Government Affairs and Advocacy

Sept. 10 Federal Update: The Latest on the Reconciliation Bill & New Vaccine Mandates

Alliance for Strong Families and Communities Alliance
September 13, 2021

Committees in the House and Senate have begun to release their individual draft bills that, together, will constitute the $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill under consideration in Congress. In the Senate, the Finance Committee has floated several tax proposals that will raise revenue to fund the bill, including an excise tax on stock buybacks, a carbon tax, a higher corporate tax rate, and a levy on executive compensation. 

The House Education and Labor Committee released its $761 billion bill for education and workforce development programs, which includes $450 billion for affordable child care and universal pre-K. Under the plan, no family would pay more than 7% of its income on child care and all three- and four-year-old children would have access to pre-K. The bill would also provide two years of tuition-free community college and increase the value of Pell Grants, which low-income students rely on to afford college. The House Ways and Means Committee also released details on its proposal. As of now, its bill would include 12 weeks of universal paid family and medical leave, and it would add a vision benefit, hearing coverage, and dental benefits to Medicare, in 2022, 2023 and 2028, respectively. 

Though the House is advancing pieces of this legislative package, with votes expected in late September, it still has hurdles to overcome in the Senate. In the Senate, all 50 Democrats must vote for the bill to secure passage. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) has balked at the size of the $3.5 trillion package, citing inflation and debt concerns. Privately, he has suggested a $1.5 trillion bill. Over the past month, leaders of the respective committees in the Senate have been in constant contact with Manchin to address his concerns. He has expressed concerns over the size of the child tax credit and proposed adding an income cap to the pre-K provisions and conditioning community college aid on student performance. Hailing from a coal state, he is sternly against many of the proposed climate provisions. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has vowed to bring the Democratic caucus together to pass a significant bill, but long-simmering tensions in the Democratic party are beginning to boil and it is unclear at this point how it will all play out. Alliance-COA is monitoring the negotiations and will continue to provide updates.

Additionally, last Thursday, President Biden announced new vaccine requirements to help stop the spread of COVID-19. These new executive orders mandate vaccines for all federal workers and contractors. In addition, employees working in health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursement will also be required to be vaccinated. This is expected to impact 7 million workers at 50,000 health care providers. According to research, as of late July, 27% of the country’s health care workforce was still unvaccinated. He also announced new methods to make at-home rapid tests more accessible, to ensure Medicaid will cover at-home tests for free, and that the federal government will expand a free testing program to 10,000 pharmacies. His plan also called on schools to set up regular testing. The executive order will also require that 30,000 Head Start teachers be required to get vaccinated and called on governors to require vaccinations for teachers and school staff.

Family First Prevention Services Clearinghouse Updates

New ratings have recently been released for the Family First Prevention Services Clearinghouse: 

  • Alternatives for Families: A Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy – Does Not Currently Meet Criteria
  • Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing – Standard Protocol – Supported
  • Parent Connectors – Does not Currently Meet Criteria
  • Parents Anonymous – Supported
  • Together Facing the Challenge – Does not Currently Meet Criteria
  • Ohio’s Kinship Supports Intervention/ProtectOHIO – Does not Currently Meet Criteria

Jobless Aid Cliff Arrives with No State Help

The federal pandemic unemployment insurance program expired on Labor Day, and states are not planning to use federal relief dollars to extend them. When the program expired, 7.5 million Americans were still enrolled. An additional 2.6 million were receiving a combination of the $300 weekly supplement plus traditional state-run unemployment insurance. These programs, which began in March 2020, have paid out more than $700 billion in benefits. States across the political spectrum have urged people to get ready for the end of federal benefits by seeking employment or applying for other public assistance.

However, initial claims from newly unemployed people fell to their lowest level of the pandemic, according to recent U.S. Department of Labor statistics. At least 26 states, primarily led by Republican governors, decided to end some or all federal benefits a few weeks early, aiming to nudge people back to work. Early numbers suggest these decisions didn’t yield any faster job gains in those states compared to others.

Source: Bloomberg Government

Congress Proposes Conference on Hunger and Nutrition

On Sept. 1 the Rules Committee, chaired by James McGovern (D-Mass.), held its seventh roundtable event on hunger, called “Ending Hunger in America: Food as Medicine.” The event focused on food insecurity in the U.S. and highlighted research that shows food as a key ingredient for decreasing hospital admissions, cutting prescription drug costs, and improving well-being, among other things. This roundtable follows the one last month called “Ending Hunger in America: Hunger Across the Territories.” On the same day, McGovern, along with all 25 committee chairs in the House, sent a letter to President Biden asking him to put together a national conference on food, nutrition, hunger, and health. The conference would convene leaders from the government, nonprofit, and for-profit sectors and propose holistic solutions that would end hunger by 2030. The last hunger conference took place 52 years ago and sparked the creation of America’s anti-hunger safety net.

Administration Announces New Actions on Housing Affordability

On Sept. 1, the Biden administration announced new concrete steps to combat the affordable housing crisis. It plans to accomplish this by boosting the supply of affordable rental units and increasing homeownership through numerous approaches. For instance, raising the investment cap on the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, the largest federal program for the construction of rental housing, to $1.7 billion from $1 billion, will attract more financing for housing construction across the country. The administration also plans to increase the size of the grant program for Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) and nonprofit housing organizations. Moreover, the administration says it will consider offering a higher percentage (50% instead of 10%) of distressed HUD properties to nonprofits, which rehabilitate the houses and sell them at affordable prices. Finally, the federal government will partner with state and local governments to reduce exclusionary zoning, which depresses the supply of affordable housing. These approaches, among others, will help families rent affordable units and purchase their first homes. Before the pandemic, 11 million families spent more than half of their income on rent.

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Alliance for Strong Families and Communities

About Alliance

With millions of children, adults, and families across the nation experiencing barriers to achieving their full potential, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities works with thousands of committed social sector leaders to help their organizations more positively impact their communities. During this time of immense change in our field, the imperative for our network to be strong, excellent, distinct, and influential has never been greater. Rooted in the historic cause of advancing equity for all people, the Alliance today is a national strategic action network driven by members aligned through shared ownership and a common vision to achieve a healthy and equitable society. The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities represents a network of hundreds member organizations across the U.S. The member network is comprised of private human-serving nonprofits that provide direct services to children, families, adults, and communities and state or regional federations, councils, and associations.