintenance of new equipment” as required by the agency’s coal dust rule for mine operators who “demonstrate financial need.” That rule lowered the exposure limit at underground and surface mines to 1.5 milligrams per cubic meter of air from 2.0 milligrams. Other changes include sampling requirements with continuous personal dust monitors.

NIOSH would receive $336.3 million – a $1.1 million increase from FY 2018 – and would remain under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Trump administration proposed to give the agency $200 million and move it to the National Institutes of Health. The House budgeted $339.2 million for NIOSH.

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