Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said on a press call Monday, March 30, 2020, that there would be a fourth relief package. The Speaker indicated that she has directed committee chairs to start work on another large bill to respond to the coronavirus pandemic. She didn’t think anything would be ready before the Easter and Passover holidays.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) did not seem to be on the same timeline or goal as he indicated it was too soon to talk about a fourth package while funding is just starting to flow from the March 27 legislation.
Still, as the governors have indicated, they will need much more help, especially as state and local governments see their budget revenues shrink with the loss of income tax, sale tax, and other revenue raised such as lotteries and licensing fees dry up.
Both Pelosi and the President have said they want a large infrastructure package as part of this bill, but there may be some resistance to including that and tax-related measures.
CWLA will be pushing ways to get some targeted but flexible funds to help families and children affected by the virus along with the agencies that make up the infrastructure that serves these families. Several child welfare funding structures could give the governors “flexibility to quickly adapt as circumstances change and the demand for resources shifts — sometimes on even an hour-by-hour basis,” while also targeting child welfare populations.
Among those sources are state grants under Title IV-B, including Child Welfare Services, which received a slight down payment of $45 million in coronavirus #3. Other important flexible but targeted funding sources could be CAPTA state grants, an expanded Chafee Independent Living and Education and Training Vouchers (with added temporary flexibility and suspension of certain spending requirements), as well as SSBG. SSBG has been used in past disasters, including hurricanes Katrina and Wilma, to target states based on FEMA data.
In addition, CWLA will be supporting any effort by governors to increase the FMAP rate for Medicaid along with Title IV-E. The second package increased the federal match by 6.2 percent, but governors would like to see this closer to 12 percent. CWLA will also be highlighting TANF emergency funding ($5 billion was provided in 2009). TANF has two significant needs, income and assistance for the most vulnerable and the increased need to support relative caregivers who will both be stepping forward to fill gaps in care but many of whom are at very high risk due to age and underlying health circumstances.
Child welfare agencies are also under heavy pressure. Many subsidize their annual budgets through charitable giving and fundraisers, and that revenue will likely dry up too as it becomes difficult or impossible to conduct such efforts. Nonprofits have been affected by the limitations placed on the deductibility of charitable contributions in recent years. Many of these agencies are concerned about potential cutbacks, including delayed payments or reduced payments as state and local budget gets squeezed.
Workers are under high stress and challenge. States are generally listing them as emergency or necessary employees, but that doesn’t make them first responders. A nonbinding guidance by Homeland Security, Guidance on the Essential Critical Infrastructure Workforce failed to include many child welfare workers beyond protective services for adults and children. With a shortage of PPEs, workers from social workers to staff at residential facilities have limited protection. New York City has provided guidance to pre-screen families through phone contact to determine whether anyone in the family has been exposed. If someone has been exposed, efforts are to be made to connect them with a doctor. In other instances where families have not been exposed, there are steps to be taken in making a visit, including a second pre-screen before entering a house. Visits are to be prioritized to the most important first. In-person contacts should not be made to households with caregivers who are older adults (60+) or to caregivers over 50 who have chronic health conditions such as lung disease, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, cancer, or a weakened immune system.
Agencies and workers are also trying to utilize technology so they can make visits, and so the children and families they are caring for can benefit. The agencies may have some of this technology, but many of these families will not. Other agencies providing in-home services are now dealing with caregivers who have lost their jobs. That is why CWLA will be joining in efforts to boost nutrition, including SNAP and WIC, housing, and the need to assure the child care infrastructure and services outlast the pandemic.