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May 24, 2002
Congress in Recess. Contact Your Senators at Home about Welfare and Child Care Reauthorization.
Congress has adjourned for the Memorial Day Recess and will return on June 3. When Congress returns to Washington, the Senate will consider welfare and child care reauthorization. Now is an excellent time to meet with your U.S. Senators at home to influence their decisions on important legislation that affects vulnerable children, youth, and their families.
ACTION REQUIRED: Call or meet with your U.S. Senators at their offices in your state. Use CWLA Kids' Advocate Online to find out how to contact your Senators in their state offices. To call a congressional office in DC, dial 202/224-3121 and ask for your Senator's office.
MESSAGE: Ask your U.S. Senators to support legislation that will:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program
- Increase TANF funding by the rate of inflation over the next five years. Funding for TANF has remained flat since 1996. Without an increase, it will lose 22% of its value by FY 2007. Even though caseloads have declined, TANF inadequately funds the services necessary to help support low-income families making the transition to self-sufficiency.
- Recognize that substance abuse is a barrier to employment and provide up to six months of substance abuse treatment services as work activity for TANF recipients.
- Continue to give states flexibility to target services and provide education and training to single mothers. TANF recipients should continue to be obligated to adhere to the current work requirements of 30 hours per week.
- Reject the broad authority contained in recently passed House legislation (H.R. 4737) that allows the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Education, Housing, and Agriculture to waive any rules for programs such as child care, food stamps, public housing, and TANF. This "superwaiver" authority could shift federal funding and effectively lead to block grants for many programs. Under this proposal, states could request waivers to reduce payments to child care providers by no longer using a market-based rate and child care quality set-asides could be eliminated. This new authority could also undermine the protections in current law for children and families in many programs, with little opportunity for input or oversight. These protections should not be waived.
- Child Care
- Increase funding for child care by no less than the $11.2 billion included in legislation (S. 2070) introduced by Senators Bingaman (D-NM) and Kerry (D-MA). Regardless of whether work requirements are increased in TANF, child care funding needs to be increased to provide more child care services to more families while also improving the quality of those services. Currently, less than 1 in 7 of eligible children receive child care assistance.
- Support legislation (S. 2117) introduced by Senator Dodd (D-CT) that will increase the child care rates paid to providers by increasing the market rate. Parents will never have real access to quality care if child care providers do not receive adequate reimbursement. For a detailed summary of S. 2117, go to www.cwla.org/advocacy/cc2117summary.htm.
- Support provisions in S. 2117 that will help develop the child care workforce. Until there is better training, wages, and access to education and career development we cannot improve the quality of child care for the more than 14 million children under the age of 6 and millions more of school age who are in some type of child care arrangement every day.
- Social Services Block Grant
- Increase funding for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) to $2.8 billion, the level agreed to in 1996. SSBG is a significant source of federal funds for adoption, foster care, and child protection services.
On May 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation (H.R. 4737) which reauthorizes the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, the Child Care and Development Fund, and abstinence education. The House-passed bill falls short of what is needed to help low-income families move out of poverty and better support their children. Review a summary of H.R. 4737 at www.cwla.org/advocacy/tanf4737summary.htm and CWLA President/CEO Shay Bilchik's statement on the House action at www.cwla.org/execdir/edremarks020516.htm. Our focus now turns to the Senate.
The Senate action will likely start early in June in the Finance Committee where it is expected that Chairman Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Charles Grassley (R-IA) will introduce legislation. At the same time, the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee will begin debate on a child care reauthorization proposal. Senator Dodd's bill, S. 2117, will serve as the starting point for this discussion.
The House-passed bill (H.R. 4737) incorporates President Bush's welfare reform proposals. The bill:
The House rejected, along party lines, an amendment to H.R. 4737 by Congressman Ben Cardin (D-MD) that would have increased TANF funding by the rate of inflation over the next five years and increased funding for child care by $11.2 billion. Recognizing that substance abuse is a barrier to employment, the amendment would have also allowed up to six months of substance abuse treatment services to be considered as a work activity for TANF recipients.
- freezes TANF funding for the next 5 years;
- increases work requirements for single mothers to 40 hours per week;
- reduces state flexibility to provide education and training to TANF recipients;
- offers a small child care increase of only 4% next year with no additional funds guaranteed for the following four years; and
- gives broad authority to the Secretaries of the U.S. Departments of Health and Human Services, Labor, Education, Housing, and Agriculture to waive any rules for programs such as child care, food stamps, public housing, and TANF. For example, under such authority states could choose to eliminate child care quality set-asides and market rate requirements under their child care programs.
For more information, contact John Sciamanna, CWLA Senior Government Affairs Associate, at 202/639-4919 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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