House of Representatives votes on American Rescue Plan tomorrow (March 10)

On Saturday, March 6 the Senate passed the American Rescue Plan Act with a vote of 50-49. It will now move back to the House of Representatives for a final vote tomorrow and is expected to be signed by President Joe Biden this week. The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities has been advocating for key policies in this bill for many months, and we were pleased to see many of our priorities included.

This new $1.9 trillion legislation includes important provisions for our sector and the communities we serve. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Nonprofits with more than 500 employees will now have access to the Paycheck Protection Program after being shut out of earlier relief funding and lacking access to critical support.
  • The $350 billion in state and local funding will enable our sector to continue critical partnerships with government to respond to the changing needs of communities.
  • The child care sector, which has experienced tremendous disruption, enrollment drops, and added costs, will see $40 billion in child care stabilization funding.
  • The $350 million infusion into the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA), which is a significant and historic investment in front-end prevention and support for families, will help keep children out of the foster care system and at home with their families. 
  • Direct payments to working class Americans, supplemental unemployment benefits, and the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit will provide relief for individuals and families who are working hard to weather this storm and continue to give back to our economy.
  • A newly expanded Child Tax Credit that will significantly increase resources for families with children under the age of 6. The families with the least financial resources will get the full amount. This funding will be distributed monthly, so families have a regular flow of dollars coming in to cover basic needs. This policy is expected to cut America’s child poverty rate in half.
  • Additional investments, like expanded health coverage, nutrition programs, and new dollars for rent and utility assistance will give individuals and families the support to move toward full recovery.

The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the Council on Accreditation will be compiling a detailed summary of the American Rescue Plan for human service organizations. Be on the lookout for this summary and our statement as soon as tomorrow when the bill passes the House of Representatives.

TANF to Receive Emergency Funding

In its omnibus budget reconciliation bill, the House of Representatives included a temporary $1 billion Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund for The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF replaced cash welfare in the 1990’s and provides assistance to families in the form of cash assistance, education, training, childcare, and other social services. To receive federal TANF funds, states must contribute their own funds, known as the maintenance-of-effort (MOE) requirement. The $1 billion in contingency funds would be distributed among the states, territories, and the District of Columbia via a formula that takes into account the size of each state’s child population and TANF expenditures in fiscal year 2019. These funds would be reserved for short-term, non-recurrent benefits that are not subject to regular TANF rules, such as work requirements. The Senate passed the COVID-19 relief bill on Saturday, with the extra TANF funds included. During the Great Recession, Congress appropriated $5 billion in emergency funds for TANF.

Source: Congressional Research Service

DOL Releases New Guidance on Unemployment Insurance

The Department of Labor (DOL) released new guidance that expands unemployment insurance eligibility to more people out of work. The changes affect the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which makes state unemployment benefits available to workers who are not traditionally eligible, including the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and those lacking sufficient work history. Now, that list is expanded to include individuals who refuse to return to a work environment that is unsafe, certain individuals providing services to educational institutions, and workers experiencing reductions in hours or layoffs. Many workers in these three categories were not initially eligible for or have already exhausted state unemployment benefits. The updated guidance is meant to give these workers continued access to unemployment benefits as the economy recovers from the pandemic.

New Senate Bill Addresses Social Determinants of Health

On Feb. 25, U.S. Senators Dan Sullivan (R-AK) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) introduced the Leveraging Integrated Networks in Communities (LINC) to Address Social Needs Act, which would provide $150 million in one-time seed funding for states to help facilitate connections between health care and social service providers. The funds would help states create integrated technology platforms, stand up cross-sector referral systems, improve service coordination, and track outcomes. The bill would direct states to create or develop public-private partnerships that would manage referral networks and provide technical assistance. States would also be required to identify at least one health and social outcomes goal and formulate a plan to meet the goal through addressing social needs in a holistic manner. After four years, the Government Accountability Office would conduct an evaluation of the states’ programs and offer recommendations. The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Earmarks Set for a Comeback

Congressional Democrats are planning to reintroduce earmarks into the federal appropriations process. Rebranded as “Community Project Funding”, earmarks allow members of Congress to reserve funding in annual spending bills for special projects in their districts or states. Earmarks can help build bipartisan support for funding bills because they allow members to take credit for bringing money to their communities. Earmarks were eliminated a decade ago because lawmakers believed the process was not transparent and drove irresponsible government spending. Since then, federal agencies have decided where money goes once it is appropriated. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), chairs of their respective appropriations committees, are spearheading the effort to resume earmarks. Under DeLauro’s proposal, earmarks would not constitute more than 1% of discretionary spending, earmark requests would be accessible to the public online, no immediate family members of elected officials could profit, and no funds could be spent on for-profit projects. No rule changes have been made yet, though proponents of earmarks say there is bipartisan support for them in both chambers.

