Coalition on Human Needs https://www.chn.org Mon, 07 Jun 2021 16:28:34 +0000 en-US hourly 1 152997162 CHN: President Biden’s FY22 Budget Invests in Critical Human Needs Programs https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-president-bidens-fy22-budget-invests-in-critical-human-needs-programs/ Mon, 07 Jun 2021 16:00:20 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=7236 The Biden Administration released its detailed Fiscal Year 2022 budget request on Friday, May 28. The full budget request, which provides greater detail than the President’s “skinny budget” released on April 9, is the first in a decade that is not limited by the low spending caps for annual appropriations...

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The Biden Administration released its detailed Fiscal Year 2022 budget request on Friday, May 28. The full budget request, which provides greater detail than the President’s “skinny budget” released on April 9, is the first in a decade that is not limited by the low spending caps for annual appropriations required by the Budget Control Act. Highlights from select agency budgets are found in the articles that follow.

President Biden’s budget calls for spending to rise steadily from $6 trillion in FY22 to $8.2 trillion in FY31. Of the $6 trillion in projected FY22 spending, $1.7 trillion is spending that would be annually appropriated by Congress, also known as discretionary spending. CQ notes that includes money appropriated in prior years that hasn’t yet been spent, as well as $1.52 trillion in newly-requested funds. Of this, roughly $770 billion is for non-defense (domestic and international) discretionary (NDD) funding. This reflects a 16.5 percent increase over FY21 levels. Most education and housing programs fall into this category, plus many social service, public health, veterans’ services, criminal justice, homeland security, environmental and community development programs.

The budget also calls for $753 billion in defense discretionary funding, a roughly 1.6 percent increase over FY21. This includes the previously uncapped and controversial Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, which would now be included in the base defense budget. In a break from the past, the Pentagon budget would dip below half of total discretionary spending (to 49.5 percent). While advocates praised the expansion of funding for human needs programs, many progressives have called for cuts to the defense budget. Some Republicans say the defense request amounts to a cut after accounting for inflation and are calling for parity, or equal increases in defense and nondefense spending.

The Biden Administration budget includes $4 trillion in mandatory spending for FY22. Mandatory spending programs, including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, SNAP/food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and other basic safety net programs do not require annual appropriations. Instead, Congress authorizes the way they spend money through legislation. Congress can cut or expand these programs by amending the legislation that authorizes them. Much of the increase in the Biden budget over the 10-year window comes from the rising costs of entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare.

The Biden budget includes funds to implement the policy changes laid out in the President’s historic American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said the Biden budget, “includes a set of investments… that would dramatically reduce child poverty and help children thrive; improve our nation’s health; expand opportunity in early and higher education; create new workforce development opportunities; bolster households struggling to afford the basics; and allow people to take paid time off from work to meet their own health needs and to provide care for their families.” It proposes to increase the corporate income tax rate and reduce incentives for U.S. multinational corporations to shift profits and investments overseas, and increases taxes on individuals with incomes over $400,000 a year.

While the President’s budget as a whole does not move through Congress or become law, at minimum a president’s budget is a proposal to Congress used to signal an administration’s priorities, and when the president and congressional leadership are from the same party, many of those priorities are influential in shaping congressional action, from appropriations levels to major initiatives.

It is expected that a budget resolution passed by both the House and Senate will contain instructions that will allow Congress to pass all or part of the President’s economic recovery proposals using the reconciliation process. Both the budget resolution and the reconciliation bills that emerge only need a simple majority to pass. A recent decision by the rules-keeper of the Senate (the Senate Parliamentarian) means that Democrats will only have one chance later this year to use budget reconciliation, through a budget resolution the House and Senate agree upon for FY22. This means that anything Democrats need to pass through the Senate with a simple majority vote between now and when they take up a FY23 budget resolution will have to go into one budget reconciliation package.

However, appropriations bills cannot be enacted through a reconciliation process; that means appropriations bills will need 60 votes – and therefore Republican support – to pass in the Senate. With the release of the President’s budget, Congress will begin the process of drafting and debating the 12 annual spending bills covering government functions. The House will likely soon pass a “deeming resolution,” essentially an informal agreement to set the FY22 top-line limit on discretionary spending; this allows appropriators to move forward with drafting spending bills absent a more-formal budget resolution in place. The House Appropriations subcommittees are expected to begin the process of voting on FY22 spending bills later in June, with full committee votes held in July. The Senate Appropriations Committee may begin its work in July. As bipartisan support is needed to pass spending bills in the Senate, many are already predicting the need for a stopgap spending measure, known as a Continuing Resolution, to keep the government funded when the new fiscal year begins October 1.

For more information on congressional FY22 budget and appropriations work, see the April 19 Human Needs Report. Stay tuned to upcoming Human Needs Reports for additional analysis of as the FY22 federal budget and appropriations process moves forward.

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CHN: Select Biden FY22 Departmental Budget Requests https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-select-biden-fy22-departmental-budget-requests/ Mon, 07 Jun 2021 15:46:18 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=7233 Select Biden Administration FY22 Departmental Budget Requests The Coalition on Human Needs compiled information from the President’s FY22 budget request for select government departments that most directly impact people with low incomes, including the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor, as well...

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Select Biden Administration FY22 Departmental Budget Requests

The Coalition on Human Needs compiled information from the President’s FY22 budget request for select government departments that most directly impact people with low incomes, including the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor, as well as other areas of note.

 

Department of Agriculture

In addition to supporting rural and agricultural programs, the Department of Agriculture’s budget funds a variety of nutrition assistance programs for people with low incomes. The budget requests $27.9 billion in discretionary spending for USDA, up 16.7 percent ($4 billion) from FY21 to FY22. The discretionary side of USDA spending includes programs like WIC and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program; mandatory spending within USDA includes SNAP and most child nutrition programs. In the proposed budget, funding for mandatory programs is estimated to be $168.1 billion, a $20 billion decrease from FY21 enacted levels.

The Department of Agriculture’s budget includes $105.8 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/food stamps, a decrease of roughly $8.2 billion from FY21, to serve an estimated 45.4 million Americans per month. The budget ensures that SNAP benefits will continue to include the emergency allotment payments first authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act as well as the 15 percent benefit increase for as long as the Public Health Emergency continues, but assumes the emergency will be over sometime before the end of FY22, at which time the increased benefits will expire. Similar to the American Families Plan, the budget proposes removing the ban on the participation in SNAP for those with past drug convictions.

The budget includes $26.9 billion for Child Nutrition Programs, up from $25.2 billion in FY21. This includes the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, the Summer Food Service Program, and others. The American Families Plan, as part of the budget, invests more than $25 billion to make Summer Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) permanent and available to all 29 million children eligible for free and reduced-price school meals.

The budget includes $6 billion in discretionary funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This includes two new funding steams: $200 million to support benefits should cost or participation increase and $100 million to support WIC technology systems. WIC is estimated to serve 6.4 million Americans per month in FY22.

The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which distributes food boxes to low-income home-bound seniors, would see an increase of $7 million to $332 million. This program was slated for elimination in former President Trump’s FY21 budget request. The budget also requests a $65 million increase above FY21 levels of $635 million for the ReConnect program, which is designed to expand broadband access in rural areas.

For more information, see the National WIC Association and the budget summary from the Department of Agriculture.

 

Department of Education

President Biden’s proposed budget would increase the Department of Education’s budget by $29.8 billion, or 40.8 percent above the FY21 level, to $102.8 billion; this would be the largest percentage increase of any Cabinet department. Additionally, the proposal includes nearly $50 billion in new mandatory spending tied to proposals in the President’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan.

The proposal would provide free preschool to all three- and four-year-olds as well as two years of free community college. The budget includes $36.5 billion for Title I grants for high-poverty schools, a $20 billion increase from FY21 that represents the largest year-over-year increase since the program’s inception in 1965. The additional $20 billion is for a new Equity Grants program to help close the $23 billion gap between funding for majority white and majority non-white school districts. A $2.7 billion increase (to $15.5 billion) in included for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants to states that support special education and related services for students with disabilities; this is the largest increase in two decades. Additionally, the budget includes additional discretionary funds to increase the maximum Pell Grants by $400 – the largest one-time increase since 2009 – and additional mandatory funds for a total increase of $1,875 over the current maximum grant. Pell Grants would also be available to DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients, undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children. Funding for historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs) would rise by $600 million. The president’s budget proposal also includes historic increases for community schools.

The GEAR UP program, which supports low-income students from high school into their first year of college, would see an increase of $40 million to $408 million. Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants that augment Pell Grants for more than a million of the neediest college students would be level-funded. Funding for the TRIO programs would increase $200.8 million, or 18.3 percent over FY21.

The Federal Work Study program would be level-funded from FY21, as would adult education and family literacy state grants that help foundation skills and English literacy instruction to over 1.5 million individuals. Perkins career and technical education state grants, which support post-secondary education for more than 12 million students, would receive a small $20 million, or 1.5 percent, increase in discretionary funds over FY21; additionally, the budget includes $1 billion annually over the next 10 years in mandatory funding under the American Jobs Plan to expand career pathways for middle and high school students. Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants would rise $44.1 million from FY21 to $3.7 billion in mandatory funds in FY22.

In K-12 education programs, migrant education and education for homeless children and youth would be flat funded from FY21; rural education would receive a $5 million bump to $192.8 million. Funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provide before-school, after-school, and summer school programs for nearly 2 million children, would increase by $50 million. The budget provides $443 million, an increase of $413 million, for Full-Service Community Schools, which prove comprehensive wrap-around services to students and their families, from afterschool, to adult education opportunities, and health and nutrition services. The budget includes a proposal from the American Jobs Plan to provide $10 billion in mandatory funding in FY22, and $50 billion over five years, for grants to upgrade and build new public K-12 schools. It also includes a proposal from the American Families Plan to include $280 million in mandatory funding, along with $132.1 million (an increase of $80 million over FY21) in discretionary spending for the Teacher Quality Partnership program to prepare aspiring teachers and provide professional development.

For more information, see the National Education Association, National Skills Coalition and the budget summary from the Department of Education.

 

Department of Health and Human Services

The FY 2022 budget proposes $133.7 billion in discretionary spending (up more than 23 percent from FY21) and $1.5 trillion in mandatory funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). (HHS budget detail notes that one-time rescissions reduce the discretionary amount to $107.5 billion.) While the vast majority of the budget for HHS provides funds for Medicare and Medicaid, the agency covers a wide variety of programs, from the Affordable Care Act and medical research to child care and vital community services for people with low incomes.

The budget includes a proposal in the American Jobs Plan to invest $400 billion to expand access to Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) for seniors and people with disabilities and to support the HCBS workforce. It also includes a proposal from the American Families Plan to make permanent the American Rescue Plan’s expansion of premium tax credits for people who obtain coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces, and calls for the creation of a public option within the ACA. The budget calls for a premium-free, “Medicaid-like” option in states that have not adopted Medicaid expansion.

In a long-overdue advance, the budget calls for eliminating the current Medicaid funding caps for Puerto Rico and the other territories, and for increasing Medicaid match rates in the territories to align with those of the states.

The health care provisions in the HHS budget also include proposals to allow Medicare to negotiate the price of prescription drugs and to allow people over the age of 60 to enroll in Medicare.

The budget includes an additional $2.2 billion (a 36 percent increase) over FY21 levels for Indian Health Services to improve the health disparities faced by American Indian and Alaskan Natives.

Key initiatives in the HHS budget proposal focus on children, including increasing funding for early learning programs. The budget invests $250 billion over ten years to make child care affordable, ensuring that low- and middle-income families pay no more than 7 percent of their income on high-quality child care and offering free, high-quality, preschool to all three- and four-year-olds, benefitting five million children. Among annual appropriations, the budget includes $11.9 billion for Head Start/Early Head Start, up 11 percent, and $7.4 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, up nearly 25 percent from FY21. The budget also requests $450 million for FY22, $175 million over FY21, for Preschool Development Grants. This would allow states to build or expand high-quality preschool systems.

Funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides heating and cooling assistance to about 6 million low-income households, would get a boost of $100 million over FY21, up to $3.85 billion. This program was slated for elimination in former President Trump’s FY21 budget.

The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which provides operating expenses for roughly 1,100 poverty-fighting community action agencies, would receive $754 million, up $9 million over FY21.

Biden’s proposed budget includes $3.8 billion for unaccompanied migrant children arriving in the U.S. This marks a significant increase from the $1.3 billion provided in FY21for the same purpose. Funding for Refugee Support Services would more than double, from $207 million in FY21 to $450 million in FY22. The budget assumes that up to 125,000 refugees will be admitted in FY22, the highest number in 30 years.

The Promoting Safe and Stable Families program provides formula grants to states for services to families to improve child safety at home. The grants also fund supportive services for reunifying and adoptive families, which promote safety and permanency for children and families and helps to prevent the need for foster care. The budget includes $475 million in mandatory funding for the program for FY22.

For more information, see the budget summary from the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Department of Housing and Urban Development

The Biden Administration proposes to increase HUD’s budget by $9 billion, or 15 percent above 2021 enacted levels, to $68.7 billion.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, President Biden’s budget would provide substantial investments in affordable homes and increase the availability of housing assistance to families with the greatest need. Rental assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher Program (also known as Tenant-Based Rental Assistance) would be expanded to 200,000 additional households, the largest one-year expansion of vouchers in the program’s history. Funding for this program would increase by $5.4 billion over FY21 to $30.4 billion, with the expansion focusing on those experiencing homelessness or fleeing domestic violence. Funding for Homeless Assistance Grants would increase by $500 million to $3.5 billion, enough to support more than 100,000 additional households. Funding for Project-Based Rental Assistance increases by $595 million (4.4 percent) to $14.1 billion; this amount is expected to be sufficient to renew all existing contracts.

While the Choice Neighborhoods program would be cut by $15 million, the Community Development Block Grant would see an increase of $295 million to $3.77 billion, and the HOME Investment Partnership Program would see an increase of $500 million to $1.85 billion (up 37 percent). These three programs, which together aid low-income communities in improving basic infrastructure, providing services to youth and seniors, rehabilitating housing, and promoting economic development, were slated for elimination in former President Trump’s FY21 budget. The Biden budget increases funding over FY21 levels for the Native American Housing Block Grant by $76 million (11.7 percent); in total, $1 billion is provided for tribal housing programs. Funding for public housing operating funds would increase by $23 million, fully covering public housing operating costs; the public housing capital fund would receive $435 million more than FY21, up to $3.5 billion.

