On the Hill: FY 2024 Appropriations Process Underway
In March, President Biden submitted his $6.9 trillion fiscal year 2024 (FY24) budget proposal to Congress, representing an increase of roughly $900 billion over the previous year’s request and reflecting key priorities of the administration. This includes specific funding requests for the Department of Interior and the National Park Service. Overall, the budget requests $3.8 billion for the National Park Service, an increase of $289.2 million over FY23 enacted levels.
It includes considerations for several historic preservation priorities, including a recommendation of $177.9 million for the Historic Preservation Fund (HPF). While this figure is less than the $204.5 million Congress passed for the HPF for FY23, the difference is because the President’s budget request does not include a line for Congressionally Directed Spending, formerly known as earmarks. When not factoring in the $29 million for Congressionally Directed Spending in the current fiscal year, the administration is proposing a slight increase in HPF funding.
For the first time, $2.5 million is included within the HPF for the Tribal Heritage Grants program, which awards competitive grants to support Indian Tribes, Alaska Native villages and corporations, and Native Hawaiian organizations for the preservation and protection of their cultural heritage. Historically, this grant program has been funded through Tribal Historic Preservation Offices (THPOs). The FY24 budget request proposes a dedicated funding source for this program, separate from formula-funded grants to THPOs. All other HPF programs, including State Historic Preservation Offices (SHPOs), THPOs, and competitive grant programs, saw level funding requests.
Additionally, the President’s budget recommends $3 million for the National Park Service to launch the African American Burial Grounds Preservation Program. This recently authorized program would identify, restore, and support African American burial grounds. The National Trust has supported this program’s creation for many years and is named as a consultation partner alongside members of the African American heritage community.
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The budget request also proposes $640,000 for four full-time employees for the expanded Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park site in Summerton, South Carolina. This was a direct result of the Brown v. Board of Education National Historical Park Expansion and Redesignation Act championed by the National Trust to include the Summerton site alongside those in Topeka, Kansas, to help share the full history of the Brown v. Board of Education case.
The budget request also included $9.494 million for the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP), an increase of almost $1 million over FY23 enacted levels.
The National Trust is encouraged by the administration’s support for preservation programs, and its recognition of the immense value they add to the country’s richly diverse communities and histories.
Ongoing Appropriations Advocacy
The President’s budget proposal marks the beginning of the annual federal appropriations cycle. It is important to recognize that the President’s budget is a funding recommendation based on the Administration’s priorities, and that it is Congress that ultimately decides how much to appropriate. Congress has provided record-high funding for the HPF in recent years—$204.515 million in FY23 and $151.8 million in FY22.
In the current hyper-partisan atmosphere, sustained advocacy for preservation priorities remains as crucial as ever. The National Trust recently submitted written testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies in support of increased funding for preservation programs, and will do the same for the corresponding Senate subcommittee in May. The National Trust also released its fifth annual “Preservation Budget: Select Preservation Priorities for FY 2024 Appropriations” to supplement our appropriations testimony.
The report and testimony detail funding recommendations for numerous federal programs that support historic preservation. Many of these recommendations were reflected in the recent Dear Colleague letters in both the House and Senate. Led in the House by co-chairs of the Historic Preservation Caucus, Rep. Mike Turner (R-OH) and Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), 86 members of Congress signed this year’s Dear Colleague. There were 22 signatories on the Senate Dear Colleague letter, which was led by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-LA). Both letters request $225 million for the HPF in FY24, matching the ask from the National Trust and a coalition of national historic preservation organizations.
It’s important to note that this particular appropriations cycle is uniquely complicated by broader spending disagreements playing out in the divided Congress as discussions about the debt limit vex lawmakers. There are ardent champions for historic preservation priorities on both sides of the aisle and the Capitol. The National Trust will continue to advocate for higher funding for the HPF and other preservation programs as the appropriations process continues.
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Lauren Cohen is an associate director in the Government Relations department at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She has worked in nonprofit government relations and on Capitol Hill. She earned her Master's degree in Public History from James Madison University and her Bachelor's degree in History from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
Hanna Stark was the policy communications coordinator for Government Relations at the National Trust for Historic Preservation. She is now the advocacy associate at the Preservation Alliance for Greater Philadelphia.