On Wednesday, January 22, the Children’s Bureau released an Information Memorandum, ACYF-CB-IM-20-01, regarding new legislation passed in the Further Consolidated Appropriations Bill of 2020 in December 2019: Public Law (P.L.) 116-94 Family First Transition Act. CWLA had endorsed the legislation.

The IM provides basic information on the new law provisions including:

1. The $500 million to all states and jurisdictions distributed under Title IV-B, part 1 formula. States will have two years (retroactive to October 1, 2019) to spend the funds. Funds can be spent in the same way states can spend under the broad Title IV-B part 1 program, Child Welfare Services. States also have the added flexibility of spending funds in a way similar to their expired child welfare waivers in the 22 waiver states. For a list of approximate funding for states under the $500 million grants readers can go here.

NOTE: The Family First Transition grants will be awarded late 3rd quarter or early 4th quarter of FY 2020.

2. A second major feature of the legislation includes a delay in the evidence-based spending thresholds. The District of Columbia and Utah are the first jurisdictions to have a service plan approved by HHS and some of their initial funding will be for the well-supported Parents As Teachers—PAT, home visiting program with Utah adding in some additional programs. Under the new legislation, states can spend any of their funding in FY 2020 and FY 2021 on well-supported, supported, or promising programs. Starting in FY 2022 and 2023, states will have to spend at least 50 percent on well-supported and supported programs and then in 2025 states will have to meet the original 50 percent threshold on the well-supported program.

3. The third provision is an attempt to back-up states with waivers that expired in FY 2019. Separate and not counting the additional $500 million, waiver states will be guaranteed at least 90 percent of their waiver funding if they do not draw down that amount of funding under traditional IV-E funding. In determining what the states expiring waiver grant amount is, HHS will base the calculation on the original waiver calculation of funding with that final funding figure based on waiver financial data as of August 31, 2019—the time period close to when this new bill was announced on Capitol Hill. The provision is an attempt to prevent any last-minute recalculation of waiver funding by states.

NOTE: Waiver agencies are required to use the Family First Transition grants and funding for “activities directly associated with implementing the Family First Act,” for fiscal impacts from the transition from the waiver demonstration project, and “the purposes specified in title IV-B.” In addition, states, territories, and tribes must report all plans and activities to HHS.

4. Finally, the bill honors MaryLee Allen from the Children’s Defense Fund by re-naming Title IV-B part 2, the MaryLee Allen Promoting Safe and Stable Families program. Title IV-B, part 1 had been re-named the Stephanie Tubbs Jones Child Welfare Services program in 2011, (PL 112-34) after the late Congresswoman from Ohio. MaryLee Allen passed away last summer. She was an original contributor and advocate for the Title IV-B part 2 program when it was adopted through the 1993 Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (PL 103-66) as the Family Preservation and Family Support Act creating the first federal funding specifically targeting family preservation.