With National Voter Registration Day coming up Sept. 24, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities is doubling down on our commitment to civic engagement. Making sure that the voices of our communities are heard at the local, state, and national levels is central to our sector. Community-based organizations are uniquely positioned to engage and educate families about opportunities to take part in democracy and voting. Over the coming weeks and months, we will share updates and provide opportunities to get involved and make a difference in civic life through voter registration and mobilization. 

Through the Alliance’s partnership with Nonprofit VOTE, we are offering an exciting new opportunity. Consider participating in its Voter Engagement Crash Course, taking place online Sept. 9-13. This free course will teach you the basics of running a nonpartisan voter engagement project in your community. Each day, participants will receive an email with informative readings and action items, followed by a 30-minute interactive webinar, where you will have the chance to ask questions and listen to experts. If you haven’t run a voter engagement effort before, or if you are looking to build your skills, register for the course online.

In other news, the Alliance recently joined over 200 organizations in the child welfare space to send a letter to Congress urging safe, sanitary, and supportive conditions for children at the border and in U.S. custody. Many Alliance members also signed onto the letter, and we thank them for their advocacy.

Federal Budget Update

Congress will return from August recess Sept. 9 with less than a month until the end of the fiscal year. While a topline budget deal was reached recently, Congress still must complete work on all 12 appropriations bills for fiscal year 2020. Members of the Appropriations Committee are now saying that it’s likely they will prepare a continuing resolution to cover spending while the 12 bills are finalized. This will help to avoid a government shutdown at the end of September. This possible continuing resolution would extend existing funding levels through Dec. 6, until appropriations work is complete.

U.S. Deficit Expected to Grow Past $1 Trillion in Next Year

A report released last week by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) shows that the U.S. budget deficit is set to reach $1 trillion by fiscal year 2020, two years sooner than previously estimated. As recently as this past January, the CBO said it didn’t expect the deficit to reach $1 trillion until fiscal year 2022. It would be the first time the deficit has exceeded $1 trillion since 2012, when the economy was recovering from the financial crisis. Economic growth is expected to expand at a 2.3% pace in the last quarter of this year, followed by a projected 2.1% next year. After that, it’s expected for growth to slow to about 1.8% through to 2029. Economists are warning that a recession could be on the horizon.

According to Bloomberg’s August survey of economists, the likelihood of an economic downturn in the next year rose to 35%, up from the 31% previously forecasted. This added debt could add further strain to the economy, which is now in its longest expansion on record. The debt could continue to rise even higher after 2029 because of the aging population, growth in per capita spending on health care, and rising interest costs. As a share of GDP, the deficit is expected to increase to 4.6% next year, up from 4.5% this year.

Source: Children’s Budget Coalition

Immigration Update

Building on the recent “public charge” rule that will discourage immigrants from accessing necessary food and medical assistance, the Trump administration announced plans last Friday to throw out 22 years of precedent and permit migrant children to be held in detention centers indefinitely while their cases are processed. The Flores Settlement of 1997 had put a 20-day cap on the amount of time minors could be held in custody before being placed in specialized facilities or with family members. President Trump has been vocal for years about his opposition to the Flores Settlement. According to the administration, this new rule will deter families from crossing the border illegally.

Nineteen states sued the administration in response to the rule. California Attorney General Xavier Becerra said that the new rule, “callously puts at risk the safety and well-being of children.” There has been an outcry from immigration activists and organizations, citing the long-term traumatic effects the new rule will have on minors. Peter Schey, the lead lawyer in the Flores case, says he’ll challenge the rule as soon as it’s published. He anticipates that the U.S. District Judge Dolly Gee in Los Angeles will reject it.

New Drug Pricing Czar at Health and Human Services

John Brooks is the new senior advisor for drug pricing reform at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), replacing John O’Brien as the Trump administration’s top drug pricing official. Brooks brings diverse experience within the administration to his new position. Brooks started his stint in the administration with HHS, then moved to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, before ending up at the White House as a health advisor on the Domestic Policy Council.

Brooks returns to HHS as the administration turns its attention to Congress after failing to enact drug pricing rules through executive action. For instance, a federal judge blocked the administration’s attempts to require drug companies to reveal drug prices in TV advertisements. Because of the breadth of his experience within the agency and policy worlds, his current and former colleagues believe he is in a good position to use his relationships to pass legislation that lowers prescription drug and out-of-pocket costs for all Americans.

View more public policy news  and sign up for the weekly Alliance Policy Radar online.

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