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Home > Advocacy > Advocacy Archive > CWLA's 2001 Legislative Agenda

 
 

Legislative Wrap Up of Congressional Action in 2001

January 25, 2002

© Child Welfare League of America. The content of these publications may not be reproduced in any way, including posting on the Internet, without the permission of CWLA. For permission to use material from CWLA's website or publications, contact us using our website assistance form.

Introduction

2001 Legislative Wrap-up: How Did Children Fare?

2001 Legislative Highlights

       Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program Amendments Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-133)
       FY 2002 Budget Summary
       Child Welfare Services
              Social Services Block Grant
              Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
       Youth Services
              21st Century Learning Centers
              Runaway and Homeless Youth
       Child Care and Head Start
       Education
       Health/Behavioral Health
              Maternal and Child Health Block Grant (Title V)
              Mental Health Services
              Ryan White AIDS Programs
              Substance Abuse
              Family Planning/Abstinence Education
              Abandoned Infants Assistance Program
              National Violent Death Reporting System
       Housing
       Economic Growth and Tax Reconciliation Act (P.L. 107-16)
              Extension and Expansion of the Adoption Tax Credit
              Expansion/Refundability of the Child Tax Credit
              Expansion of the Dependent Care (Child Care) Tax Credit

New Challenges Ahead

       CWLA'S Key Priorities
       Unfinished Business and Outstanding Issues
              Budget/Tax
              Juvenile Justice Reauthorization
              The Act to Leave No Child Behind
              Patients' Bill of Rights
              Mental Health Parity
              Medicaid
              Second Chance Homes

Introduction

The tragic events of last fall's terrorist attacks has reminded us all of the importance of being connected to one another and the need to care for our most vulnerable children, youth, and families. While we as a nation fight terrorism and combat recession and rising unemployment levels, we must also remain vigilant in our mission to address the needs of the children we serve. It is the commitment of CWLA and its member agencies to ensure that the needs of children and their families are a top priority as Congress resumes its work.

Clearly, new challenges are ahead, but so are opportunities to improve the lives of the children and families we work with. CWLA looks forward to leading this effort and to increasing our advocacy efforts in 2002.

CWLA is working to enhance the advocacy services we provide to our members. Conducting advocacy trainings, coordinating conference calls on key legislative issues, and creating better linkages between member agencies and their members of Congress are just some of the activities we have planned for 2002. These enhanced services will provide member agencies with the tools and knowledge necessary to reach out to and educate Congress, the public, and the media on critical children's issues and gain support for legislative initiatives that address the needs of the children, youth, and families we serve. Likewise, CWLA will continue to work with Congress and the Administration in pursuing action on our 2002 legislative priorities.

We are providing for your review a detailed description of the legislative highlights of the 107th Congress in 2001 and what we might expect in 2002. This wrap-up is quite lengthy, so you may want to print it. We also encourage you to share it with your staff and colleagues.

If you have any questions, contact Liz Meitner, CWLA's Vice President of Government Affairs, at emeitner@cwla.org.

2001 Legislative Wrap-up: How Did Children Fare?

With the promise of a robust economy, a trillion dollar-plus surplus, and a new President and Congress, 2001 began with high expectations and, by all rights, should have been a banner year for children, youth, and families. CWLA and other child advocates carried the message that this was a good opportunity to make new investments in addressing the needs of vulnerable children and families. With heightened optimism, several pieces of legislation were introduced early in the 107th Congress to provide significant new investments in children and youth services.

Early in 2001, however, Congress approved tax cut legislation that drained the federal surplus by $1.3 trillion. After the tragic events of September 11, the country and Congress diverted its attention to national security and economic recovery. The year ended with the expectation that the government will experience deficit spending for the next several years and will continue fighting a war on terrorism.

