Government Affairs and Advocacy

Feb. 13 Federal Update: President Biden Delivers State of the Union Address

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February 13, 2023

Last Tuesday, President Biden delivered his State of the Union address, which outlined his policy priorities for the first two years of his term. In one of the most animated environments for a State of the Union speech in recent decades, which included much back-and-forth between the president and the audience, Biden celebrated the legislative achievements of the past two years. He lauded the bipartisan infrastructure bill, the CHIPS and Science Act, and the Inflation Reduction Act; all of which, according to the president, advance his goal of creating blue-collar jobs and a manufacturing revival in the U.S.

With his constant refrain of “finish the job,” President Biden called on Congress to help him pass additional legislation from his plans that hadn’t yet been passed. He reiterated his commitment to strengthening the care economy with investments in paid family and medical leave as well as community-based care for people with disabilities and the elderly. Biden also spoke about the importance of universal pre-K, expanded child care supports, and reinstating the monthly installments of the child tax credit. In one of the more emotional moments of the address, he introduced the parents of Tyre Nichols, who died after police brutally beat him, and pleaded with Congress to pass bipartisan policing reform. Social Current will continue to monitor Congress’s progress on these issues and others as the 118th Congress moves forward.

New National Early Care and Education Workforce Center

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced the creation of the new National Early Care and Education Workforce Center. The Center’s activities will focus on creating a robust early care and education workforce with formal paths for attaining credentials and degrees. They will also identify strategies for increased compensation and benefits for the workforce. After a competitive process, Child Trends – in concert with the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment, BUILD Initiative, ZERO TO THREE, University of Massachusetts-Boston, and the University of Delaware – will run the center. With a starting budget of $30 million, the center will provide research and technical assistance to states, communities, territories, and Tribal Nations to help them support a sector hit hard by the pandemic. According to HHS, the child care sector lost nearly 80,000 jobs, about 7.5 percent of its workforce, since 2020. Last month, HHS also announced $300 million in preschool development grants, birth through five, to 42 states.

Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program Gets Increase in Funding

The Food and Nutrition Service within the U.S. Department of Agriculture awarded $50 million in grants to 47 states and tribes to enhance and grow the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program, which helps low-income seniors buy locally grown fruits, vegetables, honey, and herbs at farmers’ markets, stands, and community agriculture programs. These new grants will expand the program into new geographic areas, increase the benefit level to $50, and benefit 250,000 more seniors. The increase in funding was implemented in the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. It will also support the program’s modernization by transitioning from a coupon-based system to an electronic benefits system. The grants will also support outreach to vulnerable populations through coordination with community-based organizations.

Social Determinants of Health Investments Highlighted in HHS Report

The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) released “Snapshot: How HHS is Building a Healthier America,” a report covering all areas where the agency had an impact in 2022, including fighting the COVID-19 pandemic, improving mental and behavioral health care, advancing equity, and supporting the public health workforce. One crucial section highlights investment in the social determinants of health carried out by various sub-agencies. For instance, the Administration for Children and Families spent $4.5 billion in heating and cooling assistance to states, helping low-income families pay utility bills as well as choose low-cost home energy repairs. The Administration for Community Living created the Community Care Hub National Learning Community, which will enhance the ability of community-based organizations to partner with health care organizations to tackle social and public health needs. The Center for Disease Control financially supported the work of community health workers in 68 communities, contributing over 14,000 referrals for transportation, food, and housing services.

Social Current, APHSA Partner to Co-Create New Framework for Community-Based and Public Sector Human Services Leaders

The American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) and Social Current have a long history of collaboration. With support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the two organizations will continue partnering to develop a new leadership framework for health and human services leaders to work together across system boundaries.

Read more in this article by APHSA President and CEO Tracy Wareing Evans and Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson from the latest edition of Policy & Practice.

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