Cutting their week short due to the hurricane, the Senate gave final approval to a Military Construction and Veterans -Energy and Water–Legislative Branch FY 19 spending package sending it back to the House for a final approval. The bill goes to the White House for signature and marks the first FY 2019 bills enacted before the October 1 start of the fiscal year.
The Senate vote took place on Wednesday in an abbreviated week as senators wanted to avoid the potential impact of the hurricane on flights. The votes was 92-5 in the Senate with Senators Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Rand Paul (R-KY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Ed Markey (D-MA), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) the only no votes.
While that was happening negotiations were being finalized for a House-Senate deal on a Defense and Labor-HHS-Education appropriations package. As a surprise, Congressional leaders announced that they were also attaching a continuing resolution (CR) for the rest of the appropriations that don’t get approved by October 1. The CR would extend funding for the remaining seven appropriations bills until December 7, 2018. The CR also extends the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) until that date.
The House will be out this week for Yom Kippur with the Senate expected to take up the package as early as mid-week. The Defense-HHS measure bundled with the CR would mean that Congress has enacted five of the 12 appropriations—approximately 75 percent of government funding, leaving the remaining seven for after the election. Left hanging is the funding for the Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Bundling both HHS and the CR with the Defense Department likely forces the President to sign the deal and prevents giving the President leverage of a government shutdown before the November elections over the issue of the wall.
While the pending Defense-Labor-HHS-Education bill must still get past final congressional action, it appears that the Labor-HHS-Education bill will not include “poison pill” amendments including leaving off the objectionable Aderholt child welfare discrimination in placement amendment.
The final bill follows much of the Senate funding in key child welfare areas. There were some slight differences between the Senate-passed and House Committee-approved bills. The final bill includes $85 million for CAPTA with language directing HHS to assist states in implementing Plans of Safe Care. The bill continues the increase in Adoption-Kinship Incentive funds at the elevated level of $75 million—first increased in the March-2018 appropriations.
The final bill continues to provide an extra $20 million for the Regional Partnership Grants (RPGs) this time for expanded family-based substance abuse treatment. Total RPG grants will be $40 million for the second straight year.
Starting October 1, states will be able to place a child in family-based treatment with a parent undergoing drug treatment and be able to pay Title IV-E child maintenance (foster care) payments if the child is in foster care without regard to the AFDC income eligibility requirements. The support for the child care last for up to 12 months. The change is part of the Family First Act.
The bill continues funding for $20 million in Kinship Navigator programs. These grants were also included in the March 2018 appropriations. It is a unique fund in that it will continue to go to all 50 states and the District of Columbia as well as the Tribal communities that are drawing down their own Title IV-E foster care funds. It too is designed to expand the base of practice and models that will be eligible for kinship navigator programs administrative costs as part of the Family First Act funding. This provision also starts on October 1.
For a chart of the final funding comparison look here.