Administration for Children and Families Data Interoperability comments 

Many thanks to the Alliance members who provided comments on the Interoperability request to assist ACF in establishing standards for data exchange for the Social Security Act Title IV programs for child welfare and foster care (title IV-B and IV-E), child support (title IV-D), and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF, title IV-A). With your input, we were able to address the additional, connected programs and funding sources that are often leveraged or braided with these programs. The Alliance Comment letter was submitted on Monday, Jan. 7. Thank you!

Government Shutdown

During the shutdown, appropriations for some federal agencies and other programs lapsed, including Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Violence Against Women Act, Immigration programs (including E-Verify and EB-5 regional investor visas), and EPA authority to collect pesticide registration fees.

As it currently stands, this is the second-longest shutdown in modern political history. Should the government remain shut down on Saturday, it will break the record currently held by the 1995-1996 shutdown at 21 days. Currently, it is unclear how long it will take to resolve the debate and end the shutdown.

On Tuesday, President Trump, Speaker Pelosi, and Minority Leader Schumer all addressed the nation, each side laying out their arguments. On Wednesday, Congressional leaders met with President Trump but the negotiations around reopening the government and whether to fund a border wall have stalled. On Thursday, a group of Republican Members of Congress proposed a deal to reopen the government immediately, while continuing negotiations around border funding. That proposal was rejected, and next steps are now unknown. Our team will be closely tracking the shutdown as things develop in the coming days.

Impact on Housing

Earlier this week, the Campaign for Housing and Community Development Funding sent a letter to Congressional leadership and issued a press release outlining the effects of the shutdown on affordable housing. Specifically, the shutdown affects many HUD and USDA housing programs.

HUD is currently unable to renew federal contracts for over 1,100 Section 8 Project-Based Rental Assistance properties housing thousands of renters. Additional contracts are expected to expire later this month and in February, and HUD does not have the resources to renew contracts during the government shutdown. The National Low Income Housing Coalition created a helpful fact sheet that details other effects of the shutdown on housing programs.

If the government doesn’t reopen by February, hundreds of thousands of rural families who receive rent subsidies through the USDA could be in jeopardy of losing their housing. According to a Washington Post article, many of these individuals are seniors and have disabilities.

Source: National Low Income Housing Coalition

Impact on Food Assistance 

Earlier this week, USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that the agency had the budget authority to give states money for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for February ahead of time. Before, it was expected that SNAP funds would not be available for recipients, many of whom are children and senior citizens. This budget authority also ensures that school meals and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children feeding program have funds available through the month of February, should it be needed.

However, there is one important glitch. Over 2,500 food retailers are not currently accepting SNAP benefits because their licenses were not renewed before the shutdown began.

*It is critical that CBO’s communicate with constituents about the fact that February disbursements will be made early due to the shutdown, so they should plan accordingly. 

Source: The Washington Post

Impact in Domestic Violence Shelters

Most domestic violence shelters pay their expenses out of pocket and are repaid with federal funds at the end of each month for staff, rent, and other expenses. Shelters are struggling to make these payments, as many don’t have much in cash reserves. The primary source of funding for domestic violence shelters, the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Victims of Crime Act Fund, and some HUD funding are all impacted by the shutdown. According to a recent article, if shelters don’t have the funds they need to stay open they will need to lay off staff or close temporarily.

Source: The Huffington Post

Impact on Other Benefits 

Currently, funds are not available for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The majority of the recipients of these funds are children. In the interim, states must cover the cost and states are doing their best to pull together unspent federal funds.

There could also be potential delays in HUD disaster relief funding to Puerto Rico, Florida, and other places affected by disasters this year.

Native American tribes depend on federal funding for many of their basic services such as health care. Tribes are doing their best to reallocate funds, but this will get harder as time goes on.

Source: The Washington Post

Impact on Federal Workers 

Nearly 420,000 federal personnel are working without pay, and another 380,000 are furloughed. These workers are in nearly every state, with a large concentration in the Washington, D.C. area. Governing.com compiled data to show the state-by-state impact. States with the highest numbers of furloughed federal employees include California, Texas, Virginia, and Maryland.

Source: Governing.com 

Update on Status of Title IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse

As the calendar rolled to 2019, Jerry Milner, the Associate Commissioner of the Children’s Bureau at the Administration for Children and Families, issued an update letter to state child welfare directors providing an update on the Prevention Services Clearinghouse. The Children’s Bureau and OPRE considered more than 360 comments from a previous request. Milner shared that the Clearinghouse will continue to identify and prioritize additional services and programs on a rolling basis. They hope to “add to the body of title IV-E reimbursable services as expeditiously as possible.” They expect to issue a handbook of standards and procedures in early April 2019. They also provide a timeline for events that have occurred and future estimated dates for additional guidance. Most notably, a webinar addressing clearinghouse standards is expected in April and a release of program and service ratings is expected in May. Additional programs and services selected for review will be released later this spring or summer.

