Federal policy update – winter 2017
By Micah A. Haskell-Hoehl
2017 has been a year of seemingly endless “all-hands-on-deck” moments for advocates focused on federal policy related to children, youth and families. After congressional Republicans could not secure the votes needed to repeal the Affordable Care Act, attention turned to tax reform; Congress moved on to this major undertaking despite the outstanding need to finalize fiscal year 2018 appropriations and reauthorize the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which expired on Oct. 1, 2017. To be sure, members of Congress are working toward these ends, as well; however, tax reform remained the priority at the time of this writing in mid-November.
Even with attention spread over numerous pressing priorities, APA and our partners in other organizations and on Capitol Hill continue to work on other issues as well, such as youth homelessness, child welfare and higher education. What follows is an update on these fronts.
Twenty-nine groups oppose House tax bill, due to effect on children and families
APA joined 28 other organizations in co-signing a Nov. 15, 2017 letter to the House of Representatives urging them to oppose H.R. 1, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The letter argued that the plan, passed by the House of Representatives on Nov. 16:
- Threatened future spending for child programs by severely increasing the budget deficit and making further spending cuts seem necessary.
- Cut existing tax benefits for child care.
- Failed to structure the Child Tax Credit proposal in a manner to support families struggling to afford child care.
- Hurt children and families by eliminating or changing other exemptions, credits and deductions.
APA endorses House and Senate efforts to support homeless and foster youth in higher education
On Sept. 12, 2017, sponsors in the U.S. House and Senate introduced bills seeking to help homeless and foster youth enter and succeed in higher education. The legislation introduced included:
- The Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act (S. 1795/H.R. 3740), sponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Rob Portman (R-OH) and Representatives Katherine Clark (D-MA) and Don Young (R-AK).
- The Fostering Success in Higher Education Act of 2017 (S. 1792/H.R. 3742), sponsored by Senator Al Franken (D-MN) and Representative Danny Davis (D-IL).
The sponsoring offices worked in close collaboration to ensure the provisions of their bills provided an integrated set of supports for these students. APA was listed as a supporter in press materials for the Higher Education Access and Success for Homeless and Foster Youth Act and the Fostering Success in Higher Education Act.
Efforts continue on trauma-informed care initiatives
Following up on an item in the September newsletter on the Trauma-Informed Care for Children and Families Act (S. 774/H.R. 1757), Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO) and Patty Murray (D-WA) directed federal agencies to support the needs of children exposed to trauma as part of the 2018 federal appropriations process. Given the level of legislative and partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill, advocates and members of Congress are using all the tools at their disposal to advance their priorities. Senators Blunt and Murray serve as chair and ranking member, respectively, of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. In these roles, they included these directions to the agencies in the committee report expressing the sense of the committee regarding how agencies should use their funds. APA joined 25 other national organizations, as well as a number of state and local groups, in thanking Senators Blunt and Murray for their leadership on this issue.
States, children, families in limbo, as CHIP renewal remains outstanding
By mid-November, progress on CHIP reauthorization had stalled for a number of reasons. Congress was focused on tax cuts as the primary piece of business. Plus, the House and Senate committees of jurisdiction had passed their individual CHIP reauthorization bills. However, the chambers had not been able to achieve a consensus on how to fund the program, with the House including offsets and the Senate including none. One additional, critical issue for APA and other health groups in the House bill is the use of cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF) to fund CHIP. APA has written and signed a number of letters regarding CHIP and CHIP funding:
- APA letter of support for CHIP, the National Health Service Corps, and PPHF.
- Mental Health Liaison Group letter urging reauthorization of CHIP.
- National Alliance of Specialized Instructional Support Personnel letter of support for the Senate KIDS Act, S. 1827.
Coalition expresses concerns following passage of budget resolution
On Nov. 1, 2017, APA and 47 other organizations under the umbrella of the Children’s Budget Coalition (CBC) communicated serious concerns to the House and Senate regarding the recently passed congressional budget (H. Con. Res. 71). The CBC noted its opposition to the budget based on its failure to turn back the trend of decreased funding for children’s programs and to protect mandatory programs that benefit children and families. Aligned with CBC’s ongoing messaging, the coalition urged legislators to:
- Lift caps on overall non-defense domestic discretionary spending.
- Increase funding for programs for children and families through a regular-order appropriations process.
- Provide hurricane relief to areas affected by Harvey, Irma and Maria without requiring offsets.
APA continues to monitor federal spending for children’s programs and engaging with the CBC.
APA supports introduction of legislation to improve child care for working families
- Increase more than twofold the number of children eligible for child care assistance.
- Improve workforce training and provide better compensation for child care workers.
- Focus on the needs of priority populations, including children with disabilities and homeless children.
APA was pleased to be listed as an organizational supporter of the bill upon its introduction.
Join our efforts
To join APA’s advocacy to influence federal legislative and executive branch activities pertaining to children, youth and families and other areas of key importance to psychology, join the APA Federal Action Network.