In the final days of 2001, Congress passed legislation to reauthorize the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program. Congress also finished final decisions on the FY 2002 annual spending bills and passed a major education reform bill. Congress completed its work in 2001, however, without taking action on a number of key items. Deliberation of these measures, including an economic stimulus package, further tax cuts, and bioterrorism protections, were forestalled and will likely be considered this year. Congress will also consider extensions of important existing programs, such as the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act, food stamps, the Adoption Opportunities Act, and the Abandoned Infant Assistance program--all measures that were not acted on in 2001.

2001 Legislative Highlights

Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program Amendments Act of 2001 (P.L. 107-133)
Congress had an opportunity in 2001 to focus on the needs of abused and neglected children through the reauthorization of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) program. Building on the commitment expressed by President Bush in his campaign, and as reflected in his FY 2002 budget proposal, expectations were high that Congress would approve substantial increases in guaranteed funding to support vulnerable children and their families.

Early in the year, CWLA and other advocates applauded the President's commitment and supported bipartisan legislation, the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program Amendments Act of 2001 (H.R. 2873), introduced in both the House and Senate to secure these additional funds. After September 11, however, support backed away for providing substantial guaranteed funding increases for these programs. In December, Congress approved a dramatically scaled back version of the bill.

As introduced, H.R. 2873 incorporated the President's recommendations to increase guaranteed funding for PSSF by $1 billion over five years and to add $300 million over five years to the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program to provide educational and training vouchers for youth aging out of foster care. As ultimately approved, H.R. 2873 did reauthorize PSSF for five years but froze the guaranteed funding at $305 million. The final bill does authorize--but does not provide any guaranteed funding for--a new $60 million program that would provide education and training vouchers for youth aging out of foster care.

H.R. 2873 allows Congress to approve an additional $200 million per year for five years for PSSF, and $60 million per year for the education and training vouchers, if Congress can identify discretionary funds in the annual appropriations process. For FY 2002, Congress approved a $70 million increase in discretionary funds for PSSF, far short of the $200 million increase that had earlier widespread support. This increase brings the total FY 2002 funding for PSSF to $375 million.

Congress did not approve new FY 2002 discretionary funding for the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program, which would have enabled states to provide educational and training vouchers for youth aging out of foster care. When President Bush signed the bill on January 17, he expressed his intent to include full funding for these programs in his budget proposal to be submitted to Congress February 4. Funding for the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program will continue at $140 million. More details of the new law are available on CWLA's website at http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/pssf.htm.

FY 2002 Budget Summary
Following is a summary of FY 2002 spending for selected child and youth programs. For more detail, see CWLA's website at http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/budget.htm.

Child Welfare Services
Social Services Block Grant
The FY 2002 funding level for the Title XX Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) was reduced to $1.7 billion, a $25 million cut from FY 2001. States will be able to continue to transfer 10% of their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds to SSBG. Under previous law, this transfer authority had been set to be lowered to 4.25% in FY 2002. Restoration of funding for SSBG to more than $2.3 billion in FY 2002 and $2.8 billion in later years was one of the components of a faith-based initiative that was under discussion but never passed last year. It is uncertain if SSBG funding will reappear in a faith-based bill this year.

Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA)
Funding for the CAPTA Discretionary Grant program decreased from $33.2 million to $26.1 million. Despite the reduction, this is $8.2 million more than the Administration had requested. These funds support program development, research, training, technical assistance, and the collection and dissemination of child abuse and neglect data. The CAPTA State Grant program received an increase of $1 million, rising from $21 million to $22 million, and the CAPTA Community-Based Family Resource Centers was increased from $32.8 million to $33.4 million.
Youth Services
21st Century Learning Centers
Funding for 21st Century Learning Centers increased by $154 million, bringing total funding to $1 billion. These funds provide recreation, learning-based activities, and a safe place for children after school. This program was reauthorized for six years as part of the education reform bill (P.L. 107-110). A new provision in the law allows community-based organizations, including many CWLA members, to be direct recipients of 21st Century funds. Applications from community-based organizations must be submitted jointly with a local educational agency.

