Last week, Congress passed major gun safety legislation for the first time in 30 years. The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed with a vote of 65-33 in the Senate and 234-193 in the House of Representatives. President Biden signed the bill into law on Saturday. Following the mass shootings in Buffalo, New York, and Uvalde, Texas, a small bipartisan group of moderate Senate lawmakers came together to hash out a bill that could gain 60 votes and overcome the chamber’s filibuster. The resulting compromise did not include some Democratic priorities, including bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines; however, its provisions were significant enough to gain intense opposition from the National Rifle Association, which ultimately failed in its lobbying efforts. In the Senate, all 50 Democrats were joined by 15 Republicans in passing the bill, which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said is “going to save lives.”
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act expands background checks for gun buyers under the age of 21 to include juvenile and mental health records and gives authorities up to 10 days to perform the checks, up from three days in current law. As part of the compromise, this provision would expire after 10 years. In the bill, $750 million would go to incentivizing states to pass red flag laws, which allow law enforcement to temporarily take guns away from people seen as dangerous in the eyes of a judge. For states that do not implement red flag laws, they will have the option of using the money to support crisis and violence intervention programs. The legislation also closes the “boyfriend loophole,” a long-sought provision among Democrats, which would bar people convicted of domestic violence or under a restraining order to buy a gun, whether they are spouses or intimate partners. The bill would also commit $300 million to school safety and community mental health programs, including training for school personnel who work with minors with mental health challenges. Finally, the bill would create the first-ever federal prohibition on gun trafficking, which would crack down on “straw purchasers,” or buyers who obtain guns for others who can’t legally buy guns.
Congressional Budget Office Releases Report on Work Requirements and Supports
The Congressional Budget Office released a report on the effect of work requirements and work supports on employment and income for participants in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and Medicaid. The study found that work requirements increased employment for TANF and SNAP enrollees but not for Medicaid enrollees. Because programs decrease benefits as participants earn more, the increase in income for TANF beneficiaries was equal to the decrease in benefits, while the SNAP and Medicaid beneficiaries saw their benefits reduce more than their income rose, as a result of work requirements. The data on work supports was more promising. Subsidized child care, job search assistance, and subsidized employment increased employment for beneficiaries, while job training had more varied effects. Moreover, the study found that work supports through government programs gave participants extra resources to spend on goods and services.
Congress Passes School Meal Aid Bill to Combat Child Hunger
Late last week, Congress passed the Keep Kids Fed Act, which would extend COVID-19-related school meal waivers for another year. Originally passed in the 2020 Families First Coronavirus Response Act, the waivers expand eligibility for free school meals by increasing the income cut off from 130% to 185% of the poverty level. Under the waivers, reimbursement rates are enhanced to allow schools to afford meal provision, given supply chain challenges and rising food prices. For the 2022-2023 school year, rates would increase by 15 cents per breakfast and 40 cents per lunch. The waivers also allow flexibilities, such as giving parents the ability to pick up meals to eat at home. The Keep Kids Fed Act would extend these waivers through Sept. 30, 2022, for the Summer Food Service Program and the Seamless Summer Option, and through June 30, 2023, for the 2022-2023 academic year. The bill is budget neutral, as it uses unspent funds from prior pandemic spending to cover the waiver extensions.
New Fact Sheet on the SNAP-Ed Program
The Food and Nutrition Service released a fact sheet on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Education (SNAP-Ed), which educates SNAP recipients on how to budget effectively, cook healthy meals and increase physical activity. Program research shows that 40% of participants ate more fruits and vegetables and drank fewer sugar beverages and 35% were more physically active. Moreover, SNAP-Ed programs in schools are associated with enhanced cardiovascular fitness. One of its partner programs in Georgia, “Be a Health Hero: EAT, DRINK, MOVE,” utilized marketing campaigns, like billboards, shopping tote bags, and store signage, to increase awareness of healthy eating practices.
Following the recent tragedies in Tulsa, Uvalde, Laguna Woods, and Buffalo, a small, bipartisan contingent of centrist senators that had been meeting behind closed doors to discuss possible legislative responses finally reached a tentative agreement over the weekend. Leading the negotiations were John Cornyn (R-Texas), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.). A broader group of moderate lawmakers was also influencing the talks. The proposed framework bolsters mental health resources, increases funding for school safety, and provides grants to states to incentivize “red flag” laws that allow law enforcement to take guns away from individuals who are deemed dangerous to others. The deal also includes expanding background checks to include juvenile records for gun buyers under the age of 21, and a long-sought prohibition on dating partners – not just spouses – from having guns in cases of domestic abuse.
