Though the final vote counts in many close races will take days, if not weeks, to tally, Election Day has provided surprising results that go against the historical norm for midterm elections. Virtually all midterms are referendums on the president’s party, often resulting in massive gains for the party out of power. However, Democrats aggressively messaged this election as a “choice” rather than a referendum and managed to win some races that many pundits thought would be easy wins for Republicans. Inflation, the economy, abortion, crime, and immigration topped the issues driving voters to the polls.

Though Republicans gained seats in the House of Representatives and are likely to have a slight majority when it’s all said and done, Democrats avoided an expected thumping and held on to critical seats in suburban areas across the country. In the Senate, Democrats picked up a seat in Pennsylvania and successfully defended seats in Nevada and Arizona, clinching control of the Senate. A runoff election in Georgia next month will decide whether Democrats increase their margin in the chamber to 51-49. Democrats maintained control of critical statehouses across the country, while Republicans had only a handful of state-level surprises, including Ron DeSantis’ win in Florida by a margin that was larger than expected.

Impact of the Midterms on Nonprofits

The “Federal Mid-Term Elections: Impact on Charitable Nonprofits” webinar featured perspectives from leaders of national nonprofits including Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson. Watch now!

A divided Congress is likely to have a direct impact on the social sector and our communities. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who may be the Speaker of the House, and other Republicans have promised to refuse to raise the debt ceiling without forcing cuts to social services, clean energy, and Social Security and Medicare. President Joe Biden has resolutely opposed these measures. This standoff could lead to a government shutdown that would send the country into default and temporarily pause needed federal funds for nonprofits until lawmakers figure out a solution. Without a federal budget for next year, many of the funding streams the social sector relies on would be in danger. In the background of this potential showdown, the Federal Reserve would raise interest rates, and the economy would be teetering on the edge of a recession. Nonprofits must redouble their efforts to help their communities grapple with these challenges. The social sector must act now to temper the passions of both sides and support bipartisan pathways forward.

Voter Turnout Soars in Midterm Elections

Votes are still being tallied, but initial counts and projections suggest that voter turnout will land around 46% of eligible voters. Though this estimate falls short of the massive turnout in the 2018 midterms of approximately 49%, it still surpasses every other midterm election this century. In a handful of states, like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Utah, and Oregon, voter turnout exceeded 2018 levels. One of the surprises of the night was the turnout among young voters. In this midterm, 27% of voters between the ages of 18-29 cast a ballot—the second-highest turnout rate of that age group in 30 years. Youth voter turnout averages about 20% in midterm elections. In key states like Michigan, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Nevada, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin, this demographic averaged 31%. Youth activists credited the increased turnout in these states to increased engagement with young people through targeted outreach and voter registration efforts.

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Federal student loans continue to make news in Washington, DC. On Oct. 25, 2022, the Department of Education, led by Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, announced an executive action to change and streamline the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Program permanently. This executive action is designed to work in tandem with regulatory changes, set to go into effect in July 2023.

Starting on Nov. 1, 2022, the Department of Education will allow borrowers with 20 years (240 months) or 25 years (300 months) of payments to start receiving loan discharges through these changes. Borrowers who applied for PSLF before Oct. 31, 2022, and reached 120 payments due to the deferment and forbearance changes, will also receive loan discharges. The Department of Education will continue implementing federal loan discharges for borrowers who reach the forgiveness threshold in the months after November 2022.

In July 2023, the Department of Education will automatically apply the same payment count treatment to all Direct and Department-managed Federal Family Education Loans (FFEL) for borrowers who do not otherwise reach the number of months necessary for forgiveness.

A complete list of the improvements can be found in this fact sheet. The regulations will be published in the coming days and will go into effect on July 1, 2023.