A small number of other programs receive increases in the budget: the Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control program receives an increase of $40 million, or 11.1 percent, and Housing for People with Disabilities receives an increase of $45 million (19.8 percent) – $80 million of this is to support the construction of 900 new units of permanently affordable, accessible housing for people with disabilities. The budget also includes $100 million to support construction of 1,100 new permanently affordable housing units for older adults, and $800 million in new funding distributed across HUD programs to make homes more energy efficient and climate resilient.

For more information, see the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the budget summary from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 

Department of Labor

The proposed budget would increase the Labor Department’s discretionary budget by 14 percent, or $1.7 billion, from FY21 to FY22, for a total of $14.2 billion in discretionary spending.

The President’s budget requests $3.7 billion, a $203 million increase over FY21, for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I state formula grants, which help adults and youth with barriers to work gain new skills and find employment. It also invests $285 million, a $100 million increase over FY21, to expand Registered Apprenticeship opportunities. This includes increasing access for people of color and women and diversifying the industry sectors involved. The American Jobs Plan would invest an additional $800 million in FY22 and $10 billion over 10 years to create 2 million new apprenticeship slots. Indian and Native American Programs would receive a $2.5 million increase to $58 million in Biden’s FY22 budget, and Dislocated Workers grants would see an increase of $100 million to $380.9 million.

The American Jobs Plan would provide $81.5 billion over 10 years for a variety of job training/employment programs, including $18 billion over 10 years for a new Comprehensive Supports for Dislocated Workers program and $22 billion for a new program called SECTOR (Sectoral Employment Through Career Training for Occupational Readiness). Also included would be a subsidized jobs program, funded at $600 million in FY22 and $4 billion over 10 years, targeted mainly to recipients of public assistance, $9 billion over 10 years for community college training programs, $1 billion for justice-involved trainees, and $2 billion in order to phase out the current sub-minimum wage for workers with disabilities. There would also be $7.5 billion committed to worker protection/enforcement activities.

The request includes $150 million for FY22 for Reentry Employment Opportunities to prepare justice-involved adults and youth for the job market, an increase of $51.9 million; this will fund more than 10,000 additional participants in 2022. The budget requests $145 million for YouthBuild, an increase of $48.5 million over FY21; this will fund more than 3,000 additional participants in the program in 2022. There is also $50 million in new funding for a National Youth Employment Program. Funding would increase by $2.8 million (3 percent) for the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Program (also known as the National Farmworker Jobs Program), which provides workforce and development and employment assistance for migrant and seasonal farmworkers to help them prepare for stable, year-round employment. The Community Service Employment for Older Americans Program, which helps low-income senior citizens find work, would receive level funding; this program was slated for elimination in former President Trump’s FY21 budget request. Job Corps would receive a small increase of $9.1 million, or 0.5 percent.

Funding for the Office of Disability Employment Policy is increased by $4.2 million, or more than 10.9 percent, from FY21 to FY22. Funding for the Women’s Bureau is increased by nearly $5 million, or 32.9 percent. The budget proposes an increase of $30.5 million to $276.5 million for the Wage and Hour Division to help protect workers’ paychecks.

For more information, see an analysis from the National Skills Coalition and the budget summary from the Department of Labor.

 

Other Areas of Note

The Department of Justice would get $35.3 billion, or an increase of 5.3 percent over FY21. This includes funds to speed immigration courts, combat gun violence (including $232 million in new spending), and overhaul state and local criminal justice systems; it would double the FY21 level for Violence Against Women Act programs. Some advocates expressed concern over increases in law enforcement funding. According to CQ, the White House also wants to increase the budget for the Justice Department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review, which houses the U.S. immigration court system, by 21 percent, from $734 million to more than $891 million; this includes funds to provide pro bono representation and other legal aid to immigrants fighting deportation without lawyers and would also fund the hiring of 100 additional immigration judges to chip away at a lengthy immigration court backlog.

The Department of Homeland Security would get $54.9 billion, roughly flat funding from FY21. This includes $345 million for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services to adjudicate a backlog of naturalization and asylum cases. The budget does not include funding for U.S.-Mexico border wall construction. The budget for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) would be $7.9 billion, roughly the same as in FY21, enough to allow the agency to hold up to 30,000 adults daily in immigration detention facilities.

The FY22 request for the Census Bureau (under the Department of Commerce) is $1.4 billion, an increase of $335.8 million from the FY21 enacted level. The budget requests $11.5 billion for the Commerce Department, up 29.4 percent ($2.6 billion) from FY21.

According to CQ, the State Department would get $550 million for the U.S. refugee admissions program, a significant jump from the $280 million allocated to refugee admissions last year.

The Department of Transportation discretionary budget would see a 3.3 percent bump, and the Department of Veterans Affairs discretionary budget would see a 8.5 percent increase. Funding for the Environmental Protection Agency would increase by 21.3 percent, or $2 billion, to $11.2 billion.

The budget proposal extends the American Rescue Plan changes to the Child Tax Credit and makes permanent full refundability; makes permanent the American Rescue Plan expansion to the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers without children; and makes permanent the American Rescue Plan changes to the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit. However, it only extends through 2025 the American Rescue Plan’s increase in the maximum Child Tax Credit to $3,000 for children 6 years or older and $3,600 for children under age 6.

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CHN: President Biden’s American Jobs Plan focuses on infrastructure and economic recovery https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-president-bidens-american-jobs-plan-focuses-on-infrastructure-and-economic-recovery/ Mon, 19 Apr 2021 15:52:32 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=7080 Following the March enactment of the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that’s already helping Americans, President Biden released his American Jobs Plan, a “once-in-a-generation investment” in infrastructure and economic recovery. The $2.3 trillion package includes funding for both physical infrastructure and the human infrastructure that...

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Following the March enactment of the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that’s already helping Americans, President Biden released his American Jobs Plan, a “once-in-a-generation investment” in infrastructure and economic recovery. The $2.3 trillion package includes funding for both physical infrastructure and the human infrastructure that are necessary for economic growth.

The American Jobs Plan includes $621 billion for transportation infrastructure (including $85 billion for public transit), $100 billion for power infrastructure projects, and $300 billion for manufacturing and small businesses. Some of the key physical infrastructure components of the package include:

Housing

The plan includes $213 billion to build, preserve and retrofit more than 2 million homes through grants, formula funding, targeted tax credits and project-based rental assistance. This includes $40 billion to improve public housing, resources to support homeownership and weatherize homes, and resources to help address the growing cost of rent. The plan says it will extend affordable housing rental opportunities to underserved communities, including rural and tribal areas. While housing advocates say these are welcome steps, they argue that much more assistance is needed. Diane Yentel, Executive Director of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, testified before the House Financial Services Committee on April 14 that infrastructure legislation should include a major expansion of rental assistance for every eligible household; $70 billion to repair public housing; and an investment of $40 billion in the national Housing Trust Fund to build and preserve homes affordable to the lowest-income and most marginalized households.

Education and child care

The Biden Administration’s proposal includes $100 billion to build and upgrade public schools; $100 billion to build broadband infrastructure in unserved and underserved rural areas, urban areas, and tribal lands; and $12 billion for community colleges, particularly for rural areas. It also calls for $25 billion to help upgrade and increase the supply of child care facilities, especially for infants and toddlers in high-need areas. Additionally, it calls for an expanded tax credit to encourage businesses to build child care facilities at places of work.

Drinking water safety

The proposal includes $111 billion for drinking water safety, including replacing lead pipes, in residences, schools, and child care centers in disadvantaged communities, U.S. territories, and tribal communities.

Redressing racial inequities

The package also includes $20 billion for new racial equity programs, including for a new program that will reconnect neighborhoods cut off by historic investments and ensure new projects increase opportunity, advance racial equity and environmental justice, and promote affordable access.

Some of the key human infrastructure components of the package include:

Workforce development

The plan calls for $100 billion in workforce development programs aimed at underserved groups, including youth. This includes wraparound services, income supports, counseling, and case management, including $40 billion for a new Dislocated Workers Program and sector-based training, a new subsidized jobs program, one to two million new registered apprenticeship slots, and programs for formerly incarcerated and justice-involved youth. The plan calls on Congress to eliminate the sub-minimum wage and pass the pro-union Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act. It also includes provisions related to protections for domestic workers, increased penalties when employers violate workplace safety and health rules, and gender-based pay discrimination. For more information, see this piece from the National Skills Coalition.

Health and justice

President Biden is calling on Congress to put $400 billion toward expanding access to quality, affordable home and community-based services (HCBS) under Medicaid for older adults, people with disabilities, and the people who care for them. His plan will also extend the longstanding Money Follows the Person program that supports innovations in the delivery of long-term care. Veterans’ Affairs facilities would receive $18 billion.

Raising revenue

The release of the American Jobs Plan was accompanied by the President’s Made in America Tax Plan, which would help ensure corporations pay their fair share in taxes. It would increase the corporate income tax rate from 21 percent currently to 28 percent and would reduce the practice of U.S. corporations claiming international tax havens as their residences.

Reactions and next steps

CHN’s Executive Director Deborah Weinstein praised the American Jobs Plan, saying, “It increases our capacity to do vital work in making our water safe, housing more available and affordable, schools, hospitals and child care centers modernized, home care expanded for people with disabilities or aging, and our energy sources safe and renewable.  It focuses help on low-income communities, territories, tribes and communities of color, and invests in training so members of these communities can take the jobs created.”

Advocates expect the Biden Administration will also soon release details of its American Families Plan, which is likely to include additional investments in health care coverage, early childhood education, paid leave provisions, an extension of the improvements to the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit included in the American Rescue Plan, and other needed investments.

Republicans have balked at the price tag and scope of Biden’s American Jobs Plan and at its goal of rolling back the 2017 GOP tax cuts to pay for it. Republican senators on April 14 said they would present a cheaper infrastructure plan with a total cost of $600-$800 billion.

It’s anticipated that Democratic leadership in Congress will again try to move one or both of the President’s plans using a process called reconciliation, which allows legislation in the Senate to proceed without the possibility of filibuster, a tactic intended to stymie legislation. Ending a filibuster takes 60 votes; without that tactic, reconciliation bills can pass with only a simple majority (51 votes in the Senate). Democrats could begin the reconciliation process by passing another budget resolution that directs committees to draft individual pieces of the package as early as May, though final passage of any package may not happen until the summer or fall. For more information about how reconciliation works, see this recorded webinar: Budget Strategy to Pass a COVID Bill in the Senate: Reconciliation 101

For more information on the various parts of the American Jobs Plan and the Made in America Plan, see these pieces from CHN, the Economic Policy Institute, Americans for Tax Fairness, and the Washington Post. In addition, the Congressional Progressive Caucus put out its priorities for infrastructure legislation.

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CHN: Biden Administration’s FY22 budget blueprint invests in education, health, and housing https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-biden-administrations-fy22-budget-blueprint-invests-in-education-health-and-housing/ Mon, 19 Apr 2021 15:45:55 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=7079 On April 9, the Biden Administration released a summary of its $1.5 trillion budget request for annually-appropriated programs for the government’s Fiscal Year 2022, which begins on October 1. In topline numbers, the blueprint calls for $769 billion in non-defense (domestic and international) annually-appropriated spending, also known as non-defense discretionary...

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On April 9, the Biden Administration released a summary of its $1.5 trillion budget request for annually-appropriated programs for the government’s Fiscal Year 2022, which begins on October 1. In topline numbers, the blueprint calls for $769 billion in non-defense (domestic and international) annually-appropriated spending, also known as non-defense discretionary (NDD) funding. This reflects a 16 percent, or $105.7 billion, increase over FY21 levels. It also calls for $753 billion in defense discretionary funding, a 1.7 percent increase over FY21. This includes the previously uncapped and controversial Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, which would now be included in the base defense budget. In a break from the past, the Pentagon budget would dip below half of total discretionary spending (to 49.5 percent). While advocates praised the expansion of funding for human needs programs, many progressives have called for cuts to the defense budget.

Highlights for some of the key departments include:

Education: $102.8 billion for the Department of Education, a whopping 40.8 percent increase over FY21 levels. This includes $36.5 billion for Title I grants for high-poverty schools, a historic $20 billion increase from FY21; and a $2.6 billion increase (to $15.5 billion) for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) grants that support special education and related services for students with disabilities. Additionally, Pell Grants would be increased and would be available to Dreamers (undocumented young people who came to the U.S. as children).

Health and Human Services: $133.7 billion, a 23.1 percent increase from FY21 levels, for the Department of Health and Human Services. This includes $1.6 billion for mental health, double last year’s funding; $10.7 billion (up $3.9 billion from FY21) for opioid prevention and treatment; a $1.5 billion increase to expand access to quality child care; and an increase of $2.2 billion for the Indian Health Service.

Housing and Urban Development: $68.7 billion (a $9 billion or 15.1 percent increase over FY21 levels) for HUD, including $30.4 billion (up $5.4 billion) for Housing Choice vouchers to expand assistance to 200,000 more families; $400 million (up $40 million from FY21) to reduce lead-based paint and other health hazards in homes; and $900 million to increase affordable housing in tribal communities and increase economic opportunities for low-income Native American families.

Labor: $14.2 billion for the Department of Labor, a $1.7 billion or 14 percent increase over FY21, including $2.1 billion (up 17 percent) for worker protection agencies.

Agriculture: $27.8 billion for the Department of Agriculture, up $3.8 billion or 16 percent. This includes $6.7 billion (up $1 billion) for critical nutrition programs, including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); and a $65 million increase to expand broadband access in rural areas.

Justice: $35.2 billion for the Department of Justice, up $1.8 billion or 5.3 percent. This includes $2.1 billion (up $232 million) for gun violence prevention; $209 million, an increase of $33 million, in the Department’s Civil Rights Division, Community Relations Service, and other programs; and $1 billion for Violence Against Women Act programs, nearly double this year’s level. Some advocates expressed concern over increases in law enforcement funding.

