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

   
   
Vol. 22, Issue 13: 3/30/2009   
Headlines

HHS Releases Guidance on Medicaid Funds from Recovery Package

House, Senate Work on Their Own Budget Resolutions

Senate Approves National Service Bill, House-Senate Conference Meeting Next

Key Senators Reintroduce Juvenile Justice Legislation

HHS Secretary Last Position to Be Filled

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



HHS Releases Guidance on Medicaid Funds from Recovery Package

Last Wednesday, March 25, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released guidance on compliance with requirements for drawing down Medicaid funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA, P.L. 111-5) to all states and territories.

ARRA provides $87 billion toward state-run Medicaid programs in the form of an increased Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP). Should a state or territory meet the requirements in ARRA, it can receive a 6.2% increase to its FMAP, retroactive to October 1, 2008, through December 31, 2010. To receive the additional Medicaid money, ARRA requires a state to ensure "eligibility standards, methodologies, or procedures" under its Medicaid state plan, Medicaid waiver, or demonstration program are no more restrictive than those in place on July 1, 2008.

The intent is to protect to the greatest extent possible Medicaid beneficiaries from losing access to needed services. HHS's guidance explains that to receive the increased FMAP, states must attest, for example, that they have not eliminated any eligibility groups or subgroups, instituted or increased premiums, or enacted more restrictive eligibility determination or redetermination processes. Drawing down the FMAP funds represents the state's attestation it has met the law's requirements; the state need not send written confirmation.

If a state has restricted eligibility, it can reverse the restrictions and still be eligible for the increased FMAP. If the state restores eligibility by June 30, 2009, and notifies the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) in writing, it will receive the increased FMAP retroactive to October 1, 2008. If the state does not restore eligibility until after June 30, 2009, its FMAP increase will only be prospective beginning with the next calendar quarter. HHS's guidance notes the increased FMAP is not available for eligibility expansion populations added after July 1, 2008, unless the state can demonstrate the standard was enacted in state law by July 1, 2008, or that it was pending.

Of ARRA's FMAP money, $15 billion was deposited in special accounts beginning February 25 and thus is already available for states to draw down. This $15 billion accounts for the first two quarters of FMAP funding provided under the law; the rest will be released soon. To ensure transparency and accountability, ARRA FMAP funds must be tracked and reported separately to CMS, and each state must submit a report to HHS no later than September 30, 2011, describing how the additional FMAP funds were spent. HHS's guidance ensures CMS is working with states to ensure they can meet ARRA eligibility requirements to access the much-needed Medicaid funds.

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House, Senate Work on Their Own Budget Resolutions

Late last week, the House and Senate Budget Committees approved their respective versions of a budget resolution. The House bill is closer to President Obama's overall goals than is the Senate's bill. For FY 2010, the House resolution would allocate $7 billion less in discretionary spending than the President has asked for, whereas the Senate proposes $15 billion less.

The House resolution provides for a reconciliation process to pass health insurance and education reforms. The Senate bill does not include reconciliation instruction, which means a health insurance reform proposal, as well as other presidential proposals, such as a cap and trade system on energy policy and changes to student loans, could be stopped by a vote of 40 Senators. Both houses are expected to debate and pass the resolutions this week

The resolution process, when followed, outlines the broad totals of spending for the coming year and sets limits on spending for the coming 5-10 years. The biggest sticking point between the two versions of a resolution will be over reconciliation. Senate Republicans are opposed, as are some Democrats, including Budget Chair Kent Conrad (D-ND) Finance Chair Senator Max Baucus (D-MT).

Other Democrats in both the House and Senate, however, support reconciliation strongly, and they may get an assist from the White House. Reconciliation has been used in recent years to pass legislation, including in 2005 when legislation made changes to Medicare and Medicaid and reauthorized TANF, in 2003 for President Bush's tax cut proposals, and in 2001 for President Bush's first tax-cut package.