The White House had been pushing for a ban on assault rifles for individuals under the age of 21, and the House of Representatives passed its own bill last week that included a prohibition on sales of semiautomatic weapons to people under the age of 21 and a ban on magazines that hold more than 15 rounds of ammunition. These bans, however, will likely not be included in whatever deal the Senate ultimately works out. Sen. Cornyn has publicly said that these types of bans are off the table. Though the tentative deal represents the farthest Congress has gone in recent decades on gun safety legislation, there are still details to nail down. For Democrats, the deadline for action is fast approaching; in the past, flurries of legislative activity after mass shootings have often dragged on without producing any results. Republicans insist on sticking to the negotiations and working out the details, no matter how long it takes. Both sides say that their colleagues are working in good faith. Any deal would need the support of all 50 Democrats, plus at least 10 Republicans, to bypass the filibuster and become law.
On June 1, Social Current CEO Jody Levison-Johnson released a statement about the recent gun violence and urged the social sector to treat gun violence as an urgent public health issue. Social Current will continue to address the underlying causes of gun violence by championing community-based violence intervention efforts, positive youth development programs, increased federal funding for research on gun violence, and trauma-informed and brain-science aligned policy principles, among other things.
Community Services Block Grant Reauthorization Passes the House
The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Modernization Act of 2022, introduced by Reps. Suzanne Bonamici (D-Ore.), Glenn Thompson (R-Pa.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), and James Comer (R-Ky.), passed the House of Representatives. The CSBG supports a network of over 1,000 Community Action Agencies (CAA), which help low-income families attain economic stability through skills training, educational empowerment, and housing services. If it passes the Senate and is signed into law, the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Modernization Act would reauthorize funding for CSBG for another 10 years—the longest reauthorization in program history—and would increase the annual level of funding by $1 billion for the first five years. It would also increase the number of eligible people by raising the income eligibility threshold to 200 percent of the poverty line. Finally, the bill would create a new initiative called the Community Action Innovations Program, which would direct federal and state training and assistance to groundbreaking, evidence-based poverty-reduction programs. In 2019, CAAs served more than 9 million individuals. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, these community-based organizations helped people acquire personal protective equipment, access vaccines, and receive supplies for remote learning.
HUD Bolsters Eviction Protection and Diversion Program
Last month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development awarded $20 million in grants to 11 nonprofit and government legal organizations, as part of its Eviction Protection Grant Program. The previous round in November awarded grants to 10 organizations. Grant beneficiaries provide legal assistance to low-income tenants at risk of eviction. These services disproportionately assist people of color, people with limited English proficiency, and people with disabilities. The program also helps landlords access resources for rent arrears. HUD cites multiple studies that show legal assistance services save taxpayers millions of dollars and mitigate evictions that would otherwise destabilize families. The Eviction Protection Grant Program is just one program alongside many, including the State and Local Emergency Rental Assistance program, that help families retain shelter during the recovery from the public health and economic challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.
DELIVER Act Reintroduced in Congress
Reps. Joe Morelle (D-N.Y.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) and Sens. Angus King (I-Maine) and John Cornyn (R-Texas) reintroduced the Delivering Elderly Lunches and Increasing Volunteer Engagement and Reimbursements (DELIVER) Act, which would increase the gas reimbursement rate for volunteers who deliver meals to the elderly for programs such as Meals on Wheels. Especially during this time of inflation, gas costs for volunteers have gotten prohibitively expensive. This bill would raise the tax deduction for volunteer drivers from 14 cents per mile, a figure that hasn’t changed in nearly two decades, to 58 cents per mile, the standard business rate. This bill will ease costs for volunteers, allow senior citizens to continue living independently in their own homes, and foster more community and civic engagement.
Social Current has released its first-ever federal public policy agenda. This agenda will power our policy and advocacy efforts for 2022-2024, as we work to build an equitable society where all people thrive.
“We are thrilled to reach this milestone for Social Current. We realize this is just the beginning of our work and opportunity to realize our network’s collective power and influence,” said Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson. “We know we must work together to move the needle on key public policies to create an equitable society. Social Current looks forward to engaging our network of organizations, their communities, and all of our partners to advocate for these critical priorities.”
The 2022-2024 federal policy agenda is the result of months of input from the Social Current network through focus groups, surveys, and individual conversations. It represents the breadth and diversity of our network organizations, the challenges they face, and the future they envision.
Register now for our June 29 webinar to learn more about the specific policies Social Current will champion. Jody Levison-Johnson and Derry Kiernan, field mobilization and policy manager, will share how you can join in supporting in our collective advocacy work.