Homeland Security: $54 billion for the Department of Homeland Security, up 0.2 percent from FY21, including $345 million for U.S. Citizenship and Immigration services to adjudicate a backlog of naturalization and asylum cases. The budget does not include funding for border wall construction.

Environmental Protection Agency: $11.2 billion for EPA, a $2 billion or 21.3-percent increase from FY21.

A full budget request, which is expected to include more details as well as proposals for mandatory spending on programs such as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, tax policy, and a 10-year projection for spending and revenues, will likely follow in the coming weeks or months.

Fiscal Year 2022 is the first year in a decade that budgets and annual spending bills will not be limited by the low discretionary spending caps required by the 2011 Budget Control Act that have prevented Congress from investing in human needs programs. During this time, lawmakers typically followed the principle of “parity,” or supposedly similar increases in both defense and non-defense spending. The suggested allocations in the president’s budget are separate from funding he has proposed in his recently released American Jobs Plan and in the anticipated American Families Plan.

For more details on the budget blueprint, see the press release and funding request from the White House, as well as these pieces from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

A president’s budget is a proposal to Congress used to signal an administration’s priorities, and it provides guidance to Congress in determining what the totals for annual appropriations should be. As noted in the article in this Human Needs Report on President Biden’s American Jobs Plan, it is expected that a budget resolution passed by both the House and Senate will contain instructions that will allow Congress to pass all or part of the President’s economic recovery proposals using the reconciliation process. However, appropriations bills cannot be enacted through a reconciliation process; that means appropriations bills will need 60 votes – and therefore Republican support – to pass in the Senate.

Preliminary work has also begun in Congress on spending bills for FY22. House and Senate Appropriations subcommittees have started hearings, and the committees could start drafting spending bills in May.

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CHN: Congress averts Medicare cuts but punts on other cuts to come https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-congress-averts-medicare-cuts-but-punts-on-other-cuts-to-come/ Mon, 19 Apr 2021 15:37:15 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=7078 The House passed and President Biden signed into law last week a bill to avert billions of dollars in Medicare cuts during the pandemic. The bill, H.R. 1868, extends a pause on an automatic 2 percent cut to Medicare payments to medical providers through the end of the year. The...

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The House passed and President Biden signed into law last week a bill to avert billions of dollars in Medicare cuts during the pandemic. The bill, H.R. 1868, extends a pause on an automatic 2 percent cut to Medicare payments to medical providers through the end of the year. The cost of delaying the cuts will be offset by extending the sequester in later years after the pandemic ends.

The bill as it originally passed the House in March also contained a waiver to avoid a much larger $80-90 billion in separate statutory “pay-as-you-go” cuts this fiscal year. The Congressional Budget Office said these cuts (required by a process called sequestration when spending increases the deficit) would be required by a 2010 pay-as-you-go law because of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act enacted in March. However, Senate leaders took out the waiver after Republicans protested the lack of offsets. According to CQ, it’s unclear when lawmakers will revisit the paygo cuts. Paygo waivers are regularly included in year-end spending packages with bipartisan support, but there is concern that Republicans could block such a waiver this year in opposition to increased spending under the Biden Administration.

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CHN: Senate advances measure combatting Asian American – Pacific Islander discrimination https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-senate-advances-measure-combatting-asian-american-pacific-islander-discrimination/ Mon, 19 Apr 2021 15:34:18 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=7077 As crimes and incidents of harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders soar, the Senate last week advanced legislation to strengthen federal efforts to address the hate. Last Wednesday, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act cleared a technical hurdle on a 92-to-6 vote, with six Republican senators voting in opposition: Senators...

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As crimes and incidents of harassment against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders soar, the Senate last week advanced legislation to strengthen federal efforts to address the hate.

Last Wednesday, the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act cleared a technical hurdle on a 92-to-6 vote, with six Republican senators voting in opposition: Senators Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Ted Cruz of Texas, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama. The legislation is currently awaiting a final vote. Once the Senate and House agree on a final bill, it would go to President Biden for his signature.

The bill (S. 937) would create a new position at the Department of Justice to expedite the review of hate crimes related to the coronavirus pandemic, expand public channels to report such crimes, and require the Justice Department to issue guidance to mitigate racially discriminatory language in describing the pandemic. Many anti-hate advocates in part blame former President Trump for the rise in incidents aimed at the Asian American community after he frequently described COVID-19 as “Chinese flu” and the “China virus,” in addition to making other derogatory comments.

The legislation comes on the heels of a new report that documents the increase in hate crimes during a period of almost one year – roughly mirroring the course of the pandemic. Stop AAPI Hate reported on 3,795 incidents across the U.S. from March 19, 2020 to February 28, 2021. “The number of hate incidents reported to our center represent only a fraction of the number of hate incidents that actually occur, but it does show how vulnerable Asian Americans are to discrimination, and the types of discrimination they face,” the report states.

At the same time the Senate legislation was advancing, Biden announced a key new nomination aimed in part at improving his outreach to the Asian American Pacific Islander community.

On Wednesday, the Biden Administration announced it is creating a new position – Deputy Assistant to the President and Liaison to the A.A.P.I. community. The Administration announced the appointment of Erika L. Moritsugu to fill the position. Moritsugu, who is of Japanese and Chinese descent, was formerly Vice President at the National Partnership for Women & Families, which focuses on women’s health and economic equity, among other issues. She previously served in the Obama Administration as an Assistant Secretary in the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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Sign on your organization to the SAVE for All 2021 Statement of Principles! https://www.chn.org/articles/sign-on-your-organization-to-the-save-for-all-2021-statement-of-principles/ Thu, 15 Apr 2021 15:46:05 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=7056 Use this form to sign your organization to the 2021 SAVE for All Statement of Principles. View the complete 2021 SAVE for All statement of principles here. If you don’t belong to or represent an organization or business: We also need tens of thousands of people to sign-on in support...

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Use this form to sign your organization to the 2021 SAVE for All Statement of Principles. View the complete 2021 SAVE for All statement of principles here.

If you don’t belong to or represent an organization or business: We also need tens of thousands of people to sign-on in support of our individual pledge here.

This sign-up form is a little different – you first type in your organization’s name to search for it; if it’s there, just click on it.  Presence of your name only means we have your info on file; you will not be listed as a signer unless you continue filling out the form.  If your name isn’t on the form, please just add it to sign on.

If you have difficulty with this form, contact Nicolai Haddal: nhaddal@chn.org

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CHN: President Biden’s American Rescue Plan signed into law, sending aid to millions https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-president-bidens-american-rescue-plan-signed-into-law-sending-aid-to-millions/ Mon, 15 Mar 2021 16:20:56 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=7000 Advocates celebrated the enactment last week of the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. President Biden signed the legislation in to law on Thursday, March 11 after the bill (H.R. 1319) ping-ponged back and forth in the House and Senate, passing both chambers without Republican support....

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Advocates celebrated the enactment last week of the American Rescue Plan Act, a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. President Biden signed the legislation in to law on Thursday, March 11 after the bill (H.R. 1319) ping-ponged back and forth in the House and Senate, passing both chambers without Republican support. The law will provide help to millions of Americans and will reduce the number of people in poverty by over 13 million – including 5.7 million children – through strong provisions, such as larger stimulus checks, more aid for the unemployed, help for the hungry and those facing eviction, more child care funding, expanded health coverage, increased funding for vaccinations, additional support for state and local governments and schools, and more. The New York Times called the package “virtually without precedent in recent American politics.” The White House set up a new website to tout the law and help people navigate benefits.

H.R. 1319 originally passed the House on Feb. 27 (219-212); changes were made in the Senate before it passed (50-49) that chamber on March 6, and the House accepted the Senate’s version with final passage (220-211) on March 10.

Edits made in the Senate mean the final version of the law differs in several key ways from the version that first passed the House. The main differences include:

  • Minimum wage: Provisions to raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour were stripped due to strict Senate budget process rules. Advocates were disappointed with this and are already working to push Congress to pass the Raise the Wage Act to accomplish this goal.
  • Stimulus payments: The income phase-out range was narrowed, meaning that single filers with incomes greater than $75,000 will receive less than the full $1,400, with no payments to those with incomes of $80,000 or more. For heads of households, the payment starts phasing down above $112,500, with no payments to those with incomes of $120,000 or more. For joint filers, the amount starts phasing down above $150,000, and couples with incomes of $160,000 or more would not receive a check.
  • Unemployment benefits: the law extends the federal add-on to state benefits through Sept. 6, a week later than the Aug. 29 date in the House bill. The weekly bump-up will remain at the current $300 per week, rather than $400 in the House bill. The final law also exempts up to $10,200 in unemployment benefits received in 2020 from federal income taxes for households making less than $150,000.

Here are just a few of the key components of the COVID-19 relief law:

Beefed-up stimulus payments

The law provides “Recovery Rebates” of $1,400 per person to eligible recipients. As noted above, the income phase-out was changed to exclude filers with higher incomes. The new payments cover all dependents – children and adults – who have a Social Security number, even if none of the taxpayers claiming the dependent file with one. Advocates are disappointed, however, that the law continues to exclude 9.3 million immigrants who file taxes with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) who were included in the HEROES Act the House passed last year.

Enhanced unemployment aid

As noted above, the federal add-on to state benefits, known as the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), was extended until Labor Day, Sept. 6. Also extended through Sept. 6 were the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that applies to jobless Americans who have exhausted their state benefits, and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that provides benefits to the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and certain others affected by the pandemic. All three programs were slated to expire March 14. Advocates had pushed for all unemployment benefits to be extended through the beginning of October to avoid allowing benefits to expire while Congress is out of town during its annual August recess, leaving millions of unemployed without the help they need. For more information, see this piece from the National Employment Law Project.

Help for the hungry

The law extends the temporary 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits enacted in December through September and gives $1 billion for the Nutrition Assistance Program to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands. It includes $880 million in funding to increase benefits for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for four months, and provides Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits to school age and young children for the summer and extends the program through the end of the COVID-19 health crisis. More funding is provided for emergency food distribution. It also ensures more young adults can access food at emergency homeless shelters.

Among other provisions to be administered by the Department of Agriculture, there is about $5 billion to provide loan forgiveness and other assistance to Black farmers and ranchers, to address years of inequitable treatment. The bill also includes support for rural health clinics. For more information on nutrition assistance included in the law, see this piece from the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and this piece from Feeding America.

Housing, home energy and utility assistance

The law includes nearly $50 billion in essential housing and homelessness assistance, including $27.4 billion for rental assistance and $5 billion to assist people who are homeless. It also includes $10 billion for state, local, and tribal mortgage assistance programs. An additional $4.5 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will help households pay for heating and cooling, plus another $500 million to help with water bills, through a new Low Income Household Drinking Water and Wastewater Emergency Assistance Program, all funded through September 30. Back mortgage, rent, home energy and water bills are all part of rising household debt urgently needing solutions to prevent utility shutoffs, evictions, or foreclosures. The rules for reconciliation precluded an extension of the moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. Advocates are calling upon the Biden Administration and Congress to extend these moratoria. For more information, see this piece from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund 

The law includes $1 billion in a new Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund, which will be used for short-term non-recurrent cash or other benefits to help the poorest families with children, some of whom may not be eligible for other forms of help. Funds will be distributed to states, tribes, and territories. Distribution will be based half on the population of children in the state and half on prior Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) expenditures on cash aid and short-term assistance.

Health care access

The law eliminates or lowers premiums for people who get their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces and provides subsidies to fully cover the cost of COBRA insurance premiums through September for workers who had health insurance through their jobs before they were laid off. It also increases by 5 percentage points how much the federal government pays toward a state’s Medicaid expenditures (known as the “federal medical assistance percentage” or FMAP) for states that newly implement the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. The increase means that for states newly choosing to expand their Medicaid program, the federal government will pay 95 percent of the costs for two years, dropping to 90 percent afterwards. States will also receive a 10 percentage point FMAP bump (up from 7.35 in the original House bill) for 1 year for Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) to the tune of $12.7 billion, allowing states to increase aid for people with disabilities and older adults who need long-term services and supports to remain in the community instead of going into institutional settings. This funding can be used to support the direct-care workforce, providing additional services to more people, supporting family caregivers, and more. Inclusion of this funding was a victory for advocates for seniors and people with disabilities. Robust funding was also included in the package to improve testing for COVID-19, hire needed public health workers, expand community health centers and health services on tribal lands, support mitigation measures at long-term care facilities and prisons, and speed up the distribution and administration of vaccines across the country. For more information, see this piece from Families USA.

Aid for state and local governments, transit, and schools

The package includes $350 billion in grants to help states, localities, tribal governments, and U.S. territories. It also includes about $170 billion for K-12 students and higher education to ensure that schools and child care facilities can reopen safely, including $7.1 billion in an emergency fund to purchase devices to make distance learning more accessible for elementary and high school students struggling to take part in online learning. There is also substantial funding for child care and early childhood education, including $15 billion to assist parents with child care costs through the Child Care and Development Block Grant, a $24 billion child care stabilization fund to keep child care providers solvent during the pandemic, and $1 billion in new funds for Head Start. For estimates of the child care relief funding each state, DC, and Puerto Rico will receive, see this piece from the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).

Temporary tax credit increases

The law will increase the maximum Child Tax Credit (CTC) for one year from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under age 6 and to $3,000 for those from ages 6 through 17 (the CTC previously reached children through age 16). The credit will also be made fully refundable, meaning families whose income is too low to owe federal income tax would receive the full amount. The CTC begins to phase out for single heads of households at an income of $112,500, and at $150,000 for married couples. At an income level of $170,000, a married couple would no longer be eligible for the additional $1,000 credit for their child over age 6, but the remaining $2,000 in the CTC would phase down more slowly, ending altogether $400,000. The expansion of the Child Tax Credit will cut child poverty by more than 40 percent. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, currently about half of all Black and Latino children get only a partial Child Tax Credit or no credit at all because their families’ incomes are too low to qualify for the full credit. In all, 27 million children in families with low or no income will now get the credit.

The package will also nearly triple the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for a year to close to $1,500 for childless adults, helping more than 17 million workers. Puerto Rico will get a federal match of up the three times the current cost if it chooses to increase the EITC for workers without children. The law also includes a full extension of Child Tax Credit benefits to Puerto Rico and a federal supplement to help expand Puerto Rico’s Earned Income Tax Credit.

