At Year’s End, Many Youth-Related Programs and Policies On The Line

As the calendar year ends, Congress is poised to head home after the likely passage of a massive tax reform package today. But with less than two full weeks left in 2017, a lot of programs and policies important to youth and families are in limbo.

Here’s a quick rundown:

Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

CHIP is a $14 billion program that provides coverage for children whose parents don’t qualify for Medicaid, but cannot afford to add children to their insurance either. It was co-written by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), the current Senate Finance Committee chairman.

It is efficient, it is popular with both parties, and it has been sidelined by the high-profile attempts to overhaul the Affordable Care Act and the tax code.

Back in September, as fiscal 2017 ended and Congress had not moved on reauthorizing CHIP, Youth Services Insider reported on Kaiser’s excellent research about where states were with their CHIP programs. Kaiser forecasted that 10 states would run out by the end of this month: seven western states, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and Mississippi.

Since then, Connecticut has announced it will soon freeze enrollment without additional funding from Congress, and Alabama announced it will start dis-enrolling children in 2018 if the program is not soon reauthorized. Texas, not known for its affinity for federal funding, took a $136 million payment to keep CHIP afloat through February.

Utah, Colorado and Virginia have also informed Kaiser that they plan to end CHIP plans at the end of January.

Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA)

When the Development, Relief, and Education for Minors (DREAM) Act was filibustered in 2012, President Barack Obama implemented DACA to offer children born in the United States to undocumented immigrants a path to remain lawfully in the country. Many on the right felt this was an executive branch overreach, and President Trump put DACA on a clock to expire in March without legislation to support it.

But there is some bipartisan support for the idea of DACA. Several leading Democrats have pledged not to vote for a year-end spending deal without concurrent passage of the DREAM Act, but reports this week suggest that the party is standing down on making it a sticking point.

Meanwhile, every day, thousands of DACA status recipients are seeing their lawful status expire with no process for renewal.

Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV)

MIECHV is a $400 million program that funds states to support 18 approved models of home visiting, which generally pair young or expecting mothers with nurses, peer mentors or other professionals. The most popular model of home visiting, Nurse-Family Partnership, was identified by a federal commission as the only program in the country with demonstrated evidence of prevention of child fatalities.

Like CHIP, the authorization for MIECHV expired at the end of September. And as with CHIP, states and local programs are starting to contemplate rollbacks in service if Congress doesn’t act soon.

It wasn’t long ago that MIECHV was headed for a five-year reauthorization. But House Republicans moved a version that would, by the fifth year, require states to match federal MIECHV dollar-for-dollar.

Advocates for the program are so sure that this match requirement would hurt home visiting, that they favor another temporary extender for a year or two over a five-year commitment.

“I hate to even think about it, but that is better than a state match,” said Staci Croom-Raley, CEO of HIPPY USA, the national organization for HIPPY, one of the 18 home visiting models.

Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF), Social Services Block Grant (SSBG)

The tax bill is expected to pile $1.5 trillion onto the national debt. But recent legislation triggers a response to such behavior: it empowers the executive branch, specifically the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), to impose sequestration to address the debt.

This process would mandate steep cuts to what’s known as “mandatory” spending programs, the ones that do not require an annual appropriation from Congress to be funded. Among the victims of such a sequestration:

  • SSBG, a flexible chunk of money for states to address community needs, which can include child welfare and family assistance programs. Funded at $1.7 billion in 2017, Trump proposed eliminating this program in his 2018 request.
  • PSSF, a section of Title IV-B of the Social Security Act established in 1993 that funds state efforts to prevent the unnecessary removal of children from their families. PSSF funds family preservation services, as well as time-limited reunification services. Click here for a good overview of the program’s history, and the ways in which states use the funds.

Congress does have the power to suspend sequestration, but it will have to pass a separate piece of legislation to do so.  Republican leadership have trumpeted in the media that the spending cuts will not happen, but there is no action to ensure this yet.

If the decision falls to the Trump administration, it is worth noting that its OMB director, Mick Mulvaney, is among the people in Washington most passionate about cutting federal spending.

Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA)

For the first time since 2002, the House and Senate have approved bills to reauthorize the JJPDA, which provides funds to states in exchange for their compliance with a set of juvenile justice standards. But the process to conference those bills, and finally get the law updated, is being blocked by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) over one provision in the House version of the bill.

The timeline is not as hard here as with CHIP and MIECHV, and juvenile justice funds will come through for 2018 without a reauthorization. But with the House appropriators zeroing out the program every year, it might not be long before JJPDA moves to the verge of extinction without some legislation affirming its importance.

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 924 Articles
John Kelly is senior editor for The Chronicle of Social Change.

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