The Alliance is in the process of updating our member-led policy agenda for 2020-2022, and we need your feedback. Help us ensure our policy agenda reflects your organization’s federal policy priorities, and let us know if we should we be considering some new issues. We want to hear from you. Join us for a town hall-style webinar Dec. 10 from 2-3 p.m. CT to discuss.

The Trump administration published new proposed rulemaking Nov. 19 that would undo Obama-era nondiscrimination regulations in programs funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). Those original rules prevent discrimination on the basis of sex, religion, sexual orientation, and gender identity for all HHS-funded grant program including foster and adoption programs. The administration also announced it would stop enforcing the nondiscrimination regulations immediately. 

The Every Child Deserves a Family Campaign created a fact sheet explaining the impact of new rules and offers resources, including a comment portal, to help people speak out on these new regulations. Comments are due Dec. 19. The Alliance plans to submit comments before the deadline. If you would like your input included in our comments, send them to the Alliance's Office of Public Policy and Mobilization.

Congress Narrowly Avoids a Government Shutdown

This week, federal lawmakers avoided an imminent government shutdown by voting for a stopgap bill that will temporarily extend federal funding to Dec 20. The bill included, among other things, level funding for community health centers and a funding increase for the Census Bureau in preparation for next year’s decennial census. The bill also extended some provisions from the Patriot Act until March 15, which garnered bipartisan opposition. The bill passed in the House of Representatives Tuesday, Nov. 19 and passed in the Senate Thursday, Nov. 21, and it is expected to be signed by President Trump shortly.

For months, lawmakers have been negotiating the federal budget for fiscal year 2020, which was supposed to begin Oct. 1. In July, leaders in the House, Senate, and the administration reached an agreement on how much the federal government will spend overall in 2020. However, since then, the House passed 10 of the 12 individual spending bills that make up the federal budget, and the Senate passed only four. The biggest sticking point on an overall appropriations deal continues to be border wall funding. President Trump requested $9 billion, the Senate requested $5 billion, and the House allocated nothing for the wall. Negotiations will continue through December.

Source: Bloomberg Government

First Family First Prevention Plan Approved by Children’s Bureau

Though several states have submitted prevention plans for the Family First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA), only one has been approved. The plan from the District of Columbia, which was the first to be submitted, was recently approved by the Children’s Bureau, meaning that it can start implementing FFPSA prevention services. According to Jerry Milner, associate commissioner of the Children’s Bureau, “The plan represents a thoughtful reconceptualization of the way public child welfare agencies serve children and families, and we in the federal government look forward to working closely with the District to implement this landmark plan.” Read about the plan online.

Source: APHSA

HUD Awards Grants to Combat Former Foster Youth Homelessness

Recently, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced it is awarding $1.5 million to several housing authorities through the Foster Youth to Independence program, which provides housing vouchers to public housing authorities to prevent or end homelessness among youth under age 25 who have recently aged out of the foster care system. These awards, being made to several housing authorities, are aimed at assisting youth aging out of foster care who are at risk of experiencing homelessness. These grants also include funding for support services to encourage independent living skills.

Source: APHSA

Department of State Activates “Public Charge Rule”

The Center on Immigration and Child Welfare released a new fact sheet that sheds more light on the Trump administration’s “public charge” rule. The rule proposes that, in cases processed in the U.S., the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) should weigh additional factors when assessing an individual for legal permanent residency or for an extension or adjustment of status. If implemented, the rule would allow DHS to negatively assess individuals who, for 12 months in any 36-month period, used Medicaid, food stamps, public housing, cash assistance, or long-term institutionalized care. A federal court shot down the rule, so it is currently tied up in the courts. On Oct. 15, 2019, however, the Department of State issued a similar rule for cases processed abroad. This rule would affect some individuals physically in America who apply through the U.S. consulate or embassy in their home countries. Immigrant advocates fear that these rules will lead to the rejection of many immigrants, while also discouraging millions of immigrants from using assistance programs when needed.

Department of Education Releases New Data on Higher Education Outcomes

On Wednesday, Nov. 20, Secretary of Education Betsy Devos announced substantial improvements to the College Scorecard, a database created under the Obama administration that allows parents and students to make more informed higher education decisions. Previously, consumers could scrutinize data such as likely earnings and debt for each institution, which is not very helpful, considering the diversity of programs offered within any given college or university. Now, consumers can compare fields of study within an institution or between institutions. For example, a high school senior can use the College Scorecard to compare computer science programs across institutions, by looking at data points like median first-year earnings and student loan debt. This transparency will allow parents and students to effectively determine a program’s return on investment, while also placing pressure on higher education institutions to provide higher quality programs at lower cost. The Department of Education is currently engaging with companies like Google to find ways to deliver the information in an even simpler format to parents, students, employers, and educational administrators. The Trump administration believes that this type of transparency is key to creating a more competitive higher education marketplace that will improve outcomes and place downward pressure on skyrocketing tuition levels and student debt.

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