The legislation also expands the use of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which would allow families to receive a tax credit for up to 50 percent of the child or dependent care expenses, to a maximum of $4,000 per dependents or $8,000 for two or more dependents, phasing out as incomes rise. For one year, this credit will be fully refundable (that is, fully available to households even if they owe less in income taxes than the credit is worth).

Paid leave

Tax credits for employers who provide paid sick leave and paid family leave are extended from their current March 31 expiration date to September 30, 2021. The credits are increased from $10,000 to $12,000 and extended to include state, local and other governmental entities. The tax credits are made refundable for the employers, and it is clarified that employers can claim the credit if the employee is staying out of work because of contracting COVID, or is caring for someone with the disease. Advocates were disappointed that provisions requiring certain employers to provide paid sick leave and family leave benefits, which expired at the end of December, were not reinstated in the law. For more information, see this piece from the National Partnership for Women and Families.

CHN’s Executive Director Debbie Weinstein praised the American Rescue Plan saying, “The President and Congress faced a choice: do little and watch a slow recovery that leaves the most vulnerable behind, or take bold steps to prevent hunger, evictions, sickness, and prolonged job loss. They took bold and necessary steps.”

For more information on the various parts of the package, see reports and statements from CHN members and partners on CHN’s COVID-19 resource page. In addition, Senate Democrats published a number of resources, including an overview, a summary of the relief for older adults and people with disabilities, and state-by-state estimates of state and local fiscal relief, expanded tax credits, direct payments, education and rental assistance, child care assistance, and more.

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CHN: What’s next: After rescue comes recovery https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-whats-next-after-rescue-comes-recovery/ Mon, 15 Mar 2021 16:12:15 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6999 With President Biden’s American Rescue Plan signed in to law (see related article in this Human Needs Report for more on this), focus is shifting to what comes next. The president’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget is expected to be released in April, and it will lay the groundwork for a...

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With President Biden’s American Rescue Plan signed in to law (see related article in this Human Needs Report for more on this), focus is shifting to what comes next. The president’s Fiscal Year 2022 budget is expected to be released in April, and it will lay the groundwork for a longer-term recovery plan. This plan will likely be broad and could include provisions related to infrastructure, climate and the environment, lowering prescription drug prices, immigration reform, and building a more equitable economy.

It’s anticipated that Democratic leadership in Congress will again try to move the package using a process called reconciliation, which allows legislation in the Senate to proceed without the possibility of filibuster, or unlimited debate intended to stymie legislation. Ending a filibuster takes 60 votes; without that tactic, reconciliation bills can pass with only a simple majority (51 votes in the Senate).

House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-KY) said that Democrats could begin the reconciliation process by passing another budget resolution that directs committees to draft individual pieces of the package as early as May, though final passage of a package may not happen until the fall. The House and Senate Budget Committees would prefer to wait to do their budget resolutions until after President Biden submits his budget for FY 2022.

For more information about how reconciliation works, see this recorded webinar: Budget Strategy to Pass a COVID Bill in the Senate: Reconciliation 101

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CHN: Trump-era anti-immigrant public charge rule changes permanently blocked nationwide https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-trump-era-anti-immigrant-public-charge-rule-changes-permanently-blocked-nationwide/ Mon, 15 Mar 2021 16:09:52 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6998 In a huge win for immigrants and the advocates who fight for them, the Supreme Court on March 9 dismissed an upcoming case regarding the Trump Administration’s harmful 2019 public charge regulations. The move followed an announcement from the Biden Administration Department of Justice that it would no longer defend...

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In a huge win for immigrants and the advocates who fight for them, the Supreme Court on March 9 dismissed an upcoming case regarding the Trump Administration’s harmful 2019 public charge regulations. The move followed an announcement from the Biden Administration Department of Justice that it would no longer defend the Trump-era changes, which made it more difficult for many immigrants to come to or stay in the U.S. if they use certain public benefits they are legally entitled to, such as SNAP/food stamps, housing assistance, or Medicaid. Under the Trump rule, immigrants could also be denied entry if they had low incomes. Not long after the Supreme Court dismissed the pending appeals, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed the government’s appeal as well. This means that the Trump Administration’s anti-immigrant public charge changes are permanently blocked nationwide, and that it is now again safe for immigrants and their families to access health, nutrition, and housing programs for which they are eligible.

CHN is proud to be a member of the Protecting Immigrant Families coalition, led by the National Immigration Law Center and the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), which headed up the fight against the harmful changes.

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CHN: House passes several bills to further democracy and social and economic justice https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-passes-several-bills-to-further-democracy-and-social-and-economic-justice/ Mon, 15 Mar 2021 16:04:14 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6996 The House of Representatives has passed several pieces of legislation in the past month that would further social and economic justice, including in the areas of democracy reform and voting rights, the right to unionize, gun control reform, countering racial bias in policing, and protections for LGBTQ individuals. On March...

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The House of Representatives has passed several pieces of legislation in the past month that would further social and economic justice, including in the areas of democracy reform and voting rights, the right to unionize, gun control reform, countering racial bias in policing, and protections for LGBTQ individuals.

On March 3, the House passed H.R. 1, the For the People Act, a comprehensive democracy reform package. The bill would put in place long-needed voting, elections, and ethics reforms, including ending partisan and racial gerrymandering by establishing independent redistricting commissions; expanding and protecting voting rights by mandating access to early voting and same-day registration; getting “dark money” out of politics by requiring donor disclosures; and much more. The Center for American Progress called the legislation, “arguably the most consequential people-empowering legislation since the Civil Rights Act of 1965.” The bill passed by a vote of 220-210, with one Democrat joining all Republicans in voting no. A similar bill passed the House in 2019 but was never taken up in the Senate. In addition, President Biden issued an executive order on promoting access to voting on March 7.

Also on March 3, the House passed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 1280), which seeks to address racial bias in policing, help end police brutality, and protect civil rights. The vote total was 220-212, with one Republican joining all but two Democrats in supporting the measure. The bill would direct the Department of Justice to track systemic racial discrimination, establish a national registry to track police misconduct, ban no-knock warrants and chokeholds at the federal level, and limit “qualified immunity” that shields police officers from lawsuits, allowing individuals to recover damages in civil court. Some advocates voiced concerns, however, that the qualified immunity provision and other provisions do not go far enough to address accountability and protect civil rights. A previous version of the bill passed the House in June 2020 but was never taken up by the Senate.

The Equality Act passed the House on Feb. 25 (224-206; three Republicans joined all Democrats in voting yes). H.R. 5 would expand federal protections for LGBTQ people by prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity in employment, housing, credit, education, public accommodations (such as restaurants, hotels, and theaters), and jury service. It would also prohibit discrimination based on sex, sexual orientation, and gender identity in programs receiving federal funding. This legislation passed the House in 2019 but died without a vote in the Senate. President Biden issued an executive order guaranteeing an educational environment free from discrimination on the basis of sex, including sexual orientation or gender identity, on March 8. The same day, he also issued an executive order establishing the White House Gender Policy Council to advance gender equity and equality.

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act would reverse years of attacks on unions and restore private sector workers’ right to join a union and bargain for fair wages, better benefits, and safer workplaces. CHN joined the many of its members, including the Economic Policy Institute, the National Employment Law Project, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), and hundreds of other organizations in urging members of Congress to support H.R. 842, which passed the House on March 9 (225-206). The bill previously passed the House in early 2020 but died in the Senate.

Two bills aimed at expanding background checks on gun sales, the Bipartisan Background Checks Act (H.R. 8) and the Enhanced Background Checks Act (H.R. 1446), passed the House on March 11. H.R. 8 would close the “gun show loophole,” while H.R. 1446 would close the “Charleston loophole” that allows some licensed gun sales to proceed before a required background check is done. Both bills also passed the House in 2019.

The bills are expected to have tougher roads ahead in the Senate, where 60 votes are needed to overcome a filibuster and move any of the pieces of legislation forward.

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CHN: Senate picks up the pace on Biden Cabinet confirmations https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-senate-picks-up-the-pace-on-biden-cabinet-confirmations/ Mon, 15 Mar 2021 15:53:58 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6995 The pace of Senate confirmation of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees has accelerated since the Human Needs Report’s Feb. 16 update. On March 10, the Senate confirmed three key picks – former U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; former U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland as...

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The pace of Senate confirmation of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees has accelerated since the Human Needs Report’s Feb. 16 update. On March 10, the Senate confirmed three key picks – former U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development; former U.S. Circuit Judge Merrick Garland as Attorney General; and Michael S. Regan, formerly North Carolina’s top environmental regulator, as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency.

Fudge, the first Black woman to lead HUD in more than 40 years, has pledged to fight racial inequities in America’s housing programs. She also will be charged with providing rental assistance to households at risk of eviction proceedings. Garland had been President Obama’s choice to fill a Supreme Court vacancy; then-Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) infamously refused to allow hearings or a vote on his nomination. Garland’s confirmation came on a relatively easy 70-30 vote. Regan’s nomination was seen as a victory for the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, which wants to see aggressive action to protect against pollution, with special attention to minority and poor communities facing disproportionate threats. Regan is the first Black person to lead the agency.

In recent weeks there have been other key confirmations as well.

The Senate confirmed former Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo as Secretary of Commerce on March 2. That same day, it confirmed Cecilia Rouse as Chair of the Council of Economic Advisors – a notable pick, given Rouse’s background in labor economics and her strong advocacy of federal intervention to address the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing recession.

The Senate confirmed Miguel Cardona as Secretary of Education on March 1. He previously was Connecticut’s state education chief, and has lengthy experience serving in public education. The Senate confirmed Jennifer Granholm as Secretary of Energy on Feb. 25. Granholm is a popular former two-term Governor of Michigan. And it confirmed Linda Thomas-Greenfield as Ambassador to the U.N. on Feb. 23. Thomas-Greenfield’s nomination was viewed as a morale-booster to the nation’s diplomatic corps, whose depleted ranks are said to be a result of the State Department being shunned by the Trump Administration.

The Senate confirmed Tom Vilsack as Secretary of Agriculture on Feb. 23. Vilsack, who served eight years in the same position in the Obama Administration, will address the farm and hunger crises that have been worsened by the pandemic. Vilsack will serve as keynote speaker during FRAC’s upcoming National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, happening later this week.

Thus far, not one of Biden’s nominees has been defeated in a Senate vote. However, the White House did withdraw the nomination of Neera Tandem to be Director of the Office of Management and Budget after it appeared she could not be confirmed.

Key nominations still pending in the Senate:

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, nominated for Secretary of Health and Human Services. Becerra’s nomination faced a tie vote in committee, but has been advanced to the Senate floor by Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

Isabel Guzman, nominated for Administrator of the Small Business Administration. Guzman’s nomination cleared the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee on Feb. 24.

Rep. Deb Haaland, nominated for Secretary of the Interior. Haaland’s nomination cleared the Energy and Natural Resources Committee on March 4. She would be the first Native American Cabinet member in U.S. history.

Katherine Tai, nominated for U.S. Trade Representative. Tai’s nomination cleared the Finance Committee on March 3.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh, nominated for Secretary of Labor. Walsh’s nomination cleared the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Feb. 11.

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COVID-19 Special Resource Page:Addressing the needs of low-income and vulnerable people https://www.chn.org/articles/covid-19/ Wed, 10 Mar 2021 14:00:15 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5615 CONTENTS Background CHN State Fact Sheets and Related Media Coverage CHN Special Reports: How Coronavirus Affects the Most Vulnerable Action Alerts Blog Posts, Organizational Statements, and Press Articles Legislation Government Notices/Guidance Guides and other resources Resources for Non-Profits Background Undoubtedly, the outbreak of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused outsize...

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CONTENTS
Background
CHN State Fact Sheets and Related Media Coverage
CHN Special Reports: How Coronavirus Affects the Most Vulnerable
Action Alerts
Blog Posts, Organizational Statements, and Press Articles
Legislation
Government Notices/Guidance
Guides and other resources
Resources for Non-Profits

Background

Undoubtedly, the outbreak of Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) has caused outsize harm to all people, both in terms of physical health and has contributed to the collapse of our economy. But population groups such as the poor, older people, people with disabilities, people experiencing homelessness, and other vulnerable groups have been disproportionately harmed by the COVID-19 pandemic. These populations already suffered from lack of access to health resources and basic infrastructure such as housing. Cruelly, they have been disproportionately harmed as the disease spreads and at a disadvantage to recover once the pandemic is over. In fact, we have already seen an analogous situation in areas subjected to natural disaster such as Puerto Rico.

The Coalition on Human Needs believes these vulnerable populations deserve a voice and special consideration in policy debates pertaining to the public health response to the crisis. To that end, we have compiled the following list of resources advocates and organizations can use when informing the public or contacting lawmakers about COVID-19.

CHN COVID-19 State Fact Sheets and Related Media Coverage

2021:

2020:

 

 

CHN Special Reports: How Coronavirus Affects the Most Vulnerable

Do you have a story to share about how coronavirus has affected your family, friends, clients or neighbors? Click here to submit your story to CHN.

Blog Posts, Organizational Statements and Press Articles

Updated March 10: The U.S. house today passed on a 220-211 vote President Biden’s American Rescue Plan. president biden has indicated he will sign the measure on friday, March 12.

The Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (On April 23, Congress passed and President Trump signed the fourth round of coronavirus-related legislation. This package contained $484 billion in funds for small business loans, hospitals and COVID-19 testing.)

The CARES Act (third round of COVID-19 legislation, passed by the House and signed into law on Friday, March 27)

Families First Coronavirus Response Act (second round of COVID-19 legislation, passed by Senate and signed by President Trump on Wednesday, March 18):

 

Effects on Economy:

Health Care:

Homelessness:

Immigration:

Incarceration:

Medicaid:

Nutrition Assistance

Paid Sick Leave:

People with Disabilities

Racial Inequality

Unemployment Insurance:

Miscellaneous:

Press Articles:

Legislation

Government Notices/Guidance

Guides and other resources

Resources for Non-Profits

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CHN: House prepares legislation to pass President Biden’s American Rescue Plan https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-prepares-legislation-to-pass-president-bidens-american-rescue-plan/ Tue, 16 Feb 2021 18:56:59 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6896 Multiple House committees advanced portions of a COVID-19 relief package last week expected to total $1.9 trillion. Many of the provisions in the legislation closely match those in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, including larger stimulus checks, more aid for the unemployed, help for the hungry and those facing eviction,...