The 21st Century Community Learning Centers program awards grants to plan, implement, or expand projects that provide safe, drug-free, and supervised afterschool, weekend, or summer havens for children, youth, and their families. Projects can benefit the educational, health, social services, cultural, and recreational needs of the community. The program is designed to target funds to high-need rural and urban communities that have low-achieving students and high rates of juvenile crime, school violence, and student drug abuse, but lack the resources to establish afterschool centers.

Runaway and Homeless Youth
The Runaway and Homeless Youth programs received a $19 million increase, bringing total funding to $103 million. These programs provide funds for community-based agencies to prevent homelessness among young people and provide supports and opportunities to youth experiencing homelessness.

These funds support six programs:
  • Basic Centers program to provide temporary shelter
  • Transitional Living programs for services and shelter for up to 18 months
  • Street Outreach for sexual abuse prevention
  • National Runaway Switchboard to provide crisis hotline services
  • Training and Technical Assistance for grant awardees
  • Research into homelessness issues

The FY 2002 law (P.L. 107-116) that funds the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), encourages HHS to serve parenting youth through the Transitional Living program. The law encourages HHS to work with training and technical assistance providers to ensure that the Transitional Living programs have the capacity to meet the needs of the maternity youth population.
Child Care and Head Start
Head Start funding was increased by $339 million, bringing total funding to $6.538 billion. Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) funding was increased by $100 million, bringing total funding for that program to $2.1 billion. The Administration had proposed an increase of $200 million for CCDBG, but had also proposed using that increase and an additional $200 million (for a total of $400 million) to create a new voucher program that could only be used for afterschool care. This proposal was not adopted. Child care advocates saw this as a cut in real funds, since it was restricted to vouchers and could be used only for afterschool care. The proposal was viewed as a limitation on state child care programs' ability to fund their most pressing child care needs, such as expansion of current services or investments in care that may be a greater priority in a particular state, such as infant and toddler care.

Twenty-five million dollars was provided for the Early Learning Opportunities Act, funded for the first time in FY 2001 at $20 million. The Administration had proposed eliminating this program, which provides resources to community collaboratives to build stronger, more responsive early childhood systems, including parent education and family support programs.

Education
A new Foundations for Learning Grants Program was approved as part of the education reform bill (P.L. 107-110). This program promotes school readiness through early childhood emotional and social development. It will help ensure that our most vulnerable young children acquire the social and emotional skills vital to success in school. Congress did not approve any funds for this program for FY 2002, however.

Health/Behavioral Health
Children and families in the child welfare system need access to a complete range of health services. For children with extensive health care needs, including abused and neglected children, children with HIV/AIDS, alcohol- and drug-exposed children, and children with mental health and emotional problems, the availability of accessible, affordable, quality health and mental health care services is essential for their healthy development and well-being. Following are health-related programs that received funding increases in FY 2002.
Maternal and Child Health Block Grant (Title V)
Funding was increased by $18 million, bringing total funding to $732 million. Title V helps develop service systems in communities to meet the critical challenges facing maternal and child health, including significantly reducing infant mortality, providing preventive and primary care services for children and adolescents, immunizing all children, reducing adolescent pregnancy, and preventing injury and violence.

Mental Health Services
Increased funding for FY 2002 for mental health-related services provided under the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will provide research-based, community-focused mental health services for the nation's most underserved and at-risk populations, including young children and their families. The Children's Mental Health Services Program received a $4.1 million increase, bringing total funding to $96.7 million. Also provided was a $13 million increase for the Mental Health Performance Partnership Block Grant (total of $433 million) and a $26.6 million increase for the Mental Health Programs of Regional and National Significance (total of $230 million). Funding for the National Children's Post Traumatic Stress Initiative was doubled to $20 million for the treatment of children and youth with post-traumatic stress disorder who have experienced or witnessed different types of trauma.

Ryan White AIDS Programs
The Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Program, which provides services to children, youth, and women affected by and infected with HIV/AIDS, received an increase of $103 million, for a total of $1.911 billion.

