Will a Hurricane Harvey response force members of Congress and the administration to work together? Time will quickly tell. When Congress returns next week, they have only 12 working days before the end of the fiscal year (Sept. 30) to pass a federal budget to avoid a government shutdown; increase the debt ceiling; reauthorize the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program; fund the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP); and possibly clear disaster aid in the wake of Hurricane Harvey.
According to several sources, members of Congress from both parties have indicated a desire to pass a federal package that seeks to quickly replenish Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds followed by another round of federal supports once a better assessment of the damage from Harvey is attained. How the FEMA funds get through Congress is the unknown. One strategy is to get an emergency aid bill quickly through Congress—with no strings attached. Another option is to attach the emergency aid package to "must pass legislation" that funds the government, raises the debt ceiling, and wins over Democratic support—a hard pill to swallow for fiscally conservative members of Congress.
The House and Senate will also need to complete appropriation bills to set funding for discretionary funded programs. The Alliance's Office of Public Policy and Mobilization has numerous meetings scheduled with Senate and House congressional offices so that the Alliance strategic action network's message of fully funding programs that address family and community challenges is heard. Place-based programs, such as child care and employment training are the foundation for helping individuals and families build well-being, and we will be sharing success stories and evidence of these programs' impact with Congress. Contact the Alliance’s Office of Public Policy and Mobilization if your organization has case studies or success stories that we can highlight for members of Congress.
In addition, both CHIP and MIECHV are set to run out of money by the end of Sept. 30. These two federal programs lay a strong foundation for children and their parents. CHIP provides an affordable health insurance coverage option to children whose families earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid. In most states, CHIP programs are known by other names, such as BadgerCare in Wisconsin, Hawk-I in Iowa, PeachCare in Georgia, etc. Identify the name of your state’s CHIP program online. MIECHV-funded home visiting programs help build strong family foundations by connecting parents to highly-trained local professionals who provide personal support from pregnancy through their children's first five years of life. The Alliance calls on Congress to extend these vital programs for an additional five years. If you are interested in joining our advocacy efforts in support of CHIP or MIECHV, email the Office of Public Policy and Mobilization.
Pertaining to health care reform, it seems like the immediate focus will be on shoring up the private market and cost-sharing subsidies ahead of the Sept. 27 federal deadline for insurance rate reviews. Insurers rely on the federal contributions to provide cost-sharing reductions for individuals earning between 100 percent and 250 percent of the federal poverty level to purchase health insurance coverage through the exchanges. The Senate HELP committee is hosting a series of hearings over the next two weeks to hear from various stakeholders including governors, insurance commissioners, and health plans.
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