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Multiple House committees advanced portions of a COVID-19 relief package last week expected to total $1.9 trillion. Many of the provisions in the legislation closely match those in President Biden’s American Rescue Plan, including larger stimulus checks, more aid for the unemployed, help for the hungry and those facing eviction, more child care funding, paid leave, expanded health coverage, increased funding for vaccinations, additional support for state and local governments and schools, and a gradual increase in the minimum wage to $15. There are some notable differences between the Biden plan and the House proposals, however.

Here are just a few of the key components of the COVID-19 relief proposals that came out of House committees last week:

Beefed-up stimulus payments

The legislation would provide “Recovery Rebates” of $1,400 per person to eligible recipients. The income phase-out in the current House proposal would be quicker than in the Biden plan, however, meaning that single filers with incomes greater than $75,000 receive less than the full $1,400, with no payments to those with incomes of $100,000 or more. For joint filers, the amount starts phasing down above $150,000, and income of $200,000 or more would not receive a check. The new payments would cover all dependents – children and adults – who have a Social Security number, even if none of the taxpayers claiming the dependent file with one. Advocates are disappointed, however, that the bill continues to exclude 9.3 million immigrants who file taxes with Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) who were included in the HEROES Act the House passed last year.

Enhanced unemployment aid

The unemployment insurance provisions in the legislation would expand a federal add-on to state benefits, boosting the amount from $300 per week to $400 per week. This benefit, along with the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program that applies to jobless Americans who have exhausted their state benefits, and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program that provides benefits to the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and certain others affected by the pandemic, are currently slated to expire March 14. The proposal would extend them through Aug. 29, one month shorter than President Biden’s plan. Advocates are concerned that this would allow the benefits to expire while Congress is out of town during its annual August recess, leaving millions of unemployed without the help they need. As such, they are pushing for the benefits to be extended through Sept. 30, which would allow Congress to extend the benefits if needed at the same time it enacts funding for the start of the next fiscal year.

Help for the hungry

The proposal would extend the temporary 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits enacted in December through September and give $1 billion for the Nutrition Assistance Program to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and Northern Mariana Islands. It would increase benefits for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) for four months, and provide Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT) benefits to school age and young children through the end of the COVID-19 health crisis. More funding is provided for emergency food distribution. It would also ensure more young adults can access food at emergency homeless shelters.

Among other provisions to be administered by the Department of Agriculture, there is about $1 billion in assistance for “socially disadvantaged” farmers and ranchers, as well as support for rural health clinics.

Housing, home energy and utility assistance

The proposal includes $25 billion in emergency rental assistance. It also includes $10 billion for state, local, and tribal mortgage assistance programs and $5 billion to help states and localities assist those at risk of experiencing homelessness. An additional $4.5 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will help households pay for heating and cooling, plus another $500 million to help with water bills, through a new Low Income Household Drinking Water and Wastewater Emergency Assistance Program, all funded through September 30. Back mortgage, rent, home energy and water bills are all part of rising household debt urgently needing solutions to prevent utility shutoffs, evictions, or foreclosures.

Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund 

The legislation includes $1 billion in a new Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund, which would be used for short-term non-recurrent cash or other benefits to help the poorest families with children, some of whom may not be eligible for other forms of help. Funds would be distributed to states, tribes, and territories. Distribution would be based half on the population of children in the state and half on prior Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) expenditures on cash aid and short-term assistance.

Health care access

The proposal would eliminate or lower premiums for people who get their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act marketplaces and provide subsidies to reduce the cost of COBRA insurance for workers who had health insurance through their jobs before they were laid off. The bill would also increase how much the federal government pays toward a state’s Medicaid expenditures (known as the “federal medical assistance percentage” or FMAP) for two years for states that newly implement the ACA’s Medicaid expansion. States will also receive a 7.35 percentage point FMAP bump for 1 year for Medicaid home and community-based services (HCBS) to the tune of $9.7 billion, allowing states to increase aid for people with disabilities and older adults who need long-term services and supports. This funding could be used to support the direct-care workforce, providing additional services to more people, supporting family caregivers, and more. Inclusion of this funding, while not as large as the 10 percentage point increase for HCBS contained in the House-passed HEROES Act last year, was a victory for advocates for seniors and people with disabilities. Robust funding was also included in the package to improve testing for COVID-19, hire needed public health workers, expand community health centers and health services on tribal lands, support mitigation measures at long-term care facilities and prisons, and speed up the distribution and administration of vaccines across the country.

Aid for state and local governments, transit, and schools

The proposal includes $350 billion in grants to help states, localities, tribal governments, and U.S. territories. The legislation also includes about $170 billion for  K-12 students, and higher education to ensure that schools and child care facilities can reopen safely, including $7.6 billion in an emergency fund to purchase devices to make distance learning more accessible for elementary and high school students struggling to take part in online learning. There is also substantial funding for child care and early childhood education, including $15 billion to assist parents with child care costs through the Child Care and Development Block Grant, a $24 billion child care stabilization fund, to keep child care providers solvent during the pandemic, and $1 billion in new funds for Head Start.

Increasing the minimum wage

The House proposal would gradually raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2025 – and ensure it keeps pace with inflation thereafter – and end the subminimum wage for tipped workers and workers with disabilities. There is a chance the minimum wage increase may be stricken from the package in the Senate either due to strict budget process rules or the opposition of one or more Democratic senators. As the Economic Policy Institute notes, raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2025 would benefit 27 million workers, lead to a 10-year increase in wages of $333 billion for workers with low wages, and reduce inequality.

Temporary tax credit increases

Similar to the Biden plan, the proposed House legislation would increase the maximum Child Tax Credit for a year from $2,000 to $3,600 for children under age 6 and to $3,000 for those from ages 6 through 17. The credit would also be made fully refundable, meaning families whose income is low would receive the full amount. The proposal would also nearly triple the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for a year to close to $1,500 for childless adults, helping more than 17 million workers. Puerto Rico will get a federal match of up the three times the current cost if it chooses to increase the EITC for workers without children. Enacting the proposed expansion of the Child Tax Credit would reduce the depth of poverty or lift above the poverty line close to 10 million children and cut child poverty by more than 40 percent. The legislation also includes a full extension of Child Tax Credit benefits to Puerto Rico and a federal supplement to help expand Puerto Rico’s Earned Income Tax Credit.

The bill would also expand the use of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which would allow families to receive a tax credit for up to 50 percent of the child or dependent care expenses, to a maximum of $4,000 per dependents or $8,000 for two or more dependents, phasing out as incomes rise. For one year, this credit would be made fully refundable (that is, fully available to households even if they owe less in income taxes than the credit is worth).

Paid leave

Tax credits for employers who provide paid sick leave and paid family leave would be extended from their current March 31 expiration date to September 30, 2021. The credits are increased from $10,000 to $12,000 and extended to state, local and other governmental entities. The tax credits are made refundable for the employers, and it is clarified that employers can claim the credit if the employee is staying out of work because of contracting COVID, or is caring for someone with the disease.

Process and next steps

The full House Budget Committee will put together the proposals from the various committees this week and will vote on any proposed changes. The legislation will then move to the House floor, where it is expected to pass by the end of the month, sending it to the Senate. The legislation will skip committee action in the Senate and will go straight to the Senate floor. Democrats are moving the bill using a process called reconciliation, which allows legislation in the Senate to proceed without the possibility of filibuster, or unlimited debate intended to stymie legislation. Ending a filibuster takes 60 votes; without that tactic, reconciliation bills can pass with only a simple majority (51 votes in the Senate). Debate is limited to 20 hours, but there is no limit on the number of amendments that can be offered on the floor, which, after the time limit has expired, can be offered without debate as long as senators have the energy and will to proceed. Votes on these amendments may extend for a marathon session known as a vote-a-rama. The goal of Democratic leadership is to have the legislation clear both chambers as soon as possible before March 14, when pandemic unemployment insurance benefits are currently set to expire.

Jared Bernstein, a top Biden economist serving on the White House Council of Economic Advisers, will join a CHN webinar to discuss this package. Register here for the webinar, which will be held on Thursday, Feb. 18 at 2pm ET.

For more information about how reconciliation works, see this recorded webinar: Budget Strategy to Pass a COVID Bill in the Senate: Reconciliation 101. For more information on the various parts of the legislation, see these summaries from some of the relevant House committees: Education and Labor, Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, Agriculture, Transportation and Infrastructure, Financial Services, Veterans’ Affairs, and Oversight and Reform.

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CHN: Continuing flurry of executive actions, Biden Administration combats inequality, defends immigrants, and promotes health and science https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-continuing-flurry-of-executive-actions-biden-administration-combats-inequality-defends-immigrants-and-promotes-health-and-science/ Tue, 16 Feb 2021 17:37:33 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6894 Back on January 25, when the Biden Administration was just six days old, the Human Needs Report detailed the many executive actions already taken by the President. These actions covered such areas as COVID-19, immigration, climate change, allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military, and economic security, including...

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Back on January 25, when the Biden Administration was just six days old, the Human Needs Report detailed the many executive actions already taken by the President. These actions covered such areas as COVID-19, immigration, climate change, allowing transgender people to serve openly in the military, and economic security, including extending the eviction moratorium, nutrition assistance, and collective bargaining for federal employees as well as a $15 minimum wage.

Since January 25, the Administration’s flurry of activity has continued. Executive actions issued since then addressing human needs issues include:

  • Equity: direct the Department of Housing and Urban Development to address discriminatory housing practices, combat racism against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders, direct agencies to engage in consultations with tribal governments, and expand protection of LGBTQ people around the world. In particular, HUD is asked to examine the effects of two rules finalized by the Trump Administration that undermined the Fair Housing Act, one repealing a 2015 rule known as “Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing” and the other weakening the use of the “Disparate Impact Standard.” Both of these Trump rules make it far more difficult to enforce against housing discrimination. Since they were finalized, the Biden Administration will need to embark on its own rule-making process to undo the Trump regulations.
  • Immigration: begin ending the “Remain in Mexico” program and restoring the U.S. asylum system; start roll back of the “Public Charge” rule (which imposes a wealth teston would-be immigrants and those who seek green cards), making the use of certain public benefits disqualifying for attaining such legal status; begin a review of other recent barriers to legal immigration; create a task force to reunite families separated at the border; and rebuild the U.S. refugee resettlement program.
  • Health and science: re-establish the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology; direct agencies to make decisions based on the best available science and evidence; reopen enrollment through Obamacare marketplaces and lower barriers to joining Medicaid; and retroactively reimburse states fully for FEMA-eligible costs tied to COVID-19. The Biden Administration has taken first steps to reverse the Trump approvals of Medicaid work requirements, indicating that the pandemic-caused economic downturn makes work requirements especially problematic. On February 12, the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) sent letters to 9 states announcing it was beginning a process to determine whether to withdraw approval of the work requirement Medicaid waivers. It also contacted at least Arkansas to rescind a letter sent by the Trump Administration that tried to lock work requirements in place for 9 months even if the new Administration rules against these waiver requests. Instead, the new Administration said it would provide written notice and opportunity to request a hearing if it chooses to end the work requirements.
  • Criminal justice: end the U.S. Justice Department’s use of private prisons.

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CHN: Hearings and confirmations continue on President Biden’s Cabinet picks https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-hearings-and-confirmations-continue-on-president-bidens-cabinet-picks/ Tue, 16 Feb 2021 17:17:44 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6893 Most of President Biden’s nominees to Cabinet-level positions have been approved by Senate committees and are awaiting votes by the full Senate, while a few are still awaiting committee hearings. Seven Cabinet nominees have already been confirmed by the full Senate: Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Secretary of Defense...

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Most of President Biden’s nominees to Cabinet-level positions have been approved by Senate committees and are awaiting votes by the full Senate, while a few are still awaiting committee hearings. Seven Cabinet nominees have already been confirmed by the full Senate: Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellen, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of Veterans Affairs Denis McDonough, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines.

The Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee on Feb. 4 approved the nominations of both Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH) for Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development and Cecilia Rouse to lead the Council of Economic Advisers. The Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee on Feb. 11 approved both the nominations of Miguel Cardona for the Secretary of Education post and Martin Walsh to be Secretary of Labor. Biden’s pick to head the Environmental Protection Agency, Michael Regan, was approved by the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on February 9. Also approved in committee were Gina Raimondo for Secretary of Commerce (in the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee) and Jennifer Granholm for Secretary of Energy (in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee).

Tom Vilsack, nominated to be Secretary of Agriculture, cleared the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry Committee on Feb. 2. Neera Tanden, who Biden tapped to lead the Office of Management and Budget, sat before the Budget Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs last week. Neither committee has taken action on her nomination yet.

Xavier Becerra, Biden’s nominee to be Secretary of Health and Human Services, is expected to be voted on by both the HELP Committee and the Finance Committee after hearings in the coming weeks. Merrick Garland, Biden’s pick for Attorney General, is being reviewed by the Judiciary Committee. Deb Haaland, nominated to lead the Interior Department, awaits a hearing in the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

All nominees to the cabinet must be confirmed by a simple majority of the Senate.

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CHN: President Biden’s American Rescue Plan would improve the lives of millions of Americans. Here’s how. https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-president-bidens-american-rescue-plan-would-improve-the-lives-of-millions-of-americans-heres-how/ Mon, 25 Jan 2021 18:20:11 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6831 President Biden has proposed a robust $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that significantly builds upon the $1.7 trillion relief bill passed by Congress last March as well as the smaller, $900 billion measure approved in December. Known as the American Rescue Plan, Biden’s proposal includes larger stimulus checks, more aid...

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President Biden has proposed a robust $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package that significantly builds upon the $1.7 trillion relief bill passed by Congress last March as well as the smaller, $900 billion measure approved in December.

Known as the American Rescue Plan, Biden’s proposal includes larger stimulus checks, more aid for the unemployed, help for the hungry and those facing eviction, increased funding for vaccinations, additional support for small businesses, state and local governments and schools, and an increase in the minimum wage to $15. And it would provide more money for child care, extend and expand low-income tax credits, and extend paid sick and family leave.

