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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 10: 3/9/2009   
Headlines

Sebelius Nominated to Become HHS Secretary, DeParle to Head Office of Health Reform

HHS Provides Link to State-by State Release of First Medicaid Funds

Congressional Committees Begin FY 2010 Budget Process

Senate Debates Completion of 2009 Budget

On the Line with CWLA, 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



Sebelius Nominated to Become HHS Secretary, DeParle to Head Office of Health Reform

On March 2, President Obama nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius (D) to become the next Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS). Sebelius has been Governor of Kansas since 2003; before being elected Governor, she served as Kansas Insurance Commissioner from 1994 to 2002. Her background as a state chief executive and a state insurance commissioner were key reasons why the President made this appointment.

Sebelius will fill a vacancy created when former Senator Tom Daschle withdrew his name from consideration due to tax controversies. Although Daschle had been slated to fill both the HHS role and a new health care advisory position within the White House, those two roles will now be split.

Obama has also announced the appointment of Nancy Ann DeParle to lead the newly established White House Office for Health Reform. DeParle is a former commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services and a former director of Medicare and Medicaid (what is now called the Centers on Medicare and Medicaid Services) under President Clinton.

Sebelius will now have to go before two Senate committees: Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) and Finance. Although HHS is the last Cabinet position that needed at least one appointment, it will be key to the coming health care and entitlement debates because it houses Medicare, Medicaid, most child welfare programs through the Administration for Children and Families, child care, Head Start, the Food and Drug Administration, the National Institutes of Health, the Office on Aging, the Surgeon General, and Public Health. With the HHS position on hold, the naming of heads in each of these areas also has been delayed.

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HHS Provides Link to State-by State Release of First Medicaid Funds

On February 23, President Obama announced that states would have access to the first two quarters of the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) available to them through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (P.L. 111-5) beginning February 25. This could account for more than $15 billion of the total $87 billion invested in the recovery package toward state Medicaid programs.

Soon after Obama's announcement, HHS posted a state-by-state chart detailing how the $15 billion would be disseminated to the states.

Medicaid is a joint federal-state program that provides health insurance to several vulnerable low-income populations, including children and youth in foster care. In tight economic times such as our nation now faces, when individuals lose jobs and employer-sponsored health insurance, Medicaid enrollment tends to increase. States, although their Medicaid spending is increasing, must balance their budgets, which can force them to cut vital health services. Money was included in the recovery package for Medicaid to help relieve states and ensure health services remain available.

The FMAP increase in the recovery package provides a 6.2% increase to all states and territories, with 65% of the funding distributed across the board, and an additional 35% available and distributed based on states' unemployment numbers. The bill has a maintenance-of-effort requirement on eligibility that states must meet before receiving the FMAP increase.

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Congressional Committees Begin FY 2010 Budget Process

Congress began work on the FY 2010 budget last week with key members of the Obama Administration fanning out to testify before several different congressional committees. The first step in the process is for Congress to adopt a budget resolution that must be agreed upon by both the House and Senate.

A budget resolution will not only dictate what each appropriation committee can spend in each area, but it can also dictate spending for years to come. When a budget resolution is debated, it cannot be filibustered in the Senate, one of the few legislative vehicles so protected.

Whether there will be a budget reconciliation process this year is uncertain. This legislative vehicle was created to allow Congress to enact long-term changes that would change or reduce spending. A reconciliation bill cannot be filibustered in the Senate, but, unlike the budget resolution, it is an actual bill the President must sign.

Past reconciliations have been used for deficit reduction legislation, but Congress also used the reconciliation process in 1995 and 1996 to pass welfare reform and the enactment of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. Congress could possibly use reconciliation for such priority issues as health care reform or global warming, but they must have an impact on reducing the deficit.

The Administration has outlined its broad spending priorities, and President Obama is expected to release a more detailed line-by-line FY 2010 budget early next month. The Administration is sharing greater views and details on how its FY 2010 budget and long-term plans will address the new Administration's priorities.

