The funding for National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), responsible for research on the health and safety of the country’s 155 million-strong workforce, has been cut 15 percent in the 2016 proposed budget by the Obama administration. This brings the total funding of this safety research wing to $283 million. Along with NIOSH, funding for Education Research Centers (ERCs) and the Agriculture, Fishing and Forestry (AFF) Program has also been downsized.
The letdown is not new to NIOSH; previously, the Obama administration reduced its funding while keeping contributions to similar agencies like OSHA steady. In the proposed budget, OSHA funding has been hiked to $592,071,000, an increase of $39,284,000 over the previous year.
In a letter last year, Friends of NIOSH, a coalition of 150 organizations, urged congressional leaders to include the same level of funding for NIOSH as in the 2014 fiscal year. They wrote:
Elimination of these NIOSH supported programs as proposed in the President’s fiscal 2015 budget, would limit the ability of workers to avoid exposures that can result in injury or illnesses, push back improved working conditions, eliminate occupational safety and health educational services to over 10,000 U.S. businesses, and ultimately raise health care costs.
However, according to the American Industrial Hygiene Association (AIHA) Government Affairs Director Aaron Trippler, the budget might just be DOA. Trippler said, “This is always just the first figure to be thrown out there, and now Congress begins its debates. We are a long ways from anything. Remember, we haven’t even had a real budget the last 3-4 years, simply an omnibus bill.”