Coverage for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program Expanded (CHIP) Expanded

On Oct. 27, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) announced that more than half of all U.S. states had taken steps to expand the coverage period for Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) coverage to 12 months after pregnancy. This announcement comes after the states of Pennsylvania and Georgia took the necessary steps to expand Medicaid and CHIP coverage this Fall, a move that will make an additional 57,000 individuals in those two states eligible for expanded healthcare. A signature plank of the Biden Administration’s domestic policy agenda has revolved around Maternal & Fetal Health, as outlined more fully in the Administration’s Maternal Health Blueprint. The ability for individual states to expand eligibility criteria for their Medicaid and CHIP programs is a direct result of provisions found in the American Rescue Plan, signed into law by President Biden in March of 2021. An estimated 418,000 Americans across 26 states and the District of Columbia now have expanded access to postpartum coverage due to the 2021 American Rescue Plan.

IRS Warns Nonprofits of Tax Savings Schemes

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS), on Oct. 19,  advised businesses, including nonprofits, to be careful of individuals or groups who erroneously advise organizations to improperly claim the Employee Retention Credit (ERC) on their organization tax return. Some third parties are taking improper positions related to taxpayer eligibility for and computation of the credit. The groups and individuals providing the fraudulent advice have been known to charge non-profits costly upfront fees. The IRS advises non-profit organizations and businesses to remain cautious about tax savings schemes and plans. The organization is always responsible for the information reported on its tax returns. Improperly claiming the ERC could result in taxpayers being required to repay the credit along with penalties and interest.

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

To mark the beginning of the school year, the Subcommittee on Early Childhood, Elementary, and Secondary Education on the House Committee on Education and Labor hosted the hearing, “Back to School: Meeting Students’ Social and Emotional Needs.” Chairman Gregorio Kilili Camacho Sablan (D-Northern Mariana Islands) opened the hearing by citing evidence-based interventions, like intensive tutoring, summer learning, and social and emotional learning (SEL) programs, that help reverse learning loss experienced during the pandemic. He noted several school districts that have used American Rescue Plan funds to address students’ needs through parent academies, family resource centers, and mental health counselors.

One of the witnesses, Dr. Aaliyah Samuel, president and CEO of Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning, stressed the importance of SEL, which, “creates the conditions necessary for academic recovery.” Citing a meta-analysis of 213 studies on SEL initiatives, she said that these programs decreased anxiety and behavior issues among students, improved attitudes toward fellow students and school, and enhanced academic performance. Samuel warned against recent efforts to politicize SEL through misinformation and bans and encouraged lawmakers to continue supporting SEL programming as a critical component of addressing learning loss.

HHS Awards Grants to Address Black Youth Mental Health

The Office of Minority Health awarded $3 million in grants as part of an initiative to improve Black youth mental health. The three-year project, carried out by eight organizations, will identify policies that address mental health challenges for Black youth. Awardees will test these approaches in different settings, including schools, community centers, and religious organizations. The initiative grew from a Health and Human Services report on Black youth suicide, which analyzed demographics, risk factors, and potential interventions to prevent suicide. The eight organizations are located in Arizona, California, Georgia, Louisiana, Minnesota, Nevada, Ohio, and Rhode Island, and the project officially began Sept. 30, 2022.

New Social Determinants of Health Initiatives in Massachusetts and Oregon

Massachusetts and Oregon received approval from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to cover specific nutrition and housing assistance with Medicaid funds. These section 1115 demonstration initiatives recognize that social needs, as well as medical needs, drive health outcomes. Through these projects, Massachusetts can provide housing support, nutrition education, and food assistance to Medicaid enrollees, including postpartum individuals, for up to 12 months. Oregon will be able to expand these types of social services to individuals during life transitions, including those who are homeless or at risk of homelessness. In both states, Medicaid beneficiaries can continue accessing medical services alongside these new services.

New Ratings in the Family First Prevention Services Clearinghouse

The Family First Prevention Clearinghouse has posted new ratings for 12 prevention services. Two were found to be “well-supported,” one “supported,” one “promising,” and eight rated as “does not currently meet criteria.” The programs included mental health, in-home parent skill-based, kinship navigator, and substance abuse services. So far, 121 programs and services have been reviewed, and 62 have been rated as promising, supported, or well-supported.