In their testimony before several committees, including the Budget Committees, the Senate Finance Committee, and House Ways and Means Committee, Treasury Secretary Tim Geitner and Budget Director Peter Orszag have emphasized key issues, such as the President's goal for health care reform and the proposed $630 billion long-term reserve fund that will help pay for health care reforms, as well as energy and global warming, budget reform, and future tax policy.

The Administration has touted the honesty of its budget proposal, pointing out the budget outline includes the cost of the war, the cost of disaster relief funding, and the extension of tax relief such as the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). Over the last several years, items such as the war, disaster relief, and the AMT have been passed as emergency supplemental spending, which allowed those items not to be counted against that year's budget caps, even though they all contribute to the size of the deficit.

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Senate Debates Completion of 2009 Budget

The Senate spent last week debating an omnibus budget for the remainder of FY 2009. The bill spends $410 billion for the remaining part of the government that was not funded last year. Congress had enacted appropriations for spending by the Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security Departments, while the rest of the government received flat funding through March 6, 2009. H.R. 1105 provides $19 billion more than the Bush Administration had originally proposed for this year's budget.

Most discretionary funds (annually appropriated) are for the Homeland Security and Defense Departments. The Bush Administration had been offering significant increases in these areas, while freezing spending in most of the rest of the federal appropriations. Congress rejected that approach, with the Department of Health and Human Services receiving a 4% increase and the Education budget 7%.

For the most part, funding for programs in 2009 did not increase significantly, but some programs received slight increases. Child care received a boost of $65 million, going to $2.1 billion, and Head Start received a boost of $235 million, going to $7.1 billion. Any funding increases are in addition to funding included in the economic recovery package (H.R. 1) passed earlier in February. CWLA has posted an updated budget chart on its website.

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On the Line with CWLA, 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.

The weekly program broadcasts Wednesdays, 2:00-2:30 pm ET. To listen to On the Line with CWLA, go to www.blogtalkradio.com/CWLA-Radio. The call-in number is 347/326-9411. Programming schedule subject to change.

This Week's Show

Wednesday, March 11
Raising Him Alone Campaign: More Support For Single Mothers Raising Boys


Coming Shows

Wednesday, March 18
Program TBA


Wednesday, March 25
Social Work: The Past, the Present, and What's Needed for the Future

Special guest: Katherine Briar-Lawson, State University of New York School of Social Welfare

For more information, visit www.cwla.org/newsevents/cwlaradio.htm.

On the Line with CWLA is a production of the Child Welfare League of America, Arlington, Virginia. Programming schedule subject to change.

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

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. CWLA is calling on Congress and the next President to reestablish this important policymaking tradition. The time to act is now. Your support and involvement are crucial.

You can support this effort by going to www.cwla.org/advocacy/whitehouseconf10.htm. There, you can sign on to support CWLA's call for a White House Conference in 2010, let your members of Congress know of your support, complete a survey about what areas you would like to see such a White House Conference focus on, see which members of Congress are cosponsoring the authorizing legislation for a White House Conference, learn how to get your board to pass a resolution supporting this effort, and more!

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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.

To subscribe to Legislative Alerts, visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/alerts.htm.

To subscribe to Children's Monitor, visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/monitoronline.htm.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

March 3: Federal agencies begin reporting use of recovery package funds
March 6: Continuing resolution for FY 2009 expires
April 1: Start of Child Abuse Prevention Month
April 15: Target date to pass Congressional budget resolution
April 6-17: Spring recess
April 25: Children's Memorial Flag Day
May 3: Federal agencies begin reporting allocations of entitlement funds under recovery plan
May 15: Detailed agency financial reports under recovery plan released
Target date for House to begin passage of 12 appropriations bills
May 20: Competitive grants and contracts available under recovery plan
June 27: Target date for House to complete work on appropriations


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