Capitol View on Kids: Congress to Settle Spending for Now, Then Leave

Congress is making a quick exit for the campaign trail as the House of Representatives took only a few days last week to approve a continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government for the next six months.  The CR (HJ Res 117) was unveiled on Tuesday and approved by the House on Thursday.

The CR provides funding at an annual level of $1.047 trillion, which is considered flat funding at $8 billion above fiscal 2012.  The CR is considered “clean,” meaning there were no controversial provisions or additions in policy or funding.  Some of the additional funding will go to address the wildfires in the west, cyber security, adjustments in defense spending and a few other security provisions.  In addition there will be an increase to agency budgets of .62 percent across the board.  The funding level was actually agreed to in last year’s debt ceiling agreement (PL 112-25).

The CR means Congress will have to finish the appropriations process before March 27, 2013.  Any future cuts would be enacted over less than a full fiscal year.  Members could come back to the appropriations debate in the lame duck session which is something appropriators, including House Appropriation Chair Harold Rogers (R-Ky.), would like to see, but it would be competing with a long list of other items.

The CR means that Congress continues to fail at the annual appropriations process.  The last time the Congress was able to adopt all appropriations bill before the start of the October 1 fiscal year was 1994 when Congress sent President Bill Clinton all 13 bills before they left for the 1994 election.

The Senate is expected to take up and pass the CR this week with no changes made.

TANF Gets Extension Through CR

One area of surprise in the CR was the inclusion of a six-month extension of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. TANF (along with some of the child care funding) runs out on October 1 if it is not reauthorized at least temporarily.  One of the great challenges is that TANF has become a political football and has found its way into the presidential campaign.

On July 12, HHS issued guidance to states allowing them to request waivers for TANF and while the guidance limits the extent of waivers and does not affect the time limits it offers states the potential to apply for some modification to the general work requirements and offers states some flexibility in how work for adults receiving cash assistance is structured.

The waiver announcement drew immediate negative reaction from Capitol Hill Republicans, with the Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee David Camp (R-Mich,) and Senate Finance Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) offering strong criticism as well as legislation (HR 6140/S 3397) against the waiver authority.

The CR extended TANF because the House is separately acting on legislation to prohibit the waivers.  The waiver action may be largely symbolic since it is not expected to make it through the Senate.  The extension of TANF also extended the mandatory child care funding which is provided to child care programs in two funding streams: a state grant of mandatory funding and a portion provided if states supply matching child care funds.

White House Releases Details Of Sequestration Cuts For January 

On Friday, September 14, the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), released details on the across-the-board budget cuts that will take effect on January 2, 2013, if Congress fails to act on an alternative package of cuts/revenue raisers (http://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/omb/assets/legislative_reports/stareport.pdf).

The sequestration, part of last year’s debt ceiling agreement, requires Congress to come up with deficit reduction totaling $1.2 trillion over ten years.  The cuts are imposed on both defense spending and domestic spending, but some programs are exempt.  In the human service field, Medicare (except for some provider payments), Medicaid, Title IV-E foster care, kinship care and adoption assistance, TANF, a portion of child care funding are exempt from the cuts.

That still leaves a wide range of human services programs subject to the across-the-board cuts. To explain, cuts are divided between discretionary spending (annually appropriated funds); mandatory funds (entitlement funds and funds not requiring annual appropriations) and then the two categories are divided between the defense spending and non-defense spending. To carry out the cuts of $110 billion in 2013, after exempt programs are taken out, the cuts would require:

  • 9.4 percent cut for defense discretionary spending
  • 8.2 percent cut for non-defense discretionary spending
  • 2.0 percent cut for Medicare provider payments
  • 7.6 percent for defense mandatory spending
  • 10 percent for non-defense mandatory spending

The Administration indicates it cannot select the level of cuts or which programs are subject to the cuts.  Some of the specific cuts outline include:

-A cut of $187 million to discretionary child care funding (out of $2.3 billion)

-$136 million to SSBG (out of $1.7 billion)

-$30 million from the home visiting program (out of $400 million)

-$21 million to juvenile justice programs (out of $254 million)

-$33 million to VAWA prosecution and prevention programs (out of $398 million)

-$812 million (out of $9.9 billion) for child and family services programs within the Administration for Children and Families.  Included in these programs are Child Welfare Services, Promoting Safe and Stable Families, Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act, Adoption Incentives, Adoption Opportunities and Community Based Child Abuse Prevention grants.