Within our policy agenda, you’ll find our policy principles—our commitments that serve as the foundation of our policy agenda:
- Center equity
- Engage voices with lived experience
- Promote prevention
- Advance whole-person approaches
- Create access and opportunity
- Ensure the health and resilience of the social sector
Following our foundational principles, the agenda details the policies Social Current and our collective network seek to accelerate through leadership and policies we seek to accelerate through partnership with our coalition partners and other experts. These policies are in four key areas:
- Advancing Equity. As the cornerstone of our agenda, we seek to advance equity by empowering community voices, utilizing data for equity, and ensuring equitable access and resources
- Improving Health and Well-Being. We seek to advance healing-centered and trauma-informed policy, respond to behavioral health needs, and integrate cross-systems approaches that support health equity
- Increasing Economic Opportunity and Mobility. We seek to expand economic supports so that all people can achieve upward mobility and financial security
- Achieving Social Sector Health and Excellence. Our commitment to the health and excellence of the sector is absolute; we seek to ensure our sector’s financial viability and ability to attract and retain a strong workforce
Last week, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) met with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to talk about a tax increase and deficit reduction bill. Manchin argued that deficit reduction could help mitigate rising inflation. He pushed for the corporate tax rate to increase from 21% to 25% and for certain loopholes to be eliminated. He also is open to allowing Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs, which would also help reduce the deficit.
Though he had shown openness to including child care provisions in previous proposals, Manchin said he no longer supports any social spending moving forward. In theory, the bill would be able to pass with only 50 votes, as opposed to the usual 60, through the budget reconciliation process, which is reserved purely for tax and spending bills. However, it is unclear whether the critical 50th vote, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), will sign on, as she has publicly opposed corporate tax increases in the past. Though Social Current is disappointed in recent congressional deadlock, we will continue to advocate for the nonprofit sector and the families and communities we serve.
Centrist Democrats Introduce Slew of Health Care Bills
A sleight of centrist House Democrats, called the New Democrat Coalition, have endorsed 22 health care bills, urging leadership to put them up for a vote. The bills cover numerous topics, including mental health for children in schools and opioid addiction prevention and recovery. Each bill has at least one Republican cosponsor and 13 have companion bills in the Senate. The New Democrat Coalition is proposing to pass as many of these bills in a bipartisan manner as possible before the midterm elections in November. Lawmakers are discussing whether to pass each bill separately, or as a combined package. Furthermore, it is unclear which of these bills can pass in the Senate, which requires 60 votes for a measure to pass. Leaders of the New Democrats hope to have the bills marked up in May and introduced onto the floor of the House during the summer. Here is a list of the endorsed bills:
- H.R. 3259 — Non-Opioids Prevent Addiction in the Nation (NOPAIN) Act
- H.R. 5141 — MOBILE Health Care Act
- H.R. 7076 — Supporting Children’s Mental Health Care Access Act of 2022
- H.R. 2929 — Virtual Peer Support Act
- H.R. 5218 — Collaborate in an Orderly and Cohesive Manner Act
- H.R. 5407 — Enhancing Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Through Campus Planning Act
- H.R. 1384 — Mainstreaming Addiction Treatment Act of 2021
- H.R. 2067 — MATE Act of 2021
- H.R. 4944 — Helping Kids Cope Act
- H.R. 2376 — Excellence in Recovery Housing Act
- H.R. 7232 — 9–8–8 and Parity Assistance Act of 2022
- H.R. 2366 — STOP Fentanyl Act
- H.R. 909 — Moms Matter Act
- H.R.1385 — Behavioral Health Coordination and Communication Act of 2021
- H.R. 3514 — Humane Correctional Health Care Act
- H.R. 3549 — Comprehensive Mental Health In Schools Pilot Program Act of 2021
- H.R. 5469 — FOSTER Act
- H.R. 6279 — Opioid Treatment Access Act of 2022
- H.R. 5934 — Supporting Healthy Mothers and Infants Act of 2021
- H.R. 5950 — Improving Patient Access to Care and Treatment (IMPACT) Act
- H.R. 792 — Barriers to Suicide Act
- The Social Media and Pediatric Mental Health Working Group (not yet introduced)
Administration Releases Resources for Mental Health Parity Compliance
The Biden administration has released three resources that will help certify that insurers comply with existing mental health parity requirements. The Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008 requires that insurers do not apply more restrictive financial requirements and treatment limits to mental health or substance abuse disorder benefits than to medical or surgical benefits. The Biden administrations says insurers and health plans aren’t complying with the law. The White House has pushed Congress to update the law, but, in the meantime, it has released three tools to improve enforcement:
With these resources, families will learn their consumer rights and lawmakers will be able to advocate more effectively for the health and well-being of their constituents.
