The Appropriations Committees are now working on a legislative omnibus spending bill for this year with new subcommittee allocations, known as 302(b)s. Policy riders could come up during this process. While this set higher caps for FY 2017 which at least avoids a spring-summer-fall debate over spending caps, it is unclear how appropriations riders including restrictions on Planned Parenthood will be handled or negotiated over the next few days. An omnibus bill would be an all or nothing bill not allowing extensive debate or amendments. The assumption is that Congress will finish the job because there will be a little more funding that will give more flexibility to avoid the most severe cuts but likely not all.
The bigger challenge could be policy riders and the most significant will be language that attempts to cut-off funding of Planned Parenthood. Ultimately they could agree to not address the issue this fiscal year but if they did they may have to rely on the same combination of maximum Democratic votes and minimal Republican votes that passed the budget deal.
In regard to deciding child welfare, child protection and prevention funding, last summer the appropriations subcommittees in both houses had approved HHS bills that were under tight caps that required cuts or freezes. In terms of overall child welfare spending most of the funding was frozen. Under Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) state grants ($25.3 million), discretionary grants ($28.7 million), were both level along with the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention or CB-CAP ($39.7 million) and the Adoption Opportunity Act ($39 million). Under Title IV-B, Child Welfare Services ($268 million), Promoting Safe and Stable Families ($59 million in discretionary) are both the same as FY 2015. The Adoption/Kinship Incentive funds ($37 million), and Runaway and Homeless Youth ($97 million) are also at the ’15 level but the Senate does allocate $2 million for a study and survey of the homeless youth population. Despite the increased allocation for the final bill it is unlikely Congress will add funding despite recent new mandates and requirements to state child welfare and child protection systems.
In regard to the entitlement the appropriations bills merely restate projected growth or decreases. The budget projections show an increase in foster care funding from just under $4.3 billion to just over $4.7 billion. In part the increase is a response to a projected increase of 6,000 more children in foster care rising to 168,000—the numbers reflect only those foster care children who are covered by federal IV-E dollars through the AFDC link. In FY 2014 foster care numbers increased to 415,000 children in foster care compared to 400,000 the year before. Projected Adoption Assistance is set at $2.5 billion and kinship/guardianship at $123 million. Both are projected increases and are likely to change either up or down based on future state draw-downs.
While finishing appropriations a few other issues will be dealt with at least short term fixes. One is the issue of the tax “extenders” a growing collection of tax deductions, credits and breaks. For the human service community, it may offer opportunities to extend certain credits such as the children’s tax credit, the Earned Income Tax credit (EITC) and if they add anything, the Adoption tax credit. The much bigger collection of credits are wrapped around business incentives. Congress has some flexibility to wait to extend credits for 2015 until next April 15 tax day but that is not the most efficient way to award tax breaks. The other pending issue is the highway or transportation fund. It runs out with funding patched into December. Its likely Congress will patch this again and send it into the next session of this Congress.