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

   
   
Vol. 20, Issue 11: 3/12/2007   
Headlines

Senator Baucus Backs Significant Increase in SCHIP Funding

House Subcommittee Reviews TANF and Child Care Status

Supplemental Appropriations Delayed

SSI for Foster Children Introduced

Q&A Released Regarding New Grants Under Child and Family Services Improvement Act

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Senator Baucus Backs Significant Increase in SCHIP Funding

At a March 6 briefing organized by Health Affairs journal, Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) announced he will seek an additional $50 billion over the next five years as part of the reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). This is in sharp contrast to President Bush's FY 2008 budget proposal of only an additional $5 billion toward the vital program.

Created a decade ago, SCHIP helps states provide health insurance to children in working families who do not have employer-provided coverage, or who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. Some 6 million children are enrolled in SCHIP. In the short term, SCHIP faces a shortfall whereby 14 or so states will completely run out of federal funding by May 2007, and the program is set to expire September 30 of this year.

Baucus, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, said at the briefing there is "no comparable investment," and he has pledged to address both the short- and long-term problems SCHIP faces. Without providing specific details on sources, Baucus said he has been speaking with Senate appropriators to provide stopgap assistance and that Congress will act quickly.

In regard to the funding increase of $50 billion, Baucus cited broad bipartisan support for reauthorization of the program, and he said as Congress proceeds, certain principles must guide legislators. Among them, there must be adequate funds to keep those currently enrolled covered, Congress must do everything it can to reach the 6 million who are eligible but not enrolled, quality must be improved, and we must not add to the number of uninsured.

An uphill battle looms in light of other fiscal demands on Congress, but Baucus pledged that "we have to find a way to pay for it, and we will find a way."

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House Subcommittee Reviews TANF and Child Care Status

On March 6, the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support held a hearing on changes in programs serving low-income families. The focus of the hearing was on Deficit Reduction Act (DRA). Congress passed and the President signed DRA into law in February 2006, including reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. DRA aimed to reduce the federal budget deficit at the expense of federal programs, including some that serve children and working poor adults.

Panelists included Sidonie Squier, Director, Office of Family Assistance, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); Robin Arnold-Williams, Secretary, Washington State Department of Social and Health Services; David Hansell, Acting Commissioner, New York State Department of Temporary Disability Assistance; Nancy Ford, Administrator, Nevada Division of Welfare and Supportive Services; Mary Dean Harvey, Director, Georgia Department of Human Resources, Division of Family and Children; and Bruce Wagstaff, Director, Sacramento County Department of Human Assistance.

Subcommittee Chair Jim McDermott opened the hearing by indicating the declining number of child care slots assumed in the Bush Administration's FY 2008 budget is problematic. According to the Administration's budget projections from 2002 to 2012, 445,000 child care slots will be lost. Although Squier said, "DRA reauthorized the TANF program through fiscal year 2010, with a renewed focus on work, program integrity, and strengthening families through marriage promotion and responsible fatherhood," some subcommittee members agreed DRA negatively affected state and local departments. Specific problem areas for state and local agencies include the lack of flexibility as to what counts as work participation, the amount of time required to comply with work participation, inadequate amount of funding for child care assistance, and a lack of reinvestment of maintenance of effort dollars.

Harvey cited minimal problems implementing the TANF final rule in her state. In particular, she said Georgia successfully consolidated 71 days of processing child support into just one day. Other panelists affirmed that processing child support is much different than other TANF final rule mandates, such as complying with work participation rates (50% work participation compliance for single parent families, and 90% compliance for two-parent families), which have created real challenges for states. Moreover, state agency administrators also seemed to feel the new TANF requirements have produced unintended consequences, including fostering "break-ups" in the family structure to meet program requirements.

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Supplemental Appropriations Delayed

Consideration of a supplemental spending request was delayed in the House of Representatives until this week due to controversy about how to craft the funding request for the war. The supplemental will allocate approximately $100 billion for the war in Iraq but is also expected to include some limited domestic spending provisions--most notably $750 million to address the current shortfall in SCHIP (see our lead article, above).

The supplemental has taken longer to move since House leadership is attempting to craft language around how to link the additional war spending to the Administration's policy on the war and possible timetables on troop withdrawals. The delay in the supplemental is also delaying activity on a budget resolution for the FY 2008 budget.

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SSI for Foster Children Introduced

On February 15, Representative Pete Stark (D-CA) introduced legislation to require states to determine foster children's possible eligibility for Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or disability benefits under Social Security. The bill would direct states to have a process to screen for such eligibility and to have plans for collecting such funds for foster children. The bill would also exempt assets collected from the SSI and foster care benefit calculations.

Some states already make these determinations for children in foster care and use the funds to offset foster care costs. Such practices were upheld in a 2002 Supreme Court ruling in involving Washington State, in what is referred to as the Keffler case. How much child welfare funding is drawn from SSI and disability funds is unclear. A 2004 Urban Institute survey indicated 31 states could report collecting $95 million in this way. Advocates have been split on the issue between wanting more funds for children in care and not wanting to sap funds from an already under-funded system.

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Q&A Released Regarding New Grants Under Child and Family Services Improvement Act

A new resource guide has been developed that examines new grants available under the Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006 (P.L. 109-288). The guide, Questions & Answers (Q&A), was developed by CWLA and other groups, including the American Public Human Services Association, the Center for Law and Social Policy, the Children's Defense Fund, the Legal Action Center, the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors, and the Rebecca Project for Human Rights.

The Child and Family Services Improvement Act of 2006, which reauthorized the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program, targeted $145 million over five years for competitive grants for substance abuse prevention and treatment activities for children in out-of-home care, or at risk of placement in care as a result of a parent's or other caregiver's methamphetamine or other substance abuse. Responding to significant research that quality prevention and intervention can have a positive effect on both children and families, these grants are to be awarded to regional, collaborative partnerships of public and private agencies and programs and services that will provide activities designed to increase the safety, permanence, and well-being of these children. HHS's Administration for Children and Families will issue the formal announcement and request for proposals most likely this spring.

The Q&A is intended to stimulate organizations and agencies to begin planning and forming regional partnerships so they will be well-prepared to apply for grants under the act. The Q&A includes essential information, such as the types of activities supported by these new funds, eligibility requirements, and application requirements. View the Q&A in full.

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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.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

March 14-23: House and Senate committees' target to debate 2008 budget resolution
April 2-9: Senate Spring Recess
April 2-13: House Spring Recess

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