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

   
   
Vol. 21, Issue 12: 3/31/2008   
Headlines

Presidential Candidates Comment on Key Child Welfare Issues

Congress Back for Longest Period of the Year

Higher Education Act, Loan Forgiveness Still Undecided

Bipartisan Bill Would Block Restrictive Medicaid Regulations

CWLA Submits Testimony to Restore PSSF

CWLA Responds to Second Set of Questions by Subcommittee

New CWLA Radio Blog, "Speaking for America's Children"

Join CWLA's Call for a White House Conference on Children and Youth

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Presidential Candidates Comment on Key Child Welfare Issues

A review of the websites for the three main Presidential candidates offers interesting insights. CWLA looked through the candidates' posted position papers and press statements specifically on the issues of child abuse, foster care, adoption, youth at risk, home visiting, and child care. In the case of child care, we included Head Start, Pre-K, and subsidized child care.

These position statements, which we took verbatim from the candidates' websites, is on the CWLA website. CWLA does not support any one candidate, but is providing their stances for educational purposes. Perhaps a reporter may even review it and manage to ask a question or two in the upcoming debates.

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Congress Back for Longest Period of the Year

The House and Senate return to work this week in what will be the longest uninterrupted stretch of the year, barring an extended work period into October. Front and center for Congress will be agreeing on a budget resolution. Under the President's budget plan, many human service programs would almost certainly face cuts because most of the increase in his budget is for the non-war costs of the Defense budget and homeland security. The Defense budget is set at $515 billion in the President's plan; that is separate from any cost of the war (possibly over $100 billion) and any costs in veteran's benefits.

Once the 2008 budget totals are adjusted for inflation, the President actually underfunds domestic nondefense spending. Overall, the Senate budget resolution (S. Con. Res. 70) proposes an increase of nearly $22 billion more in discretionary spending than does the President, while the House budget resolution (H. Con. Res. 312) provides $25 billion more.

The key differences between the two resolutions is the likelihood of a reconciliation process, which is a parliamentary procedure designed to reduce overall spending. The most significant impact of the reconciliation process is that it cannot be filibustered by the Senate. The House provides a directive for reconciliation by the Ways and Means Committee dealing with Medicare, although reconciliation could take in more than just that program.

Another unavoidable discussion is over the fate of the Alternate Minimum Tax (AMT) and how or if it will be paid for. The AMT is an alternate way to pay income taxes, designed in 1969 to catch high-income citizens who were not paying income taxes due to their numerous deductions. Because of the complexity of its design, it has gradually caught up more and more middle-income families who also use various new tax deductions, such as the child tax credit. Congress has been passing amendments year by year that have generally cost $50 billion per year. The House resolution directs the Ways and Means Committee to fund $70 billion in tax savings to offset the cost of the AMT through 2013. The Senate does not require the AMT fix to be paid for.

Once the budget resolutions are decided, the various appropriations committees will begin work on their 12 individual appropriations. Many expect the bulk of the appropriations will be voted on, but final decisions may not be made until after the November election, when, presumably, the President-elect would have some influence on the process.

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Higher Education Act, Loan Forgiveness Still Undecided

One of the key issues Congress is close to resolving is the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Both houses have passed their own bills (H.R. 4137 and S. 1642). Congress passed a new college loan law last year, but the current discussion is on a reauthorization over the remaining parts of the higher education law.

Of particular interest to the child welfare community is section 425 of the House bill, the Loan Forgiveness for Service in Areas of National Need. One of the 13 categories of highest need are child welfare workers, defined as thosee who have obtained a degree in social work or related field with a focus on serving children and families, and are employed in public or private child welfare services.

Those who fits this definition can receive up to $2,000 per year for each of the first five years if they continue to work for such agencies. The Senate bill does not contain the same provision. If Congress agrees to the House language, it would still require an annual appropriation.

A final decision will be up to a conference committee, drawn from members of the House Education and Labor Committee and the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The conference committee is working through a long list of complex issues. The current reauthorization of the Higher Education Act runs out at the end of March, but Congress could pass another extension if it can't complete its negotiations by then. Ultimately, Senate members will make the final decision on whether the provision is included, since it the House has already passed it.

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Bipartisan Bill Would Block Restrictive Medicaid Regulations

Representative John Dingell (D-MI), Chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, which has jurisdiction over Medicaid, and fellow Energy and Commerce member Representative Tim Murphy (R-PA), have introduced the Protecting the Medicaid Safety Net Act of 2008, H.R. 5613. The bill would place a one-year moratorium on seven Medicaid regulations issued by the Bush Administration, including the Rehabilitative Services and Case Management/Targeted Case Management (CM/TCM) Services rules that CWLA has been working aggressively to stop.

The bill would also halt administrative action on rules affecting school-based administrative and transportation costs, governmental providers and graduate medical education, coverage of hospital clinic services, state provider tax laws, and appeals filed through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Congressional Budget Office estimates that, in total, these rules would reduce federal Medicaid reimbursement to states by nearly $20 billion over five years. A report recently issued by the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, after polling states, found a much larger fiscal impact. With 43 states and the District of Columbia reporting on at least some of the rules, the committee estimates the rules would reduce federal payments by at least $49.7 billion over five years.

