Last week, the Senate voted to begin formal debate on the physical infrastructure bill that a bipartisan group of senators and the White House have been negotiating for months. The tentative deal would pump $550 billion into roads and bridges, airports, public transit, high-speed internet, and clean water, among other things. One potential amendment, supported by Sens. John Cornyn (R-Texas) and Alex Padilla (D-Calif), which would give states the flexibility to spend 25% of federal dollars allocated in prior COVID-19 relief bills, is gaining bipartisan momentum. This raises some concerns that funds meant to provide relief to state and local budgets could be clawed back. House lawmakers, who will have a vote on the bill after it passes the Senate, are also inserting themselves into the negotiations, calling for some of their own changes. The legislation has made it through a procedural vote in the Senate and is expected to pass the Senate today or tomorrow, and then be sent over to the House of Representatives for their consideration. 

In addition to the infrastructure debate, Congressional democrats are also pulling together a large ($3.5 trillion) budget reconciliation bill, which could be voted on as soon as September. As part of those discussions, he debt limit, which restricts how much the federal government can borrow, has come into focus. Every several years, Congress needs to raise the debt limit to increase spending. As Congress considers passing President Biden’s American Families Plan, which would pay for universal pre-K, two years of community college, expanded health care subsidies, and paid family leave, among other things, the debt limit will need to be resolved. Republicans are opposed to raising or suspending the debt limit unless restrictions on social spending are put in place. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) says he doesn’t expect anyone from his party to support a debt limit measure. The last debt limit agreement was reached in 2019, and officially expired Aug. 1, 2021. The Treasury Department has taken steps keep federal spending under the limit, but it warns of default risks as soon as September. On Monday, Democratic leadership in Congress released the outline of its $3.5 trillion spending plan, without mentioning the debt limit. This sets the stage for a standoff in the fall over the debt ceiling. 

As we continue to grapple with long-term recovery, Alliance-COA is partnering with the Federal Reserve on their COVID-19 Community Impact Survey. Please take a few minutes to fill it out. This survey focuses on the impact of the pandemic on low-to-moderate income communities and the organizations that work in them. The survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. The deadline to participate is August 24. We encourage you to take this opportunity to inform the federal government about the challenges our sector and communities still face.

CDC Eviction Moratorium Partially Extended for Now

Last Wednesday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention extended its eviction moratorium until Oct. 3. The new moratorium covers areas of the country with substantial or high transmission of COVID-19—about 80% of counties. As the Delta variant spreads across the country, the administration hopes that the moratorium will keep people in their homes and out of congregate settings and buy more time for states and localities to distribute $46 billion in rental assistance that had been allocated in the last nine months. The extension came after intense advocacy from some members of Congress, particularly from Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), who slept on the steps of the Capitol for several nights last weekend to draw attention to the July 31 expiration of the previous eviction ban. Initially, the administration was hesitant to extend the moratorium because the Supreme Court had ruled earlier in July that an extension would require congressional action. However, after days of legal wrangling, pressure from activists, and inaction from Congress, the White House put in place the new moratorium. It is unclear whether the eviction ban will pass legal muster over the coming weeks.

Source: Bloomberg Government

Pursuing Equity in Mental Health Act Introduced

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) recently introduced a new bill that would address racial and ethnic disparities in mental health care by establishing a new grant program. This program would support enhanced behavioral health services at Federally Qualified Health Centers, Rural Health Clinics, and other providers that serve a large proportion of individuals from racial and ethnic minority groups. Funds would also be made available to train students and professionals to provide culturally relevant mental health care. It would also fund research on mental health disparities. This bill is currently pending before the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions.

Alliance-COA Releases Systems Change Principles for Health Equity

Last week, Alliance-COA released its Systems Change Principles for Population Health and Well-Being. Achieving true systems change requires stakeholders to commit to centering the voices of people with lived experience in identifying issues and developing solutions. Health care systems; public systems, like health and human services, education, and housing; and community-based organizations must commit to common goals, values, and outcomes to improve population health and well-being.

These systems change principles are designed to foster conversation and support the framing of the social sector’s work through the lens of social determinants of health. With shared values focused on equity, diversity, and inclusion, as well as the knowledge of research and results-based practices, systems can work together to improve life for people of all ages in their communities. We support policy changes that modernize systems through design or redesign, drive cross-system functioning, provide robust and sustainable financing, and remove systemic and structural barriers that have upheld racist practices or policies that contribute to poor health outcomes.

These systems change principles improved population health and well-being were co-created by key leaders in the social service sector and Alliance-COA. Read them online.

New Analysis Shows Millions of Children and their Families are Eligible for Child Tax Credit

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities recently issued a new analysis on the roughly 4 million or more children in families who are eligible for the Child Tax Credit but who must submit their information to the IRS to get their money. The report offers ways to prioritize outreach, including state by state numbers, and suggestions for ways that states and community-based organizations can help eligible families claim the tax credit, which equals up to $3,600 per child. They have also released new resources that organizations can use to support Child Tax Credit outreach efforts.

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