On Monday, July 13, 2020, the House Appropriations Committee approved an FY 2021 appropriations bill for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education by a party-line vote of 30-22. In total, the bill provides $196 billion in discretionary (annually appropriated) funds for the three federal departments, with HHS getting approximately $96.4 billion of that total.

The 2021 appropriations are still operating under the old budget caps despite the record spending through various COVID-19 bills enacted. As a result, this House bill was only slightly higher for key human services programs, including those getting hit by the pandemic and recession.

The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) did not get the $270 million advocated by CWLA and the National Child Abuse Coalition for CAPTA state grants and the CB-CAP prevention grants. CAPTA state grants did get an increase to $92 million ($2.5 million increase), $63 million for CB-CAP (increase of $7.5 million) and $37 million for discretionary funds with the $2.5 million increase designated for a demonstration project related to the implementation of a new and innovative approach to serving children providing trauma-informed interventions. While the increases are disappointing for advocates, if these higher increases are finalized, they do represent progress. CB-CAP had not received a funding increase since FY 2005 and had been cut, but it has now received increases two years in a row. CAPTA similarly has received funding increases for four years since being frozen or cut between 2005 and 2016.

The Committee does direct the Child’s Bureau to report within six months on what the Committee sees as a lack of response on requirements around better data on child fatalities. “The Committee is aware that States have failed to respond to requests for public disclosure of information, or provided incomplete information in response to such requests, regarding cases of child abuse or neglect which result in a child fatality or near fatality…The Committee directs the Children’s Bureau to remind States that they must comply…The Committee directs the Children’s Bureau to review plans submitted by the states…directs the Children’s Bureau to establish a uniform standard for tracking and reporting child fatalities and near fatalities …and to take steps to create an electronic system for States to track and report such data as required. The Children’s Bureau shall report back to the Committee within 180 days of enactment of this Act on the Bureau’s plan to develop a uniform standard…”

The Adoption Opportunities program received level funding of $42 million. The bill also includes $75 million for adoption and subsidized guardianships incentives grants, which is the same level as 2020. The funding should help states catch up on past shortfalls.

There were few additional increases with child care set at $5.9 billion, a slight $100 million increase. Head Start was increased by $150 million to $10.8 billion. Advocates, including CWLA, seek $50 billion in COVID-19 relief funds to keep child care facilities open and avoid the permanent closure of child care centers and providers across the country.

The committee-passed bill did add $9 billion in emergency funding for the CDC in addition to its current CDC level of funding at $8 billion. As emergency funding, the added dollars do not count against the overall caps. The Labor Department received $12.7 billion, which is an increase of $2.5 billion, with the biggest boost to state unemployment systems getting $900 million more. All of these are areas and programs that have been targeted by advocates, including CWLA, for much bigger increases in the upcoming COVID-19 bill that is expected to be taken up by the Senate this week. The House is in the process of bundling the 12 appropriations bills into combined bills of three or for departments into what some people call “mini-bus” bills. For a chart of spending on some key child welfare related programs go here.

It is unclear when the Senate will act on their bills since Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) has called off hearings and movement at this point. Last year the Senate never passed a Labor-HHS bill but negotiated with the House later. If the next COVID-19 relief bill is not large enough to address what is needed, the 2021 appropriations could be the next vehicle to add funds. The Congress could pass a continuing resolution (CR) by October 1, and then deal with 2021 after the election with the outcome of the 2020 elections for both the presidency and the Congress determining the final steps for FY 2021.

About the Author:

John Sciamanna is CWLA's Vice President of Public Policy.

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