Nonprofit Sector Strength and Partnership Act Introduced
On April 26, Reps. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) and Fred Upton (D-Mich.) introduced the bipartisan Nonprofit Sector Strength and Partnership Act of 2022, which will improve collaboration between the social sector and the federal government. The bill would create a White House Office on Nonprofit Sector Partnership, housed in the Executive Office of the President. A nonprofit advisor, serving as an assistant to the president, would influence policy relating to the nonprofit sector. That position would establish an online portal that would allow charities to register for fundraising opportunities across multiple states simultaneously. The bill would also create two entities that would weigh in with recommendations on how to strengthen the nonprofit sector:
- Interagency Council on Nonprofit Sector Partnership
- Advisory Board on the Nonprofit Sector
Finally, the bill would also require the Bureau of Labor Statistics to compile and release quarterly economic data about nonprofit organizations, allowing regular updates on the health of the nonprofit sector, the third largest sector in the economy.
The important work in our communities cannot be achieved without the support of diverse community-based partnerships. Global Service Month provides a great opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate partners that donate time, resources, and expertise to make a difference in our communities.
Social Current is grateful for three of its corporate partnerships, helping our network drive impact through the engagement of corporate volunteers and generous donations of resources.
Rooted in service and united by purpose, Aramark strives to do great things for its employees, partners, communities, and planet. Their global volunteer program, Aramark Building Community, launched in 2008 and engages the talents and passions of employees to develop solutions that address challenges caused by lack of access to healthy food and proper nutrition, financial insecurity, and inequitable environments. The program drives stronger communities, creates employee volunteer opportunities, and encourages employees to give back to their local communities.
Throughout the year, and during the annual Aramark Building Community Day, thousands of Aramark employee volunteers work to build vibrant, sustainable communities for all. They also offer complimentary resources to nonprofit organizations that equip families and individuals with the skills, knowledge, and confidence to discover, choose, and prepare healthy food. This is often in conjunction with volunteer activities like food drives, cooking demos, and meal prep workshops. Last year alone, nearly 200 community-based organizations were provided regrants by Social Current, while dozens more strengthened community health and well-being through Healthy for Life® resources, thanks to Aramark’s tremendous support.
Aramark Partner Spotlight: The Aramark Chicago Star Team, lead by Angila Faison, works in partnership with Social Current client UCAN. UCAN Director of Corporate and Foundation Grants Lauren Birchlove shared, “Many of our program participants have young children for whom they struggle to provide healthy food, school supplies, and holiday gifts. Our participants were grateful to receive funds through the Aramark Building Community holiday grant program, in partnership with Angila, to purchase healthy food, gift cards, and toys, creating a special holiday for their children.” Lauren went on to praise, “Aramark volunteers are top notch. They are serious about completing projects, which means that they do high quality and efficient work. We can’t wait to welcome Aramark volunteers back in-person soon.”
CSC ServiceWorks is the leading provider of laundry solutions and air vending services throughout the United States, Canada, and Europe. Through their CSC CommunityWorks Signature Services initiative, they are helping to enhance lives by working with community centers to provide reliable access to clean laundry and basic supports. They believe access to clean laundry is essential to helping people be successful in school and work and maintain healthy lifestyles. CSC teams support work within the communities they operate by lending their expertise, providing washer/dryer and air/vacuum equipment to community organizations, ongoing service for these machines, as well as volunteer support. Through their donations of washers, dryers, and ongoing equipment maintenance, CSC helps strengthen the capacity of our partners who are providing these essential services. In 2021, CSC ServiceWorks donated hundreds of washers and dryers, at a value of approximately $125,000, as well as ongoing maintenance services to provide reliable laundering operations for nearly 30 Social Current network partners.
CSC ServiceWorks Partner Spotlight: Michigan-based CSC ServiceWorks employee Paul Martin worked with Social Current client Ruth Ellis Center to install a donated washer and dryer to support their Kofi House program serving low-income LBGTQ youth. Program Director Kathie Griffin-Futch shared “Clients are able to wash up to two loads of laundry every week. Because of this donation, clients don’t have to decide between clean clothes or food on the table. All CSC employees were very caring and professional. This was the most amazing experience and a beautiful gift to the community.”
Bank of America
Bank of America offers Better Money Habits, a free financial education platform, that builds know-how around topics like budgeting, saving, credit, homeownership, retirement, and more. Community-based organizations can leverage these resources in a variety of current programs by engaging staff in train-the-trainer or direct-to-community-member Better Money Habits sessions.
Bank of America Partner Spotlight: Social Current client Northwestern University Settlement House in Chicago worked with Mary Bovalis, Better Money Habits Champions Lead and Treasury Product Manager with Bank of America, to train its staff on these financial literacy education tools. “The Better Money Habits website and tools were really easy to access and use,” said Katie Taylor, director of development at Northwestern University Settlement. “Our program staff are able to easily pull what’s needed for our different populations and specific needs.”