Here are many of the key components of the American Rescue Plan:

Beefed-up stimulus payments

The plan calls for sending another $1,400 per person to eligible recipients – this would be on top of the $600 payments Congress approved in December, for a total of $2,000. The new payments would go to households with mixed immigrant status, who were left out of the $1,200 stimulus payments passed by Congress last spring. And the new payments would cover adult dependents who did not receive the December stimulus checks, such as children over the age of 17 who are included as dependents on their parents’ tax returns.

Enhanced unemployment aid

Biden has proposed increasing federal unemployment assistance to $400 a week, from the $300 weekly payment Congress approved in December. More importantly, he would extend the payments all the way through September; they currently are scheduled to expire in March. The President’s proposal includes not just this federal add-on to state unemployment assistance, but also the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation program, which applies to jobless Americans who have exhausted their state benefits, and the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program, which provides benefits to the self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and certain others affected by the pandemic.

Help for the hungry

Biden’s plan would extend the 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits through September, instead of having it expire in June. He would invest another $3 billion to help women, infants and children secure food (through the WIC program), and give U.S. territories $1 billion in nutrition assistance. And he would partner with restaurants to provide food to needy Americans and jobs to laid-off restaurant workers.

Rental assistance and eviction moratorium

The American Rescue Plan would extend the federal eviction moratorium, which had been set to expire at the end of January, to September 30, and would provide similar relief to homeowners with federally-guaranteed mortgages. It would provide $25 billion in rental assistance for low- and moderate-income households who have lost jobs during the pandemic – that’s in addition to the $25 billion lawmakers provided in December. Another $5 billion would be set aside to help struggling renters pay their utility bills. And it would include $5 billion to help states and localities assist those at risk of experiencing homelessness.

Increased support for vaccines and testing

Biden calls for investing $20 billion in a national vaccination program, including launching community vaccination centers around the country and mobile units in hard-to-reach areas. Biden would also increase federal support to vaccinate Medicaid enrollees. The proposal would also invest $50 billion in testing, providing funds to purchase rapid tests, expand lab capacity and help schools implement regular testing to support reopening safely. It would also fund the hiring of 100,000 public health workers, nearly tripling the community health workforce. It would address health disparities by expanding community health centers and health services on tribal lands. And it would provide support to long-term care facilities experiencing outbreaks and to prisons for mitigation strategies.

More health coverage

The Biden plan proposes to subsidize COBRA health insurance for unemployed people who lost employer health coverage when they lost their jobs, and to expand and increase the Premium Tax Credit offered through the Affordable Care Act to limit the cost of health insurance to 8.5 percent of income. There would also be $4 billion for increased substance use disorder and mental health treatment, and $20 billion for veterans’ health care.

More help for survivors of domestic violence

The American Rescue Plan includes $800 million in supplemental funding for programs to protect women and girls from domestic violence and sexual assault, more prevalent during the pandemic because people are more likely to be confined to their homes.

More assistance for small businesses

The plan calls for providing $15 billion to create a new grant program for small business owners, separate from the existing Paycheck Protection Program. It also proposes making a $35 billion investment in some state, local, tribal, and non-profit financing programs that make low-interest loans and provide venture capital to entrepreneurs.

Aid for state and local governments, transit, and schools

Biden proposes sending $350 billion to state, local, and territorial governments to keep their frontline workers employed, distribute the vaccine, increase testing, reopen schools, and maintain vital services. The plan also includes $20 billion to Tribal governments to increase access to clean water, electricity, and the internet, and to pay for personal protective equipment. Biden’s plan would also give $20 billion to the hardest-hit public transit agencies to help avert layoffs and the cutting of routes. The plan would provide an additional $170 billion to K-12 schools, colleges, and universities to help them reopen and operate safely or to facilitate remote learning.

More money for child care and child tax credits

The American Rescue Plan calls for creation of a $25 billion emergency fund and an additional $15 billion to an existing grant program to help child care providers, including family child care homes, to pay for rent, utilities, and payroll, and increased costs associated with the pandemic like personal protective equipment. It also proposes expanding the child care tax credit for one year so that families will get back as much as half of their spending on child care for children under age 13.

A temporary increase of tax credits

In a major victory for human needs advocates, Biden proposes boosting the Child Tax Credit to $3,600 for children under age 6 and $3,000 for those between ages 6 and 17 for a year. The credit would also be made fully refundable. And he proposes raising the maximum Earned Income Tax Credit for a year to close to $1,500 for childless adults, increasing the income limit for the credit from its current $16,000 to about $21,000. While the fact sheet describing the plan only mentions eliminating the age cap for older workers to receive the EITC, it is expected that the proposal will also include covering younger adults (likely starting at age 19 rather than the current age of 25).

Restoration of emergency paid leave

The American Rescue Plan would reinstate the paid sick and family leave benefits that expired at the end of December until September 30. It would extend the benefit to workers employed at businesses with more than 500 employees and less than 50, as well as federal workers who were excluded from the original program. Under Biden’s proposal, people who are sick or quarantining, or caring for a child whose school is closed, would receive 14 weeks of paid leave. The government would reimburse employers with fewer than 500 workers for the full cost of providing the leave.

A group of 16 senators, evenly divided between the parties, and the co-chairs of the House Problem-Solvers caucus met over the weekend with National Economic Council Director Brian Deese to discuss the $1.9 trillion package. Press reports indicated they questioned the $1.9 trillion cost, and Senator Susan Collins (R-ME) said afterwards that she would seek the agreement of the bipartisan group to back a smaller package. There was general agreement on the need for more funding for vaccines. Senator Angus King (I-ME) expressed support for getting a COVID package through the Senate before the impeachment trial begins (scheduled for February 8). The participants expected to take part in the meeting were Senators Capito (R-WV), Cassidy (R-LA), Collins (R-ME), Moran (R-KS), Murkowski (R-AK), Portman (R-OH), Romney (R-UT), Young (R-IN), Durbin (D-IL), Hassan (D-NH), Hickenlooper (D-CO), Kelly (D-AZ), King (I-ME), Manchin (D-WV), Shaheen (D-NH), and Warner (D-VA), and House Problem-Solver chairs Gottheimer (D-NJ) and Reed (R-NY).

In addition to the proposals in the American Rescue Plan, President Biden also signed multiple executive actions and memoranda regarding his national coronavirus response plan and the economic crisis resulting from the pandemic. For more information on these, see the related article in this Human Needs Report.

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CHN: Advocates Praise President Biden’s Day One Immigration Bill https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-praise-president-bidens-day-one-immigration-bill/ Mon, 25 Jan 2021 18:14:40 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6830 On his first day in office, President Biden released details of his sweeping immigration reform bill, which he hopes to get passed through Congress. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would provide an earned path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented individuals who were in the U.S. as of...

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On his first day in office, President Biden released details of his sweeping immigration reform bill, which he hopes to get passed through Congress. The U.S. Citizenship Act of 2021 would provide an earned path to citizenship for all 11 million undocumented individuals who were in the U.S. as of Jan. 1. According to the Washington Post, the bill proposes an eight-year pathway for millions of immigrants, including temporary legal status for five years, followed by the ability to apply for a green card after five years if they pass background checks and pay their taxes, and eligibility to apply for citizenship three years later. The bill would expedite the process for beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program (also known as Dreamers) and the temporary protected status (TPS) program for migrants from strife-torn nations who, along with certain agricultural workers, could apply for a green card immediately.

According to the American Immigration Council, the bill will also make significant changes to the legal immigration system. It will bolster the number of employment- and family-based visas by recapturing millions of previously unused visas, increase per-country visa caps, and provide rapid paths to a green card for children and spouses of permanent residents. In addition, the proposal will expand refugee admission, provide funding to reduce asylum application backlogs, and include a focus on addressing the root causes of migration from Central America. For more information, see this White House fact sheet.

The bill is expected to be introduced in the Senate in the coming weeks, championed by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ). In a statement, Sen. Menendez said of the bill, “This plan is not only about fixing our broken immigration system, but building a better one that reunites families, brings the undocumented community out of the shadows and on a path to citizenship, stands up for human rights, addresses root causes of migration, and includes a smart border security strategy.”

Greisa Martinez Rosas, executive director of United We Dream, called the legislation “the most progressive legalization bill in history.” Janet Murguía, president and CEO of UnidosUS (a member of CHN) said in a statement, “In addition to providing long-overdue and immediate relief and certainty to DACA recipients, these innovative and common-sense plans lay the groundwork to build a more fair, inclusive, and effective immigration system that will make us a stronger country with a brighter future.”

In addition to the wide-sweeping immigration proposal, President Biden also signed multiple executive actions and memoranda regarding immigration. For more information on these, see the related article in this Human Needs Report.

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CHN: President Biden Signs Dozens of Executive Actions Affecting Human Needs Priorities https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-president-biden-signs-dozens-of-executive-actions-affecting-human-needs-priorities/ Mon, 25 Jan 2021 18:07:11 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6829 President Biden signed dozens of executive orders, memoranda, and directives on the first few days of his presidency. Some of the actions President Biden and his administration took related to human needs include: COVID-19 pandemic: establishing a 200-page national response plan to the pandemic; prioritizing protecting worker health and safety;...

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President Biden signed dozens of executive orders, memoranda, and directives on the first few days of his presidency. Some of the actions President Biden and his administration took related to human needs include:

  • COVID-19 pandemic: establishing a 200-page national response plan to the pandemic; prioritizing protecting worker health and safety; making sure schools can reopen safely, including by reimbursing schools for eligible costs related to reopening; urging all Americans to wear masks for 100 days; mandating mask use on public transportation and federal property; reviving a global health unit in the National Security Council to oversee pandemic response; boosting production of PPE.
  • Economic security: extending the federal moratorium on evictions and foreclosures through March; extending a freeze on federal student loan payments and interest through September; increasing the Pandemic EBT food assistance benefit by 15 percent to help struggling families provide food for their children during school closures; asking the USDA to extend the 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits; providing guidance to states to increase SNAP emergency benefits for those who need it most; restoring collective bargaining rights to federal employees; setting the stage to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour for federal contractors; directing FEMA to pay 100% of the costs to move people experiencing homelessness and living in group shelters to hotels and motels through September.
  • Immigration: repealing the travel ban on people from several primarily Muslim nations; preserving the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program; halting construction on the border wall; revoking Trump’s order that excluded undocumented immigrants from the 2020 census count and congressional apportionment; pausing deportations for certain noncitizens for 100 days.
  • Equity: ordering the government to establish administration-wide policies to promote racial equity across the U.S.; pushing equity in vaccinations, access to PPE, and other COVID-19 responses; repealing the ban on transgender people from serving in the military. Biden is expected to sign additional orders addressing additional racial equity issues on Tuesday, Jan. 26.
  • Climate change: rejoining the Paris climate accord, canceling the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline.

Additional actions on climate change, health care, immigration, equity, international affairs, national security and more are expected in the coming days and weeks.

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CHN: Hearings Begin on President Biden’s Cabinet Picks https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-hearings-begin-on-president-bidens-cabinet-picks/ Mon, 25 Jan 2021 17:58:00 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6828 On Friday, Jan. 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to send the confirmation of Janet Yellen, President Biden’s nominee to be Treasury Secretary, to the full Senate. The Senate is expected to vote on the nomination on Monday, Jan. 25. Advocates can watch a recording of the Jan. 19...

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On Friday, Jan. 22, the Senate Finance Committee voted unanimously to send the confirmation of Janet Yellen, President Biden’s nominee to be Treasury Secretary, to the full Senate. The Senate is expected to vote on the nomination on Monday, Jan. 25. Advocates can watch a recording of the Jan. 19 committee hearing here. As the Treasury Secretary, Yellen would play a key role in guiding the nation’s economic recovery. The Department of the Treasury also administers several housing and community development programs including the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) program, the Making Home Affordable program, and Community Development Financial Institutions.

In her prepared statement, Yellen said of President Biden’s proposed American Rescue Plan, “[T]he smartest thing we can do is act big. In the long run, I believe the benefits will far outweigh the costs, especially if we care about helping people who have been struggling for a very long time…. We have to rebuild our economy so that it creates more prosperity for more people and ensures that American workers can compete in an increasingly competitive global economy.” During the hearing, Yellen – who has been confirmed by the Senate five times previously for other positions, including chair of the Federal Reserve – voiced her support for President Biden’s $1.9 trillion pandemic relief plan, including boosting the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. “More must be done,” Yellen told the Senate Finance Committee during her confirmation hearing. “Without further action, we risk a longer, more painful recession now — and long-term scarring of the economy later.” Yellen is expected to receive swift bipartisan support from the Senate, making her the first female Treasury Secretary.

Hearings were also held last week in various Senate committees for President Biden’s picks for secretaries of the Departments of Homeland Security, State, Defense, and Transportation. All nominees to the cabinet must be confirmed by a simple majority of the Senate. The Senate has already confirmed the Director of National Intelligence and the Secretary of Defense.

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CHN: The Senate Changes Hands https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-the-senate-changes-hands/ Mon, 25 Jan 2021 17:53:35 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6827 With the election of Democratic Senators Raphael Wornock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia, there are 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans in the Senate. Vice President Kamala Harris presides, and by breaking the tie in favor of Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has become Majority Leader. However, negotiations between the parties...

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With the election of Democratic Senators Raphael Wornock and Jon Ossoff in Georgia, there are 50 Democrats and 50 Republicans in the Senate. Vice President Kamala Harris presides, and by breaking the tie in favor of Democrats, Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has become Majority Leader. However, negotiations between the parties have not yet led to the organizing agreement needed to establish committee participation. That means Republicans are still the chairs of Senate committees, and still have majorities in some committees until the agreement is finalized. Republicans want a commitment to retain the filibuster as the rules now require (60 votes are needed to end filibusters related to most legislation, including appropriations bills; nominations for executive appointments and judges can proceed with a simple majority). Many Democrats would like to get rid of the filibuster, but it would take every Democrat (plus the tie-breaking vote of Vice President Harris) to get rid of it, and at least Senator Manchin (D-WV) has announced opposition to doing so. Nevertheless, Majority Leader Schumer has rejected an up-front promise not to end the filibuster, so negotiations continue.

