On Thursday, April 15, 2021, the House Subcommittee on Appropriations for the departments of Labor-HHS-Education heard testimony from the new HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra. The testimony builds on the previous week’s White House overview of the FY 2022 appropriations. The House focused several Thursday hearings on the FY 2022 appropriations meaning we are now in the full appropriations process.
In his testimony, Secretary Becerra emphasized some of the key points made in that White House Appropriations request. One area within child welfare that Becerra highlighted was a proposal described as addressing racial inequity in the child welfare system by providing $100 million in new competitive grants for states and localities to advance reforms that would reduce the overrepresentation of children and families of color in the child welfare system and address the disparate experiences and outcomes of these families.
In the 2020 CWLA transition document, we suggested to the new Administration one tool to help addresses racial inequity within the child welfare was by providing funding through CAPTA that would be modeled on some state and local initiatives that encourage agencies to address implicit bias and to create tools to promote diversity training.
Other areas Becerra discussed included $1.6 billion (more than double FY 2021) for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant to support people involved in the criminal justice system and provide resources to partner mental health providers with law enforcement. This funding will also expand suicide prevention activities. The budget includes more to address substance use by asking for $10.7 billion to continue treatment for opioid addictions. This is an increase of $3.9 billion over 2021.
The HHS budget doubles funding for firearm violence prevention research at CDC and NIH and includes $100 million for CDC to start a new community-based violence intervention initiative in collaboration with the Department of Justice. Becerra labeled the increased gun violence as a public health crisis.
Throughout his testimony, Becerra highlighted racial equity in many areas. One example was infant mortality rates which are at significantly higher levels among Black and American Indian/Alaska Native women. The request includes $200 million additional funds to support tools, including Maternal Mortality Review Committees and Rural Maternity and Obstetrics Management Strategies.
Throughout the question-and-answer periods, several committee members raised questions on refugee children and how they are being helped, and how quickly. Becerra said that the Administration was requesting an additional $3.4 billion. He said the Administration has dramatically increased the capacity to care for the increasing child population over the last two months, but the Secretary emphasized the need to expand services, including bed capacity, in a way that is done carefully to not add to the child’s trauma.
The Administration will not provide the full line by line appropriations request until May, but the House is moving forward.