Additionally, in honor of National Financial Capability Month, Bovalis hosted a 30-minute demonstration of the Better Money Habit’s platform for all Social Current community-based organization partners.
Social Current celebrates and thanks all of its corporate volunteers, working in partnership with our network of organizations and helping us implement equitable solutions to society’s toughest challenges. For questions about Social Current’s corporate partnerships, please contact Emily Merritt, network and corporate engagement manager.
On April 7, the Senate confirmed Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, paving her way to become the first Black woman on the highest court in the nation, once Justice Stephen Breyer steps down at the end of the current term. In her speech from the South Lawn of the White House the next day, she proclaimed: “It has taken 132 years and 115 prior appointments for a Black woman to be selected to serve on the Supreme Court of the United States. But, we’ve made it. We’ve made it, all of us.” All 50 Democrats and three Republican senators supported Jackson’s historic confirmation.
In other news, on Thursday the Biden administration released the results mandated in his executive order from last year, which called for the elucidation of a whole of government approach to addressing equity and racial justice. More than 90 federal agencies released Equity Action Plans, which detail over 300 steps these agencies will take to overcome systemic barriers in federal policies and programs. For instance, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has committed to eliminating the racial gap in homeownership, and the Department of Health and Human Services will increase engagement with communities of color to facilitate enrollment in free and low-cost health care. Within the federal government, data collection efforts will be improved to include key demographic data and encourage cross-agency information sharing. The administration says that this project is a major step forward in “a generational commitment” to advancing equity and achieving justice for underserved communities.
House Education and Labor Committee Introduces Workforce Development Bill
Education and Labor Committee Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Higher Education Workforce Investment Subcommittee Chairwoman Frederica Wilson (D-FL) introduced legislation that would reauthorize the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act. This important training and career services program, which expired in 2020, supports state workforce development systems. The proposed legislation would pump $78 billion into the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) over six years, thereby training one million workers per year by 2028. It would also create a permanent program at the Department of Labor committed to assisting formerly incarcerated individuals find gainful employment and career pathways. Expanded summer and year-round jobs programs for youth and increased support for partnerships between employers and community colleges are also included in the reauthorization package. According to the committee’s press release, federal workforce development funding has decreased 45% since 2002, adjusting for inflation.
Extension of Child Nutrition Waivers in the Works
Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) introduced the Support Kids Not Red Tape Act, which would extend school meal flexibilities from June 30, 2022, to September 30, 2023. At the beginning of the pandemic, the Department of Agriculture began issuing child nutrition waivers that allowed schools to serve meals during closures and gave them flexibility to respond to operational and personnel challenges. The proposed bill would provide schools with space and time to return to normal operations while keeping children well-fed and healthy. Without the extension, schools will not have flexibility given the constraints from COVID-19 and supply chain issues, putting countless meals in jeopardy. 50 colleagues joined Sens. Stabenow and Murkowski in introducing the bill.
New Bipartisan Bill Embraces Two-Generation Approach
Senators Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine) introduced the Two-Generation Economic Empowerment Act, which would address the health and well-being of parents and children by encouraging a holistic framework that links existing funding streams and systems. The bill would codify the Council on Economic Mobility at the Department of Health and Human Services, which would tackle multigenerational poverty by coordinating efforts across a wide array of federal agencies and departments. The bill would also foster innovative two-generation programs by granting transfer and waiver authority to participating agencies, which would break down silos and facilitate blending and braiding of federal programs. Finally, a pilot program would be established, allowing state, local and tribal governments to stand up their own two-generation programs.
Last Monday, President Biden released his administration’s $5.8 trillion budget request for fiscal year 2023. Though Congress traditionally takes the lead in crafting the federal budget and will inevitably alter many aspects of the president’s proposal, the request paints a picture of the administration’s priorities heading into the budgetary process. The president included budget details for his “Unity Agenda” announced at the State of the Union in February, which aims to tackle the opioid crisis, bolster the mental health system, and fund research for his Cancer Moonshot program. However, the administration declined to outline the costs of elements from the president’s signature Build Back Better bill, possibly to give leeway to Congress, especially holdouts like Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), to negotiate details on provisions like universal pre-K, the Child Tax Credit, and climate funding.
