HR 748, the third COVID-19 emergency spending legislation, includes some human services and state relief, but the targeted human services funding did not go as far as many groups had been seeking. The biggest source of support is a $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund that governors had been pushing for, but it is not as much as they are seeking. Of the $150 billion, $3 billion is for the District of Columbia and the territories, and $8 billion is for tribal governments. Out of the $150 billion, city governments with more than a half-million people would be able to apply directly to the fund with smaller jurisdictions getting their funding through the state. The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities has issued a chart that breaks out each state’s share of the $150 billion. The way these funds were designated has upset leaders in the District of Columbia, which generally would be classified as a state and not part of the set-aside for territories. Several smaller population states will get more funds than Washington DC.

Although the impact on child welfare is yet to be fully determined, the additional $45 million in funding through Title IV-B, Child Welfare Services (CWS) will likely need to be increased in the next bill. The COVID-19 #2 package did provide a 6.2 percent increase in the FMAP –Medicaid matching rate, but the added funds may not be able to address all the needs of specific populations. Likely challenges will include how to deal with children and youth in various institutional care, youth in independent living circumstances including college campuses, the need to expanded or purchase new technology to conduct family meetings and caseworker visits as well as the increasing challenges of the child welfare workforce being asked to be a part of the first-responder force. There are challenges including some reports in some high-risk areas of children in foster care testing positive and needing an alternate placement (hotels or other vacant spaces) if a foster parent will not/cannot continue to provide care. The same circumstance may extend to independent living circumstances if there is an outbreak or a youth tests positive.

In addition to these challenges is how to address child protection issues. The two biggest sets of mandatory reporters are school teachers and primary health care providers, including nurses and doctors. Challenges include how to provide primary prevention of child abuse in an increasingly isolated community, how to investigate and serve families and protect children when needed. Finally, child welfare agencies, not unlike child care providers, will be challenged to survive since they exist with a combination of state and local revenue, which is under severe pressure with decreasing income tax and sales tax revenue. Nonprofit child welfare agencies subsidize services through fundraising, and their ability to attract donations is hampered by the uncertain financial stability of donors and the cancellation of fundraising efforts.

Here are some of the human services with supplemental funds:

$45 million for Child Welfare Services Title IV-B part 1 (currently funded at $269 million), the flexible child welfare block grant without a match requirement with $7 million for federal administrative costs. The new funds can be used directly or through reimbursement for expenses incurred to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus pandemic, domestically or internationally, now or earlier during the pandemic.

$3.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) (currently funded at $8.7 billion in discretionary and TANF related funds) states are allowed to continue payments and assistance to child care providers in case decreased enrollment or closures related to coronavirus so that they are able to remain open or reopen after the pandemic. No state plan amendments are required. These funds can also be used to provide child care to health care and other emergency responders without regard to income of the CCDBG limits and qualifications.

$750 million for Head Start (currently funded at $10.6 billion) with $500 million of this available for supplemental summer programs.

$25 million for the Runaway and Homeless Youth (currently $113 million) programs.

$45 million for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and $45 million for the Family Violence Prevention and Services.

$1.03 billion to the Indian Health Service to support tribal health care system response efforts.

$100 million more for the USDA Food Distribution Program for American Indian Reservations.

$453 million to assist tribes through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

$69 million to help tribal schools, colleges and universities through for the Bureau of Indian Education.

$250 million for Community Behavioral Health Clinic Expansion Grant program, which includes $15 million allocated to tribes, tribal organizations, or health or behavioral health service providers to tribes. This $250 million allocation includes at least $50 million for suicide prevention programs.

$900 million for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) program. A block grant that states use to help low income and elderly populations pay energy bills both in cold and hot weather.

Elementary and Secondary Education funding at $13.5 billion in formula funding directly to states, $14.25 billion in Higher Education funding to institutions of higher education for student support and to support institutions, and State Flexibility Funding of $3 billion for both K-12 and higher education.

$5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), under, the federal housing department provides communities and states with funding to provide infrastructure and some human services funding.

Some of the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) program emergency funding includes Homeless Assistance Grants at $4 billion, Tenant-Based Rental Assistance at $1.25 billion to preserve Section 8 voucher rental assistance for seniors, the disabled, and low-income working families, Public Housing Operating Fund at $685 million to help address additional operating assistance to make up for reduced tenant rent payments, as well as to help address the coronavirus in public housing properties. Native American Programs at $300 million to help with homelessness issues due to lost income from the coronavirus.

Coronavirus emergency spending package, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act, HR 6201 also included:

      An increase in the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) for Medicaid and Title IV-E by 6.2 percent (state by state Medicaid increase, Center on Budget Policy and Priority)
      Women, Infants and Children (WIC)—$500 million
      Commodity Assistance Program—$400 million
      EBT cards flexibility to provide funding to replace school meals in a public health emergency in which schools are closed
      Nutrition assistance for the territories—$100 million
      Defense Department Health Program—$82 million
      Taxpayer Services in the Treasury Department—$15 million
      Indian Health Service—$64 million
      Senior meals—$250 million divided as: $160 million for Home-Delivered Meals, $80 million for Congregate Meals, $10 million for Native Americans
     Public Health and Social On Services—$1 billion
     Veterans Medical Services—$30 million

In addition to these categories of spending increases, there were several modifications to nutrition programs. States can request waivers from the Agriculture Department to provide temporary, emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to SNAP households up to the maximum monthly benefit amount, and it suspends time limits on SNAP eligibility for unemployed and underemployed individuals. There are also several paperwork reductions measures for school nutrition programs that will increase their availability to students no longer in school. The package allows a greater ability for child and adult care centers to operate as non-congregate sites.

This $15.5 billion for SNAP in bill #3 is funding for provisions in bill #2, so the $15 billion did not address the increases the nutrition community was seeking.

About the Author:

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

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