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

   
   
Vol. 20, Issue 26: 7/2/2007   
Headlines

SCHIP Delayed Until After July 4 Break

Senators Reject SSBG Cut, Yet Administration Continues to Direct States to Plan for Cut

Nurse Family Practitioner Program Targeted for Support in Senate Bill

Senate and House Likely to Complete Action on Labor-HHS in July

Homeless and Runaway Youth Programs Get Boost

Senate Appropriations for Juvenile Justice Not as High as House

Transitional Medical Assistance for TANF Extended in Senate

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



SCHIP Delayed Until After July 4 Break

While negotiations on reauthorizing the State Childrenís Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) between some members of the Senate Finance Committee have been taking place for weeks, the committee will not formally mark up the legislation until after Congressís July 4 recess. Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) had originally envisioned early June as the target time period, but reaching agreement on explicit details and methods of paying for a possible expansion of the program have proven to be difficult. The clock is ticking, however, as SCHIP is set to expire on September 30 of this year.

SCHIP is a federal-state partnership that currently covers approximately 6 million children whose families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid and those who are either not offered or cannot afford private coverage. As Medicaidís essential companion that provides coverage for many lower income at-risk families and children who are transitioning out of foster care, CWLA urges members of Congress to keep the momentum going so that a timely and comprehensive reauthorization is reached. Congress pledged an increase up to $50 billion over five years in its budget resolution, and fulfilling that promise would permit many of the children who are currently eligible but not enrolled in the program to receive much-needed coverage.

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Senators Reject SSBG Cut, Yet Administration Continues to Direct States to Plan for Cut

On June 21, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted a bill that once again rejected the Administrationís proposed cut to the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). The Administration has proposed cutting SSBG from $1.7 billion to $1.2 billion. SSBG is a significant source of child welfare spending. In many states it is the primary source of funding for child protective services, and in some states it represents more than one-quarter of all child welfare spending. Technically, SSBG is a mandatory program with funding written into Title XX of the Social Security Act; yet the Administration has proposed the cut for two consecutive budgets in order to offset discretionary (annually appropriated) spending. The House Appropriations Subcommittee for Labor-HHS has also rejected the cut.

Despite this, for the second consecutive year the Administration has directed states to submit their pre-expenditures report, a report required on how states plan on spending their SSBG allocation, according to the Administrationís proposed cut. In a letter received on June 13, Daniel C. Schneider, Acting Assistant Secretary for Children and Families, told Christine James-Brown, President and CEO of CWLA, and Jerry Friedman, President of the American Public Human Services Association, that ďStates are asked to submit their reports using the Presidentís proposed funding level.Ē

The letter indicated adjustments would be made later once the final appropriation has been signed. State and local governments face a challenge because they may have to deal with state budget decisions on SSBG long before a bill is signed. The pre-expenditures report is filed by states 30 days before the start of the state fiscal year or 30 days before the federal fiscal year, whichever date is earlier. Counties are allocated funds directly from SSBG in some states.

Since SSBG is a mandatory program that, according to congressional practice, is only supposed to be increased or cut by the two authorizing committees (not by the appropriations process), a legal question arises about why the Administration handles SSBG funding in this way. The Ways and Means Committee holds jurisdiction over SSBG in the House, while the Finance Committee holds jurisdiction in the Senate. CWLA is working with members of Congress to address the issue.

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Nurse Family Practitioner Program Targeted for Support in Senate Bill

The Senate Appropriations committee has taken a different approach from their House counterparts in their support for home visiting programs. In the Senate Labor-HHS bill, the committee markup for child abuse programs under the Administration for Children and Families, includes funds for a nurse home visitation initiative as requested by the Administration. The committee specifies that the $10 million allocated to assist states in leveraging funding for home visiting programs be limited to nurse home visitation programs, and it directs HHS not to expand beyond these programs to other home visiting intervention models that could dilute the program. The Senate report language refers to evidenced-based research, indicating this model reduces child abuse and neglect, increases employment, lowers criminal activity, improves child health, and contributes to child cognitive development. Meanwhile, the House subcommittee report allows a $10 million funding increase for a range of research and evidenced-based home visitation models that include professionals, nurses, paraprofessionals, and trained volunteers from the community.