The new ratings are as follows:

Subscribe to the Policy and Advocacy Radar to receive our biweekly policy roundup, which includes commentary on issues in Social Current’s federal policy agenda, opportunities to take action, and curated news and opportunities.

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.

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.

Last week, Social Current held its inaugural conference, SPARK 2022. Hundreds of social sector leaders converged in Baltimore to exchange ideas, learn best practices, and connect with each other. Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson opened the conference with a strong message of unity, asserting that the social sector is “stronger together” and that we should all lean into the give-and-take that our work requires. The opening keynote, from educational psychologist Michele Borba, stressed the importance of acting on empathy to build strong organizations and relationships with our staff and communities.

Over the two-day conference, workshop focused on brain science, anti-racist approaches, workforce resilience, and innovative programs and solutions. The conference ended with a keynote from Heather R. Younger, founder, and CEO of Employee Fanatix, who masterfully detailed all the facets of building a culture of belonging in our organizations based on inclusion and authenticity.

The Social Current Public Policy Team hosted the pre-conference session Social Current’s Federal Policy Agenda: Advocacy Workshop and Opportunities for Impact, which provided participants with an overview of the policy agenda, a module on how Washington, D.C., works and training on messaging and advocacy strategy.

Final Rule on Public Charge

After a public comment period, the Department of Homeland Security has published a final decision regarding the controversial public charge rule. The previous administration finalized a controversial rule that allowed the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to consider receipt of certain public benefits, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), as a factor in deciding whether to grant individuals green cards or change their immigrant status. In February 2021, President Joe Biden ordered the secretary of state, the attorney general, and DHS to reassess the rule and make recommendations. The new rule, which will go into effect in December, excludes participation in numerous programs, including SNAP, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and housing benefits, among others, from consideration in determining immigrant status. Only long-term institutionalization could be considered in a public charge determination. The rule also ensures that green card holders are not subject to a public charge determination. The rule will go into effect in December.

Annual Food Insecurity Report Released

The Economic Research Service at the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently released the report Household Food Security in the United States in 2021 on the state of access to nutrition in the nation. This year’s report surveyed 30,343 households, a representative population sample. The report found that 10.2%, or 13.5 million households, were food insecure, defined as households that at some point during the year expressed difficulty accessing enough food for all the members of their household. This is down from 10.5% in 2019 and 2020. About 3.5%, or 5.1 million households, experienced inadequate food security, where consumption of food by some members is reduced, and eating routines are interrupted due to a lack of resources. In addition, 6.2% of households with children, or 2.3 million households, had food insecure children, and 0.7% of these households had very low food security. About 56% of food-insecure households said they enrolled in federal nutrition assistance programs, like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, and the National School Lunch Program.

The public policy team is pleased to host the session, Social Current’s Federal Policy Agenda: Advocacy Workshop and Opportunities for Impact, Sept. 12 in Baltimore, leading up to SPARK 2022, Sept. 13-14. Blair Kiser, senior director of government affairs, and Derry Kiernan, field mobilization and policy manager, will highlight the critical role of the social sector in federal policy development and engage participants with advocacy skills workshops. The session will feature background on the mechanics of the federal government, in-depth exploration of critical issues, and training on messaging and advocacy strategy.

This interactive pre-conference session will include an overview of Social Current’s first-ever federal public policy agenda, a crash course in U.S. public policy, and a sneak peek at the 2022 midterm election and 2024 general election. The session will conclude with a policy briefing covering the recent opioid settlement funds, what programs and services they can support, and how to advocate for them. This briefing will be followed by a congressional meeting simulation, where participants will prepare for a meeting with members of their congressional delegation to advocate on issues vital to the continued health and growth of the social sector.

We are excited to host this session and hope to see you there! There is still time to register for SPARK 2022 and this free pre-conference session.