Substance Abuse
The most significant gains in health care funding for FY 2002 occurred in the area of substance abuse treatment and prevention. With most communities suffering from a fragmented service system for children and adolescents and extreme shortages of available substance abuse treatment and support services for children, adolescents, and their families, this increased funding will begin to improve accessibility and quality of treatment and prevention services. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Block Grant received a $60 million increase, for a total of $1.725 billion, Substance Abuse Treatment Programs were increased by $36.6 million (total of $291.5 million), and Substance Abuse Prevention Programs were funded at $198.1 million, up $23.2 million.

Family Planning/Abstinence Education
The Title X Family Planning Program received an increase of $11 million, bringing funding to $265 million. Providing contraceptive services and other preventive health care to millions of Americans, Title X family planning clinics are at the forefront of efforts to reduce rates of unintended pregnancy, sexually transmitted diseases (including HIV), breast cancer, and cervical cancer. A $20 million increase was also approved for Abstinence Education programs, bringing total funding to $40 million.

Abandoned Infants Assistance Program
The Abandoned Infants Assistance Program received a slight increase of $23,000, for a total of $12.5 million. This program provides demonstration grants for services to infants and young children who are medically cleared for discharge from acute hospital settings but remain hospitalized due to a lack of appropriate out-of-home placement alternatives.

National Violent Death Reporting System
Funds for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Injury Control Center to implement a National Violent Death Reporting System increased by $1.5 million over last year. This comprehensive, uniform reporting system would collect detailed information about violent death (homicides, suicides, and child abuse) throughout the United States. This information will help law enforcement, public health officials, policymakers, and violence prevention groups design prevention strategies to address violence as a multifaceted public health and criminal justice issue.
Housing
Funding was approved to provide 26,000 new Section 8 low-income housing vouchers. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will be able to designate a portion of these vouchers for the Section 8 Family Unification Program (FUP), which provides rental assistance to families to prevent children from entering foster care or to enable children to return from foster care. Young people, ages 18-21, who have left foster care after age 16, are also eligible to receive this housing assistance. In FY 2001, HUD designated 3,902 vouchers for FUP.

Economic Growth and Tax Reconciliation Act (P.L. 107-16)
Early in the year, Congress passed a $1.3 trillion tax cut to be phased in over 10 years. CWLA opposed enactment of such a large tax cut, due to the potential impact on new and sustained investments for children's services. CWLA did support some limited tax changes that were included in the final law that will benefit children. Of the total $1.3 trillion cost of the tax bill, the three tax changes, highlighted below, cost approximately $176 billion.
Extension and Expansion of the Adoption Tax Credit
CWLA had made recommendations to Congress to change the tax laws to better support the adoption of children with special needs. Many of these recommendations were ultimately incorporated in the new tax law.

The new law increases the tax credit for taxpayers adopting children with special needs from $6,000 to $10,000. This provision takes effect this tax year, 2002. Starting in 2003, the law also discards previous documentation requirements of qualified adoption expenses for special-needs adoptions. Due to the IRS definition of qualified adoption expenses, this requirement has kept many taxpayers adopting children from the public foster care system from taking advantage of the credit. This means that for tax year 2002, families adopting children with special needs will have to document expenses up to $10,000 to claim the credit. In 2003, however, a tax credit of $10,000 will be available to all families adopting children with special needs, without any requirement to document expenses.

The new law also permanently authorizes the nonspecial-needs adoption tax credit, which had been due to expire in 2001, increasing that credit from $5,000 to $10,000. The new law also extends eligibility of the full amount of the adoption tax credit to families with incomes up to $150,000. Families earning between $150,000 and $190,000 could be eligible for a partial credit. Under previous law, families making up to $75,000 were eligible for the full credit, and families earning $75,000 to $115,000 were eligible for a partial credit.

The new tax law also increases from $5,000 to $10,000 the amount an employee may exclude from taxable income when receiving a reimbursement from an employer-sponsored adoption program.

Expansion/Refundability of the Child Tax Credit
The new law increases the child tax credit from $500 to $1,000 per child by 2010. From 2001 through 2004, the credit increases to $600 per child.

