Congress returns this week with a busy two months before the next holiday on Memorial Day. Since the spring break, the President has released his infrastructure bill’s outlines with expectations that a second part or piece of an infrastructure bill that addresses human services will be coming out soon. In addition to infrastructure, Congress will also begin work on the annual appropriations process. The outlines of Biden’s FY2022 budget were released on Friday in time for Congress debate to get started.
A key ruling last week by the Senate parliamentarian gave instructions that it may be possible to use another reconciliation bill as part of the current fiscal year 2021 budget instead of having to use the next budget resolution from fiscal year 2022. It becomes complex in terms of parliamentary rules, but the bottom line is that Congress has several more options to use a reconciliation process that limits the Senate’s use of a filibuster. That is a strategy that is likely to be necessary if the President wants to enact one or two more major initiatives along with changes to the tax code. The March American Rescue plan was passed as a reconciliation bill, and it is possible the Congress could use the process two more times before the end of this year.
President Biden announced an infrastructure plan during the congressional break that will total more than two trillion, with much of it paid for through changes to the corporate tax code—a rollback of many of the Trump tax cuts—but the plan goes beyond just highways. That is something that has both its critics and supporters. For the children’s community, there could be significant benefit beyond what such a proposal may do for the overall economy. Among the human services areas that could be impacted:
- $100 billion in proven workforce development programs targeted at underserved groups. This would include investing in evidence-based approaches to supporting workers, including wraparound services, income supports, counseling, and case management. For many years CWLA has highlighted the need to expand efforts to support the child welfare workforce. This could offer an important opportunity as the legislation is crafted.
- $40 billion investment in a new Dislocated Workers Program and sector-based training. Sector-based training programs would be focused on growing, high-demand sectors targeting workforce development opportunities in underserved communities. Investments in workforce training would prioritize underserved communities and communities hit hard by a transforming economy.
- $5 billion over eight years in support of evidence-based community violence prevention programs. This would include job training for formerly incarcerated individuals and justice-involved youth and in improving public safety.
- $48 billion in American workforce development infrastructure and worker protection. This includes registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, creating one to two million new registered apprenticeships slots, and strengthening the pipeline for more women and people of color to access these opportunities through successful pre-apprenticeship programs such as the Women in Apprenticeships in Non-Traditional Occupations.
- $20 billion for a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historical investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.
- $56 billion in grants and low-cost, flexible loans to states, Tribes, territories, and disadvantaged communities across the country to help replace 100 percent of the nation’s lead pipes and service lines. According to the CDC, there is no safe level of lead exposure for children.
- $100 billion to upgrade and build new public schools, through $50 billion in direct grants and an additional $50 billion leveraged through bonds. Funds would go toward making sure our schools are safe and healthy places of learning for our kids and work for teachers and other education professionals, for example, by improving indoor air quality and ventilation. The proposal would also invest in cutting-edge, energy-efficient and electrified, resilient, and innovative school buildings with technology and labs that will help our educators prepare students to be productive workers and valued students.
- $25 billion to help upgrade child care facilities and increase the supply of child care in areas that need it most. Funding would be provided through a Child Care Growth and Innovation Fund for states to build a supply of infant and toddler care in high-need areas.
- Expand access to long-term care services under Medicaid. This would expand access to home and community-based services (HCBS) and extend the longstanding Money Follows the Person program that supports innovations in the delivery of long-term care.
The Administration package was broad in details meaning Congress will have a great deal to say about what makes it in a final deal and how programs are designed.