It would take 10 Republican senators to vote for the American Rescue Plan proposed by President Biden (see article in this issue) to break a filibuster against that legislation, assuming all Democrats voted for it. If it appears that such bipartisan support will not be forthcoming, Democrats are considering utilizing budget process rules to be able to enact legislation similar to the Biden plan with only a simple majority in the Senate. This would require the House and Senate to agree on a narrowly drawn budget resolution with “reconciliation” instructions to various committees to come up with legislation that would advance provisions in the COVID rescue plan. Both the budget resolution and the reconciliation bills that emerge only need a simple majority. There are constraints on what can be included using this approach, but Senate rules experts are exploring ways to use reconciliation to the fullest, intent on avoiding the logjam of a needed a 60-vote supermajority to overcome expected filibusters. For more information about how reconciliation works, see this recorded webinar: Budget Strategy to Pass a COVID Bill in the Senate: Reconciliation 101.

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CHN: Relief Package Helps Low-Income Earners – and Corporations https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-relief-package-helps-low-income-earners-and-corporations/ Wed, 23 Dec 2020 20:44:04 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6752 Low-income earners and people with student loan debt will benefit from the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed late Sunday night, as will corporations who will benefit from a bevy of deductions, some new, some extensions of existing deductions.  The relief package temporarily allows people to use their earned income...

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Low-income earners and people with student loan debt will benefit from the $900 billion COVID-19 relief package passed late Sunday night, as will corporations who will benefit from a bevy of deductions, some new, some extensions of existing deductions. 

The relief package temporarily allows people to use their earned income from tax year 2019 to determine the Earned Income Tax Credit and the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit in the 2020 tax year. The provision, pushed by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and others, including CHN, will enable workers whose wages dropped during the pandemic to get a larger refund consistent with earnings from the previous year. “Parents whose incomes dropped in the pandemic year will be able to stave off big cuts to their Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit because of this bill,” CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein said in a statement. 

The package also extends, through 2025, a credit for employers to provide a student loan repayment benefit to employees on a tax-free basis. Under the provision, an employer may contribute up to $5,250 annually toward an employee’s student loans, and such payment would be excluded from the employee’s income. 

Also in the package: extensions of tax credits to employers who provide paid family and medical leave and paid sick and family leave. However, advocates are keenly disappointed that the legislation no longer mandates that employers provide paid sick leave, which they say is a no-brainer in a time of pandemic and only would have cost $1.8 billion. The current mandate expires on Dec. 31. 

One massive deduction that has drawn controversy is a $200 billion deduction for businesses that will be able to deduct expenses originally paid for with tax dollars through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). PPP provides loans to businesses that do not have to be repaid if the businesses use the money to keep employees on the payroll and to meet certain other expenses. It passed last spring and is expanded by $284 billion in the new legislation. This deduction would have more than paid for the proposed $160 billion in aid to state and local governments that advocates had sought. 

Another controversial tax measure included in the relief package is a provision allowing corporations to deduct the cost of business meals, referred to as the “three-martini lunch deduction” – a deduction that liberal and conservative economists have said is a bad idea, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP). 

ITEP has harshly criticized the deduction, which will go from 50 percent of the cost of a meal to 100 percent.   

“Even at the current 50 percent, there’s plenty of wiggle room for unscrupulous taxpayers to turn food consumption into a tax dodge,” ITEP writes. “As long as you are eating a meal in a setting that is ‘conducive to business discussion’ and the meal isn’t ‘lavish or extravagant,’ you’re well on your way to successfully writing off the costs of your meals, a tax break that is unavailable to those who don’t own a business.” 

President Trump and some Republicans have argued that the measure is needed to help restaurants recover from the pandemic, but ITEP is not buying that. “If the proposed meals deduction is an incentive, it’s a pretty lousy one: at the height of a pandemic, rewarding people for eating in restaurants is lousy health policy,” the group wrote. 

The cost of the lunch deduction is not huge, relatively speaking – about $6.3 billion. But that easily would have paid for extending the paid sick and family leave mandate. And it is just part of what Frank Clemente, Executive Director of Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), says is more than $220 billion included in the bill that will go to “powerful business interests.” 

Clemente was particularly critical of the $200 billion deduction for businesses that will be able to deduct expenses originally paid for with tax dollars through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Among other deductions ATF criticized: permanently lowering excise taxes on alcoholic beverages ($9 billion), failing to tax profit shifting by multinational corporations ($4.3 billion), and providing tax breaks for making movies and operating race car tracks ($2.5 billion). 

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CHN: Child Care and Early Childhood Education https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-child-care-and-early-childhood-education/ Wed, 23 Dec 2020 20:42:03 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6751 Child care providers have struggled during the pandemic as parents lost jobs or had to work at home.  Child care experts have estimated that $50 billion would be needed to help providers return to a sustainable funding level.  The COVID relief package provides $10 billion in emergency funding that states can use to make child...

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Child care providers have struggled during the pandemic as parents lost jobs or had to work at home.  Child care experts have estimated that $50 billion would be needed to help providers return to a sustainable funding level.  The COVID relief package provides $10 billion in emergency funding that states can use to make child care more affordable to parents, assist child care providers, and allow for targeted assistance for families of frontline essential workers.  Head Start receives $250 million in COVID relief funds so programs can afford to carry out the safe practices required during the pandemic. Like much of the funding levels throughout this COVID relief bill, it is an important step, but not enough. 

In regular FY21 appropriations, the Child Care and Development Block Grant rises to $5.91 billion, up $85 million from the previous year.  Head Start is increased by $135 million, to $10.75 billion.  Preschool Development Grants are funded at $116.8 million, up $3 million.   

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CHN: Failure to Help States/Localities Cope with Lost Revenue, But Some Education Help https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-failure-to-help-states-localities-cope-with-lost-revenue-but-some-education-help/ Wed, 23 Dec 2020 20:41:09 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6750 One of the biggest disappointments in the COVID relief package is the inability to include more help to states, localities, territories and tribes.  Governments across the country have experienced large revenue shortfalls and have laid off about 1.3 million workers since the pandemic began.  These workers include educators, public health and safety...

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One of the biggest disappointments in the COVID relief package is the inability to include more help to states, localities, territories and tribes.  Governments across the country have experienced large revenue shortfalls and have laid off about 1.3 million workers since the pandemic began.  These workers include educators, public health and safety workers, unemployment insurance administrators, sanitation and transportation personnel, among others.  Laying off so many workers is a blow to the economy, and delays or reductions in public services depresses the economy as well.  The Congressional Budget Office found that direct aid to states and localities was one of the most cost-effective means of spurring economic recovery:  for every dollar spent on direct aid, 88 cents was added to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  In contrast, only 36 cents was added to GDP for every dollar spent on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) business loans. 

Despite the importance of funding state and local governments, strong opposition by Congressional Republicans resulted in rejecting most of the funding proposed by Democrats.  The bipartisan group of Senators who developed a compromise proposal initially included $160 billion in state and local aid in addition to more than $80 billion in education aid.  But to get to a package majorities in the House and Senate could agree on, the $160 billion was deleted (in tandem with removal of a provision to provide immunity to employers and other entities from lawsuits over inadequate COVID protections).   

The COVID relief bill does extend availability of previously approved funding for states and localities (through the CARE Act) until December 31, 2021, but this is of limited use, since much of the money has already been spent or promised. 

The COVID relief package enacted by Congress includes $82 billion for all levels of education.  K-12 education receives $54.3 billion; higher education receives $22.7 billion, including $1.7 billion for Historically Black Colleges, tribal colleges and other minority-serving institutions.  Outlying areas and Bureau of Indian Education receive $818.8 million.  Also helping students are the nutrition provisions described above, and child care and early childhood education programs described in the next section below. 

The COVID relief bill includes $7 billion in emergency funds to improve access to broadband, essential for education and much else during the pandemic.  Included here is $3.2 billion for low-income families’ access to broadband; there is also $1 billion to increase tribal access.   

COVID’s impact on education is of tremendous concern, with disproportionate hardships experienced by students at all ages with low incomes, if they have disabilities, and/or if they come from communities of color or are immigrants.  Fewer children are entering kindergarten; fewer students are entering community college.  Troubling numbers of children without adequate access to broadband are essentially dropping out of school.  The small increases in regular appropriations are certainly inadequate to assist school systems in managing remote learning, and the $82 billion does not provide as much help as is needed. 

In regular FY21 appropriations for the Department of Education, K-12 grants to local education authorities for Education for the Disadvantaged (also known as Title I) is funded at $17.2 billion, up $230 million over FY20.  This includes $46 million in funding for Migrant Students programs.  Special Education for students with disabilities rises from $13.6 billion to $13.8 billion.  There are modest increases in other education programs, including English Language Acquisition (up $10 million, to $797 million), the Nita Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers, afterschool programs deservedly named for retiring House Appropriations Chair Lowey (up $10 million, to $1.26 billion), and career, technical and adult education (up $70 million, to $2.03 billion).   

Pell grants rise to a maximum of $5,435 per student, up $150 from FY20.  Students are having a much harder time enrolling and staying in school during the pandemic, because they have lost income and/or cannot manage the virtual classes available now.  Students with low incomes are helped by the TRIO programs, which help high school students prepare for college and help students in college overcome barriers so they do not drop out.  TRIO gets a small increase, up $7 million to $1.097 million. 

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CHN: COVID Health Response; Medicaid; Substance Use; Surprise Billing https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-covid-health-response-medicaid-substance-use-surprise-billing/ Wed, 23 Dec 2020 20:40:05 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6749 The COVID relief provisions include $69 billion in funding to purchase and distribute vaccines ($8.75b to the Centers for Disease Control to help states provide COVID testing, tracing, and mitigation, with $2.5 billion provided as grants to communities of color and rural communities for such purposes). The bill provides $4.5 billion in mental health funding...

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The COVID relief provisions include $69 billion in funding to purchase and distribute vaccines ($8.75b to the Centers for Disease Control to help states provide COVID testing, tracing, and mitigationwith $2.5 billion provided as grants to communities of color and rural communities for such purposes). The bill provides $4.5 billion in mental health funding related to the pandemic and $9 billion in support for health care providers.  The Indian Health Service receives $1 billion out of the total funds.  The NIH receives $1.25b beyond its regular appropriation for COVID research. 

Early in the pandemic, Congress increased the federal share of funding supporting Medicaid.  That temporary boost is scheduled to continue through March, 2021; the new bill does not extend this deadline.  Advocates had sought a bigger increase than what was provided.  As cases and hospitalizations are surging, states will be hard-pressed to keep up with care needs without increased federal help; if federal help declines when the temporary boost ends, states will be in a very difficult position.  Tribes and territories also need additional Medicaid help to cope with the pandemic. 

One new provision contained within the 5,500page bill not directly connected to COVID relief would limit surprise medical billing starting in 2022.  The legislation will prevent patients from being billed large amounts from health care providers not in their insurance network whose services were used in the course of treatment.  For example, if a patient is hospitalized for emergency surgery and the anesthesiologist or ambulance service utilized are not in the patient’s insurance company network, patients can be charged tens of thousands of dollars for these services despite not providing approval for them (perhaps because they are unconscious and/or in urgent need of care).  The legislation would stop most of these bills from going to the patient, and would instead require insurance companies to negotiate payment with the health service providers billing for out-of-network care. 

In regular FY21 appropriations, the National Institutes of Health receives $42.9 billion for FY21 (plus another $1.25b for COVID purposes).  CDC’s regular funding is set at $7.9b, up $125m over the prior year.  Its COVID-related spending on vaccines more than doubles its total funding. 

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) gets regular FY21 appropriations of $6 billion, an increase of $133 million over FY20.  SAMHSA also has additional funding through the COVID relief package of $4.5 billion. There is new funding for a Crisis Care Initiative within the Mental Health Block Grant.  New funds also address a National Child Traumatic Stress Initiative and suicide prevention.  Substance use disorder prevention and treatment, still a critical problem and likely worsened by the pandemic, receives an additional $1.65 billion out of the total COVID funds allocated to SAMHSA.   

FY21 appropriations also include increases for Community Health Centers, to achieve a goal of decreasing new HIV infections by 90 percent over 10 years.  In addition, the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant rises by $32 million to $975 million. 

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CHN: Eviction Disaster Averted? https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-eviction-disaster-averted/ Wed, 23 Dec 2020 20:39:20 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6748 The moratorium on evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control expires at the end of December.  The COVID relief bill would extend the moratorium through the end of January.  Significantly, the bill also provides $25 billion in emergency rental assistance, long sought by housing advocates who recognize that whenever...

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The moratorium on evictions imposed by the Centers for Disease Control expires at the end of December.  The COVID relief bill would extend the moratorium through the end of January.  Significantly, the bill also provides $25 billion in emergency rental assistance, long sought by housing advocates who recognize that whenever the eviction ban ends, tenants who have accumulated one or more months of back rent will be unable to pay.  Millions of evictions could begin soon, since landlords have been allowed to file for eviction proceedings in court, although they are barred from carrying out the eviction for tenants protected by the moratorium.  (Some tenants are not protected because the CDC required them to fill out a form attesting to their inability to pay, and many did not know about the form.)  The $25 billion can also be used to pay back utility and home energy bills, to prevent shutoffs. $800 million is reserved for Native American housing units. The National Energy Assistance Directors Association estimates that tens of billions of dollars are owed in back utility/energy bills, and that without help, shutoffs will occur.  

While the $25 billion in emergency rental assistance is praised by advocates at the National Low Income Housing Coalition as a vital first step, they have called for $100 billion in order to prevent evictions by helping tenants with arrearages to pay their rent. 

In regular FY21 housing assistance appropriations within the Department of Housing and Urban Development, there are some increases for rental assistance.  Tenant-based rental assistance (most of which covers rental vouchers) rises from $23.9 billion in FY 20 to $25.8 billion in FY 21.  Project-based rental assistance increases from $12.57 billion to $13.46 billion.  Homelessness assistance rises from $2.78 billion to $3 billion.  The FY21 appropriations bill increases funding for lead paint hazard reduction from $290 million to $360 million, to prevent childhood lead poisoning in publicly funded housing units. Within the Department of Agriculture, rural rental assistance programs rise from $1.375 billion in FY20 to $1.41 billion in FY21. 

