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

   
   
Vol. 18, Issue 36: 9/19/2005   
Headlines

Reconciliation Delayed

McDermott Bill Expands Access to Title IV-E Foster Care Funds for Children in Hurricane's Path

Medicaid Bills Address Needed Health Coverage for Disaster Survivors

Bilchik Shares Stage with Congressional Members at GrandRally

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves VAWA Reauthorization

Finance Committee Holds Hearing on CARE Act

DeWine, Rockefeller Introduce Legislation on Courts and ICPC

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

Registration Still Open for New England Public Policy Forum, "Creating and Delivering Your Message," on September 27, 2005



Reconciliation Delayed

As a result of the attention and political pressure created by the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, Congressional leaders have decided to delay the reconciliation process by approximately one month. Senate leaders received an assurance from parliamentarian authorities that a delay would not endanger the protection a reconciliation bill provides. There was concern that if committees did not make program cuts of $35 billion by September 16 and tax cuts of $70 billion by September 23, the reconciliation limits on debate and amendments would not apply. Reconciliation, however, will still apply, and the chairs of the two budget committees still intend to seek the cuts in both programs and taxes.

Critics have called on Congressional leaders to drop the reconciliation process altogether in light of the dramatic changes that have been caused in both budget needs and politics as a result of Hurricane Katrina. Under the delayed timetable, Congress would proceed with two reconciliation bills some time in November. Despite the fact that this year's budget resolution calls for reconciliation, congressional leaders could decide to drop the process.

Back to Headlines

McDermott Bill Expands Access to Title IV-E Foster Care Funds for Children in Hurricane's Path

On September 8, Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA) introduced legislation intended to help children affected by Hurricane Katrina--in both those states directly hit by the storm and those now receiving some of these children. The bill, H.R. 3711, would extend for up to one year Title IV-E foster care funding to all children who had resided in the major disaster area. The federal government would cover the entire cost, instead of the current federal-state matching rate. In addition, the bill would provide full federal reimbursement for the administration and service costs for the affected children.

CWLA has endorsed this legislation. CWLA continues to work with agencies affected by the hurricane and sees the legislation as an important source of support for states and agencies struggling with the complexities brought about because of Hurricane Katrina. McDermott is hopeful the legislation will be developed into a bipartisan agreement that can make it through Congress along with several other disaster relief measures.

Back to Headlines

Medicaid Bills Address Needed Health Coverage for Disaster Survivors

Among the Congressional responses to Hurricane Katrina are several bills that feature extended Medicaid coverage for affected individuals. The Senate was expected to act quickly on a Medicaid package unveiled by Finance Committee leaders Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Max Baucus (D-MT) on September 14. Similar to bills introduced earlier, the legislation, S. 3672, would expand access to Medicaid for people who lived in the hurricane-hit areas. The federal government would pay the total cost, instead of the normal split between the federal and state governments.

The bill is broader than some, in that it also creates a fund to help survivors who are trying to cover the cost of private insurance premiums. It also attempts to build on House efforts to expand Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to states affected by the hurricane. This bill had passed the House last week with provisions that added more funds to TANF and allowed some flexibility in work and penalty requirements under the cash assistance program.

Another bill, S. 1637, introduced by Senators Harry Reid (D-NV) and Mary Landrieu (D-LA) the week of September 6, would provide a 100% Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) rate for all Medicaid enrollees for up to one year, and ease enrollment and eligibly guidelines for anyone from the disaster-affected areas in Alabama, Louisiana, or Mississippi. The 100% FMAP rate means the federal government would pay the entire cost instead of splitting costs with the state.

Texas Senators Kay Bailey Hutchinson (R) and John Cornyn (R) also introduced legislation (S. 1688) that would remove the income eligibility guidelines for all individuals displaced by Hurricane Katrina in order for individuals to receive Medicaid and health coverage under the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Texas has received an extremely large portion of the people displaced by Katrina, leaving many in state circles wondering how they were to meet both service demands and budget limits. The legislation also features a 100% FMAP rate for services and administration costs related to Katrina survivors--current state recipients that were not displaced through by the hurricane would remain at the current state operational FMAP rate.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) has said that he would support legislation to allow increased support from Medicaid for victims and would ensure quick passage through the Senate. Frist also said he still expects legislation from the Senate Finance Committee to reform Medicaid, but he did not provide specifics as to whether he would continue to push for the expected $10 billion of Medicaid cuts from Medicaid. Speaking at an Alliance for Health Reform luncheon, Frist said of Medicaid reform, "If we do anything that will hurt individuals, then that is the wrong thing."

Back to Headlines

Bilchik Shares Stage with Congressional Members at GrandRally

Meeting in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol, kinship care advocates from across the county joined with national organizations to push for increased Congressional support for kin families. CWLA President and CEO Shay Bilchik addressed the GrandRally, echoing the themes of partnering national advocates, AARP, the Children's Defense Fund, Generations United, and Grandparents for Children's Rights, in urging Congress to increase support of policies and funding for extended family members who take care of children. The rally brought grandparents and other relatives from more 40 states to Capitol Hill to lobby their members of Congress on the needs of kin families.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), sponsor of the Kinship Caregiver Support Act (S. 985), encouraged advocates to urge their elected leaders to support the bill and to continue expanded support for children and their caregivers. Joining Clinton were Representatives Jim McDermott (D-WA), Danny Davis (D-IL), and Thelma Drake (R-VA), who gave their support to the pending legislation. CWLA has endorsed the bill.

