Hundreds of Orgs Sign On to Call for Expansion of Federal Home Visiting Program

In June, House Republicans introduced a bill to reauthorize the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, a federal program established in 2010 to help pair new mothers with help from nurses and other trained professionals.

That bill kept MIECHV funding flat at $400 million per year, and required states to take on a growing share of the cost while impelling them to show ever-increasing gains from the program. Diedra Spires, a consultant helping to coordinate a coalition of home visiting advocates, told Youth Services Insider that advocates were blindsided by the bill.

“This took us by surprise,” said Spires, CEO of the Dalton Daley Group. “I think it was a really close-hold situation.”

The Home Visiting Coalition, which includes four dozen national organizations, never publicly responded to the bill. It appears now that the strategy is to simply ignore it and press on with requests for a bipartisan expansion of MIECHV. To that end, the coalition is holding a “Day of Action” today to further the cause.

The advocacy day sort of began two days ago with the submission of a letter, signed by 826 national and state organizations advocating for and serving youth and families, to party leadership and members of key Congressional committees. The letter calls for increasing the MIECHV budget to $800 million over the next five years, which has been the goal of the coalition for some time.

From the letter, which can be read in its entirety by clicking here:

MIECHV serves only a fraction of the children and families in need nationally. With expanded, stable funding, MIECHV could serve hundreds of thousands of children and families in need across our nation, enabling them to lead healthier, more prosperous lives, and allowing state and federal government to see returns on their investments.

The coalition also ran a full-page ad in the Beltway source Politico today, and is promoting a “Tweetstorm” this afternoon from 2:00 to 3:00 pm EST (presumably using #MIECHV).

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 Republican House bill, introduced in mid-June by Ways and Means Committee member Adrian Smith (R-Neb.), would reauthorize MIECHV through 2022. It maintains the $400 million authorization for the program through 2022.

It also suggests an interest in shifting the cost of home visiting away from the federal level over time. Starting in fiscal 2020, MIECHV grantees would have to adhere to an “applicable percentage” rule that ensures a certain portion of the program would be paid for outside of federal dollars. Thirty percent of programs would have to be paid for outside of federal dollars by 2020. By 2022, it would rise to 50 percent.

Democrats in both chambers slammed the bill. “Very disappointing,” said Ways and Means member Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), in an e-mail to Youth Services Insider. “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 Senate Finance Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), in an e-mail to YSI. “Simply put, this bill is a nonstarter with anyone who cares about this successful program and wants to see it continue.”

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