Government Affairs and Advocacy
Dec. 20 Federal Policy Update: New Child Tax Credit Could Expire at End of December
After a last-minute burst of activity to pass the Build Back Better Act by year’s end, negotiations between President Joe Biden and Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), the last holdout in the Senate, broke down. Over the weekend, Senator Manchin announced he could not support the Build Back Better bill and would vote no. Manchin expressed concerns over inflation and the budgetary design of the legislation, arguing that the bill’s proposed revenue increases, which last for 10 years, would not cover the full cost of social programs if they were extended over the full 10-year period. In response, the administration penned a forceful public response, virtually accusing Manchin of betraying the president. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced that consideration of the Build Back Better Act would continue in early 2022.
As of now, it is unclear whether Senator Manchin will support a dramatically paired down version of the Build Back Better Act or if he has truly given up on negotiations. Manchin recently focused his criticisms on the Child Tax Credit, which expires this month but would be extended until the end of 2022 under the Build Back Better Act. If extended beyond next year, he argued, the credit would increase the deficit over the 10-year window. The administration countered that any future extensions of programs would be paired with increases in revenues to ensure the programs are fully paid for. Because of the events over the weekend, the likelihood of families receiving a January installment of the credit is highly unlikely. The Child Tax Credit reached 61.6 million children and kept 3.6 million children out of poverty in October, according to a study from the Center on Poverty and Social Policy. Take action now by reaching out to your legislators and asking them to extend the Child Tax Credit!
Late last week, congressional leaders reached a deal to avoid defaulting on our federal debt by extending the debt limit through early 2023. This deal increased the debt ceiling by $2.5 trillion, the amount intended to extend the government’s borrowing authority past next year’s midterm congressional elections. The bill had mostly Democratic support. Without action, the government would have had difficulty meeting its obligations after Dec. 15.
In other news, Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson, recently authored the op-ed, “Why the Social Sector is Essential to Achieving Health Justice Across the United States,” in Nonprofit Quarterly. In the piece, she articulates the value community-based organizations bring to addressing the complex issues that impact health outcomes by using place-based approaches, harnessing data on risk and protective factors, as well as listening to the voices of those with lived experience.
Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) Reauthorization Moving Forward
After years of negotiations, Sens. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) reached a bipartisan agreement to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act. The proposed framework would improve rape prevention efforts and services for survivors, expand access to housing for survivors, and strengthen funding for legal services and trauma-informed law enforcement responses. The proposal would also expand programs in rural areas, bolster culturally specific services, and increase support for LBGTQ survivors and those who seek voluntary community-based restorative practice services. Finally, the agreement would bar individuals who are convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence crimes against a dating partner from possessing or purchasing firearms or ammunition. The senators plan to introduce their modernized VAWA reauthorization next month.
CMS Announces Funding for Vaccine Counseling Visits for Children
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services announced that the federal government will match 100% of state Medicaid funds expended for COVID-19 vaccine counseling visits for children and youth. This funding will ensure that families of children covered by Medicaid can access individualized medical advice on vaccines from a trusted source, local providers. Consultations for children and youth under age 21 that fall under the Medicaid Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment benefit will be covered under the new matching requirement. This guideline will last until a year after the COVID-19 public health emergency is declared over. Since Medicaid covers over 40% of children in the U.S., this new policy will help ensure that all families can access sound health information from community providers.
New Broadband Connectivity Program Seeks Public Comments
The Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which was recently signed into law, included the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP), a $14 billion, long-term funding stream that will replace the Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program, which was created during the pandemic to help low-income households afford broadband. Under ACP, the maximum monthly benefit to help pay for broadband will fall to $30 per month, instead of $50 under the EBB. However, more households will have access to broadband assistance than before. Households that receive Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children benefits will be eligible for the program, in addition to recipients of SNAP and Medicaid under the EBB. Furthermore, families that have income below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines (FPG) will be eligible for the benefit, as opposed to families below 135% of the FPG under the EBB. The new program will begin March 1, 2022. Current recipients of the EBB will continue to receive benefits until then and information on the transition will be available in the coming weeks. In the meantime, the Federal Communications Commission is seeking public comments on the enacted changes and proposed rules for the Affordable Connectivity Program.