Administration Releases Student Loan Forgiveness Plan

On Aug. 24, President Joe Biden announced his student loan forgiveness plan, eliminating up to $20,000 in debt for borrowers who earned less than $125,000 in 2020 or 2021 ($250,000 for married couples). Individuals who received Pell Grants, which help low-income students afford college, will have $20,000 forgiven, while people with standard federal loans will have $10,000. All “Direct Loans,” the most common type of federal loan, issued before June 30, 2022, are eligible, including those taken out by parents and graduate students. It is estimated that this plan will eliminate student debt for 20 million people out of 43 million with student loans. The Department of Education says that monthly payments will decrease by $250 for borrowers with a remaining balance on a 10-year payment plan. The administration’s plan also included a proposal to reduce the cap on monthly payments for undergraduate loans from 5% to 10% and to eliminate balances after 10 years of payments, rather than 20. The administration also announced that loan payments paused during the pandemic will resume in January 2023. A study by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, which did not include the additional forgiveness for Pell Grant recipients, projects that the plan will cost $230 billion.

Senate Committee on Aging Holds Hearing on ABLE Act

On Aug. 17, Bob Casey (D-Penn.), chairman of the Senate Committee on Aging hosted a hearing called “Saving with ABLE: Financial Security for Pennsylvanians with Disabilities.” The Stephen Beck Jr., Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act of 2014 created so-called ABLE accounts, through which people with disabilities can save money without losing access to benefits, including Supplemental Security Income and Medicaid. Before the passage of the ABLE Act, individuals with more than $2,000 in assets in savings or retirement funds risked losing these benefits. With an ABLE account, individuals can save up to $15,000 per year with a total cap of $100,000 and still retain access to these programs.

During the hearing, Sen. Casey promoted the ABLE Age Adjustment Act, raising the age diagnosis limit from 26 to 46 and giving 6.2 million additional individuals with disabilities access to ABLE accounts. Currently, only individuals who are diagnosed with a disability before the age of 26 are eligible. One witness said that the ABLE Act had allowed her to save up to buy a new house and stop fearing acquiring wealth. Another witness, a former professional dancer, offered her story as a victim of a spinal cord injury at 41 to demonstrate that people who develop disabilities at all ages need access to ABLE accounts. The ABLE Age Adjustment Act has earned bipartisan support from 12 members of the Senate.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden signed the Inflation Reduction Act into law. This historic piece of legislation will impact health care costs, corporate tax rates, clean energy incentives, and IRS funding. The law passed through the Senate along party lines, 51-50, with Vice President Kamala Harris’ tiebreaking vote, and then through the House of Representatives, 220-207. Here is a detailed breakdown of the health care provisions that will interest our network the most.

Prescription Drugs Under Medicare Part B and D

Affordable Care Act Subsidies

Joint Letter from Schomburg and Gray on Child Support Payments

Aysha Schomburg, associate commissioner of the Children’s Bureau (CB), and Tanguler Gray, commissioner of the Office of Child Support Enforcement (OSCE), released a joint letter discouraging child welfare agencies from referring parents to child support agencies when their child enters foster care. In many cases, parents must pay child support to cover the cost of foster care. However, Schomburg and Gray believe that, in most cases, these parents are already struggling economically and do not need additional financial hurdles to overcome as they try to reunite with their children.

Moreover, the letter cites a study that shows that higher child support payments are associated with increased time before reunification—harming both parents and children. It also cites two additional studies that find that government money spent collecting child support payments far outweighs payments themselves. Given these realities, Schomburg and Gray encourage IV-E agencies to stop automatically referring cases to child support offices. They say that the CB and the OSCE are willing to help agencies implement this change, including offering IV-E administrative funds to help implement necessary changes to data systems.

New Housing Grant Awards for Youth Aging out of Foster Care

According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, 14 public housing agencies in 12 states will receive grants to provide housing assistance to youth aging out of foster care. In total, $621,000 is allocated to cover 60 Housing Choice Vouchers for youth in Connecticut, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Mississippi, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, Texas, Washington, and Wisconsin. The grant program, called the Foster Youth to Independence Program, serves foster youth who are 18-24 years old and have left or are about to leave foster care. It also serves all foster youth 16 years old or older who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless. The vouchers last for 36 months.