Spotlight on Key House Committee Chairs

With changes to control of the House of Representatives due to the elections, House committees are now under new leadership. The following chairs are folks to watch in the 116th Congress, who will have jurisdiction over the key policy issues Alliance members care about. Next week we’ll share a deeper dive into key Senate committee chairs.

Representative Nita Lowey (D-NY) - Chairwoman, House Appropriations Committee

  • Bio: Lowey represents Rockland and Westchester counties in New York and has served in the U.S. House of Representatives since 1988. Lowey is a native of the Bronx and raised her children in Queens. She served as Secretary of State in New York under former Governor Mario Cuomo’s administration. She also served previously as New York’s Assistant Secretary of State. In 2001, Lowey became the first woman to serve as head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. She has served on the Appropriations Committee in numerous leadership roles for many years.
  • Appropriations Interests in Human Services: Federal funding for shelters aiding those who’ve struggled with domestic abuse; federal funding for breast cancer research and women’s health.
  • Potential Issues to be Considered by Committee in 2019: Each year the Committee is responsible for passing the annual budget. Chairwoman Lowey will be charged with leading negotiations on the annual appropriations bills in FY20 and FY21, which includes all federal domestic programs including programs under HUD, Department of Education, Health and Human Services, Department of Justice, and others.

Representative Bobby Scott (D-VA) - House Education & Labor Committee

  • Bio: Congressman Scott represents Virginia’s third Congressional district. He is the first African American to represent Virginia in Congress since Reconstruction and has been a major advocate for equity in education. He was one of the lead negotiators on the rewrite of the No Child Left Behind legislation. Scott has also been a strong advocate on criminal justice and juvenile justice reform. In 2010 he spearheaded the Fair Sentencing Act, which narrowed sentencing for cocaine-related crimes. He is also the Vice Chairman of the House Democratic Gun Violence Prevention Task Force. He is an active member of the Congressional Black Caucus. Born in Washington, D.C., and raised in Newport News, VA, Congressman Scott attended Harvard and Boston College for law school.
  • Policy Interests in Human Services: Prevention, brain science and child development, juvenile justice reform, criminal justice reform, equity issues, youth, foster youth, education reform, higher education, labor protections, increasing the minimum wage. 
  • Potential Issues to be Considered by Committee in 2019: The Committee will be tasked with overseeing the Higher Education Act reauthorization, the primary federal policy and funding source for higher education. This bill addresses access to higher education for low-income and at-risk populations and will look at affordability. The Committee may also start to address the reauthorization of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA), the largest federal policy and funding stream for workforce development. 

Representative Richard Neal (D-MA) - House Ways and Means Committee

  • Bio: Congressman Neal is the most senior Massachusetts Democrat in Congress and a decades-long member of the Ways and Means Committee. Neil was elected to Congress in 1988. He was born in Worcester and raised in Springfield, MA. Previously, he worked for Congressman McGovern. 
  • Policy Interests in Human Services: Simplifying the tax system, protecting the ACA and Medicare, supporting comprehensive immigration reform, increasing the minimum wage. 
  • Potential Issues to be Considered by Committee in 2019: The Committee will be focused on protecting the ACA, expanding coverage to the uninsured, and overseeing all health programs. Neal has stated that he would like to hold hearings on the 2017 tax reform law and wants to fix what isn’t working.

New Acting Head of Medicaid Agency

Chris Traylor was named the new acting director of the Center for Medicaid and CHIP services. Previously, Chris served as the deputy administrator for strategy at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. He also worked at a health care consulting group that worked with managed care organizations and providers. Before that he served as executive commissioner for the Texas Health and Human Services Commission which runs the Texas Medicaid program. Traylor is replacing Mary Mayhew, who had only served in the role for a few months before resigning to take a new position as the head of the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration, appointed by Governor DeSantis.

Source: Bloomberg Government

Recently Proposed or Watched Legislation

The Alliance watches specific bills at member request and new bills we find to be sector relevant. All bills previously tracked and not passed into law during 2018 died with the end of the 115th Congress. As we head into the 116th Congress, if you have a position or interest in any specific bills please email the Alliance Public Policy Office or call the Alliance Policy Hotline at 414-359-6626 and leave a message with your name and organization.