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

   
   
Vol. 23, Issue 11: 3/29/2010   
Headlines

Universal Health Care Becomes Law of the Land

Key Children's Provisions

Home Visitation Receives Significant Funding

House Passes TANF Funds with Jobs Package

Senators Seek Expert Testimony on Education Experiences of Youth in Care

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Universal Health Care Becomes Law of the Land

On Thursday, March 25, the Senate and then the House completed action on a reconciliation bill that creates a national health insurance plan, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (P.L. 111-148). The House gave final approval with 220 Democrats delivering all the votes. In the Senate, three Democrats -- Ben Nelson (D-NE), Blanche Lincoln (D-AR), and David Pryor (D-AR) -- joined all but one Republican in opposition of that bill. One Republican, Senator Johnny Isakson (R-OK), did not vote. Some provisions will take effect between now and September (see "Key Children's Provisions" below), additional changes will take place at the start of next year, and the bulk of the changes will take effect in 2014. According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis total reductions in the number of uninsured will reach 1 million in 2012, 19 million in 2014, and 32 million by 2019.

The legislation also included changes to the nation's student loan program, converting all college loans to direct lending, eliminating banks from the federal loan system. The more than $60 billion in savings from that change will be reinvested into expanded Pell Grant student loans with additional funding put into deficit reduction. Although the loan change generates savings, revised budget projections by the CBO originally calculated last year went down and as a result the Early Learn Challenge Grants included in last year's bill was eliminated. The original bill, passed by the House last fall, would have provided $1 billion a year for the early learning grants to help coordinate child care, pre-kindergarten, and Head Start programs

Now that Congress has completed action on health care, they will take a break for the spring recess, with both houses returning in two weeks.

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Key Children's Provisions

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, P.L. 111-148, which was signed into law by President Obama on March 23, includes many key provisions that will improve the health and well-being of vulnerable children and families. This law will not only insure an additional 32 million individuals, but will also prevent insurance companies from denying care, and ensure that coverage is both affordable and adequate. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will also provide critical services to children and families in the areas of home visiting, mental health, prevention and wellness.

Soon after enactment some families will begin to find relief and be able to continue to cover their dependent children on their health insurance policies until the child's 26 birthday. The expansion of the adoption assistance program and adoption tax credit will help ease the financial burden for some families. For some of the more vulnerable children who are covered by CHIP, the law offers some reassurance of their coverage by maintaining CHIP through 2019, with funding through 2015. In future years Medicaid eligibility will be expanded to 133% of federal poverty level, and coverage granted to former foster youth under age 25. Youth exiting from care will be required to receive pertinent information regarding their health care needs while in transition and thereafter. There is also significant funding in the legislation for school based health clinics, abstinence and pregnancy prevention initiatives.

For more information on some of the provisions effective immediately, including those pertaining to vulnerable children and families, download CWLA's summary.

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Home Visitation Receives Significant Funding

The passage of The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, P.L. 111-148, creates a dedicated federal funding stream to support home visitation programs for the first time. Included in the law is a provision amending Title V of the Social Security Act, the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, strengthening and improving home visiting programs in addition to improving coordination of services for at-risk communities. Under the law, states choosing to apply must conduct a statewide needs assessment no later than six months after enactment (September 2010) that would identify communities with high concentrations of poor maternal and child health outcomes as well as the quality and capacity of existing programs or initiatives in the state. Eligible programs would have to meet certain outcome-related benchmarks in addition to addressing maternal and child health, including childhood injury prevention, school readiness, juvenile delinquency, family economic factors, and coordination with community resources.

The law authorizes $1.5 billion over five years to carry out this new grant program. While these grants are designed to fund a range of evidence-based home visitation programs for young children and families, priority funding would be dedicated to evidenced-based models with promising and new approaches being eligible for up to 25% of the grant funds. Finally, other entities, including tribes and nonprofit organizations, are also eligible to apply for grant funding so long as they meet the requirements of the grant program consistent with those applicable to the states. Nonprofits are only eligible to apply if a state has not applied or been approved by FY 2012.

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House Passes TANF Funds with Jobs Package

On Wednesday March 24, the House passed H.R. 4849, another job creation bill that includes $2.5 billion in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) relief funds. The overall bill includes a $13 billion bond proposal that state and local governments can use to fund infrastructure programs such as road and highway construction. In addition there are some small business tax credit incentives. The bill is paid for in part by some changes that attempt to collect taxes some businesses avoid through foreign-based operations.

TANF had received $5 billion in emergency funding as part of last year's economic recovery bill. What remains of the initial $5 billion total will expire on September 30 of this year. If this bill is enacted, funding will now be increased $2.5 billion and made available to states through September 30, 2011. The funding is targeted to provide families with short-term relief and to help provide subsidized jobs. The President had requested in his FY 2011 budget proposal a one-year extension of TANF with the $2.5 billion fund. This proposal is similar to what the Administration had requested, although if adopted, Congress will still have to reauthorize TANF. The House bill will now have to go to the Senate for further action after the spring break.

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Senators Seek Expert Testimony on Education Experiences of Youth in Care

Senators Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA), leaders of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, circulated a press release and letter last week urging the inclusion of foster youth views in the upcoming education reauthorization legislation. Ten other senators joined Grassley and Landrieu on the letter. As the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee holds hearings on the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (formerly designated the No Child Left Behind Act), the letter requests that youth in foster care be invited to testify about their educational experiences and their suggestions for reform. In a letter to the HELP Committee, senators pointed out, "Youth in foster care report multiple school changes as they move from placement to placement. Because they change schools so frequently, youth in foster care are more likely than their peers to underachieve academically, repeat grades, and eventually drop out of school. Youth who do not graduate are more likely to be unemployed, have no health insurance, be single parents, and rely on public assistance."

Landrieu specifically cites the invaluable influence of foster youth in passing the Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act, saying, "We must empower youth to educate Congress about their unique experiences in foster care and the obstacles they face. They help us make better policy decisions."

The Fostering Connections Act includes several mandates for child welfare agencies to follow in order to improve educational stability for children in care. Because the law does not place the same mandate on the school districts, there is an imbalance of awareness and resources to ensure proper cooperation and coordination that leads to successful educational experiences.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

March 28-April 11: Spring break for Congress
April 15: Deadline to adopt budget resolution
May 15: House may begin passing regular appropriations bills
July 3: Target date for House to pass all 12 appropriations bills
August 7: Target date for senate to pass all 12 appropriations bills


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