September is prime time for appropriations negotiations. While the Senate voted 91-7 to begin consideration of its bipartisan spending bills for FY 2024, so far the House has been unable to come to an agreement on their spending packages, raising the likelihood of a government shutdown after September 30.
While these appropriations discussions are taking up most of the oxygen on Capitol Hill, the CURA government relations team wanted to underscore the importance of building support for your appropriations requests early in the fiscal year, to increase the likelihood of securing appropriations funding or report language for your cause in the final spending packages approved by Congress.
Here are four key insights on what we’ve learned over the years securing appropriations funding for the Polycystic Kidney Disease Foundation, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Foundation, and other clients:
I. Identify the federal source of funds and the appropriate funding bill.
Federal funding requirements and guidelines vary significantly from agency to agency. Are you seeking research dollars? Funds for a specific project or locality? To be considered for funding requests, Congressional offices seek: specific information on the federal source of the funds, funding levels from the previous fiscal year, a justification with demonstrated support, and information about how the funds will be used.
Case in point: The Department of Defense Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program (CDMRP) Peer Reviewed Medical Research Program (PRMRP) includes a list of medical and disease-specific research topic areas that are selected and funded by Congress. Once a topic area is included in the PRMRP, researchers can then apply to be awarded monetary grants to support their research proposals.
Since FY 2019, CURA has activated the polycystic kidney disease (PKD) community to ensure PKD remains a PRMRP topic area. This has resulted in over $55 million in dedicated funding for PKD research since FY 2019. For context, other disease topics are most often awarded $3 million to $6 million in funding for research each fiscal year.
II. Use data and community support to substantiate your appropriations requests.
Consider what research is necessary to justify and underscore the need for federal appropriations funding. Information on state specific data, patient statistics and a list of community partners that support your request can be very helpful for lawmakers considering your request. Members of Congress want to know how appropriations measures will specifically benefit their constituents. It is just as important to know how your current request compares to previous fiscal years, so your organization can better position its request—especially when seeking increased funding.
Case in point: As part of our annual appropriations efforts with the PKD Foundation, we collect state-by-state letters from nephrologists and PKD researchers, which include data on the estimated number of constituents who are impacted by PKD along with the estimated amount that Medicare ESRD spends for patients with PKD. These letters, with information about PKD Foundation’s appropriations request, are sent directly to the legislative staff of their respective member of Congress. This helps humanize the issue while building a relationship with congressional office staff and their constituents.
III. Identify congressional champions who will advocate on your behalf.
One or two strong congressional allies can help shepherd your appropriations request through the approval process. Bonus points if they sit on an Appropriations Committee!
Case in point: CURA worked with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) Foundation to secure $3 million in Community Project Funds (commonly known as earmarks), for high-tech first responder training equipment for the Nevada Joint Training Center, a state-of-the-art training campus for over 60 Nevada first-responder agencies. We identified a legislative champion in Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) and Jacky Rosen (D-NV), both of whom had a record of working closely with local law enforcement agencies to secure funding for specific projects. Our team identified the appropriate Community Project Funds account—in this case the COPS Office at the Department of Justice—and collected the necessary supporting documentation required to meet both the Senate and Department of Justice’s requirements. We worked closely with dozens of local officials and community organizations to build support for our request, participated in multiple meetings with the Senators’ staff and hosted their staff at the training facility to help them better understand our request.
As a result, both Senators Catherine Cortez Masto and Jacky Rosen’s requested $3 million for LVMPD’s training facility, which was included in the FY 2022 Omnibus spending bill and signed into law on March 15, 2022!
IV. Monitor Deadlines!
Appropriations deadlines change each cycle but are typically from March to April. Importantly, each congressional office sets their own deadlines for submitting requests, so after you identify your congressional champion, it is critical that you confirm with their staff both the deadlines and their required submission forms. If you are submitting multiple appropriation forms, set up an internal tracking system to ensure that those deadlines aren’t missed. Most, if not all, congressional offices will NOT accept deadlines past the due date.
Additionally, every congressional office has a different process for submitting requests. Some offices use an online form, while others require appropriations requests and supporting documents be sent via email. Stay organized by including the deadlines and instructions to office’s submission requirements in your tracking system.
An integral part of the process of securing appropriations funding involves patient engagement and advocacy. If you’d like to educate your advocates about the appropriations process as well as train your advocates on how to engage Congress, check out CURA’s Advocacy Academy.