The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities member network of nonprofit, community-based human services organizations serve as the backbone of a vital human services ecosystem that employs innovative approaches to strengthening families and communities and improving the human capital of our nation. Community-based, human services organizations work in partnership with government and the philanthropic community to play a vital role in helping families and individuals reach their full potential. Federal policy changes, including budget allocations and discretionary spending, tax reform efforts, and changes to key programs, have the potential to enable the success of community-led organizations, or in some cases, thwart progress toward helping all people in America become contributors to our nation’s economic success.

Here’s what is good in some of the recent policies proposed and in some cases, passed into law:

  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): After months in limbo, CHIP, which covers nearly 9 million children in the U.S. who don’t qualify for Medicaid, was extended through 2028.
  • Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program: Expired since last September, this program, which is lauded as a model of evidence-based policy, was finally reauthorized for another five years.  
  • Additional funding for Substance Abuse and Mental Health Treatment: In the face of the opioid epidemic, an investment of $6 billion toward treatment is an important first step in the right direction.

There are additional policy changes that fall in the good news category: Historic funding levels for the Child Care Development Block Grant, reauthorization of Community Health Centers, a pay-for-success initiative, and an opt-in provision for states that takes the place of IV-E waivers and allows more state flexibility in prevention spending that’s proposed in the President’s budget. What all of these initiatives have in common is a recognition that an investment in prevention can help drive toward positive outcomes for people while working to bend cost curves downward over the long term.

Here’s the bad, potentially unintended consequence of tax reform:

  • Charitable Tax Deduction: By doubling the standard deduction through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, the Administration and Congress decreased the incentive to itemize and take advantage of the charitable tax deduction. According to a recent study by Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy, this could potentially mean a $13 billion annual shortfall in charitable giving. Congress missed an opportunity to include a Universal Charitable Tax Deduction in the bipartisan budget bill that passed last week, which would have allowed all taxpayers to take the deduction and preserve the important incentive. Establishing a Universal Charitable Tax Deduction to mitigate against the loss caused by the new federal tax code, is backed by numerous organizations, including the Alliance, the Independent Sector and Leadership 18.

And then there is the downright ugly – drastic cuts proposed in human services discretionary spending and the potential decimation of programs that, if the President’s Budget were to pass, would strip vital supports for millions of individuals, families and communities.  The President’s Budget is commonly considered a messaging document and is not likely to pass in its current form, but it is an indicator of the Administration’s priorities and, therefore, important to pay attention to.

  • Medicaid/Medicare: Calls to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act (ACA), along with proposed changes to Medicaid, including spending caps and proposed block grants for state-sponsored health insurance programs, and cuts to Medicare could leave millions of Americans without affordable health insurance. The proposed $1.4 trillion cut to Medicaid and $473 billion cut to Medicare that appear in the President’s budget, would also directly and negatively impact state budgets as they try to fill the gaps for uninsured families.
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Severe cuts to SNAP funding and an ill-conceived food box proposal could negatively impact millions of working families, seniors and disabled citizens who rely on SNAP.
  • Federal Block Grants and Entitlements: Across-the-board cuts proposed for Title IV-E and IV-B, and non-defense discretionary spending for programs like the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), along with the elimination of programs like 21st Century Community Learning Centers and preschool development grants, the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) will erode support for families and communities and have a negative impact on the health and well-being of too many Americans.

One additional policy change to note: The final spending bill passed by Congress and signed by the President incorporated the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA). While it doesn’t fit neatly into a “good, bad and ugly” framework, the passed version of FFPSA does include certain provisions the Alliance worked on as part of the network’s long-term campaign for federal child welfare finance reform. In a major development, the new law authorizes the use of IV-E financing to fund early intervention services and kinship navigator programs that can help prevent children from entering foster care in the first place. As a result of the Alliance network’s advocacy, there are specific provisions in the bill around using a trauma-informed treatment model and allowing flexibility in staffing requirements for a new program designation, Qualified Residential Treatment Program or QRTP. The Alliance network’s shared value of placing children, families and communities at the center of decision making, which drove specific recommendations the Alliance made to the bill’s authors, is reflected through emphasis on: family engagement when a child is receiving treatment, keeping siblings together, and using a strengths-based approach to assessing a child’s placement needs.

We believe that our country thrives when everyone can reach their full potential. That means investing in our children, our families and our communities so that everyone can contribute to America’s success and economic strength. We will continue to work in partnership with government, policy makers and the philanthropic sector to accelerate progress toward achieving a healthy society and a stronger America.

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