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

   
   
Vol. 24, Issue 8: 3/7/2011   
Headlines

Obama Signs Short-Term CR, Senate Releases Budget Plan, Negotiations Continue

These Cuts Won't Heal: Budget Webcast Today

Energy and Commerce Committee Hosts Hearings on ACA

Senator Landrieu Reintroduces Foster Care Mentoring Act

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Obama Signs Short-Term CR, Senate Releases Budget Plan, Negotiations Continue

Last week President Barack Obama signed into law a short-term continuing resolution (CR) that cuts $21 million from child and family service programs under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) and Social Security Act (SSA) and $15 million from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The CR keeps the federal government operating through March 18, and cuts spending by $4 billion from the 2010 levels.

Most of the cuts in the CR were to programs that have historically been earmarked by Congress, although several education programs were also reduced. The cuts from CAPTA and SSA programs were from funds that were used to support child abuse prevention and treatment and other social service programs for low-income and at-risk families. The SAMHSA cut will reduce funding available for projects to prevent substance abuse and treat victims.

In the meantime, the Senate has released its long-term budget alternative to the House-passed plan. There is a $51 billion difference separating the House and Senate budget plans and serious policy differences must be overcome as well. Generally, the Senate plan is much more protective of funding for programs dedicated to vulnerable children and families. For example, the Senate bill includes more than $1.4 billion more than the House bill for Head Start, which is the difference between 218,000 children having access to the program. In addition, compared to the House bill, the Senate version provides an additional $1 billion for community health centers, $349 million for child care, $348 million for nutrition assistance to low-income pregnant mothers and their children, $317 million for family planning, $214 million for substance abuse and mental health programs, and $141 million for home energy assistance for low-income families. From a policy perspective, the House bill would defund and block implementation of the health reform law and prohibit funding for Planned Parenthood, while the Senate plan would not.

Despite passage of the two-week extension the two chambers are no closer than before to resolving these differences. The White House has recently stepped up its engagement level and Vice President Joe Biden is leading a series of negotiating sessions with House and Senate leaders. The situation remains fluid and the details of which program cuts are being debated have not been made public, but at present the parties are still tens of billions of dollars apart in their proposals.

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These Cuts Won't Heal: Budget Webcast Today

As part of the CWLA budget campaign, These Cuts Won't Heal, the Government Affairs Division will host a series of members-only webcasts. Rolling registration for the series is open, and the next webcast will be today at 3 p.m. Eastern. The webcast will provide the latest updates on the federal budget debate, highlight upcoming votes, and discuss which members of Congress may be most in need to hearing from child welfare advocates.

In addition CWLA has done a comprehensive rundown about the FY 2011 budget process and the President's FY 2012 budget proposal. These materials are available at the members only website.

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Energy and Commerce Committee Hosts Hearings on ACA

Last week the House's Energy and Commerce Committee invited executive officials to testify before the committee on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), P.L. 111-148, and other issues impacting federal and state budgets. The first hearing was on the impact of ACA and included Governors Deval Patrick (D-MA), Haley Barbour (R-MS), and Gary Herbert (R-UT). The second hearing was a bit broader and featured U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who testified on the fiscal year 2012 proposed budget as well as ACA implementation.

At the hearing with the governors, the committee sought to determine the impact of the health care law on states thus far, and what the governors believe the toughest challenges will be in implementing the law over the coming years. Patrick testified that the increased protections and support provided under the ACA would likely assist other states in achieving the types of coverage that residents of Massachusetts receive, highlighting that more than 99% of children in his state have health insurance. Barbour pleaded with Congress to realize the tough economic situation that his state is facing and work with the Administration to develop a block grant for the current Medicaid program, as he believed this would allow them the flexibility they needed to do what they know works best for their unique population. Herbert argued that the new mandates in the ACA would potentially require the state to consider raises taxes or cutting other vital programs like education as a means of paying for the implementation of the law. Some of the Democratic representatives on the committee urged their colleagues and the panel to remember that our country's children, while half of Medicaid's beneficiaries, only account for a quarter of the costs and that while expansion of this program is likely to add more children to the program's rolls, they will not be a large factor in future costs. Others cautioned that block granting the Medicaid program would significantly limit eligibility, which would only shift costs to other service areas when these individuals become sick and seek medical care.

Sebelius opened her statement by outlining the President's proposed FY 2012 budget. She highlighted the proposal's $250 million in mandatory funds in FY 2012 and a total of $2.5 billion over 10 years to align financial incentives with improved outcomes for children in foster care and those who are receiving in-home preventive services from the child welfare system. She mentioned the reauthorization of TANF and stressed the Administration's commitment to working with Congress to explore a variety of strategies to strengthen the program's ability to improve outcomes for children and families. She also talked about the importance of increased funding for Head Start and child care. In regards to the ACA, committee members were particularly interested in HHS' role in implementation and ways in which the department was working with states to eliminate any unnecessary burden on state budgets and resources.

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Senator Landrieu Reintroduces Foster Care Mentoring Act

Last week Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA), introduced the Foster Care Mentoring Act of 2011 (S. 420) with cosponsors Mark Begich (D-AK) and Tim Johnson (D-SD). A longtime focus for the co-chair of the Senate Caucus on Foster Youth, Landrieu has introduced this bill in each Congress since the 107th. Currently, it has been referred to the Senate Committee on Finance.

The bill's findings assert improved achievement, social, and academic outcomes for youth when they have a relationship with a caring adult. It also points to the 423,773 children and youth in foster care and their need for an intentionally structured mentoring program. Finally, mentoring programs are characterized as a cost-effective way to improve youth outcomes.

The bill's proposed mentoring program would be added to Promoting Safe and Stable Families statute which is located in Title IV-B, part 2 of the Social Security Act. It would entail a grant program authorized at $15 million for states and eligible political subdivisions to apply for no more than $600,000 to expand or establish a foster care mentoring program. The bill also includes an additional $4 million to fund a national public awareness and recruitment campaign. Finally, a separate provision intended to incentivize recruitment would make mentors eligible for $2,000 in student loan forgiveness for every 200 hours served as a foster care mentor for up to $10,000.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

- March 18: Continuing resolution expires.
- March 21 to March 25: Congressional Recess.
- March 29: CWLA Advocacy Day during the National Conference.

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