Senators Write Letter Supporting Student Debt Relief for Public Service Workers and Others

Twenty-two Senate Democrats, including Patty Murray (D-Wash.), chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, wrote a letter to Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona, expressing support for the Department of Education’s proposed rules concerning student debt relief. These rules would help borrowers whose schools closed or defrauded them and borrowers who are disabled and/or work in public service organizations. Regarding the last group, the letter lauds the multiple ways the department proposes to categorize more types of monthly payments as eligible for the 120 necessary to receive loan forgiveness. The senators also encourage the secretary to expand the types of positions eligible for forgiveness to include for-profit early childhood education employees and self-employed independent contractors working full time at qualifying organizations. The department plans to finalize the rules by Nov. 1. The administration has already forgiven $26 billion for 1.3 million federal student loan borrowers through executive action.

Indian Child Welfare Act Webinar Showed What’s at Stake this Fall

On Aug. 11, Social Current CEO Jody Levison-Johnson and Sarah Kastelic, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Association, hosted a webinar on the upcoming Supreme Court case Brackeen v. Haaland. The lawsuit challenges the legitimacy of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) of 1978, considered by many experts to be the “gold standard” in child welfare because it prioritizes placement of native foster children in extended families and within tribal communities whenever possible. Levison-Johnson noted that research supports ICWA by consistently showing that kids thrive when they grow up with their family, community, and culture.

Kastelic spoke about the history of the harmful policies of the federal government leading up to ICWA, including forced assimilation through boarding schools and family separation through the child welfare system. She also explained how these practices of taking children from their families fit with common colonialist actions worldwide.

Regarding the Supreme Court Case, Kastelic argued that the challenge to ICWA is not just about the future of native children but also tribal sovereignty. If the Supreme Court rules against the ICWA, it may be the start of an effort to chip away at tribes’ ability to govern themselves and do what is best for their citizens.

Log in to watch a recording of the webinar online. Anyone may create a free account.

After a rare weekend meeting of the United States Senate, Senate Democrats on Sunday, Aug. 7, passed a comprehensive $740 billion tax, climate, and health care reconciliation measure, with Vice President Kamala Harris providing the deciding vote. The legislation titled the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 will significantly advance President Joe Biden’s domestic policy agenda if it passes the House of Representatives.

The health care provisions in the bill are significant. The legislation outlines a method for Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs. This new negotiating power could save the federal government $288 billion over ten years. The bill would also cap Medicare patients’ out-of-pocket costs at $2,000 per year and impose a financial penalty on drug companies that raise prices faster than the inflation rate. On top of these Medicare reforms, the bill would extend Affordable Care Act subsidies for three years, lowering premiums for approximately 13 million people. 
  
Additionally, the bill could reduce the deficit by $300 billion, invest $370 billion in energy security and climate change programs, boost IRS funding by $80 billion, implement a 15% minimum corporate tax on corporations with over $1 billion in value, and close the so-called carried interest loophole, among other things.  
  
Now that the legislation has passed the Senate, it will go to the House of Representatives, where Democrats can afford to lose only a handful of votes. President Biden has said he will sign the bill if it reaches his desk.

Senate Appropriations Bills Released

On Jul. 28, the Senate Appropriations Committee released 12 appropriations bills for the fiscal year 2023, representing the Senate Democrats’ opening salvo in the upcoming negotiations with Republicans over next year’s federal budget. These bills are subject to substantial change as the process unfolds, and Social Current will keep you updated on the negotiations throughout the fall.

The Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education appropriations bill includes $216.1 billion in funding, a $21 billion, or 10%, increase from the fiscal year 2022 level. Here are some of the highlights from the bill:

In addition, the transportation and housing appropriations bill increased funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development by $4.3 billion above FY2022 to $70 billion.

