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News in Brief: A Washington Roundup

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Healthy Start Gets $50 Million Boost

Forty communities with high infant-mortality rates will receive a combined total of $50 million in grants through the Healthy Start program, an initiative of the Department of Health and Human Services.

The 5-year-old project focuses on ensuring that pregnant women receive early prenatal care, adequate housing, and support from family and friends, and that newborns receive the medical care they need.

In the communities where Healthy Start projects are already operating, businesses, health-care providers, and nonprofit organizations have formed partnerships to offer the services. The new grants raise the number of communities with Healthy Start programs to 60.

Cities receiving the grants include Mobile, Ala.; San Bernardino, Calif.; New Haven, Conn.; and Lac du Flambeau, Wis.

Panel Votes To Fund Arts Agency

After a year of threats from Republican House members to shut down the National Endowment for the Arts, a House-Senate conference committee voted unanimously last week to appropriate $98 million for the agency. The full House and Senate must each still approve the measure.

One of the committee's recommendations was that lawmakers be included on the agency's advisory board.

In addition, the measure would require the NEA to focus on grants for educational programs, limit the percentage of funding distributed to individual states to 15 percent, and encourage the agency to fund lesser-known groups.

In July, the House voted by a narrow margin to eliminate the nearly $100 million in federal funding the agency received in fiscal 1997. That appropriation was a 40 percent drop from previous years.

Last month, the Senate approved $100 million in appropriations for fiscal 1998.

President Clinton had asked for $136 million in NEA funding in his budget proposal and had threatened to veto the entire spending bill, which also covers the Department of the Interior, if it did not include funding for the arts agency.

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