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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 11: 3/16/2009   
Headlines

2009 Budget Completed

Recovery Funds Start to Flow

Key House, Senate Leaders Emphasize Coordination on Health Care Goals

Request for Comments Issued for Tribal Provisions of Fostering Connections

Budget for 2010 and Beyond Takes Center Stage

Hearings Examine National Service Expansion

Guide on Public Policy for Infants and Toddlers Released

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

CWLA Legislative Alerts Available to Subscribers

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



2009 Budget Completed

After debate that started early last year, with the introduction of President Bush's final budget in February 2008, the Senate last Tuesday completed funding for the last 9 of 12 FY 2009 appropriations bills. The omnibus bill (H.R. 1105) includes spending for mostly domestic purposes and the State Department.

Final Senate approval was by a vote of 62-35. Three Democrats, Senators Evan Bayh (IN), Russ Feingold (WI) and Claire McCaskill (MO) voted against the bill, while eight Republicans broke ranks to join most Democrats to invoke cloture, which cut off debate and effectively amounted to a final vote of approval. Republicans who gave their support included Senators Lamar Alexander (TN), Christopher Bond (MO), Thad Cochran (MS), Lisa Murkowski (AK), Richard Shelby (AL), Olympia Snowe (ME), Arlen Specter (PA), and Roger Wicker (MS).

The omnibus bill spends $410 billion for the remaining part of the government that was not funded last year, when Congress approved appropriations for the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, and Homeland Security while providing flat funding for the rest of the government through March 6, 2009.

With H.R. 1105, Congress has provided $19 billion more than the Bush Administration had originally proposed for this year's budget. Most discretionary funds (annually appropriated) are for Homeland Security and the Defense Department. The Bush Administration had offered significant increases in these areas, while freezing spending in most of the rest of the federal appropriations.

For the most part, 2009 funding 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.

CWLA has posted on its website a chart outlining funding for key child and family programs, as contained in H.R. 1105.

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Recovery Funds Start to Flow

Funds for fiscal relief are just beginning to flow from the economic recovery bill, and as they do, the Obama Administration is creating more websites that provide state-by-state breakouts of various allocations. Last week, the Administration created a website for funds from the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Some of the first funds from HHS are for community health centers. Some funding requiring a state contribution or match. Some funds will be allocated to each state, while other dollars may be designated for local programs.

This Thursday, March 19, at 2:00 p.m. Eastern, CWLA will conduct a members-only conference call on child welfare spending and how some of the recovery funds may help particular states. Interested CWLA members should contact Cristina Fahrenthold at cfahrenthold@cwla.org.

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Key House, Senate Leaders Emphasize Coordination on Health Care Goals

Last week, three key House committee chairs sent a letter to President Obama indicating they would work together on health reform legislation. Representatives Charles Rangel (D-NY), Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee; George Miller (D-CA), Chair of the Education and Labor Committee, and Henry Waxman (D-CA), Chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee, promised they would coordinate their efforts and work together to pass similar legislation.

Each committee has jurisdiction over various parts of health care. Ways and Means controls Medicare. Energy and Commerce oversees Medicaid. Education and Labor controls various health care programs and requirements. At the same time, Senate Finance Chair Max Baucus (D-MT) outlined a schedule for his committee and indicated he wanted to have public information and an outline of his proposed changes sometime in late April. He and Senator Kennedy (D-MA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, also have indicated their committees will coordinate efforts.

Members of Congress are mindful of what happened during the 1993-1994 debate, when health care reform was divided between more than a half dozen health care committees and subcommittees, with some going in the direction of a single-pay plan and others going in the direction of an employer mandate. In the end, the Senate debated a measure that had been combined from committee versions into a single bill, whereas the House attempted to build a bill around a single-payer plan from the Education and Labor Committee.

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Request for Comments Issued for Tribal Provisions of Fostering Connections

On March 13, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a request for comments on the tribal sections of the Fostering Connections Act (P.L. 110-351). Under the law, starting on October 1, 2009, tribal governments or consortia may apply directly to HHS to run their own Title IV-E foster care, adoption assistance, and kinship care programs. Until now, tribal populations have been served through state programs, or through tribal programs only if the tribe has negotiated an agreement with the state.

HHS is seeking comment on what, if any, provisions and clarifications related to the Title IV-E program for directly funded tribes should be regulated. What information in regard to Title IV-E and Medicaid should a state make available to a tribe submitting a plan? Are guidelines needed beyond those that are already provided through the Indian Child Welfare Act?