Home visiting programs refer several different model programs that provide in-home visits to targeted vulnerable or new families. These programs can operate as a stand-alone initiative or a part of a center-based effort. In addition to child abuse prevention, program goals include an increase in positive parenting practices, an improvement in the health of the entire family, an increase in the familyís ability to be self-sufficient, and enhanced school readiness for children in the family. There are several home visiting models, which include Healthy Families America (HFA), Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY), Nurse Family Partnership (NFP), Parents as Teachers (PAT), and the Parent-Child Home Program (PCHP).

Both Senator Christopher Bond (R-MO) and Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) have bills (S. 667 and H.R. 2343) that create dedicated federal funding to home visiting programs. Both bills support the range of programs by providing $400 million over three years for states to expand existing programs or create new ones. An additional $50 million would be authorized over a three-year period for local partnerships that create or implement home visiting programs targeted to English-language learning families. Finally, an additional $50 million would be targeted to reach military families through the Department of Defense. CWLA endorses both the Bond and Davis bills.

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Senate and House Likely to Complete Action on Labor-HHS in July

The Senate is now set with their appropriations bill for the Departments of Labor-Health and Human Services and Education. The full Appropriations Committee adopted the as-yet unnumbered bill on June 14. The House has not debated their bill in the full committee yet. The House process has been delayed by the earmark controversies and how such funding is to be dealt with. It is expected that in early July the House will act first in the full committee and then on the floor shortly after. That action by the House would likely trigger the Senate to act.

The Senate bill provides a 3% increase over current FY 2007, at $149 billion in discretionary funding, which also equates to 6% more than the Presidentís budget request. The Senate numbers, however, are slightly lower than the House bill, which spends $1.9 billion more than the Senate version. The White House has indicated the President would veto any bill that exceeds his request, despite the fact that the Presidentís budget would require cuts in many programs that have been frozen for several years.

The Senate bill puts less into some education programs than the House bill but increases funding beyond the Presidentís request. The Senate bill also does not fund some Administration programs at the same level as the House. The Senate bill provides less for abstinence education and the Compassion Capitol Fund than what the President had asked for or what the House committee has approved. The Senate subcommittee bill provided a $200 million increase for Head Start--more than the House version--but provided no increase in child care funding. View a comparison.

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Homeless and Runaway Youth Programs Get Boost

Appropriations for the Runaway and Homeless Youth (RHY) Act programs in the Senate Labor-HHS legislation received a welcome increase. Funding was set at $122.8 million, up from $102.8 in FY 2007. This is a higher appropriation than in the House-passed bill, which set funding at $112.8 million. RHY is the major federal law governing federal support for services to runaway and homeless youth. Funding provided through RHY supports community-based initiatives working to reunite runaway and homeless youth with their families and, when that is not possible, to provide transitional services to prepare the youth for adulthood. The difference in funding between the two bills will be worked out in negotiations in a conference committee over the next few weeks.

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Senate Appropriations for Juvenile Justice Not as High as House

The Senate appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over juvenile justice funding passed their legislation for FY 2008 last Tuesday. Funding for juvenile justice programs was set at $309.5 million, virtually the same as the level in FY 2007 at $308.7 million and much less than the House-passed bill, which set the funding at $346 million. This difference will need to be resolved in a conference committee, which will meet in the coming weeks.

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Transitional Medical Assistance for TANF Extended in Senate

On June 27, the Senate gave voice-vote approval to S. 1701, a bill to extend Medicaid coverage to people leaving the TANF program for work. The extended medical coverage for families leaving assistance was set to expire along with abstinence education funding after the first six months of the year. It had been partially extended when TANF was reauthorized in 2006. Families leaving TANF can continue on Medicaid for up to four months, even if their income exceeds Medicaid limits. The goal has been to assist adults in their transition as they move from welfare to work. At press time the House was expected to follow suit.

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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

June 30 to July 8--Congressional July 4 Break
August 6 to September 4--August Summer Break
October 1--2008 Federal Fiscal Year Begins


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