Congress was out of town last week, but the Administration did send up their detailed recommendations on their proposed 2020 budget.
Behind the broad details of spending cuts of approximately 10 percent for the non-Defense Department discretionary (annually appropriated) funding, the Administration creates a long list of eliminations in human service funding that including:
• Elimination of the Social Services Block Grant—SSBG) (HHS)
• Elimination of the 21st Century Afterschool Learning Centers (Education)
• Elimination of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program—LIHEAP (HHS)
• Elimination of the Community Services Block Grant (HHS)
• Elimination of the Community Development Block Grant—CDBG (Housing)
• Cuts to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) of $1.5 billion to the base grant of $16.5 billion and elimination of the $608 million contingency fund (HHS)
• Cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program—SNAP-food stamps (Agriculture)
• Cuts to Medicaid by requiring states to take either a per capita cap or block grant (HHS)
The Medicaid cuts include a mandatory work requirement which the Center on Budget Policy and Priority has calculated would cost as many as 1.7 million people a year losing their health insurance coverage. Two weeks ago, Congressman Joseph Kennedy III (D-MA) challenged HHS Secretary Alex Azar on these work requirements. The state of Arkansas work requirements has resulted in 20,000 people losing their health care coverage. The Congressman asked the Secretary about the cause of those reductions in coverage and when the HHS chief could not say Kennedy asked why the Administration was proposing a national expansion of such work requirements without understanding the impact.
Regarding child welfare, the Administration continues to propose a waiver-block grant option of foster care funding (see below). In FY 2020, the President is requesting PSSF funding at the same levels for the four basic services, seeking a reduction in discretionary funding back down to $59 million as it was in 2017 but they are requesting a significant increase in mandatory court funding of $30 million and $40 million in funding for the Regional Partnership Grants (RPGs).
By reducing the discretionary funding from $99 million to $59 million they are dropping the designation of $20 million for the development of kinship navigator programs as funded in 2018-19 although these temporary grants were designed to expand the evidence-base for these navigator programs to make them eligible for long term Family First Act funding. The reduction also means they are dropping the $20 million for the development of family-based drug treatment facilities as funded in 2019. In this case, the increased RPG dollars could make up for this reduction.
The Administration proposes a PSSF funding level of $415 million in mandatory funding as well as the additional allocation of discretionary spending of $59 million. Once the $20 million is set aside to support caseworker visits, the new $60 million in Court Improvement Program (CIP) funds, and the increased $60 million for RPGs approximately $340 million is provided for the four programs of Family Preservation, Family support, Adoption support and Reunification services. The Administration proposes the increase in RPGs because the new expanded mandatory funding is intended to maintain the current collection of competitive regional grants across the country.
The CAPTA related programs are all level funded with state grants ($85 million), discretionary grants ($33 million), CB-CAP grants ($39 million) all the same as 2018 and 2019. The Administration does propose a reduction in the Adoption and Kinship and Incentive fund back to the 2017 level of $37 million. The fund had been increased to $75 million in both 2018 and 2019 to help states catch up on the incentive rewards they had earned. That happened but now there is just $35 million left for the 2019 awards which will be released in September and HHS expects the awards to be more than $60 million.
CWLA will be seeking the on-going $75 million to address the shortfall. The overall budget is sometime described as “dead on arrival” something of a Capitol Hill cliché but it still offers proposals that could find some life if future funding deals demand program cuts or changes.