Lawmakers Introduce Mental Health Act for Foster Youth
U.S. Senators Roy Blunt (R-MO), John Boozman (R-AR.), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), along with U.S. Representative Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), introduced bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would require quicker access to mental health services for youth entering foster care. The Timely Mental Health for Foster Youth Act would require states to provide all new foster children with a mental health screening within 30 days, followed by a comprehensive health assessment within 60 days if a mental health issue is initially identified. The bill would also require yearly screenings. Even though children in foster care have higher rates of chronic medical, developmental, and mental health issues, only a fifth of states currently require screenings in the first 30 days. The bipartisan bill would create a national standard for mental health screenings and assessments.
House Reauthorizes the Violence Against Women Act
On March 17, the House of Representatives reauthorized the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) with a vote of 244-172. Twenty-nine Republicans joined Democrats in approval. VAWA, which originally passed in the early 1990s, provides funds for violence prevention, housing assistance, and legal protections for victims. The latest iteration of the bill closes the so-called boyfriend loophole, which allows those under a court restraining order or dating partners with a domestic violence conviction to buy or own a firearm, but not a current or former spouse. The bill also allows transgender women to access women’s shelters. The bill will now go to the Senate, where it will face an uphill battle because of its gun violence prevention and gender identity measures.
Source: New York Times
Department of Agriculture to Use FAFSA to Award SNAP Benefits
The U.S. Department of Education (DOE) has granted the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) access to the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) database, with the intention of allowing some college students to temporarily enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). USDA will have FAFSA data relating to the expected family contribution (EFC) and Federal Work-Study (FWS) eligibility, as well as contact information for students. This will allow USDA to confirm eligibility for specific students with, for example, an EFC of zero.
Monthly Child Tax Credit Likely to be Delayed
The day after delaying the tax-filing deadline from April 15 to May 17, Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Commissioner Chuck Rettig told the House Ways and Means Committee that the new child tax credit might be delayed as well. Part of the recently passed American Rescue Plan Act, the temporarily expanded child tax credit was originally envisioned as a monthly credit paid out to qualifying families from July until December. The popular provision was estimated to cut child poverty in half. However, the creation of the online portal necessary for families to sign up for the monthly credits is delayed because the IRS is overwhelmed with processing 2020 tax returns as well as distributing millions of stimulus checks. Regarding the July 1 deadline to stand up the portal, Rettig said, “We intend to do our best to get there.”
Democrats Move on Gun Violence Prevention After Tragedies
After mass shootings took place in Georgia and Colorado a week apart, Congressional Democrats and the Biden administration began putting forward solutions to the nation’s gun violence epidemic. The House quickly passed two bills H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446. The first bill, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act, would require background checks for almost all gun transfers, including between private parties, online, or at gun shows. The second bill, the Enhanced Background Checks Act, would close the so-called “Charleston Loophole.” Under current law, if a background check is not completed within three business days, a licensed firearms dealer can transfer the weapon to the purchaser. H.R 1446 would require a 10-day period for authorities to perform a background check. The Biden administration has urged the Senate to pass both bills and an assault weapons ban, while also publicly voicing support for executive action on the issue.
Source: FactCheck.org, New York Times
Influx of Unaccompanied Minors at the Border
The Biden administration has been working to address a serious situation at the border. While rates of unaccompanied children coming in across the border have been increasing since 2009, 2021 is now on pace to break that record with approximately 600 children arriving daily to the U.S. Mexico border. Most are teenagers seeking asylum. The Biden administration is working to try to find beds for these children and get them out of border patrol facilities quickly. By law, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Refugee Resettlement must transport unaccompanied children to a facility within 72 hours of coming into custody of Customs and Border Protection. Children with no known connections are placed into licensed shelters or foster care while their asylum application process proceeds. Many organizations in our network are helping to house and place these children.