Source: POLITICO

HHS Unveils New Appointees

As Xavier Becerra, President Joe Biden’s pick for Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), moves through the Senate confirmation process, new appointees for the department are already being announced. The following positions, which do not require senate confirmation, are filled by individuals who, says HHS Chief of Staff Sean McCluskie, “will work hand-in-hand with our dedicated team of career officials throughout HHS to protect and expand quality, affordable care to all Americans.”

Office of the Secretary
Rachel Pryor, Counselor for Health Policy

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs
Florence Elizabeth “Beth” Lynk, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Affairs (Health Care)

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Legislation
Steven “Jeff” Hild, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislation (Human Services)

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response
Sabrina Bousbar, Special Assistant (COVID Response)

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health
Sarah Boateng, Chief of Staff
Adam Beckman, Special Advisor to the Surgeon General

Office of Intergovernmental and External Affairs
Sherice Perry, Senior Advisor for the Equity Task Force

Office of Global Affairs
Loyce Pace, Director of Global Affairs

Office of Refugee Resettlement
Cindy Huang, Director

Office of Civil Rights
Laura Durso, Chief of Staff
Stephanie Akpa, Senior Advisor

Administration for Children and Families
Jennifer Cannistra, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy
JooYeun Chang, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary
Bernadine Futrell, Director of the Office of Head Start
Katie Hamm, Associate Deputy Assistant Secretary for Early Childhood Development
Debra Johnson, Deputy Assistant Secretary for External Affairs
Aysha Schomburg, Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau

Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
Elizabeth Fowler, Deputy Administrator and Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Innovation Director

Food and Drug Administration
Andi Fristedt, Deputy Commissioner for Policy

Health Resources and Services Administration
Jordan Grossman, Chief of Staff

Source: Department of Health and Human Services

New Prevention Services Clearinghouse Ratings

The Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse issued a new round of ratings for four programs. Two programs were found to not currently meet criteria, one was found to be “promising,” and the last was found to be at the highest level of “well-supported.” See more on the programs rated below:

Source: American Public Human Services Association

Highlights from the Alliance/COA Joint Policy Survey

In February, the newly merged Alliance for Strong Families and Communities and the Council on Accreditation offered a policy survey to our joint network to identify policy priorities for 2021. Thank you to those who participated. The policy survey is helping to inform our prioritization process.

The survey asked respondents about their financial relief needs as a result of the pandemic. Of all respondents, 65% stated that funds to cover hazard pay was a priority, 62% said another round of the Paycheck Protection Program for nonprofits of all sizes was important, 65% said increasing the cap on the new universal charitable deduction was a priority, and 58% said federal aid to local/state government was a priority.

Survey respondents were also asked questions about our Alliance Policy Agenda and which items they felt were most important this year.

  • In terms of our child well-being work, 79% of respondents said Family First implementation was a priority, followed by 76% who said advancing trauma-informed and brain-science aligned principles in policy was a priority, followed closely by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) at 74%.
  • In the health space, the highest priority area seemed to be a focus on developing and supporting a diverse workforce of community health workers by scaling up training and credentialing. 81.6% of respondents said this was a policy priority.
  • In education, respondents said that developing, replicating, and scaling integrated services demonstrations that provide behavioral health and social services in K-12 was the top education policy priority, with 78% of respondents saying this was important. In addition, 72% of respondents said funding for high-quality early care and education programs was a priority.
  • In economic mobility, 75% of respondents prioritize protecting and expanding programs that help families meet basic needs, and 75% also prioritize combating the national affordable housing, eviction, and homelessness crisis.

We will seek additional opportunities to survey the field over the course of the year.