HHS will also hold seven regional forums for tribes to collect feedback and direct comments. To read the request and address your comments, visit http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/E9-5505.htm. The request for comments is also on CWLA's website in PDF format. For more information and resources, visit Fostering Connections to Success: Resources in Seven Key Areas.

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Budget for 2010 and Beyond Takes Center Stage

Now that Congress has finished work on the FY 2009 budget, its full attention will turn to the FY 2010 budget. The President released a broad outline of that budget a few weeks ago, but the program-by-program details will not be ready until the end of this month or early April. In the meantime, various House and Senate committees continued to hold hearings on a budget resolution that will outline spending limits for the coming fiscal year as well as the president's priorities for the next several years.

The President held a meeting with some budget committee members of his own party who indicated the budget would not pass as he had outlined it. In response, President Obama indicated he would work with them to come to an agreement. Members of Congress, including some Democrats, have complained about proposed tax changes that would limit charitable deductions for wealthy taxpayers. Other Democrats have complained about some of the proposed restrictions on farm subsidies.

House and Senate Republican leaders indicated they would challenge the President's budget. In a joint appearance by Senate Conference Chair Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and House Republican Conference Chair Mike Pence (R-IN), Pence said, "Republicans in the House and Senate, with some degree of cooperation and collaboration, are going to challenge the assumptions and content in President Obama's budget and offer alternatives." Republicans have generally criticized the size of the budget and the President's priorities.

Congress has an internal process that requires it to adopt a budget resolution that is not signed by the President but must be agreed to by both houses. This resolution will not only dictate what each appropriation committee can spend in each area, but it also can 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 protected in this way.

The budget resolution may possibly require a reconciliation bill. A reconciliation bill cannot be filibustered in the Senate, but unlike the budget resolution, it is an actual bill the President must sign. Such a process could be used to pass health care legislation or global warming legislation. Some members of Congress are critical of such a possibility, arguing reconciliation was designed to address deficit reduction.

Although past reconciliations have been used for deficit reduction legislation, the mechanism was used in 1996 to pass welfare reform and the enactment of TANF and again in 2006 to reauthorize TANF as part of the 2005 Deficit Reduction Act. In addition, it has been used for tax cut legislation.

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Hearings Examine National Service Expansion

Last week, both the Senate and House moved ahead on legislation to expand national service programs. The House Education and Labor Committee approved by a wide margin (34-3) the Generations Invigorating Volunteerism and Education (GIVE) Act, H.R. 1388. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a hearing on its version of the bill, the Serve America Act, S. 277, and is expected to vote on the bill soon.

Both bills would expand significantly the number of volunteers covered under the National and Community Service Act, from the current 75,000, to 250,000, and increase the education rewards for which volunteers are eligible. They also seek to focus more service work on pressing challenges, including addressing the drop-out crisis, improving energy efficiency, safeguarding the environment, and others. Both bills enjoy broad bipartisan support and are in line with one of President Obama's top priorities.

The Serve America Act includes language to study ways the federal government can interact more efficiently with nonprofit organizations to achieve better outcomes. It also would create a Community Solutions Funds Pilot program to increase private and public investment in nonprofit community organizations that are effectively addressing challenges and, in particular, to replicate and expand such initiatives.

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Guide on Public Policy for Infants and Toddlers Released

A new guide, Early Experiences Matter: A Guide to Improved Policies for Infants and Toddlers, has just been released by ZERO TO THREE. The guide is designed to help policymakers craft policies to address pressing social issues. The guide includes 11 issue briefs on health, families, early learning, and building systems around these issues and populations. The guide pays special attention to infant-toddler data, evidence for investing in the infant-toddler policy, a strategic look at ways to get started, with sample policy options and state examples, and in-depth issue papers and policymaking tools. The Early Experiences Matter policy guide is available for download from the ZERO TO THREE website.

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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 funds
April 1: Child Abuse Prevention Month begins
April 6-17: Congressional Spring Recess
April 15: Target date to pass Congressional budget resolution
April 25: Children's Memorial Flag Day
May 1: National Foster Care Month begins
May 3: Federal agencies begin reporting on allocations of entitlement funds under recovery plan
May 15: Detailed agency financial reports under recovery plan released
May 15: 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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