Children's Monitor Online
A Public Policy Update from the Child Welfare League of America

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 31: 7/31/2006   
Headlines

PSSF Reauthorization Ready for Conference Committee

Senate Health Care Subcommittee Holds Hearing on CHIP at 10 Years

Senate Appropriations Bill Contains Few Spending Increases in Human Services

Child Safety Bill Goes to President After House Approval

Senate On the Job One More Week Before Break

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



PSSF Reauthorization Ready for Conference Committee

On July 25, the House of Representatives adopted by voice vote its version of a reauthorization of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program (PSSF), H.R. 5640. The Senate adopted its legislation, S. 3525, on July 13. The next step will be a conference committee between members of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee.

PSSF currently provides approximately $395 million a year to states to fund four programs: adoption support, family support, family reunification, and family preservation. States must allocate at least 20% of their funding to each of the four programs. PSSF funds include $305 million in mandatory funds and $89 million in discretionary funds. Mandatory funds do not need to be appropriated each year; discretionary or authorized funds do require an annual appropriation. Since 2001, full funding for PSSF—the authorized level—has been $505 million, a total it has never reached.

As a result of the Deficit Reduction Act, enacted in February, $40 million in mandatory funding was added to PPSF, raising funding from $305 million to $345 million. The House reauthorization bill designates the $40 million increase in mandatory funds for child welfare workforce initiatives tied to meeting a requirement that states ensure children in foster care receive monthly visits. The $40 million is awarded to all 50 states and the District of Columbia, but states would have to provide data to prove they are meeting the monthly visit requirement. The Senate version of the PSSF reauthorization would designate the $40 million for state and local grants targeted to methamphetamine abuse.

The House bill establishes a number of changes to the Child Welfare Services (CWS) program, Title IV-B part 1. Administrative funding would be limited to 10%, the plan requirements would be modernized, and states that had been able to spend some of these funds on foster care, adoption, and child care due to a grandfather clause from 1979 would be further restricted, with most of the CWS funds to be spent on child welfare services. CWS is currently funded at $289 million, with authorization levels set at $325 million. It has never received the full annual appropriation. The Senate bill does not make changes to CWS funding.

Both bills would strengthen access to funds for tribal governments by increasing and clarifying the amount of national funds set aside for tribes and by allowing tribes to form consortia to apply for grants. Other similarities include reauthorizing PSSF for five years, extending the Mentoring Children of Prisoners program, reauthorizing the Court Improvement program, and continuing the authorization of $200 million in discretionary funding for the main PSSF programs.

Now, the Senate and House will have to bridge some very different approaches. Chief among them are whether the $40 million earmarked for special purposes should be provided to all 50 states or only to states or agencies applying for the funds, and whether to spend funds on workforce development or methamphetamine abuse.

Meanwhile, the appropriations legislation in the Senate calls for a cut of $14 million in PSSF discretionary funds. This reduction, if enacted, would mean that PSSF funding would have been cut by $25 million over the past two years, and under the two reauthorization proposals, none of the $40 million would be available to make up for the loss, since it is earmarked for special purposes.

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Senate Health Care Subcommittee Holds Hearing on CHIP at 10 Years

On July 25, the Senate Finance Subcommittee on Health Care held a hearing on the State Children's Health Insurance Program, "CHIP at 10: A Decade of Covering Children." Panelists included Senators Edward Kennedy (D-MA) and John D. Rockefeller IV (D-WV), and Mark McClellan, Administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Statistics were presented on the success of the program; at the same time, concerns were expressed for the need for additional funding to address budget shortfalls in states and expand coverage. CMS estimates 17 states will experience a budget shortfall for FY 2007. Kennedy noted that 36 states would run out of funds required just to meet current needs by the year 2012 if funding is not increased. Both he and Rockefeller asserted the importance of adequate future funding to allow states to continue to expand coverage.

