Before leaving for the weekend, House Republicans introduced a reauthorization of the MIECHV (Maternal Infant Early Childhood Home Visiting), or home visiting program.

The bill, the Increasing Opportunity through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act (HR 2824), would extend the program for five years—as CWLA and other advocates have pursued—but provides level funding of $400 million a year instead of the gradual doubling of funding over the course of the five-year reauthorization.

CWLA is still evaluating the bill and, as a result, has not endorsed the legislation. One negative aspect of the legislation, in addition to ignoring the need for increased funding for the highly praised evidence-based program, is that the bill would require a state match of fifty percent by year five. Bill sponsors describe this provision as strengthening evidence-based home visiting through state, local, and private partnerships. The committee description says that the bill “Strengthens partnerships between the federal government and state, local, and private organizations by requiring a dollar-for-dollar match of federal MIECHV funds by FY 2022, mobilizing more resources to serve families in need of home visiting services.” The new match would likely undercut some states, especially in the more rural, low-income, and potentially conservative parts of the country.

In a positive development, the House bill does not cut the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) to pay for the extension, as had been suggested in the recent past by some key congressional staffers. But this temporary victory may be offset by a proposed cut through new restrictions of Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The bill’s sponsors describe this cut as stopping payments to people with an outstanding arrest warrant for a felony, or for violating a condition of probation or parole imposed under federal or state law. The proposal may not be as simple as described, and CWLA is assessing this offset to determine its impact and implications.

Republican co-sponsors of H.R. 2824 include Congressman Pat Tiberi (R-OH), Congressman Tom Reed (R-NY), Congressman Pat Meehan (R-PA), Congresswoman Kristi Noem (R-SD), and Congresswoman Jackie Walorski (R-IN).

The main sponsors are House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Adrian Smith (R-NE) and Energy and Commerce Health Subcommittee Chairman Michael Burgess (R-TX). This joint support is significant, since the Ways and Means Committee took over jurisdiction from the Energy and Commerce Committee last year. This would not normally be a significant development, but current rules for the Ways and Means Committee direct the various subcommittees to pay for extensions and new programs by taking funding from other programs under the subcommittee jurisdiction.  This is significant, since Energy and Commerce may have access to a bigger universe of savings through oversight of health and other non-human service programs compared to the Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee, which is limited to a band of programs such as TANF, SSBG, SSI, and child welfare.

CLICK HERE to read a section-by-section summary as provided by the Republican sponsors.

The protection of SSBG continues to be a top priority for CWLA. An updated letter in support details our stance, and the letter is open for more sign-ons in support here.

For more on home visiting, go to the CWLA legislative agenda or visit the home visiting coalition website.