Last Friday, we sat down with NRPA’s Public Policy team to do a Facebook Live broadcast about how the changes in Washington, D.C. will likely affect the field of parks and recreation. Our discussion covered President Trump’s Cabinet choices, the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), funding and ways you can get involved in advocating for parks and rec. Here are the key takeaways you need to know.
1. President Trump’s Cabinet
President Trump’s Cabinet appointments continue to go through the Senate confirmation process. Most important to our health and wellness work is the recently appointed Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price. He will be in charge of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF), disease prevention, Medicaid and Medicare. In particular, the PPHF is important to parks and rec because it aims to prevent illness and chronic disease by funding preventative health measures like farmer’s markets, fitness programs, sidewalks and much more.
Recently, Elaine Chao was confirmed to serve as Transportation Secretary. Her leadership will influence programs important to parks and recreation like Safe Routes to Schools, active transportation via the Transportation Alternatives Program, and the Recreational Trails Program.
Also important to parks and recreation is the appointment of the Secretary of Agriculture. President Trump’s nominee is former Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue. For park and recreation’s purposes, the Secretary of Agriculture has leadership over out-of-school time meal programs. Perdue has not been approved yet.
Other nominees awaiting final Senate confirmation include: Secretary of the Interior (Ryan Zinke), Secretary of Energy (Rick Perry) and Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (Rick Pruitt)
2. Repeal and Replacement of the Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as “Obamacare,” is in the process of being repealed and replaced. Most important to parks and rec is the Prevention and Public Health Fund which was established by the ACA. The idea behind the PPHF is that if you can get people to create healthier lifestyles now through things like increased physical activity, smoking cessation and diet improvements, you can save money on healthcare costs in the long run. NRPA has long been instrumental in ensuring that parks and recreation is recognized for their vital role in providing preventative health opportunities. The current replacement model, however, would scrap the PPHF and use that money to fund the ACA replacement.
3. The Land and Water Conservation Fund
The State and Local Assistance program through the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF) has been a vital funding mechanism for local park and recreation projects since its inception over 50 years ago. NRPA has consistently fought to maintain and increase funding for LWCF, and in fact, the State Assistance Program saw its highest funding in over a decade in FY2016 with over $110 million. This year, however, Congress has only approved federal government funding through April 2017. NRPA is working hard to maintain consistent funding into the next year for LWCF, but all bets are off starting next year (FY2018). The new administration has its eye on cutting non-defense discretionary funding which includes many of the programs that support local parks and recreation. In FY2018, we expect a lot of funding changes and LWCF could be targeted. Another item on the horizon is that LWCF expires in September of 2018. NRPA continues to advocate for permanent reauthorization of LWCF.
4. Now is the Time to Get Involved
With dramatic changes on the horizon, it’s imperative that everyone get involved in showing their federal elected officials the vital role parks and recreation plays in creating healthy, vibrant communities. The best way to do that is to become a Park Champion. The concept is simple — invite your federal elected officials to visit your parks, programs, rec centers and more to see first-hand the important role you play in your community. NRPA’s public policy team works with you one-on-one to create a successful event.
5. Stay Up-To-Date
NRPA’s public policy regularly provides content for NRPA’s Open Space Blog and includes quarterly updates for members in our enewsletter Advocacy Insider as well as throughout NRPA’s email communications and social media.
Following your representatives and senators on social media is a great way to understand what they are supporting and to interact with them directly. You can find your federal elected officials and their social media handles on NRPA’s Advocacy Action Center.
6. Support for Parks and Recreation is Overwhelming
Parks and recreation isn’t a partisan issue — nearly everyone agrees that park and recreation opportunities are important for our communities. There are, however, philosophical differences on how to fund them. We know from our research that the overwhelming majority of American’s support parks and recreation. During this past election, we saw over $6 billion in voter-approved investments in local parks and recreation.
NRPA’s Public Policy team will continue to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening on Capitol Hill.