Major highlights from the budget request include:
- $33.3 billion for the Administration for Children and Families
- $12 billion for Head Start
- $7.5 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant
- $257 million for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act
- $10.7 billion for the Substance Use And Mental Health Services Administration
- $1.6 billion for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant
- $553 million for Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics
- $88.3 billion for the Department of Education
- $3.3 billion increase to IDEA Grants to states, the largest two-year increase ever
- $438 million for Full Service Community Schools
- $2,175 increase to Pell Grants
- $28.5 billion for the Department of Agriculture
- $111.2 billion in mandatory funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
- $6.7 billion for Food and Nutrition Service, largely for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC)
The administration included new pay fors, including a 20% minimum tax on unrealized capital gains for households worth more than $100 million, as well as a boost to the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28% and a new top income tax rate of 39.6% on high-income earners. These new tax increases would help fund $1 trillion in deficit reduction over 10 years, a new priority that would help woo more moderate voters. Social Current will continue to advocate for our sector’s policy priorities and keep you up to date on developments as the budget for FY 2023 comes together.
Social Current in the News
Last week, the Chronicle of Philanthropy featured an article by Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson and Senior Director of Government Relations Ilana Levinson about staff shortages and workforce challenges facing the social sector. You can read the full article online.
Republican Senators Introduce Child Care Bill
Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Tim Scott (R-S.C.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) introduced legislation to reauthorize the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG ) until FY2025. CCDBG aims to fund child care subsidies for low-income families with children under the age of 13, though prior to the pandemic, only 20% of eligible children participated in the program. The proposed legislation would expand eligibility to families earning 150% of the State Median Income (SMI), from 85%. Moreover, families making less than 75% SMI would pay a $0 copay, and no eligible family would pay more than 7% of their income in copays. President Biden’s child care plan, which lost traction along with the Build Back Better bill at the end of last year, also requires no copays for families earning less than 75% SMI, but requires no more than 7% of income in copays for families up to 250% SMI.
New Report on Impact of the American Rescue Plan
The Treasury Department released a report on the impact of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) one year after passage. The $1.9 trillion bill invested in COVID-19 vaccines and testing, state and local governments, economic supports for children and families, and housing and small business assistance, among other things. The report states that the ARP made significant progress is addressing child poverty, food insecurity, and unemployment in low-income communities and doubled GDP growth. The expanded child tax credit, for example, benefitted 36 million families with more than 61 million children, and over $400 billion in Economic Impact Payments, or stimulus checks, were distributed. The state and local dollars provided 740,000 essential workers with premium pay and funded 1,460 projects to increase affordable housing, improve education, and address public health issues across the country. Finally, the Emergency Rental Assistance programs provided over 5 million rent, mortgage, and utility assistance payments as of January 2022.
New Ratings from the Prevention Services Clearinghouse
The IV-E Prevention Services Clearinghouse announced ratings for 15 new programs. Two were found to be “well-supported,” one was found to be “supported,” three were found to be “promising,” and the remainder “does not currently meet criteria.” See the ratings and links to each program below:
GenerationPMTO – Individual – Promising
GenerationPMTO – Group – Well-supported
Strengthening Families Program – Birth to Three – Does not currently meet criteria
Strengthening Families Program – 3-5 – Does not currently meet criteria
Strengthening Families Program – 6-11 – Does not currently meet criteria
Strengthening Families Program – 12-16 – Does not currently meet criteria
Strengthening Families Program: For Parents and Youth 10-14 – Supported
Familias Fuertes – Does not currently meet criteria
Families and Schools Together® – Early Childhood Education Level – Does not currently meet criteria
Families and Schools Together® – Elementary School Level – Promising
Families and Schools Together® – Middle School Level – Does not currently meet criteria
Families and Schools Together® – High School Level – Does not currently meet criteria
Community Reinforcement Approach + Vouchers – Promising
Mindfulness–Based Cognitive Therapy – Well-supported
Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy for Anxious Children – Does not currently meet criteria
Last week, Congress voted to pass the fiscal year 2022 omnibus budget bill after months of delays. This bipartisan bill represents significant investments in many priority areas for the Social Current network, including advancing trauma-informed care, investing in early childhood education, developing whole-child approaches through partnerships with K-12 education, increasing funds for rental assistance and public housing to address the housing crisis, bolstering maternal health equity through new interventions, supporting the behavioral health workforce crisis with new investments, and more. The package also includes supplemental funding of over $13 billion for Ukraine relief.
In addition, this legislative package included the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. This legislation takes steps to strengthen services, invest in prevention efforts, and expand access to survivors in rural areas and those requiring culturally specific services. Download our full summary for human and social service organizations.
Social Current Comments on Impact of the Economy
Last week, The Chronicle of Philanthropy quoted Social Current President and CEO Jody Levison-Johnson in an article about how the economy continues to impact our sector. You can read the full article, “Economic Data Shocks Charity Officials Just as they were Hoping for a Post-Pandemic Boom,” online.
