WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama's proposed budget includes a $101 million boost in funding for Atlanta's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that would help pay for new programs aimed at addressing obesity and diseases in big cities, a new training program for public health professionals and other agency expansions.
The CDC also would add about 100 full-time employees nationwide in the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1, although most of the new employees would simply replace current employees already working as contractors.
The increases are relatively small given the CDC's proposed overall budget of $10.6 billion and its payroll of nearly 10,000 workers.
The president's budget proposal also still faces congressional approval, and fiscal conservatives and Republican leaders are already blasting the president's overall budget for increasing spending and the deficit.
But the proposed boost to the CDC is significant, especially since other government programs are facing cutbacks.
"At a time when the president has announced a budget freeze, to have a modest increase, I think, is quite significant," said Jeff Levi, executive director of the Trust for America's Health, a nonprofit, nonpartisan group that promotes better public health programs.
Perhaps the best news for workers at Atlanta's biggest federal employer is that the CDC's budget doesn't call for any staffing cutbacks in the coming year.
"We don't have any reduction in force plans -- no layoffs or anything like that proposed in Atlanta," said CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, "and there are some programs that might require additional staffing in Atlanta."
Included in the proposed budget for the CDC:
- A new $10 million Health Prevention Corps program that would recruit and train new public health professionals and assign them to state and local public health departments. Frieden said about 100 to 150 recruits would be trained through the program, which would be based in Atlanta.
- A new $20 million grant program aimed at reducing obesity, smoking and other health problems in big cities. The funding would be used to start wellness programs in up to 10 big cities in the country. Atlanta and other cities would have to apply for the grants.
- A $23 million funding increase for the CDC's health statistics program. The money would be used to improve national health data collection by helping states increase the use of electronic birth and death records and by enhancing national health surveys.
Even if it gets additional federal funding, the CDC also faces cutbacks in some areas under the president's proposed budget.
Among them is a $69 million cut in its budget for buildings and construction. Another approximately $100 million would be saved by reducing the number of contract workers the agency employs. Frieden said CDC officials are still analyzing places to make the contract cuts.
Some of the money for the new programs wouldn't come from new federal spending, but from money already allocated to the CDC through other programs -- including a pool of unused money the agency got last year to fight the H1N1 (swine) flu epidemic.
The CDC expects to use about $225 million of the H1N1 money for other programs during the next fiscal year.
Some public health proponents said the president should have allocated more money to the CDC.
"We certainly understand that fiscal belt-tightening is important given the current economic environment,” Georges Benjamin, executive director of the American Public Health Association, a organization of public health professionals, said in a statement.
"But increasing investment in community-based prevention and in CDC’s core public health programs could pay dividends in better health and quality of life for generations to come," he said.
What Georgia might get
Details about President Barack Obama's $3.8 trillion budget proposal are still trickling out, but the White House has released some Georgia-specific numbers.
Granted, the figures are partly just presidential public relations, and they will likely be much different by the time a federal budget gets approved by Congress.
But they at least give Georgians some idea of what they could get back from their tax dollars under the president's proposal.
Specifically in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1:
- $1.8 billion would go to Georgia schools, students and teachers.
- $1.7 billion would go toward fixing and expanding the state's roads, water and sewer systems.
- $1.1 billion would be released for new Pell Grants in Georgia.
- About $785 million would go to housing assistance in the state.
Additionally, the president's proposal also would extend for another year the Making Work Pay tax credit. That would benefit 3.4 million families in Georgia, according to the White House.