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2023: Our Year in Review for Government Affairs

January 5, 2024

Washington, DC, remains as chaotic as ever. Congress spent more time trying to figure out a speaker than floor time on appropriations. The House of Representatives is as far behind as it has ever been on passing the fiscal year (FY) 2024 budget that began in October 2023, forcing a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the federal government open until January 19, 2024.

This atmosphere means when Congress returns (both the House and Senate) in January, they will only have a few weeks to resolve their differences and pass a budget. Or as an alternative, revert to the FY2023 budget with a 1% reduction or pass another CR.

We have been more active before Congress than ever. Our board met with several congressional appropriators in 2023 regarding the federal environmental health budget. Furthermore, I visited Congress in April, May, October, and November to advocate for NEHA and environmental health. And come March 2024, our members will have the opportunity to meet with their members of Congress.

Our requests to congressional appropriators to fund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) at $11.51 billion for FY2024—including $311 million for the National Center for Environmental Health (NCEH) and $110 million for climate and health programs—and $1.7 billion for the Human Foods Program within the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) will be challenging for them to meet. Even with the agreed on levels that Congress reached with President Biden last summer, it will be difficult for Congress to fund these agencies at the requested levels.

This dilemma makes our Congressional Hill Day even more important. Congress needs to hear from their constituents that these programs and agencies are vital to the health and well-being of the people they represent. We are providing the opportunity for our members to visit Washington, DC, this spring and discuss the need for environmental health.

Even if you are unable to participate in Hill Day, we are providing example letters that you can send to your members of Congress to express your support for funding CDC’s NCEH and FDA’s Human Foods Program.

As for the rest of our Government Affairs program, here are a few highlights from 2023:

  • 19 Active Policy Statements: We have 19 active Policy Statements on issues the association deems vital to advance the profession, including a new one on Data Modernization and Infomatics.
  • 3 Position Statements: We have revised our Position Statements to reflect the concerns of our current president and board.
  • 17 Blog Posts: These blogs discuss the actions of Congress and the federal government regarding environmental health.
  • 11 Letters to Congress: We wrote these letters to support increased funding for CDC’s NCEH, FDA’s Human Foods Program, the environmental health programs within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and for the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Housing within the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.
  • President Dr. Gary Brown and CEO Dr. David Dyjack cosigned a letter to support the Reagan-Udall Foundation’s recommendations on FDA food safety efforts.
  • President Dr. Brown and CEO Dr. Dyjack cosigned a letter to respond to Representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA) request for insight to improve CDC public health efforts.
  • 31 Sign-On Letters: We signed-on to these letters to support environmental health funding and programs before Congress and federal agencies.
  • We held our sixth annual Hill Day on February 23, 2023. Our Board of Directors and several of our members met with 53 members of Congress from both the House and Senate, as well as both parties who serve on the appropriations committees. These individuals are the decision makers who determine how much funding each federal agency receives.
  • 42 Congressional Office Visits: I visited 42 congressional offices in 2023 to advocate for environmental health, along with federal agency funding, climate change, indoor air, and food safety.
  • We visited Capitol Hill in May to meet with Representatives Haley Stevens (D-MI) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) to discuss the environmental health workforce within the Public Health Loan Repayment Program.
  • We visited Capitol Hill in October to meet with the offices of Representatives Joe Courtney (D-CT), Rob Wittman (R-VA), and Beth Van Duyne (R-TX) to discuss indoor air quality and our 2024 Hill Day.
  • In April, CEO Dr. Dyjack, EZ Director Rance Baker, Past President Bob Custard and I had a lengthy meeting with FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf and Principal Deputy Commissioner Dr. Janet Woodcock to discuss retail food safety and the environmental health workforce.

With the creation of the Human Foods Program at FDA and the ongoing efforts to fund the climate and health program at CDC, along with our other funding requests before Congress, our Government Affairs will have an active year.

The goal of our Government Affairs program in 2024 remains to make environmental health understood to federal, state, and local officials. With the help of our board and members, we plan to ensure environmental health is known before the policymakers of our country.

For more information, contact Government Affairs Director Doug Farquhar.