Finally, in the agriculture appropriations bill, critical nutrition programs received significant increases in funding.

Senate Committee on Aging Holds Hearing on Tech and People with Disabilities

On Jul. 28, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held a hearing called “Click Here: Accessible Federal Technology for People with Disabilities, Older Americans, and Veterans,” which explored the technological barriers that hold back people with disabilities, who are disproportionately older Americans and veterans. Chairman Bob Casey (D-Penn.) opened the hearing by stating that though the government came a long way during the earlier part of the pandemic to increase digital accessibility, a report found that only 10% of Veterans Affairs websites were fully accessible, particularly for the blind. Another topic was telehealth. Ranking Member Tim Scott (R-S.C.) highlighted the Telehealth Modernization Act, making telehealth flexibilities permanent after the public health emergency. One of the witnesses, Eve Hill of Brown, Goldstein & Levy, LLP, was formerly a deputy assistant attorney general at the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division. She noted that the federal government’s immense buying power could influence developers and suppliers to update their electronic and information technology to be more accessible to the general public. Finally, a retired navy veteran, Ronald G. Holmquest, said that telehealth and technology upgrades had allowed him to take full advantage of the VA’s health offerings and pressed Congress to continue in the right direction.

New Fact Sheet for the Affordable Connectivity Program

The White House released a fact sheet that helps families access internet services through the Affordable Connectivity Program, a new program created in the Bipartisan Infrastructure law passed last year. The program gives eligible households a $30 discount per month on their internet bills. These households can also get $100 off the purchase of a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet through the program. The fact sheet walks prospective applicants through signing up for the program, including an online tool to determine eligibility. For individuals to qualify, households must either earn less than 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in another program like Medicaid, SNAP, SSI, or WIC. The fact sheet also provides a list of participating internet service providers.

On August 11, Social Current will host a webinar called “Challenging the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) and Tribal Sovereignty” on the upcoming Supreme Court case Brackeen v. Haaland. The case challenges the ICWA, a law enacted in 1978, which is considered the “gold standard” in child welfare practice. Enacted to put an end to generations of separating Native children from their parents, the ICWA prioritizes placement with extended families and tribal communities whenever possible, preserving children’s connection to their culture and people. Opponents of the law argue that the ICWA is unconstitutional because it treats Native children differently in the child welfare system – an argument that fundamentally misunderstands tribal sovereignty. The Supreme Court will take up the case this fall.

Social Current is a major proponent of shifting resources and supports upstream to prevent family separation; however, if a placement is necessary, the research is clear that extended family and kinship care settings are optimal. Separating Native children from their families and communities goes against everything we understand about child well-being and equity. Please join Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson and Dr. Sarah Kastelic, executive director of the National Indian Child Welfare Organization, to learn more about ICWA and what you can do to help.

Manchin Opts for Healthcare Bill, Delays Climate and Tax Provisions

Two weeks ago, Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) that he would delay consideration of a legislative package focused on climate change provisions and tax increases on the wealthy. In prior weeks, both senators had said they were making progress on the bill, but Manchin put a hold on talks after the June inflation report recorded the highest inflation increase in 40 years. In the meantime, he said he could support a slimmed down health care bill that would allow Medicare to negotiate drug prices, cap out of pocket costs for seniors at $2,000 per year, and extend Affordable Care Act insurance subsidies for 13 million people for two years. Biden has called on Congress to pass the health care bill and Schumer says it could pass before the August recess.

First-Ever Grant Funding for Integrated Approaches to Homelessness

The Biden administration announced the first-ever batch of grants to address unsheltered homelessness and homeless encampments through integrated approaches. The package of $322 million, including $54.5 for rural communities, supports initiatives that tie together housing, healthcare and veteran services and expressly encourages coordination between health care organizations, public housing authorities, and other housing providers. These grants will fund homeless outreach, permanent housing, and other support services. In addition to these funds, another batch of $43 million is now available for 4,000 housing vouchers to aid individuals experiencing or at-risk of homelessness, domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking, and veterans and their families.

