Feb. 7 Federal Update: Federal Budget Hangs in the Balance
The current federal budget is set to expire on Feb. 18. The House of Representatives has passed nine out of 12 appropriations bills. However, none of those bills have passed in the Senate, which has an even split of Democrats and Republicans. Appropriations Committee chairs in the House and Senate are currently discussing a budget for the remainder of the 2022 fiscal year, but they have not reached a resolution yet. Remaining issues include the division of funding between defense and non-defense items and policy riders. Last week, Richard Shelby (R-Ala.), who serves as the top Republican on the Senate Committee, said he thought another short-term continuing resolution would be necessary to avoid a government shutdown. Negotiations will continue over the coming weeks, and we will see if Congress can come to an agreement.
Make Your Voice Heard in Our Policy Agenda!
Social Current is currently leading a highly inclusive and collaborative process to engage its network in developing its federal policy agenda for 2022-2024. The agenda-setting process will determine the federal policies and issues of focus for our network’s collective policy and advocacy work.
This series of focus groups, held in February and March, will capture critical feedback from the Social Current network on policy issue areas. All Social Current network organizations, including those that have purchased engagement packages or are pursuing or have achieved COA Accreditation, are strongly encouraged to participate relevant focus groups. We welcome the input of leaders at all levels. Don’t forget to sign up for at least one!
The series of policy agenda-setting focus groups includes:
- Social Sector Health & Excellence: Feb. 16 from 3-4 p.m. ET
- Social Determinants of Health & Health Equity: Feb. 17 from 2-3 p.m. ET
- Child & Family Well-Being: Feb. 22 from 2-3 p.m. ET
- Economic Mobility: Feb. 23 from 4-5 p.m. ET
- Education: Feb. 24 from 3-4 p.m. ET
- Advancing Equity: March 3 from 3-4 p.m. ET
Build Back Better in Limbo
Last week, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), when asked about the status of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, replied that the package was “dead” and that any new negotiations must start from square one. At the end of December, Manchin had announced, to the surprise of the White House and other Democrats, that he couldn’t support the Build Back Better package, which included investments in child care, pre-K, health care, elder care and climate solutions, among other initiatives. An extension of the Child Tax Credit past December, a major priority of the administration, seemed to be a sticking point in the negotiations. In a press conference earlier this month, President Biden said he was hoping Manchin would accept “chunks” of the bill passing, if and when negotiations start back up.
In response to Manchin’s comments on Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) stated that there are many areas of potential agreement, such as drug costs, climate change, and tax code reform. It is becoming increasingly difficult to see how the Senate could fit Build Back Better into its hectic schedule over the next few months, as the chamber deals with competing priorities, such as a Supreme Court nomination, legislation boosting competitiveness with China, consideration of the Electoral Count Act, and a Russian offensive in Ukraine.
Source: Bloomberg Government
Heating and Cooling Relief Act Introduced in Congress
On Jan. 20, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) and Congressman Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) introduced the Heating and Cooling Relief Act, which would bolster the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and provide more funds for weatherization. According to Markey’s office, only 16% of eligible households are enrolled in LIHEAP. The bill would boost uptake by increasing funding to $40 billion and ensuring that no household pays more than 3% of its annual income on energy costs. The bill would also increase funds to support community outreach and technological upgrades and ensure LIHEAP coordinators are paid a living wage. Finally, the bill would create a new Just Transition Grant for states and localities, which would help eligible households weatherize and adopt renewable energy sources.
FCC Finalizes Rules for Affordable Connectivity Program
Last month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released the details of the Affordable Connectivity Program, a new $14.2 billion initiative that provides discounts to eligible households for internet services and technology, such as computers and tablets. The program will contribute $30 per month ($75 per month for households on Tribal lands) for broadband services and a one-time discount of $100 for technology. Any household that earns income at or below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines is eligible. Moreover, eligibility extends to any family that participates in certain public benefit programs, such as Medicaid, SNAP, federal housing assistance, WIC, SSI, and free and reduced-price lunch or breakfast programs. Under the new FCC rules, consumers will be protected from credit checks during enrollment, upselling and downselling practices, and measures that lead to bill shock.
New Ratings in Family First Prevention Services Clearinghouse
The Family First Prevention Services Clearinghouse recently announced new ratings. First, the Intensive Care Coordination Using High Fidelity Wraparound program was rated as a promising practice under mental health programs and services. The Intercept program, which went through a re-review process, was rated as well-supported under the in-home parent and skill-based programs and services category. The Lilliput Families Kinship Support Services program was deemed not eligible for review by the Clearinghouse.