For further analysis of the potential impact on the cuts see an analysis by First Focus at: http://www.firstfocus.net/library/fact-sheets/kids-lose-billions-with-sequester

SSBG Focus of Hill Briefing

A cross-section of more than two dozen organizations came together to speak in support of the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) last Wednesday.  Capitol Hill staffers were addressed by a panel of four that included Maryland Delegate Samuel Rosenberg, representing the National Conference of State Legislatures; Bob Suver, Director of Clark County, Ohio, also representing the National Association of Counties; Jerry L. Davis, Boys Town and the Alliance for Children and Families; and Cecile Noel, executive deputy commissioner of the New York City Human Resources Administration.

SSBG, the $1.7 billion human services block grant, has been targeted for elimination by the House of Representatives in a vote earlier this year as a way to protect the defense budget.

The briefing discussion focused on how critical SSBG is to various human service programs. In May, the House of Representatives adopted a reconciliation bill (H RES 648) that will cut social spending by $238 billion, including the complete and immediate elimination of SSBG.  SSBG is the biggest federal funding source for state child protective services, and contributes over $800 million annually to child welfare services. The legislation, if implemented as passed, would eliminate the automatic across-the–board–cuts to the Defense Department budget scheduled for January 2 (the sequestration) but would leave in place the cuts for domestic spending.

Delegate Rosenberg talked about the state perspective, and how SSBG is critical to addressing some of the budget shortfalls that states experience and how the elimination of SSBG would create significant challenges to continuing services in some parts of that state’s budget. Bob Suver described some of the specific uses of SSBG funding in Clark County, and talked about some elder abuse cases that had been successfully addressed through services funded by SSBG.  Dr. Davis highlighted Boys Town’s expanding range of services in child welfare and how SSBG was important to addressing the gaps in funding for wrap around child welfare services.  Deputy Commissioner Noel discussed New York City’s heavy reliance on SSBG to fund adult protective services including domestic violence services.

Until 1981, SSBG was an entitlement that states could draw down as long as the state matched funding and followed income eligibility requirements. In 1981 SSBG became a block grant, and dollars provided to states were reduced from $3 billion to $2.4 billion in 1982. In return for the significant cut in funding states were allowed to do away with federal mandates, were no longer required to match federal funds and were free to set their own eligibility criteria and decide which groups to serve.

The argument was that states would have greater flexibility to better address their human service policy as a swap for fixed and limited federal dollars. It was reduced further in 1996 for deficit reduction and again in 1998 to offset the cost of that year’s transportation reauthorization. It has been at $1.7 billion since that cut.

Congress Looking to Finish This Week

There are a few other issues that must be dealt with by Congress by October 1, but these policies are likely to get a limited fix rather than a full reauthorization.  Versions of the Violence Against Women Act Reauthorization (VAWA) have been passed by both houses (HR 4970/S 1925), but as has been the case in this Congress, there are differences that have prevented agreement on a reauthorization.  The Agriculture reauthorization (farm bill) is also set to expire on October 1 but it looks like Congress may not even act on that and instead leave for the election. That failure may also mean Congress fails to act on a drought relief bill.  The Senate is scheduled to take up the CR this week and may leave shortly after that with no return until after the election.

UPCOMING CAPITOL HILL BRIEFINGS/EVENTS

  • National Foster Care Coalition quarterly meeting will be held on Wednesday, September 19, 12:00 PM, (Brown Bag Lunch) American Bar Association, 9th Floor Conference Room, 740 15th St NW, Washington DC.  Topics include a discussion with the Consumer Protection Bureau on financial challenge for youth in foster care and the impact of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) on child welfare.  RSVP to: nationalfostercare@gmail.com
  • From Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE) to Success for Young Mother Led Families, Wednesday, October 24, 10:00 am to Noon, Capitol Visitors Center (SVC – 212-10), the National Crittenton Foundation. RSVP to Jessie Salu at: Jessie@NationalCrittenton.org  

John Sciamanna is a strategic consultant on child welfare policy and legislation.

Your support allows The Imprint to provide independent, nonpartisan daily news covering the issues faced by vulnerable children and families.

Subscribe or Donate

Contra Costa County's DA plans task force with eye on closing juvenile hall, expanding community alternatives https://bit.ly/2EThagP #juvenilejustice

BREAKING: House introduces major #childwelfare COVID-19 bill that would require some states to prevent aging out of #fostercare, and take all #FamilyFirst Act prevention costs off of state https://bit.ly/3acOIlJ