McDermott, the Ranking Democrat on the House Ways and Means Subcommittee on Human Resources, has introduced the Leave No Abused or Neglected Child Behind Act, H.R. 3576. The legislation would expand Title IV-E funding to services, extend funding to kinship placements, untie or delink eligibility from the old Aid to Families with Dependent Children program, and offer expanded opportunities to states to address the workforce issue.

Davis has sponsored H.R. 3380, which would assist grandparents and other guardians in ways similar to S. 985. For details on both bills, see the Children Monitor from August 22, 2005. CWLA has endorsed these bills.

Back to Headlines

Senate Judiciary Committee Approves VAWA Reauthorization

On September 8, the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act (S. 1197). This legislation contains provisions to reauthorize and expand existing programs related to domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking. These efforts, typically focused on adults, would be accessible to youth and children ages 12-24. The bill would establish a new tribal deputy director in the Office on Violence Against Women to address domestic violence with American Indian tribes and on reservations.

New provisions in the bill focus on expanding services to children and youth and piloting prevention programs, in recognition that children are by far the largest group of sexual assault and violence victims. The legislation would authorize approximately $3.9 billion over five years, a $600 million increase from the current level. Most funding would go to law enforcement efforts.

CWLA strongly supports the effort to expand VAWA services to children and youth and maintains that it is crucial to more effectively address issues of domestic violence and sexual assault. Companion legislation, H.R. 2876, has been introduced in the House and is expected to be considered soon.

Back to Headlines

Finance Committee Holds Hearing on CARE Act

Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, the Senate Finance Committee held a hearing aptly titled, "Charities on the Frontline: How the Nonprofit Sector Meets the Needs of America's Communities." The focus of the hearing was on the Charity Aid, Recovery, and Empowerment (CARE) Act, sponsored by Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Joe Lieberman (D-CT). Versions of the CARE Act passed in the House and Senate during the 108th Congress, but House and Senate members could not come to a final agreement. As a result, the CARE Act was never enacted. This year, Santorum and Lieberman have included the CARE Act as a part of S. 6, a TANF reauthorization bill.

Much of the testimony revolved around the feasibility and efficacy the CARE Act could have in the nonprofit sector. The CARE Act comprises incentives for food donations, corporate giving, and IRA rollovers, attempting to catalyze charitable giving in less affluent and younger groups. Although there was agreement that such incentives would benefit charitable giving, there was skepticism about the proposed changes in tax law and subsequent IRS regulation, asserting it would cause an increase in administrative costs and decrease the number of people organizations could aid.

For more information on the hearing, visit: http://finance.senate.gov/sitepages/hearing091305.htm.

Back to Headlines

DeWine, Rockefeller Introduce Legislation on Courts and ICPC

Senators Mike DeWine (R-OH) and Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) introduced S. 1679, the Working to Enhance Courts for At-Risk and Endangered Kids Act of 2005, on September 12. The bill's major focus is on improvements and coordination between the child welfare system and state courts. Based in part on recommendations from last year's Pew Commission on Children in Foster Care, several provisions would require changes to state Title IV-E and Title IV-B plans to demonstrate the states are coordinating their communication and training between the two systems. The legislation also provides grants to states to facilitate the development of court performance standards and to develop model courts.

In addition to court improvements, the legislation would expand loan forgiveness to child welfare workers and court personnel. The other major component of the legislation is the state Interstate Compact on the Placement of Children (ICPC). Similar to legislation introduced in the 108th Congress by Representative Tom DeLay (R-TX), the legislation would creates some minimum standards and incentives to states for faster placement across state lines. The bill adds to the list of recently introduced legislation in both the House and Senate that focus on child welfare reforms.

Back to Headlines

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

Approximate Date, October 19: Deadline for assigned committees to adopt $35 billion in cuts to mandatory programs for budget reconciliation bill

Approximate Date, October 26): Deadline for tax-writing committees to adopt tax cuts of $70 billion

October 1: Start of federal fiscal year

Thanksgiving Holiday: Target adjournment date


Back to Headlines

Registration Still Open for New England Public Policy Forum, "Creating and Delivering Your Message," on September 27, 2005

CWLA's New England Public Policy Forum, "Creating and Delivering Your Message," is being held on Tuesday, September 27, 2005, at the Westin Hotel in Providence, Rhode Island. The Public Policy Forum is being conducted as part of CWLA's New England Regional and National Child Care and Development Training Conference that is being held from Wednesday, September 28 through Friday, September 30.

The public policy forum will feature Roy Miller from the successful Florida Children's Campaign and Judy Meredith, a Massachusetts human service lobbyist and author of "Lobbying on a Shoestring." The all-day training forum should be very informative and useful to everyone working on advocacy and lobbying efforts.

A special reduced fee of $75 is available for those who are the attending the CWLA conference and $100 for those only attending the public policy forum. The registration includes a continental breakfast and lunch. Please contact Angela Fisher at afisher@cwla.org for the agenda and registration form. Special hotel rates are available for those who will need or want to stay over at the hotel.

For information about the CWLA New England Regional and National Child Care and Development Training conference, visit CWLA's website.

Additional hotel information is available online.

Back to Headlines

Click here to see the list of previous issues

If you know of others who would like their names added to this list, please have them visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/monitoronline-optin.htm. To remove yourself from this list, send an e-mail to monitor@cwla.org with "Remove from Monitor Online List" in the subject line.

© Child Welfare League of America. The content of this publication may not be reproduced in any way, including posting on the Internet, without the permission of CWLA. For permission to use material from CWLA's website or publications, contact us using our website assistance form.