CWLA strongly supported efforts to make the child tax credit fully refundable. After much debate in Congress, and due to the leadership of Senator Olympia Snowe (R-ME), the final law does include a provision to make the tax credit at least partially refundable. Under the new law, parents may receive a credit even if their federal income tax liability is eliminated by other tax credits, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit. This will help low-income families offset the impact of payroll and state and local taxes. The refundable credit is limited to 10% of a taxpayer's income that exceeds $10,000.

A fully refundable child credit would assist virtually all 66 million children younger than age 17. This figure includes 13 million children not eligible when the credit is not refundable. A fully refundable credit would lift an estimated 2 million low-income children above the federal poverty line. Although the impact of the partially refundable tax credit is much more limited, it will help several million children in working families.

Expansion of the Dependent Care (Child Care) Tax Credit
The maximum credit for dependent care expenses, including child care, was increased in the new law starting in 2003. The maximum percentage of expenses a taxpayer can claim for these child and dependent care cost was increased from the current 30% to 35%. The eligible expenses that this percentage can be claimed against rises from the current $2,400 per one child (and adult) to $3,000, and rises from the current $4,800 per two children (and adults) to $6,000. For example, starting in tax year 2003, tax filers may deduct 35% of their first $3,000 in expenses for the child care of one child or 35% of the first $6,000 in expenses for the child care of two children.

New Challenges Ahead

CWLA'S Key Priorities
A range of new challenges awaits the second session of the 107th Congress. Major reauthorizations are on tap for consideration, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (the federal welfare program) and the Child Care Development Fund. On November 30, CWLA submitted comments to HHS on these pending measures. Access these CWLA comments online at http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/tanf011218.htm.

Working with other child advocates, CWLA will continue to increase its advocacy efforts in 2002 to secure new investments for children and families. CWLA's key legislative priorities include
  • the Child Protection/Alcohol and Drug Partnership Act (S. 484/H.R. 1909),
  • the Younger Americans Act (S. 1005/H.R. 17),
  • the Act to Leave No Child Behind (S.940/H.R.1990),
  • the Social Services Block Restoration Act Grant (S.501/H.R.1470), and
  • the Child Protection Services Improvement Act (H.R.1371) to improve the child welfare workforce.
For more detail on these bills, see CWLA's advocacy page at http://www.cwla.org/advocacy.

Unfinished Business and Outstanding Issues
Budget/Tax
Congress will be engaged in budget debates throughout much of the year. This debate has changed dramatically since last year's unprecedented budget surplus. After four years of budget surpluses, the federal government is expected to run deficits in fiscal years 2002 through 2004--a reversal caused by economic downturns, the terrorist attacks, and the tax cuts enacted last year.

At the same time of growing deficits, President Bush's FY 2003 budget, which will be submitted to Congress on February 4, is expected to contain substantial increases in defense spending and homeland security, with little or no new growth in most other areas. Some in Congress have expressed interest in delaying implementation of some tax cuts to fund other needed services. President Bush has expressed his commitment to preserving the implementation of the tax cuts approved last year.

Juvenile Justice Reauthorization
In 2001, the House passed legislation to reauthorize the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (H.R. 1900 and H.R. 863). Similar legislation was also introduced in the Senate (S. 1174 and S. 1165); however, the Senate was not able to complete action. The Senate is expected to consider these measures early this year. After the Senate completes action, a House-Senate conference committee will meet to put together a final agreement.

In general, juvenile justice legislation under consideration by this Congress is an improvement over measures that Congress has considered over the previous four years. The current proposals are not as punitive and weighted toward incarceration. CWLA continues to have some concerns with the House-passed measures, which amend the circumstances under which a juvenile may be placed in an adult facility. The Senate bills do maintain protections contained in current law and also provide increased funding for delinquency prevention. For more information on the House-passed bills, see CWLA's website at http://www.cwla.org/advocacy/juvenilejustice.htm.