Regardless of where the actual number falls, the rules represent a significant cost shift in a time of serious economic downturn--forcing states to shoulder a seemingly insurmountable financial burden or cut other important areas to continue providing these valuable services. Murphy explains, "The cuts to Medicaid target those who need help the most: children and the mentally and physically disabled...By eliminating preventative health care programs and assistance, there could be a devastating effect on the long-term health care of Medicaid patients. This would only lead to higher costs in the future, and put the health of millions at risk."

Another rationale behind imposing a temporary moratorium on the rules is to give Congress time to ensure the rules are in line with Congressional intent. The CM/TCM rule, for instance, is grounded in law--but many, including the National Governors Association and CWLA, believe it exceeds statutory provisions approved by Congress in the Deficit Reduction Act. Maine, Maryland, New Jersey, and Oklahoma have filed lawsuit against HHS alleging this.

CWLA urges its members to contact their representatives and ask them to cosponsor H.R. 5613. CWLA also continues to seek additional cosponsors on rule-specific moratorium legislation, such as S. 2578/H.R. 5173, which would impose a moratorium on the CM/TCM rule, and H.R. 4355, which would impose a moratorium on the rehab services rule.

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CWLA Submits Testimony to Restore PSSF

CWLA has submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Service, and Education (Labor-HHS) focusing on CWLA's priority of restoring the funding that has been lost over the past five years in the Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF). The request to the subcommittee is for an increase in discretionary funding from the 2008 level of $63 million to $100 million.

The testimony points out that of the 13 discretionary programs that target child welfare services, 11 have been cut and that the biggest funding cut is to PSSF. For FY 2008, PSSF was reduced to $63 million from the 2007 level of $89 million. The testimony also highlights the type of services PSSF addresses.

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CWLA Responds to Second Set of Questions by Subcommittee

On March 19, Jim Purcell, CEO of the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies in New York, responded on behalf of CWLA to a series of questions submitted by the House Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support as a follow up to his testimony on February 27 regarding the Invest in KIDS Act (H.R. 5466).

Subcommittee members were given additional time to raise questions they did not have an opportunity to pose during the hearing. The second set of questions focused on workforce issues and the potential impact of the Administrations Medicaid regulations. Read a copy of the questions and answers.

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New CWLA Radio Blog, "Speaking for America's Children"

On the Line with CWLA is a thought-provoking, interactive, live Internet radio program focusing on subjects, stories, and strategies of special interest to child welfare policymakers, providers, and practitioners. The program, devoted solely to discussions about the welfare of America's vulnerable children, features a forum where numerous points of view and voices of experience within the child welfare universe can be heard. To listen to On the Line with CWLA, go to www.blogtalkradio.com/CWLA-Radio.

The live program, hosted by broadcasting veteran Tony Regusters, is a production of CWLA that will provide a platform for CWLA member organizations, their staffs, its partners, and concerned citizens in the national community to share ideas and thoughts about critical issues that affect child welfare agencies, vulnerable children and teens, and their families.

The weekly subject-oriented, solutions-driven program will broadcast Wednesdays, 2:00-2:30 pm ET and feature indepth, timely discussions with leading child welfare experts, agents, and advocates; leadership and representatives from CWLA's member agencies; and local and national political figures working to improve child welfare and give a voice to child welfare professionals, providers, and practitioners nationwide.

Upcoming Shows

On the first three Wednesdays in April, CWLA will present a series of three programs to commemorate Child Abuse and Prevention Month:

April 2, Children Are Fragile...Handle with Tender Loving Care

This week's show calls attention to child abuse and neglect, a national tragedy that takes the lives of four children every day. Guest host Linda Spears leads special guests in a discussion about child abuse and what each of us can do to safeguard our nation's children from the cruelties of abuse and neglect.

And don't miss these coming shows for the month of April:

April 9: Call to Action Alert: CAPTA's Coming Up for Reauthorization
April 16: Remembering Children Lost to Abuse and Neglect
April 23: Family Matters: Kinship Caregivers Nationwide Convene at the Capitol
April 30: Broken Bonds: Children with Parents in Prison

The call-in number is 347/326-9411. Visit www.blogtalkradio.com/CWLA-Radio.

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Join CWLA's Call for a White House Conference on Children and Youth

Holding a White House Conference on Children will bring together a cross-section of policymakers, advocates, professionals (including the courts), and families and children directly affected by the child welfare system to create recommendations for policy and change. Much positive change has come from previous White House conferences for children, the last one being held in 1970. CWLA is calling on Congress and the next President to reestablish this important policymaking tradition, and the time to act is NOW.

Your support and involvement with this effort is crucial to its success. As experts in the field, we look to you for your leadership in asking Congress and others to support this important campaign for children.

Sign On in Support

CWLA is calling on members and supporters to sign on in support of a White House Conference on Children in 2010.

Pass a Board Resolution

If your organization requires you to pass a board resolution to officially support such an effort, CWLA has created a sample resolution to assist you in this effort.

Let Congress Know of Your Support

The League encourages you to send your resolutions and letters of support to your Congressional delegation. Without their support, a White House conference is not possible.

In keeping with CWLA's tradition of nonpartisanship, the letter has been sent to all presidential candidates in the two major parties. View the website, read the letter, and sign on to support the campaign.

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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

  • April 1: Start of Child Abuse Prevention Month
  • April 15: Target date to pass Congressional budget resolution
  • April 25: Children's Memorial Flag Day
  • May 15: Target date for House to begin passage of 12 appropriations bills
  • June 27: Target date for House to complete work on appropriations


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