New Ratings in the Family First Prevention Services Clearinghouse

The Family First Prevention Clearinghouse has posted new ratings for nine prevention services. One was found to be “well-supported”, one “supported”, two “promising”, and five rated as “does not currently meet criteria”. The programs included mental health services, in-home parent skill-based services, and substance abuse services. So far 109 programs and services have been reviewed, and 57 have been rated as promising, supported, or well-supported.

The new ratings are as follows:

Democrats are attempting to revive parts of President Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, which was scuttled in the Senate late last year. Conversations behind closed doors are taking place between Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), and progress on a few key sticking points has been made. For one, they have agreed on giving the federal government the power to negotiate lower prices for certain drugs under Medicare, which would save the program billions in the coming years. The plan would also cap yearly drug costs for seniors at $2,000 and penalize pharmaceutical companies that raise prices faster than inflation. Manchin and Schumer also came to an agreement on closing a tax loophole on so-called “pass-through” businesses, which would help keep Medicare solvent until 2031.

Sticking points still exist on several other issues. Manchin has yet to voice support for extending enhanced subsidies to consumers who purchase health insurance on the Affordable Care Act exchanges–a provision from the American Rescue Plan which passed last year. Without his support, 13 million people would experience premium increases next year. It is also unclear whether other prized Democratic priorities, like affordable child care and universal pre-kindergarten, will earn his support and make it into the final bill. To pass through the expedited legislative process called reconciliation, all 50 Democratic senators, including another hold out, Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), would need to support the final version of the package. Senator Schumer says that a bill could reach the Senate floor as soon as late July.

New Executive Order on Equality for LGBTQI+ Communities

Last month, the White House released a new Executive Order (EO) on Advancing Equality for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer and Intersex Individuals. The EO calls on the federal government to tackle discrimination, eliminate disparities, and “pursue a comprehensive approach to delivering the full promise of equality for LGBTQI+ individuals.” It also asks the Departments of Health and Human Services and Education to protect LGBTQI+ individuals from harmful state and local laws and encourage policies and practices that support their safety, well-being, and rights, and foster health equity, especially in mental health care. The HHS Secretary is tasked with addressing discrimination and challenges faced by LBGTQI+ children in the child welfare system. Activities include promotion of policies that improve outcomes for the population, increased training, and technical assistance to State child welfare agencies, evaluations of current practices that result in disparities, and more data collection on LBGTQI+ youth in the child welfare system. The EO calls on the Department of Housing and Urban Development to create a Working Group on LGBTQI+ Homelessness and Housing Equity, which would identify supports that address homelessness and housing instability.

Work Requirement Bills Introduced in the House

Representative Rodney Davis (R-IL) introduced the America Works Act of 2022 in the House of Representatives, which would require all Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants between the ages of 18 and 65 to work or volunteer at least 20 hours per week to remain eligible. The Jobs and Opportunities for Medicaid Act, introduced by Jake LaTurner (R-KS), would create the same work requirement for Medicaid beneficiaries. According to Rep. Davis’s fact sheet, in April 2022 there were 11.4 million job openings, with over 11 million able-bodied adults who aren’t working. As of now, states determine whether they implement work requirements for participation in these programs.

New, Confidential Hotline for Pregnant and New Moms

The Health Resources and Services Administration has created the National Maternal Mental Health Hotline, a free and confidential resource for moms before, during, and after pregnancy. The hotline is available 24/7, in both English and Spanish, with interpreter services in 60 languages. Professional counselors, such as nurses, doctors, mental health clinicians, doulas, and peer support specialists are on call to provide real-time support and information, as well as referrals to local and telehealth providers and support groups. Women who are feeling overwhelmed, sad, anxious, or exhausted before or after giving birth are encouraged to call or text the hotline at 1-833-9-HELP4MOMS. Congress authorized funding for the new hotline in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021.