Government Affairs and Advocacy

Oct. 3 Federal Update: Biden Plan Resolves to End Hunger by 2030

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September 30, 2022

In the first White House conference on health and nutrition in 50 years, President Biden outlined an ambitious plan to stamp out hunger by the end of the decade. According to the Department of Agriculture, 10% of households, about 13.5 million, expressed challenges accessing enough food last year. The administration says the conference fits into its equity agenda since communities of color and rural communities disproportionately suffer from hunger and diet-related disease. The plan involves $8 billion in commitments from the private and philanthropic sectors, including a $250 million “food is medicine” initiative by Kroger and the American Heart Association. These programs will educate the public about nutritious food, encourage fast food chains to include water, milk, or juice in children’s meals, and make unused food from restaurants available to food insecure communities.  
The White House also announced strategies that will ultimately require congressional approval. For instance, President Biden said he wanted to expand free school meals by bolstering “community eligibility,” a program that allows school districts in low-income areas to provide meals to all students rather than requiring parents to sign their children up individually. Currently, schools and districts are eligible if 40% of their students receive food-stamp benefits or are enrolled in other safety net programs. The administration has said that lowering the threshold to 25% would expand free school meals to another 9 million children. Congress will have to approve such changes to the program. Social Current will monitor any progress made following this historic conference on hunger.

MIECHV Bill Passes House Ways and Means Committee

The House Ways and Means Committee passed the Jackie Walorski Maternal Child Home Visiting Reauthorization Act, named after the late congresswoman. She tragically passed away in a car accident earlier this year. The bill, which earned bipartisan support, will double federal funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program over the next five years through a $100 million increase in base funding as bolstered federal matching begins in the fiscal year 2024. In addition to an annual report to Congress, the bill will require the creation of an “outcomes dashboard” to help lawmakers track the program’s impact. Virtual home visiting is also allowed on a limited use basis, but all programs must include at least one in-person visit per year. The bill also has a 2% set aside for workforce support, retention, and case management. Next, the bill moves to the Senate for consideration.

HHS Releases Roadmap to Address Mental Health Crisis

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released its “Roadmap for Behavioral Health Integration,” outlining President Biden’s strategy for combatting the national mental health crisis. The roadmap follows the president’s announcement in the State of the Union speech last year of a national system to prevent and treat mental and substance use disorders. The document cites integrated care as a critical pillar in the HHS strategy, arguing that behavioral health care should be incorporated into many different settings, including physical health care, early childhood, and social services. Advancing equity is another pillar being cited. The document cites many groups and communities with meager access to mental health care due to past and current discrimination and neglect, including racial and ethnic minorities, LGBTQ individuals, rural communities, and people with disabilities. The strategy has three prongs:

  1. Strengthening system capacity
  2. Connecting Americans to care
  3. Supporting Americans by creating healthy environments

This new roadmap will serve as a guidepost for the administration as it engages with Congress, states, localities, and other stakeholders to combat the mental health crisis.

This September, Social Current shared information and resources about the new 988 Lifeline and Suicide Prevention Month in this blog post, The Promise of 988: Accelerating Community Response to Suicide Crisis. Learn more about one of the effective community responses being played out to tackle the mental health crisis today.

New Poll about Public Views of the Nonprofit Sector

Independent Sector commissioned a poll demonstrating the nonprofit sector’s strong support from the public leading up to the midterm elections. The survey, which polled 1,000 registered voters nationwide, found that the public supports charitable giving incentives, policy and advocacy efforts from the nonprofit sector, and more civic engagement from the industry.

  • 85% of voters support reestablishing the universal charitable deduction, while 77% support expanding the conclusion to $4,000 from $300.
  • 84% of voters believe that government would be more effective at solving problems if it included the nonprofit sector in policy decisions.
  • 9 in 10 voters support nonprofit advocacy with lawmakers on behalf of their communities, and over 60% of voters said they’d be more likely to support or donate to a nonprofit that advocated for their community.
  • 72% of voters support nonprofits helping community members vote.

These results suggest that the public strongly supports a financially sound nonprofit sector that is more fully engaged in policy development and advocacy.

Federal Government Narrowly Sidesteps Shutdown

By a vote of 72 to 23, the Senate passed a temporary spending package to fund the federal government at current levels until Dec. 16, after the midterm elections. The bill subsequently passed the House of Representatives and received President Biden’s approval on Friday, narrowly avoiding a government shutdown had an agreement not been reached by Sept. 30.

The delay was caused by bipartisan opposition to Senator Joe Manchin’s (D-W.V.) permitting reform bill, which Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) had promised to pass in exchange for the West Virginia senator’s vote for the Inflation Reduction Act earlier this year. Ultimately, Senator Manchin withdrew his bill from the overall spending package. Several other provisions managed to survive, including $12.3 billion for military and economic support for Ukraine, $1 billion for low-income families to afford heating costs this winter, and $2 billion in natural disaster recovery funds.

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