McClellan said the administration wants to work further with Congress in increasing enrollment, as 5.5 million children below 200% of the poverty level are not enrolled in SCHIP. In regard to funding, he noted that alternative financing mechanisms need to be explored, and asserted that billions of unspent dollars could be reallocated to states suffering financing shortfalls.

Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) expressed concerns about the administration's recent decision to impose new identification requirements to prove U.S. citizenship for Medicaid beneficiaries, and the impact this will have on children and, in particular, on children in foster care and newborn infants. He questioned the administration's decision, stating that foster care children and newborns should be exempt from these requirements.

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Senate Appropriations Bill Contains Few Spending Increases in Human Services

The Senate appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS), and Education (S. 3708), adopted by the full Senate Appropriations Committee July 20, contains few increases in vital children's services. In addition to the $14 million cut to PSSF highlighted here last week, other child welfare programs were frozen. Programs under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act stayed virtually the same, with state grants frozen at $27 million, Community-Based Grants continued at $42 million, and discretionary grants increased by $1.5 million to $27 million, with most of those funds designated through earmarks.

Adoption Opportunities remained at $26 million, as did the Adoption Awareness funding at $12.6 million. Title IV-E Foster Care and Adoption Assistance are expected to increase slightly more than $300 million, with most of that increase in Adoption Assistance. These two initiatives are entitlements and increase or decrease according to the number of eligible children.

Funding was also frozen in other areas, with child care still at $2.062 billion and Head Start at $6.7 billion. Both programs have experienced gradual erosion in funding, as the last several appropriations have imposed across-the-board cuts. Child care does receive an increase of $200 million on the mandatory side, rising to $2.9 billion as a result of the passage of a TANF reauthorization last February. The increased funding, however, is expected to be absorbed when states implement higher TANF work requirements.

The House Appropriations Committee has also passed a Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, H.R. 5647. Next steps are not expected until after the November elections.

The overall Senate Labor-HHS-Education package is $606 billion when entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid are included. The Appropriations Committee has jurisdiction over $143 billion in discretionary funding. This is only $1.3 billion above last year's funding, well below inflation and population growth, but $5 billion above what President Bush has requested. View a chart on funding for children's programs.

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Child Safety Bill Goes to President After House Approval

The House gave final approval to the Adam Walsh Child Protection and Safety Act of 2006 (H.R. 4472) last week. The bill now goes to the President after the Senate had acted the previous week. The legislation contains one provision requiring more than a half dozen states, including California and New York, to change the way they conduct criminal background checks of perspective foster and adoptive parents. Because the provision was placed in a much larger piece of legislation, it's very possible some members of Congress may want to reconsider the impact of this part of the bill.

For greater details on this provision and others, including language to create a national registry of substantiated cases of child abuse and neglect, and to mandate that juveniles be included on a national sex offender registry if they are adjudicated delinquent of aggravated sexual assault, see the July 24, 2006 edition of the Children's Monitor.

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Senate On the Job One More Week Before Break

The Senate has one more week of work before it joins the House for their summer break. The break will have Congress out of Washington until after Labor Day in September. Last week, Senate leaders indicated they too would join the House for an early election year departure by September 29. The Senate leadership, through Senator Mitch McConell (R-KY), also indicated it would expect to be in session in November, but McConell also rejected the possibility of a December session, as House Majority Leader John Boehner (R-OH) has indicated.

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CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

CWLA's Legislative Alerts provide breaking news, advocacy information, and critically important timely details of legislative battles. In an effort to broaden CWLA's advocacy network on behalf of children, anyone can now subscribe and receive the same information. This effort compliments CWLA's weekly electronic legislative newsletter, the Children's Monitor, which is also available free to any subscriber. We encourage you to register to receive these items directly and to pass on the information to other colleagues, family, and friends.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

August 5: Senate Summer Recess Begins
September 5: Congress Returns
September 29: Congress Begins Fall Recess
October 6: Original Target Adjournment
November 13: House Lame Duck Session


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