Government Affairs and Advocacy

Sept. 24 Federal Update: Congress Working to Avoid Government Shutdown this Week

Alliance for Strong Families and Communities Alliance
September 24, 2021

The federal fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and members of Congress have yet to come to an agreement on a continuing resolution to keep the government funded through the end of the calendar year. The major challenge is the need to raise the debt ceiling so that the U.S. does not default on its debt obligations. However, there are partisan disagreements and negotiations have not been productive thus far, leading some policy experts to believe that there could be a government shutdown on Oct. 1. Typically, for a short government shutdown (less than a week) there is no major impact to the sector. However, if it extends beyond that, it can have serious repercussions for government contracts and benefits like SNAP. Alliance-COA is continuing to monitor the situation and will keep the network apprised. We remain hopeful that Congress will reach an agreement. 

Additionally, the House is also expected to vote by Sep. 27 on a bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act that passed in the Senate in August. While it has strong support, the bill is caught up in broader negotiations around the reconciliation bill.

Biden Administration’s New Vaccination Mandates

Several weeks ago, President Biden announced a new six-point plan to combat COVID-19, which mandates companies of 100 or more staff to require vaccinations and testing for all employees. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is tasked with issuing guidance. The National Council of Nonprofits is collecting questions from organizations for OSHA to answer. Email your questions to the National Council of Nonprofits, which will submit them as soon as it is possible.

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. Biden also announced new methods to make at-home rapid tests more accessible and ensure Medicaid will cover those tests for free. He also announced 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.

Mark Up Begins on Build Back Better Act

Earlier in September, key committees of jurisdiction in the House of Representatives marked up their sections of the Build Back Better Act, which aligns with President Biden’s American Jobs and Families Plans. The $3.5 trillion package would include a wide array of investments aimed at recovery. 

The House Energy and Commerce Committee, which oversees health programs like the Affordable Care Act, Medicare, and Medicaid, proposed a series of investments. These included addressing the Medicaid coverage gap; expanding access by strengthening the Affordable Care Act; and expanding Medicare to cover hearing, dental, and vision benefits. The bill also includes some provisions from the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act, a bill endorsed by Alliance-COA, that addresses maternal mortality, health disparities, and maternal health equity.

The House Ways and Means Committee proposed an expansion of the Child Tax Credit and making the earned income and child and dependent tax credits permanent (from the American Rescue Plan). Its proposal would also include 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, accessible to all U.S. workers. It also includes investments to improve child care access and equity.

The House Education and Labor Committee released its $761 billion bill for education and workforce development programs at the beginning of the month, 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 of Representatives is now packaging together various parts of the bill into one larger package, for consideration next week. The Senate will be the biggest challenge, as all Democrats need to be on board for the bill to pass. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kristen Sinema (D-Ariz.) have reservations about the price tag.

Progress on American Rescue Plan Act Fund Spending at Local Level

Almost all of the American Rescue Plan Act state and local funds (about $240 billion) have been distributed to state, local, territorial, and tribal governments. Localities have so far been most active in allocating their funds. 

There are some exciting investments in human and social services. Los Angeles County’s phase one plan for $975 million in funds has been approved. The three pillars of the plan are equity-focused investments, building a bridge to equitable recovery, and fiscal stability and social safety net. It plans to direct almost $300 million in direct community investments and partnerships with community-based organizations, and more than $89 million to expand systems of care and reduce reliance on incarceration, support justice-focused community organizations, and create jobs for justice-involved individuals. They also plan to address trauma and violence in communities.

In Indianapolis/Marion County, Indiana, the mayor introduced a $419 million budget for American Rescue Plan funds that included $150 million for anti-violence efforts, crime prevention, and community organization grants. Snohomish County, Washington, is proposing to use its first $80 million in American Rescue Plan funds to meet immediate needs in the community, while its other $80 million would be used for long-term strategic goals. This will include nearly $30 million in community supports like senior services, enhanced early learning, child care for essential workers, food security, behavioral health, housing stability, and workforce development. They have involved community organizations in the planning process.

Additionally, city officials in Delaware, Colorado, Maryland, and North Carolina have all included nonprofits in their allocations of American Rescue Plan funds. Denver created a Nonprofit Emergency Relief Fund last year and extended the program. In Baltimore, the mayor announced nonprofits can apply for grants focused on community-based violence reduction, recovery, and equity. Wilmington, Delaware, is setting aside $700,000 for grants to nonprofits. In Asheville, North Carolina, officials plan to distribute over $7 million to support affordable housing, care for aging residents, community communication, domestic violence prevention, food systems, and more. In New Hampshire, the County of Cheshire plans to assist nonprofits impacted by COVID-19 with $1,000-$20,000 grants. Camden County, New Jersey, plans to approve $8 million in grants for nonprofits serving vulnerable populations and providing pandemic-related services. Franklin County, Ohio, is also allocating dollars for grants to nonprofits serving low-income households.

Sources: National Council of Nonprofits and National Association of Counties

ASPE Releases New Brief on Foster Care Entry Rates

The Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation recently released a new brief that focuses on foster care entry rates. The study, which was conducted from 2011-2018, found that the number of infants entering foster care increased by about 24%, reaching nearly 50,000 in 2018. This increase was nearly 13 times as much as the 1.8% increase for placements in other age groups. Over half of counties saw infant foster care entries increase.

Source: Child Welfare and Mental Health Coalition

Nonprofit Job Growth Slows

According to a recent report by the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University, nonprofit job growth slowed in August, reflecting a larger national slowdown in job growth because of the Delta variant. Most of the restored jobs (about 28,000) occurred at educational institutions in preparation for the new school year. Religious and arts organizations saw modest gains. Health care organizations showed a small decline in jobs. The sector has still not recovered from the pandemic, with nearly 565,000 jobs lost since February 2020.

Source: National Council of Nonprofits

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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.