In a press conference held the morning after the election, Wednesday, November 4, 2020, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said that he expected a new relief package would get passed before the end of this year. With some Senate seats still uncertain, McConnell is likely to return as Senate Majority Leader, but that is still dependent on some open races. McConnell said at a press conference, “We need another rescue package. Hopefully, the partisan passions that prevented us from doing another rescue package will subside with the election, and I think we need to do it, and I think we need to do it before the end of the year.”
On a critical sticking point, he seemed to acknowledge the need for some form of state fiscal relief. “This is a big item for Democrats as you can imagine and they’re still going to control the House but we’ll have to reach some kind of agreement … it’s not something that my side is very fond of…” McConnell’s last Senate effort was a smaller version of his previous proposals and capped at $500 billion while the last White House-House Democrats proposal seemed to revolve around a $1.8 trillion figure.
On another but closely related issue, McConnell said he and Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had agreed to complete the FY 2021 appropriations with an omnibus bill rather than a continuing resolution (CR). A CR would likely push funding into next year with spending levels flat or equal to this year. An omnibus bill would bundle all 12 appropriations bills into one or two bills that would provide specific funding for each federal department and program.
In September, the Senate gave final approval to (HR 8337) a continuing resolution or CR that keeps the government funded at level funding with slight adjustments to address formulas and some program changes. The CR extends funding to December 11, 2020.
The Senate Appropriations Committee never acted on the 12 appropriations bills, but the staff has likely been working on versions. In July, the House passed HR 7617, a second “mini-bus” legislative package that included six appropriations bills. When combined with the previous week’s action, the House had passed the ten of twelve appropriations bills. The House has not passed appropriations for the Department of Homeland Security or the Legislative Branch. The House Appropriations includes funding for the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations with those three departments receiving $196 billion in discretionary (annually appropriated) funds for the three federal departments. HHS receives approximately $96.4 billion of that total.
The Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) did not get the $270 million for state grants and $270 million for the Community-Based Child Abuse Prevention (CB-CAP) state grants advocated for by CWLA and the National Child Abuse Coalition. CAPTA state grants did get an increase to $92 million ($2.5 million increase), $63 million for CB-CAP (an 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 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 Adoption Opportunities program received level funding of $42 million. The bill also includes $75 million for adoption and subsidized guardianships, 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.
For a chart of spending on some key child welfare-related programs, go here.