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

   
   
Vol. 19, Issue 35: 9/4/2006   
Headlines

Congress Has Short Calendar Before Election Break

Census Shows Increase in Uninsured, No Progress Reducing Child Poverty

CWLA Submits Comments on TANF Regulations

Status of FY 2007 Appropriations

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Congress Has Short Calendar Before Election Break

Congress returns September 5 to what is expected to be a very short fall session. The House and Senate leadership have indicated they want to be out for the campaign season by September 29. It is all but certain Congress will not finish the appropriations for 2007 fiscal year that begins October 1. Instead it is likely to pass appropriations for the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security, and possibly one or two other areas. The remaining federal departments will have to be funded with a continuing resolution that will keep the government running temporarily, likely into late November or early December. After the elections, members are likely to return in mid-November and wrap all remaining 2007 appropriations into an omnibus bill. See below for more information on appropriations.

The one outstanding child welfare issue is reauthorization of the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program (PSSF). The House and Senate have passed two very different bills (H.R. 5640 and S. 3525). The biggest difference is in how the bills designate a $40 million allocation of funding, added to PSSF earlier this year. The Senate bill earmarks the funds for competitive grants that address methamphetamine abuse, whereas the House bill provides the $40 million to states only if they offer data and policies directed at monthly visits to foster children.

What compromise will emerge after negotiations is unclear. At the same time, PSSF faces a potential cut of $14 million in the Senate appropriations bill, which would bring PSSF funding for its four service areas (adoption support, family preservation, family support, and family reunification) down to $380 million.

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Census Shows Increase in Uninsured, No Progress Reducing Child Poverty

The U.S. Census Bureau on August 29 released a new report, Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2005. The report is based on the Annual Social and Economic Supplements to the Current Population Survey. This latest report is of particular importance to CWLA, as it contains updated information on poverty and health insurance affecting American children and families.

One the most distressing factors about the data is that in 2005 children made up a disproportionate part of the U.S. population in poverty. Children represented 34.9% of the people in poverty but only 25% of the total population. For children younger than 18, the new Census data showed no statistically significant change in the poverty rate (17.6% and 12.9 million)--meaning that children were and continue to be overrepresented in the population in poverty.

Of related children younger than 6 living in families with female householders with no husband present, 52.9% were in poverty; their counterparts in married-couple families made up only 9.9% of those in poverty.

The report also examines average median household income by race. African Americans held the lowest median household income, at $31,140. The median household income for Hispanics was $35,467; for non-Hispanic whites, $50,677. Asian Americans held the highest median household income at $59,877.

The distribution of wealth among races in the Census data signifies further inequity. One could extrapolate that the number of children from diverse racial backgrounds who are disproportionately represented in the child welfare system may be relative to inequities in the distribution of wealth among racial communities.

The report also included new figures on health insurance coverage in the United States. The percentage of uninsured Americans increased from 15.6% in 2004 to 15.9% in 2005. The new Census data reflects further erosion in the rate of employer-sponsored health insurance, which decreased from 59.8% in 2004 to 59.5% in 2005. These trends appear even more significant when viewed over a longer period. The significant increase in the percent of uninsured Americans--up 1.3% from 2001--is likely related in large part to the substantial 3.1% decline in employer-sponsored health insurance over the same period.

In addition, the percentage and number of children without health insurance increased for the first time since 1998--from 10.8% in 2004 to 11.2% in 2005. Children in poverty were more likely to lack health insurance, with an uninsured rate at 19.0% in 2005. In previous years, declines in employer-sponsored coverage for children were offset by increases in the number of children covered through Medicaid and the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). The current figures are especially alarming considering that larger declines in children's health coverage through Medicaid and SCHIP now loom for 2007, as 17 states face federal funding shortfalls in the SCHIP program in the upcoming fiscal year and new Medicaid citizenship documentation requirements present challenges to enrolling children in the program.

CWLA will continue to monitor these issues, as SCHIP comes up for reauthorization in 2007 and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services considers regulations to implement new Medicaid citizenship documentation requirements.

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CWLA Submits Comments on TANF Regulations

On August 28, CWLA submitted comments on the interim final regulations for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Congress reauthorized TANF in February; these regulations implement the changes enacted under the reauthorization.

Congress increased the work requirements under TANF by requiring states to meet higher targets unless they reduce their caseload more than it has been reduced since the original TANF was passed in 1996. The regulations restrict states' ability in structuring their TANF work requirements and programs, and many advocates argue the regulations will only add to the difficulties some states face as they try and move more families into new work programs.

The regulations narrow the states' ability to use higher education and to include substance abuse and mental health treatment programs as part of their work programs. CWLA specifically addresses these concerns in its comments. TANF reauthorization has also created concerns in regard to a lack of child care funding. The last three years have seen a slight reduction in child care funding, and many child care programs have felt the effect of decreasing federal support. TANF reauthorization approved a slight increase in funding of less than 5% for the next five years, despite what is expected to be an increased demand resulting from new work rules.

Read CWLA's comments.

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Status of FY 2007 Appropriations

Following is the status of the 11 House and 12 Senate appropriations bills. Since the House and Senate have different subcommittee structures (11 versus 12 committees, respectively) there is some overlap in what some appropriations bills may fund. All bills have at least passed their respective appropriations committees. The 2007 federal fiscal year begins October 1.
  • Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (H.R. 5647, S. 3708)
    Passed by both committees, awaiting floor debate.

  • Agriculture (H.R. 5384, Senate Sub. H.R. 5384)
    Passed House, awaiting Senate floor debate.

  • Commerce, Justice, and Science (H.R. 5672, Senate Sub. H.R. 5672)
    Passed House, awaiting Senate floor debate.

  • Defense (H.R. 5631, Senate Sub. H.R. 5631)
    Passed House, on Senate floor.

  • District of Columbia (H.R. 5576, S. 3660)
    Passed House, awaiting Senate floor debate.

  • Energy and Water (H.R. 5427, Senate Sub. H.R. 5427)
    Passed House, awaiting Senate floor debate.

  • Foreign Operations (H.R. 5522, Senate Sub. H.R. 5522)
    Passed House, awaiting Senate floor debate.

  • Homeland Security (H.R. 5441/Senate Sub. H.R. 5441)
    Passed House, passed Senate in conference committee.

  • Interior and Environment (H.R. 5386, Senate Sub. H.R. 5386)
    Passed House, awaiting Senate floor debate.

  • Legislative Branch (H.R. 5521, Senate Sub. H.R. 5521)
    Passed House, awaiting Senate floor debate.

  • Military Construction (H.R. 5385, Senate Sub. H.R. 5385)
    Passed House, awaiting Senate floor debate.

  • Transportation, Treasury, and Housing (H.R. 5576, Senate Sub. H.R. 5576)
    Passed House, awaiting Senate floor debate.


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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.

Subscribe to Legislative Alerts.

Subscribe to Children's Monitor.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

September 5: Congress returns from summer recess
September 29: Congress begins fall recess
October 1: 2007 federal fiscal year begins
October 6: Original rarget adjournment
November 13: House lame duck session


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