After completing debate on their respective resolutions this week, both the Senate and House will take their spring recess through April 17. They are expected to negotiate their differences over this break and come together over a single resolution when they return. This is actually the first substantial break Congress has taken since the start of the 111th Congress on January 3.

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Senate Approves National Service Bill, House-Senate Conference Meeting Next

On Thursday March 26, the Senate passed its version of national service legislation, the Serve America Act, S. 277, by a vote of 79-19. The legislation expands significantly national service programs. The previous week, the full House approved its bill, the GIVE Act, H.R. 1388, by a vote of 321-105. The next step in the process is for a House-Senate conference committee to work out the differences between the two bills.

The Senate adopted an amendment by Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) to add programs for mentoring foster youth to the list of national service programs eligible for assistance. The legislation would cost approximately $6 billion over the next five years. Both would expand 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 become eligible. They also seek to focus more service work on pressing challenges, including addressing the drop-out crisis, safeguarding the environment, and others. Both bills enjoy broad bipartisan support.

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. The GIVE Act includes a similar section, creating a Social Innovation Fund to provide seed money and scale up innovative and evidence-based efforts in the nonprofit sector to address social problems.

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Key Senators Reintroduce Juvenile Justice Legislation

On March 24, Senators Pat Leahy (D-VT), Arlen Specter (R-PA), Herb Kohl (D-WI), and Richard Durbin (D-IL), introduced juvenile justice legislation similar to the bill passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee at the end of the last Congress. Leahy chairs the Judiciary Committee, and this bill is expected to pass the committee again in the next few weeks. From there, passage in the full Senate could soon follow.

This legislation, the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act of 2009, S. 678, would reauthorize and make significant improvements to federal law. It builds on efforts begun with the last reauthorization in 2002 to bring child welfare and juvenile justice systems together to improve outcomes for children and youth through improved coordination, procedures, and protocols.

The legislation would extend the requirement to remove juveniles from adult jails by making it applicable for the first time to juveniles held pretrial, whether charged in juvenile or adult court. It would strengthen the provisions regarding disproportionate minority contact by expecting states to take data-driven steps to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in the juvenile justice system, and to evaluate and publicly report their progress.

The bill also would strengthen the deinstitutionalization-of-status-offenders requirement by asking all states to phase-out and fully eliminate use of the Valid Court Order Exception, which causes nonoffending youth/status offenders to be locked up. In addition, the legislation would encourage states to eliminate dangerous practices that are harming youth in confinement and promote adoption of best practices and standards.

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HHS Secretary Last Position to Be Filled

Now that the Senate has confirmed Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, the remaining cabinet position awaiting approval is that of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). President Obama has nominated Kansas Governor Kathleen Sebelius, and she has been making Senate visits. At the end of last week, however, no confirmation hearings had been scheduled.

Sebelius will come before two Senate committees, Finance and Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions; the Finance Committee will actually vote on her nomination. She has publicly indicated much of her Senate conversations have revolved around health care reform.

Until the top position is filled, much of HHS is being supervised by career officials, including the Administration for Children and Familie, which administers child welfare, child care, Head Start, TANF, and several other key human service programs.

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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, April 1
National Girl's Health Screen Project for Girls in Juvenile Detention Facilities


Coming Shows

Wednesday, April 8
TBD


Wednesday, April 15
The Impact of Child Abuse and Neglect on the Community


Wednesday, April 22
The Impact of the Economic Downturn on the Delivery of Services: The Perspective of Public Agency Commissioners
(one-hour special)

Wednesday, April 29
The Impact of the Economic Downturn on the Delivery of Services: The Perspective of Private Agency CEOs
(one-hour special)

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

April 1: Start of Child Abuse Prevention Month
April 6-17th: Congressional Spring Recess
April 15: Target date to pass Congressional Budget Resolution
April 25: Children's Memorial Flag Day
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 under recovery plan available
June 27: Target date for House to complete work on appropriations


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