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

   
   
Vol. 18, Issue 38: 10/3/2005   
Headlines

Congress Considers Stop-Gap Spending Measure

Temporary Medicaid Relief Fight Continues

Grassley Bill Would Extend TANF Through March

Budget Reconciliation Update: Further Cuts Announced

Key Upcoming Dates for Congress



Congress Considers Stop-Gap Spending Measure

With October 1 marking the start of federal fiscal year 2006, and without budget decisions completed, Congress is considering legislation (H.J. Res. 68) that temporarily funds all government activities until November 18. This continuing resolution authorizes funding for programs at the current level or the level of either the House-passed funding bill or the Senate-proposed funding level, whichever is lowest. That means funding for programs that protect children from abuse and neglect, such as Promoting Safe and Stable Families, would be reduced for the third consecutive year. Funding for the Child Abuse and Prevention Treatment grants, child care, and Head Start would be frozen at FY 2005 levels. Other programs covered by the few annual appropriations bills that have passed would be funded at the levels set in the FY 2006 bills.

When Congress makes final decisions by the November 18 deadline, funding could be restored for these programs. Some in Congress, however, are looking at reducing funding for all programs across the board. If Congress chooses to protect defense and homeland security spending from these across-the-board cuts, funding for remaining programs would be reduced from last years level. Information about funding for key children services programs is available on CWLA's website.

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Temporary Medicaid Relief Fight Continues

With rebuilding devastated communities in the wake of Hurricane Katrina beginning, governors from affected states testified before the Senate Finance Committee urging them to pass legislation for increased federal support. Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco (D) let committee members know her state would continue to need increased federal support as the economy struggles to rebuild itself. Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour (R) and Alabama Governor Bob Riley (R) testified via video conference and also stated that federal support would be needed on an unprecedented level to allow for complete recovery for the states.

All three governors strongly supported legislation introduced by Senate Finance Chair Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Ranking Member Max Baucus (D-MT) that would provide a 100% federal payment for Medicaid for Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and those states that accepted evacuees. Blanco also stressed the importance of a complete temporary universal coverage for Medicaid, as many individuals facing health crises as a result of the hurricane may not meet strict eligibility criteria.

Consideration of the legislation is held up due to actions by some Senators who are concerned about expanding Medicaid coverage. The White House has objected to the proposal out of fear of the exorbitant cost of a 100% rate and universal coverage for a temporary period. Center for Medicare and Medicaid Administrator Mark McClellan has stated the Administration's preference for expanded use of waivers that would temporarily ease some of the eligibility requirements, yet not provide the full range of services offered under the Grassley-Baucus bill.

Medicaid, a vital source of funding for more than 900,000 children in the foster care system, is expected to face a $10 billion cut in federal funding due to budget reconciliation instructions. To learn more about the role of Medicaid for foster children, and to join CWLA in efforts to prevent cuts, visit www.cwla.org/advocacy/nocapsonkids.htm.

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Grassley Bill Would Extend TANF Through March

On September 27, Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Max Baucus (D-MT) introduced a bill that would extend the TANF and child care reauthorizations until the end of March 2006. Earlier in September, TANF and child care were extended until the end of this year as part of an emergency relief bill. The Grassley bill would extend it an additional quarter. More importantly, it expresses the Finance Committee chairís desire not to include the two reauthorizations in the budget reconciliation bill. Before the hurricane disasters, the House was moving forward on plans to include the reauthorizations in the reconciliation bill. If TANF and child care were included in the budget reconciliation bill, it is unlikely they would contain any significant increases in child care funding. The special rules limiting time for consideration of budget reconciliation legislation would also mean there would be little or no debate on TANF or child care funding.

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Budget Reconciliation Update: Further Cuts Announced

On September 27, G. William Hoagland, chief budget official for Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN), told a Washington business group that Senate committee chairs would soon receive given directions to find more than the originally planned $35 billion in budget cuts.

Congress had decided earlier this year to reduce overall spending by cutting entitlement spending by $35 billion. Due to Hurricane Katrina, the deadline for Congress to make these decisions, originally set for September, has been extended at least until the end of the month. Although some in Congress have suggested abandoning this effort to reduce federal spending on programs such as Medicaid, food stamps, and other programs that serve the poor, the White House and key congressional leadership insist Congress must proceed.

Debate continues in Washington about how to pay for the cost of disaster relief and the increasing deficit. Hoagland linked the need for increasing total cuts for programs serving primarily the poor to the need to pay for the hurricane disaster relief. Frist announced last week that he asked Senate Budget Chair Judd Gregg (R-NH) to head up a task force of interested Republican senators to discuss how the Senate might adopt spending cuts. Last week, White House Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua B. Bolten also suggested that entitlement programs, such as Medicaid, would be a "fruitful place to begin" to find offsets to pay for aid in response to Hurricane Katrina. To date, Congress has enacted legislation to allocate in excess of $60 billion for direct relief efforts, and the entire Louisiana delegation has proposed another $200 billion will be needed.

While Congress is debating ways to cover the disaster relief, the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved an additional $50 billion to cover the cost of the war for part of fiscal year 2006. The $50 billion added war costs was attached to a Defense appropriation of $390 billion.

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Key Upcoming Dates for Congress

October 1: Start of Federal Fiscal Year 2006

October 10: Columbus Day

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

November 18: Continuing Resolution Ends

November-December Holidays: Target adjournment date


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