WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the House of Representatives approved its fiscal year 2009 omnibus spending package. The package appropriates federal funding for the remainder of fiscal year 2009. First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, lauded the amount of total discretionary spending on children in the legislation, which amounts to $74.1 Billion, a $3.5 billion increase from 2008.

Specifically, the organization was pleased with discretionary spending on children as part of Labor-Health and Human Services-Education appropriation, which totals approximately $59 billion, $2.6 billion more than fiscal year 2008.

First Focus President Bruce Lesley made the following remarks:

“We are pleased to see this legislation approved by the House, as it contained a significant increase in spending on children. In 2008, American voters called for change to our federal policies regarding children and families. This bill signifies a great first step – increasing investments in children on par with the rest of government spending. For too long, children’s spending has remained flat or even fallen behind, and we are pleased that the House has placed its priorities on our nation’s future. Indeed, $3.5 billion is a significant increase, and is critical to put our nation’s children on a positive path toward healthy, productive lives.

“As the economy continues to worsen, more families will become dependant on safety net programs to keep their families out of poverty. And this funding is critical to ease the burden of states struggling to balance budgets. Right now, low-income families are struggling to make ends meet, child poverty is on the rise, and unemployment is skyrocketing. These appropriations address the adverse impacts of the recession by easing the burdens of parents and states, while also taking critical steps towards economic recovery.

“It is our hope that these increases are not only reflected in the Senate version of this legislation but also in President Obama’s fiscal year 2010 budget.”

Children’s programs that saw the most dramatic increases in funding include Title I education grants, which was increased by nearly $600 million. In addition, the Head Start program was given an increase of more that $200 million. Moreover, funds for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) doubled in size, while adoption assistance was increased my more than 700 percent. Finally, rental assistance was boosted by more than $400 million and newborn hearing screening rose by 61 percent.