The Act to Leave No Child Behind
The Act to Leave No Child Behind (S. 940/H.R. 1990), sponsored by Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) and Representative George Miller (D-CA), was introduced May 23, 2001. It is a comprehensive bill that focuses on improving the lives of all children in the United States. The bill includes many CWLA recommendations.

The Safe Start section of the bill (Title VIII) proposes specific recommendations to improve the lives of children, youth, and families involved in the child welfare system. These provisions would provide the federal financial support for the right service at the right time for children and their families who have been abused, neglected, or are at risk of maltreatment. The bill expands permanency options supported by the federal government, including subsidized guardianship; continues the focus on outcomes for children; and provides an incentive for states to provide quality services.

The bill has 80 cosponsors in the House and 10 in the Senate. It is also endorsed by more than 930 organizations nationwide. CWLA will continue to support the provisions of the bill that streamline and offer improved services to vulnerable children and their families in the child welfare system.

Patients' Bill of Rights
Prospects for enacting a Patients' Bill of Rights seem to have improved over the recent congressional recess. The sponsors of the competing House and Senate bills now are talking as though a deal is imminent. The Patients' Bill of Rights, if enacted, would provide new patient protections under health insurance plans, including managed care.

The major disagreement between the House and Senate versions of a Patients' Bill of Rights continues to be about health plans' liability in insurance coverage disputes. The House bill put tighter restrictions on a patient's right to sue a health plan than did the Senate-passed version. Negotiating parties now believe a compromise may be reached early this year.

Mental Health Parity
During 2001, advocates attempted to expand the 1996 Mental Health Parity Act and establish mental health parity by requiring the coverage equal to medical and surgical care for all mental health conditions. In the waning hours of the congressional session last year, that effort proved to be unsuccessful when the Senate-passed measure was dropped from the final agreement on the bill that provides funding for HHS.

Progress was made, however, in bringing this issue to the attention of members of both the House and Senate. The law that provides FY 2002 funding for HHS (P.L. 107-116) contains language recognizing the devastating impact of mental illnesses on Americans from every walk of life and expresses widespread bipartisan support of mental health parity legislation in both houses of Congress. The law strongly urges the appropriate committees to convene hearings early in 2002 and undertake swift consideration of legislation to extend and improve mental health parity protections during the second session of the 107th Congress.

Medicaid
In reaction to increased pressure on state budgets, particularly their Medicaid budgets, Congress and the Administration may have to address a proposal to provide relief from the federal government due to the rising costs of the Medicaid program. As part of the economic stimulus package, consideration of which Congress may resume in January, states are seeking $5.5 billion in emergency relief to bolster their Medicaid programs. Medicaid is a joint federal-state program to provide health benefits to the poor and indigent. In the past year, Medicaid costs have risen 11%, fueled by an 18% increase in the cost of prescription drugs.

Congress may feel increased pressure to assist states in filling this gap in Medicaid funding. The question--and the danger for programs that serve children, youth, and families--is, in an era of deficits and tight budget constraints, where would those additional funds come from? CWLA will work to ensure that existing child, youth, and family programs are protected, and their funding not diverted for other purposes. Clearly, this will be an issue that will require close supervision and attention as the FY 2003 budget is debated.

Second Chance Homes
In 2001, Senators Kent Conrad (D-ND), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), and Pete Domenici (R-NM) introduced the Second Chance Homes Promotion Act (S. 1522) to support community-based group homes for young mothers and their children. The legislation, if passed, would provide for the creation of Second Chance Homes that are supervised, nurturing residences for teen mothers with no place else to go. In most cases, the teen's families of origin have histories of abuse, neglect, substance abuse, or other circumstances that make it impossible for the teen mothers to live at home.

In his 2002 budget, the President proposed $33 million for "maternity group homes for pregnant and parenting teens" as an add-on to the Transitional Living Program for Runaway and Homeless Youth. That funding was not provided for FY 2002. Congress is expected to consider S. 1522 this year to provide a new source of funding for Second Chance Homes.
As Congress focuses on national security concerns and economic challenges, we look forward to working with you to ensure that the needs of our nation's most vulnerable children, youth, and families are met.


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