Senators Introduce Home Visiting Bill Without State Match Requirement

With less than two weeks before the federal program to support home visiting expires, the Senate has introduced a bill that sets up a showdown of sorts with the House over whether to make states match the money.

A bipartisan group of Senators has introduced the Strong Families Act of 2017, which would reauthorize the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program through 2022.

But the prospects of were greatly dimmed when House Republicans on the Ways and Means Committee introduced and then approved a bill that provided level funds, with a requirement that states match the money dollar-for-dollar by 2022.

The Senate bill introduced today does not increase the authorization for MIECHV, and includes similar provisions to the House bill on measuring impact and including pay-for-success strategies. But unlike the House bill, it does not require states to match MIECHV funds at all.

Youth Services Insider analyzed available figures from the Congressional Research Service on state, county and private home visiting spending (all three can count toward the state match in the House bill). We found that 15 states could definitely match MIECHV funds based on their 2017 and/or 2016 spending information.

On the other side, we identified 10 states that might lose their entire MIECHV allocation based on recent spending, and several other states that would leave a lot of MIECHV funding on the table.

Advocates for the home visiting program were hoping that reauthorization would come with a doubling of MIECHV’s annual authorization, up to $800 million from $400 million. But fearing instability and the potential for program closures associated with the match, they were quick to get behind the Senate bill.

“This bill provides a bipartisan path to the reauthorization of MIECHV, a program that is proven to work for the children and families that depend on it, before it expires on September 30th,” said Diedra Henry-Spires, CEO of the Dalton-Daley Group and co-convener of the Home Visiting Coalition, in a statement issued after the bill’s introduction.

MIECHV began as a small home visiting pilot program under the George W. Bush administration and was established as a program in 2010 as part of the Affordable Care Act. The program has twice been saved by two-year extensions that kept funding level at $400 million.

The Senate bill introduced today was co-authored by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.). The House bill passed by the Ways and Means Committee was authored by Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.).

There are no details yet on process for the Senate bill. A markup by the Senate Finance Committee would normally be the next step, but with only nine working days before the program expires, our guess is the authors will seek unanimous consent for passage.

Assuming the House passes the Ways and Means bill, which will happen, this sets up a showdown on the state match provision. That can be addressed two ways: by one chamber accepting the other’s plan, or through a conference committee.

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John Kelly
About John Kelly 1078 Articles
John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.