House Democrats Introduce Bill to Double Home Visiting Funds to $800m

A Democrat-led bill to reauthorize and double funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visitation (MIECHV) program has been introduced.

The Home Visiting Works Act would bring the authorization for MIECHV up to $600 million for 2018 and 2019; $700 million in 2020 and 2021; and then $800 million by 2022. It would also hold MIECHV harmless from sequestration effects, which would shield about $25 million a year from cuts, according to the source.

The impending bill would also double the amount in MIECHV that is earmarked for Indian tribes and Urban Indian Organizations from 3 to 6 percent.

“The fact that both Republicans and Democrats agree that MIECHV must be reauthorized for five years is a strong statement of their respective commitments to providing these evidenced-based services to families and children around the country,” said Diedra Henry Spires, co-convener of the Home Visiting Coalition, in a statement posted this afternoon. The coalition is a 48-member group that has been pushing for reauthorization.

MIECHV was initially created as part of the Affordable Care Act, with a five-year window that grew its annual appropriation to $400 million. Since its original authorization expired, MIECHV has been saved through $400 million annual extensions attached to other health care laws, most recently the bill to update Medicare in 2016.

President Trump’s budget pencils in another two-year, $400 million extension for the program. But if no legislative action is taken by September, MIECHV will at least go temporarily unfunded.

The bill does not include any of the evaluation or matching provisions included in the Republican MIECHV bill that was introduced by Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) in June. That bill kept the MIECHV authorization at $400 million, and would require states to take on an escalating level of matched funding. Meanwhile, a state would also have to demonstrate ever-increasing social dividends from the home visiting programs it chose to fund.

This all sets up partisan negotiation environment in the House when advocates were hopeful for, and frankly expected, a bipartisan lovefest on MIECHV. The June reauthorization bill left MIECHV advocates flatfooted.

The result may end up being the same though: a little less state matching and monitoring, a little bit less of an increase to federal authorizations. Or, the Republican-led Ways and Means Committee could ignore the Democrats and move on with Smith’s bill.

Democrats in both chambers were angry that Smith moved forward with a Republican-only bill.

“Very disappointing,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), in an e-mail to YSI in June. “After joining us repeatedly in recognizing the successes of home visiting, Republicans propose flat funding with new impediments and a faulty offset.”

“This is a program with a history of strong bipartisan support, which is why I’m exceptionally troubled by the bill the House Republicans have put together,” said Wyden, also in a June e-mail to YSI.

The Home Visiting Coalition criticized the Republican bill in a statement posted in June. Earlier this month,  the coalition produced a letter to Congressional leadership, signed by 826 national- and state-level organizations, calling for a reauthorization that doubles MIECHV to $800 million.

Click here to read the bill, which was introduced by Reps. Danny Davis (D-Ill.), Diana DeGette (D-Colo.), Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), and Kathy Castor (D-Fla.).

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John Kelly
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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.