Universal Charitable Deduction Hearing in the Senate
On Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mike Crapo (R-Idaho), hosted a hearing on the Universal Charitable Deduction (UCD), featuring speakers from the nonprofits, academic institutions, and think tanks. The first-ever UCD was implemented in the CARES Act in 2020, but it expired at the end of last year. It allowed all taxpayers, whether they took the standard deduction or not, to claim a deduction of up to $300 for charitable contributions. During his remarks, Dan Cardinali, CEO of Independent Sector, emphasized the importance of the charitable sector as the third largest employer in the country. He asked members of the committee to not only extend the UCD, but also raise the cap of the deduction. Susannah Morgan of the Oregon Food Bank shared her on-the-ground experiences running a food bank during the height of the pandemic, and stressed that government programs, such as SNAP and the expanded Child Tax Credit, are also central to helping families in need. Another highlight was Dr. Una Osili from the Lilly Family School of Philanthropy at Indiana University, who noted that over the last two decades, giving has increasingly become dominated by higher income households and argued that the UCD would make giving more accessible to the rest of the population. The Universal Charitable Deduction remains a major advocacy priority for Social Current.
Public Charge Updates
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) published a new rule that would change how some immigrants are considered for citizenship and green cards. Under the Trump administration, a rule was passed that expanded the ability of the department to consider whether an applicant who wished to change their status would become a “public charge,” meaning likely to depend on the government for assistance. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Section 8 Housing, public housing, and other government benefits programs were added to the list of programs that could be used to assess applicants. Under the proposed rule from DHS, these programs would be explicitly removed from consideration when making a public charge determination. The rule would also forbid relatives’ participation in government programs from being considered when determining likelihood of an applicant becoming a public charge. The rule will now go through a public comment period until April 25.
House Hearing on Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV)
Last week the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Worker and Family Supports led a hearing on improving family outcomes through home visiting program. The Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program helps at risk-women and families by connecting them with supports through home visiting. Chairman Danny Davis (D-Ill.) and Ranking Member Jackie Walorski (R-Ind.) co-led the hearing. Witnesses included Steven Pascal, director of home visiting at the Children’s Trust in Boston; Myia Smith, Healthy Families America family support specialist at Henry Booth House in Chicago; Erica Beck, Healthy Families American program participant at Henry Booth House in Chicago; Angella Dancer, senior director of home visitation services at the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; and Debie Coble, president and CEO of Goodwill Industries of Michiana in South Bend, Indiana. These witnesses, several of whom shared their lived experience, made a strong case for the importance and effectiveness of MIECHV. Since its enactment in 2009, MIECHV has played a vital role in strengthening local and state efforts. Seven home visiting models met the gold standard of evidence that the law required at that time, and today 12 more research-tested models appear on that list. The committee is looking to reauthorize the program. Some of the goals of Reps. Davis and Walorski include expanding access to home visiting to more families, helping to retain the home visiting workforce, continuing to tailor home visiting to the needs of specific communities, and maintaining a high standard of evidence.
In early March 2022, Congress voted to pass the fiscal year 2022 omnibus budget bill after months of delays. This bipartisan bill represents significant investments in many priority areas for the Social Current network including advancing trauma-informed care, investing in early childhood education, developing whole-child approaches through partnerships with K-12 education, increasing funds for rental assistance and public housing to address the housing crisis, bolstering maternal health equity through new interventions, supporting the behavioral health workforce crisis with new investments, and more. The package also including supplemental funding of over $13 billion for Ukraine relief.
In addition, this legislative package included the passage of the Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act. This legislation takes steps to strengthen services, invest in prevention efforts, and expand access to survivors in rural areas and those requiring cultural-specific services.
Download our full summary for human and social service organizations. It includes highlights from:
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Education
- Department of Health and Human Services
- Administration for Children and Families
- Department of Housing and Urban Development
- Department of Justice
- Department of Labor
At the beginning of March, President Joe Biden offered his first official State of the Union address, in the midst of the violent crisis in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, rising inflation, and other challenges. While the speech began with a focus on foreign policy and the war in Ukraine, it quickly moved to domestic policy. While President Biden’s Build Back Better plan seems doomed after it failed to get the votes necessary to pass in the Senate, he attempted to revive a new version of his agenda called “Building a Better America.” Since the speech, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) said he is concerned about inflation and has hinted about raising taxes on the rich and corporations to bring down deficits. Biden talked about individual elements of Build Back Better as cost-saving measures for families worried about rising prices, which represented a change in messaging.
