Government Affairs and Advocacy

May 8 Federal Update: Key Takeaways from the Improving Access to Federal Grants for Underserved Communities Hearing

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May 8, 2023

On Tuesday, May 2, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee hosted an “Improving Access to Federal Grants for Underserved Communities” hearing. There is a growing interest at the federal level in reforming the federal grants space to make it more transparent, efficient, and accessible, particularly for entities that don’t have the resources or capacity to apply but need access the most.

Social Current CEO Jody Levison-Johnson and Senior Director of Government Affairs Blair Abelle-Kiser submitted written testimony detailing the challenges and opportunities in the federal grants space. We will continue to gain insights from our network and build upon the increasing attention to this topic from our federal elected officials.

Key Hearing Takeaways

  • The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing on improving access to federal grants for underserved communities.
  • Over $1 trillion in federal grant money was awarded last year to over 131,000 recipient organizations by over 50 different federal agencies.
  • Witnesses outlined the challenges in the grant-making process, including limited human capital, organizational and financial capacity, and recommended solutions such as technical assistance and streamlining the process.
  • Witnesses also suggested enhancing flexibility in federal grants, clarity around grant expectations, and creating a grant Helpdesk for pre- and post-award support.
  • Senators on the committee raised questions about the portal, underperforming states in federal grant dollars per capita, challenges facing rural and Black communities in accessing federal grants, and the need for greater racial equity in grant awards.

Continue reading for more takeaways on the witness statements and the questions from senators on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.

Child Care Bill Introduced in Congress

On April 22, Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, and Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-Va.), chair of the House Education and Labor Committee, introduced the Child Care for Working Families Act (CCWFA), which would provide considerable resources to expanding the child care sector and making child care more affordable. According to the press release, in 29 states and the District of Columbia, infant care costs are more than the average cost of in-state college tuition at public four-year institutions. Child care workers–disproportionately women of color–are unfairly paid and forced to participate in public assistance programs. 50 percent of families live in so-called “child care deserts.” The CCWFA would create federal-state partnerships to ensure no family living under 150 percent of the state median income would pay more than seven percent of their income on child care. The bill would also give 3- and 4-year-olds access to preschool programs, increase salaries for child care workers, and bolster Head Start programs. The bill’s proponents say the bill would lift one million families out of poverty and create 700,000 new child care jobs.

U.S. Surgeon Gen. Presents National Framework to Combat Loneliness

U.S. Surgeon Gen. Vivek H. Murthy published an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “We Have Become a Lonely Nation. It’s Time to Fix That.” Murthy wrote about his own struggles with loneliness as well as the fact that at any time one out of every two Americans experiences loneliness. He stated loneliness leads to increased risk of heart disease, dementia, and stroke, and that the risk of death associated with loneliness is similar to that of smoking daily or suffering from obesity. Murthy introduced his “national framework to rebuild social connection and community in America,” which provides advice to individuals, parents, community-based organizations, schools, workplaces, public health professionals, governments, and researchers on how to invigorate relationships and connection. The framework calls on community-based organizations to create programs aimed at inclusive social connection, to build partnerships with other social institutions that foster relationships, and to elevate the topics of connection and loneliness in their communities. It also urges governments to make social connection a public health priority by reversing policies that encourage detachment and incorporating social connection into the health care system.

Debt Ceiling Negotiations Update

After the House GOP released its proposal to cut the budget for FY2024 in exchange for lifting the debt ceiling, President Joe Biden invited House and Senate leadership to the White House for negotiations on Tuesday, May 2. The Treasury Department said the federal government could be in default as soon as June 1, ramping up calls for a deal to be reached. Democrats are reiterating calls to immediately lift the debt ceiling without conditions and to negotiate the budget later in the year. House GOP, who recently passed a bill including their desired budget cuts, are hoping to get concessions from President Biden as the deadline fast approaches. The Council of Economic Advisers released an analysis stating a prolonged default could lead to a GDP contraction of 6.1 percent and the unemployment rate to rise by five percentage points.

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