Online Forum with Elected Officials Highlights Nonprofit Workforce Challenges
In early December, three nonprofit state associations in the northeast hosted an online event that highlighted aspects of the nonprofit workforce crisis. During the event, 40 state legislators from Connecticut, Massachusetts, ad Rhode Island, the three associations’ states, joined the event and heard about challenges that nonprofits face, including budget uncertainty, spikes in service demand, and ambivalence from government leaders. Social sector leaders discussed how they can’t offer competitive salaries and wages and, as a result, are losing employees to the grocery and retail industries, as well as state government and hospitals. These leaders said that longstanding structural inequalities hamper the social sector’s ability to compete and weaken the sector. One of the main topics for further action was government grant and contract reform, which would create more permanency and stability within the sector. With American Rescue Plan funding flowing to the states, the nonprofits argued that now is an opportune time to invest in community-based organizations and set them up for success moving forward.
Major Cities Taking the Lead in Ending Contracting Challenges for Nonprofits
From our partner, the National Council of Nonprofits:
Newly elected officials in New York City announced recently that they are committed to stopping many of the longstanding and well-documented contracting abuses imposed on nonprofits providing services on behalf of the city. In an op-ed in the New York Daily News, Mayor-Elect Eric Adams and Comptroller-Elect Brad Lander wrote, “When nonprofits fall short—whether because the city fails to pay them on time, or because a small handful of rogues exploit the system—the most vulnerable New Yorkers are the ones who suffer most.” The incoming officials created a joint transition taskforce, “to identify the root causes of the dysfunction, establish a clear agenda to fix it and implement the changes.” Among other things, the taskforce will focus on significantly reducing payment delays to nonprofit contractors, increasing the predictability of payment schedules, increasing public transparency in the contract registration and payment process, and delivering on the City’s recent commitment to increase the “indirect cost rate” for nonprofit service providers. Representatives on the taskforce include Meg Barnette of New York Nonprofits and Doug Bauer of the Clark Foundation, a board member of the National Council of Nonprofits.
In San Francisco, nonprofit leaders are calling for systemic change in how governments hire and reimburse charitable nonprofits. A recent article in Mission Local quotes Jan Masaoka, CalNonprofits CEO, as saying, “Contracting should be fair,” and that “Smart governments know nonprofits will do the work and do it well.” She and others on a recent panel highlighted the many inequities in the government grants and contracting system.
New Legal Rulings Halt Vaccine Orders
All three of the federal vaccine mandates have been halted by the courts until further notice. First, the OSHA rule, which mandates either vaccination or testing for organizations with 100+ employees, remains in limbo because a federal circuit court has temporarily blocked it. Multiple lawsuits have been filed from various states, and they have been consolidated into one proceeding that currently sits before the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals. Additional rulings are expected in the coming weeks. The second rule, which relates to health care facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid dollars, was blocked last week by a federal court in Louisiana. This rule requires all covered health care facilities to require vaccination for all employees, trainees, students, and volunteers. Covered facilities include clinics, community mental health centers, immediate care facilities for people with intellectual disabilities, programs for all-inclusive care for elderly organizations, hospitals, immediate care, long-term care facilities, psychiatric residential treatment facilities, home health agencies, and more. Excluded entities include certain community-based services, assisted living facilities, group homes, and home- and community-based services. Ultimately, the case could end up in the Supreme Court.
A third mandate, pertaining to federal contractors, was recently halted until further notice. This mandate requires all federal contractors (not grantees) to get vaccinated.
Social Current will continue to share information as we receive it. For more information, check out our vaccine mandate resource collection, and for a candid discussion with executives at community based organizations, watch the recording of last week’s webinar on vaccine mandates.
January Contreras Nominated for Assistant Secretary for ACF
On Dec. 7, the White House announced January Contreras as its nominee for Assistant Secretary for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Administration for Children and Families (ACF). She has served in a range of county, state, and federal roles supporting child and family well-being for more than 20 years.
Contreras is a former county prosecutor and assistant attorney general who went on to lead a legal aid center for children and young adults who have experienced abuse, neglect, family separation, homelessness, and human trafficking. She previously served in the Obama administration as Ombudsman for Citizenship and Immigration Services at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and as a designee to the White House Council on Women and Girls. In this role, she led efforts to launch new federal training and guidance to ensure that immigrant victims of domestic violence and other crimes are treated with dignity and protection. At the state level, Contreras oversaw the Arizona Department of Health Services after serving as Assistant Director of the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, Arizona’s Medicaid agency. She was a member of Gov. Janet Napolitano’s Children’s Cabinet and the Arizona Early Childhood Development and Health Board.