While it is unclear what will happen with the Build Back Better agenda, Biden announced a new framework, his “Unity Agenda,” which is focused on four areas of potential bipartisan compromise and support:
- Addressing the opioid crisis
- Solving the mental health crisis
- Supporting veterans
- Curing cancer
Of interest to the social sector, his proposal for a new mental health bill includes a focus on strengthening system capacity, improving access, addressing parity, improving youth mental health, strengthening children’s privacy and banning targeted advertising for children, and instituting stronger online protections for young people. His proposal is clearly laid out in a new fact sheet. Many of his ideas align with the priorities and expertise of community based organizations, including investing in programs that bring more providers into behavioral health, promoting the mental well-being of the front-line workforce, expanding evidence-based community mental health services, expanding telehealth for mental health care, expanding access to supports in schools, co-locating mental health and substance use providers in community-based settings, and increasing behavioral health navigation resources.
As reported by Social Current last month, the Senate is beginning work on a bipartisan mental health bill, and Social Current will continue to identify opportunities for advocacy in this process.
Federal Budget Negotiations Gaining Steam Before Deadline
Lawmakers are rushing to pass the budget for FY 2022 before a self-imposed deadline of March 11. The 12-bill omnibus package, which must be passed every year to fund the entire federal government, is finally in the last stages of negotiations after months of delays. Appropriators would also like to add two supplemental packages on Ukraine aid and COVID-19 relief. However, the Ukraine aid, which could amount to up to $10 billion, seems to be a sticking point. On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said that Democrats were trying to fit in the Ukraine aid by shrinking the defense budget in the omnibus bill, something Republicans oppose. However, Sen. Chris Coons (D-Del.) insisted that the Ukraine aid would be on top of the already negotiated defense bill. In the House of Representatives, Chair of the Appropriations Committee Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) said that everyone is “negotiating in good faith” and that she hopes to reach an agreement in the next few days. If Congress does not reach a deal before March 11, they are likely to pass another short term extension for a week or two, to buy more time to complete negotiations.
Source: Bloomberg Government
ACF Releases Anticipated Guidance on Advancing Equity
From the National Child Abuse Coalition:
On Feb. 2, the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) released a new Information Memorandum (IM) focused on advancing race equity. Titled “Equity in Action: Prioritizing and Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities,” the IM calls for ACF grantees to assess and address how its programs and policies perpetuate systemic barriers for children and families of color. It also includes three attachments which include key equity definitions, references from the IM, and selected resources for supporting race equity.
Among other things, it details the history of racism in America and its impact on children and families, and it calls out racism as a social determinant of health, calls for comprehensive action to address structural racism in policy, and highlights promising practices that jurisdictions have implemented to address racial equity. It concludes with four key recommendations for the field in advancing equity for children and families:
- Review policies and commit to revising them in partnership with a diverse group of people the policies are meant to serve.
- Create and promote a statewide policy to meet the needs of children and families of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
- Identify contract and procurement opportunities that are barriers to full equitable participation. At a minimum, ensure these opportunities are promoted and communicated to providers of goods and services owned or operated by members of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds.
- Establish a diverse and culturally competent workforce that acknowledges the importance of culture, has the capacity for cultural self-assessment, recognizes the dynamics resulting from cultural differences, strives for expansion of cultural knowledge, and adapts services to meet culturally unique needs.
This IM is the latest action by the Biden Administration to advance racial equity within ACF. Last year, the agency launched an internal equity advisory group and an agency-wide council on diversity. They have also solicited program-specific equity action plans, in response to the Biden Administration’s Jan. 20, 2021 Executive Order calling for all federal agencies to review their policies and procedures and make recommendations for how to advance equity. And they have taken steps to diversify their workforce, implement staff trainings, and create employee resource groups focused on equity. The Children’s Bureau also recently released a resource for child welfare agencies titled Advancing Equity and Inclusion Through the CFSRs.
New Report on Poverty Reduction Due to American Rescue Plan
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published a new report that details the impact of the American Rescue Plan (ARP) on poverty in 2021. The ARP, which passed in March last year, included large investments in state and local governments, stimulus checks, expanded unemployment benefits and the newly expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC). It aimed to give aid to those most impacted by the economic effects of the pandemic, particularly the unemployed and children.
The report found that the ARP kept 20.1 million people out of poverty, including 7.8 million children. Accounting for the aggregate impact of all the provisions in the ARP, the poverty rate decreased by 45% in 2021 from pre-pandemic levels. The child poverty rate was 8.3% in 2021, a decrease of 42% compared to 2019, due to the advanced payments of the CTC and federal and state stimulus efforts. For Black, Latino and American Indian/Alaska native people, the impacts were greater compared to the entire population. Even without accounting for the CTC, the annual poverty rate fell by 6.2 percentage points among American Indian/Alaska Native people, 5.3 percentage points among Black people, and 5.0 percentage points among Hispanic people.