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CHN: Short-term Extension of Unemployment Benefits; Paid Leave Disappointment https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-short-term-extension-of-unemployment-benefits-paid-leave-disappointment/ Wed, 23 Dec 2020 20:38:23 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6747 The $600 per week additional unemployment benefit enacted as part of the CARES Act ended in July, contributing greatly to the hardships suffered by millions of still jobless workers, whose regular state benefits are usually not enough to cover basic expenses.  The COVID relief parts of this new bill provide $300...

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The $600 per week additional unemployment benefit enacted as part of the CARES Act ended in July, contributing greatly to the hardships suffered by millions of still jobless workers, whose regular state benefits are usually not enough to cover basic expenses.  The COVID relief parts of this new bill provide $300 per week in addition to regular benefits through March 14.  Other vital forms of unemployment assistance that would otherwise expire at the end of December are extended through March 14.  These include Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), which covers gig, contract, or self-employed workers who do not qualify for state unemployment insurance, and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), which provides additional weeks of benefits to workers who exhaust their state UI.  About 14 million people will see their last unemployment check on December 26 if these benefits are not extended, according to The Century Foundation.  The COVID relief bill also increases the maximum number of weeks of state plus federal unemployment benefits to 50.  The unemployment benefits included in the new bill will cost an estimated $120 billion. 

The pandemic has made it clear that even minimum economic security depends both on access to adequate unemployment benefits and access to paid leave.  The CARES Act required employers to provide paid sick leave and leave for parents who had to stay home to care for children when child care was no longer available, and subsidized employers’ costs for such leave.  This requirement is expiring at the end of December, and the new COVID relief bill does not provide an extension.  The bill does provide a tax credit for employers who do provide paid leave, but without the requirement advocates are concerned that many workers will lose their paid leave despite soaring COVID caseloads and hospitalizations.  Extending required paid leave for 3 months would cost only $1.8 billion. 

Regular appropriations provided for Department of Labor employment programs for FY21 show very modest increases, likely not enough to keep up with inflation.  Job training or apprenticeship programs for adults, youth, dislocated workers, migrant workers, and ex-offenders are funded at $3.66 billion, up $52 million from the previous year.  DOL’s Community Service Employment for Older Americans is flat-funded at $405 million; Job Corps rises $5 million to $1.749 billion.   

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CHN: Long-Awaited SNAP Increases and Other Nutrition Aid https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-long-awaited-snap-increases-and-other-nutrition-aid/ Wed, 23 Dec 2020 20:37:10 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6745 Anti-hunger advocates had pressed for a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/formerly called food stamps) maximum benefits since the onset of the pandemic.  Although some increases in SNAP were provided earlier, this basic increase was not agreed to until this new package, which provides it for six months.  The bill also excludes unemployment benefits...

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Anti-hunger advocates had pressed for a 15 percent increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/formerly called food stamps) maximum benefits since the onset of the pandemic.  Although some increases in SNAP were provided earlier, this basic increase was not agreed to until this new package, which provides it for six months.  The bill also excludes unemployment benefits from being counted as income in determining SNAP benefits and eligibility, and allows income-eligible college students to qualify for SNAP.  The COVID relief provisions also increase SNAP administrative support by $100 million, to help cope with the rising caseload. 

The bill also provides $614 million in urgently needed nutrition grants to Puerto Rico, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.   

There are also important expansions in Pandemic EBT, allowing children under six to qualify when child care is closed due to the coronavirus.  This program has provided debit cards to families with school-age children so they can purchase food to replace the school meals their children aren’t receiving when schools shut down.  The bill also adds emergency funding for the Child and Adult Care Food Program to help child care providers and other service providers to replace lost reimbursements from the lockdown periods of last Spring.  A task force will be formed to support online delivery systems for WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) food programs. 

There is also additional funding for Older Americans Act programs providing congregate and home-delivered meals, and more funds for the Emergency Food Assistance Program and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (the latter providing home-delivered meals to seniors). 

In addition to the COVID-related emergency nutrition aid, SNAP receives FY21 funding of $114 billion, an increase of $46 billion more than the previous year, in the regular Department of Agriculture appropriations bill.  The increase is necessary because caseloads have risen substantially due to the impact of the pandemic recession.  Child nutrition programs also gain funding in FY21 regular appropriations: an increase of $1.5 billion above the FY20 enacted level (to $25.1 billion).  These programs provide free and reduced-price school meals. Funding of $552 million is provided for the Summer Food Service Program for students in low-income families when school is out.  The FY21 WIC appropriation is level-funded at $6 billion. The regular appropriations level for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program rises to $325 million, up a substantial $80 million over the previous year. 

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CHN: About the $600 Payments? https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-600-stimulus/ Wed, 23 Dec 2020 20:35:25 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6744 One of the biggest sticking points in the extremely prolonged negotiations over COVID relief, the final bill included a one-time Economic Impact payment of $600 per adult and child in households.  Unlike the previous $1,200 payment, this version would not deny payments to citizens or green-card holders if their spouse or other...

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One of the biggest sticking points in the extremely prolonged negotiations over COVID relief, the final bill included a one-time Economic Impact payment of $600 per adult and child in households.  Unlike the previous $1,200 payment, this version would not deny payments to citizens or green-card holders if their spouse or other household member were undocumented.  The bill would also allow such families to receive the $1,200 per adult they were previously denied under the CARES Act.  According to the National Immigration Law Center, the change in eligibility would mean 3.5 million people previously excluded will get help.  President Trump denounced this part of the COVID relief bill, because he wants $2,000 per adult payments and opposes including the mixed status families.  In a disappointment to people with disabilities and their advocates, the bill did not make adult dependents eligible for the $600 payment, an omission that would leave out well over 2 million people with disabilities. 

Congress agreed on the lower figure of $600 because of the pressure by Republicans to keep the cost of the whole package below $1 trillion.  It is estimated that raising the payments to $2,000 would add about $370 billion to the total cost. (The $600 payments make up $167 billion of the total $900 billion COVID relief package pricetag.)  Independent Senator Bernie Sanders (VT) and Republican Senator Josh Hawley (MO) worked together to include a bigger Economic Impact payment in the package, but ultimately agreed on the $600 figure.  Income eligibility remained the same as in the CARES Act, with benefits starting to phase out at $75,000 in income for a single individual or $150,000 for a couple. 

There are other forms of cash income assistance in the bill, such as the continued unemployment benefits (see Short-term Extension of Unemployment Benefits; Paid Leave Disappointment below).  Another significant source of income help is a change in the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit.  Vigorously sought by advocates, the change will allow parents claiming the credits to calculate them based either on their 2019 or 2020 earnings.  Workers who lost pay during the 2020 pandemic year might see a substantial drop in the value of these tax credits; by calculating them based on their higher earnings, hard-up families can avoid the loss of as much as a few thousand dollars. 

In regular FY21 appropriations, the Community Services Block Grant receives a small $5 million increase, to $775 million.  CSBG funds community action programs across the country that provide multiple anti-poverty services, such as Head Start, home energy assistance, weatherization, financial literacy and referral to other services.  The Social Service Block Grant remains flat-funded at $1.7 billion.  

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CHN: Coronavirus Emergency Aid Added to FY21 Funding and More, But the President Wants Changes https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-coronavirus-emergency-aid-added-to-fy21-funding-and-more-but-the-president-wants-changes/ Wed, 23 Dec 2020 20:32:15 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6742 Between March 27, when Congress enacted the CARES Act in response to the pandemic, and December 21, when Congress finally passed more relief, the coronavirus death toll rose from nearly 1,300 to over 320,000, with over 18 million confirmed U.S. cases.  By the end of December, at least 12 million more workers will lose unemployment benefits...

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Between March 27, when Congress enacted the CARES Act in response to the pandemic, and December 21, when Congress finally passed more relief, the coronavirus death toll rose from nearly 1,300 to over 320,000, with over 18 million confirmed U.S. cases.  By the end of December, at least 12 million more workers will lose unemployment benefits and the moratorium on evictions will expire, threatening millions of families, if the new bill is not signed into law.  But the day after Congress acted, President Trump surprised many by calling the bill a “disgrace” and objecting to a number of provisions.  He repeated his call for $2,000 direct payments to adults instead of the $600 per person payment in the enacted bill.  He opposed the bill’s inclusion of such payments to households that include immigrants.  He criticized as “wasteful” a number of provisions within the full-year annual appropriations bill, including foreign aid funding, clean water and fish management provisions, and funding for the Smithsonian.  The President, nonetheless, did not expressly say he would veto the bill. Speaker Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Schumer both jumped on Trump’s call for $2,000 direct payments and urged the House and Senate to approve that increased amount. Speaker Pelosi tweeted that she would call for unanimous consent in the House on Christmas Eve to raise the direct payment amount to $2,000. 

And so the “done deal” of a 5,500+ page bill that combined full-year appropriations for all areas of government with $900 billion in COVID relief, plus tax measures, water resources management, and limits on surprise medical billing is now thrown into question.  There is a chance Congress will act to increase the direct payments, perhaps satisfying the President. But should the President veto the bill, it would take two-thirds votes in the House and Senate to override.  The bill passed both chambers by more than two-thirds, but such action could take days more.  Under one scenario, Trump could delay his veto until time ran out on the current Congress, leaving no opportunity for it to override (called a “pocket veto”).   

More delay or a successful veto would bring on the disasters the relief package was designed to avert. At minimum, continued receipt of unemployment benefits could be interrupted for some weeks.  The eviction moratorium would expire at the end of December.  The bill’s funding for the distribution of the long-awaited vaccines, the needed cash for families that lost income, increased SNAP and child nutrition aid to fight hunger, and help for struggling businesses and schools would be delayed.   

Further complicating matters, the stop-gap spending bill to assure continued funding of regular government operations expires on December 28.  If the $1.4 trillion omnibus appropriations legislation that is part of the package before the President is not approved by the deadline, there will be a government shutdown. 

It is worth noting two items not included in all the more than 5,500 pages.  Despite Majority Leader McConnell’s insistence there would be no bill without protecting businesses and other entities from lawsuits over unsafe COVID practices, vehement opposition kept such immunity out of the bill. Advocates believe that meat-packing plants, nursing homes, and other businesses should be required to follow mandatory safety procedures and should not be immune to lawsuits when they do not. There was a painful cost:  much needed aid to states and localities was also left out of this package (see the section on state and local governments, below).  The second item:  there is no provision to extend the deadline for Congress and states to receive 2020 Census data for the purposes of apportioning the number of House members each state will get and for redrawing district lines for state and federal office-holders.  Because of pandemic-caused delays in counting as well as the Trump Administration’s undermining of accuracy and the law by attempting not to count immigrants, the Census Bureau cannot meet current statutory deadlines for transmitting the count accurately.  Congress should extend the deadline to allow the Census Bureau time to correct errors they have found with the count.  Because Census data is used to determine the funding communities get to serve children and families with low incomes, an inaccurate count is certain to deny funding to those who need it most.  It is regrettable that Congress missed the opportunity to extend the deadlines here.                                                                                                                        

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CHN: COVID Relief Package Remains Elusive https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-covid-relief-package-remains-elusive/ Mon, 26 Oct 2020 16:38:00 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6585 While millions of Americans continue to suffer economic hardship brought on or worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, the possibility of passing another relief bill in Congress before the election looks unlikely. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continued talks throughout the week last week, but a...

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While millions of Americans continue to suffer economic hardship brought on or worsened by the coronavirus pandemic, the possibility of passing another relief bill in Congress before the election looks unlikely. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin continued talks throughout the week last week, but a deal has not yet been announced. According to reports, critically needed aid for states, cities, localities, territories, and tribal governments remains a sticking point in the negotiations, as do strong worker safety protections and whether businesses, health providers and others will be immune to lawsuits related to the coronavirus.

Last week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell brought to the floor a “skinny” relief bill that would provide only a fraction of the funding sought by Democrats and the White House. According to CQ, the bill (S. 178) would cost $519 billion over a decade, far short of the $2.2+ trillion sought by Democrats. It contained no food or rental assistance, no state or local fiscal relief beyond insufficient school aid, and a short-term fix to jobless benefits that cuts the previous $600 weekly benefit in half. A procedural vote to move forward with the bill failed along party lines (51-44; 60 votes needed) on Oct. 21. The bill was nearly identical to another GOP bill that also failed to advance in the Senate in September. The Senate on Oct. 20 also voted on another GOP proposal that would have authorized a second round of loans through the Paycheck Protection Program, but that bill also failed to garner enough votes to overcome a procedural hurdle (CHN has received a loan under the PPP program).

Senate and House Democrats have objected to doing multiple smaller bills, saying a large, comprehensive COVID-19 relief package is necessary to help the millions of struggling Americans. The Democratic-led House passed the $3 trillion HEROES Act (H.R. 6800) on May 15 and passed an updated version of the bill, HEROES Act 2.0 (H.R. 925), on October 1; neither have been taken up in the Senate. Analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and CHN’s weekly COVID-19 Watch highlight the need for a comprehensive aid package.

While several pandemic relief measures were enacted earlier in the spring, vital assistance for workers, renters, and small businesses has already expired, including the $600 per week supplemental unemployment benefits and job protections for airline workers; many more measures are set to expire Dec. 31, including eviction and foreclosure moratoria for federally-backed mortgages and some renters, deferment of federal student loan payments, and more. The Congressional Progressive Caucus Center has a list of expiring COVID-19 relief measures, along with extension dates proposed by the House legislation, here.

If a relief package doesn’t pass Congress before the election, it could still move in the lame duck session that follows the election, either as a stand-alone bill or attached to the spending bill package that will be needed to keep the government funded. The current stopgap spending measure, also known as a Continuing Resolution, runs out on Dec. 11.

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CHN: Senate Moves to Confirm Judge Amy Coney Barrett; Hot-button Issues Await https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-senate-moves-to-confirm-judge-amy-coney-barrett-hot-button-issues-await/ Mon, 26 Oct 2020 16:32:32 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6584 Voting mostly along party lines, the Senate on Oct. 25 voted (51-48) to end debate and move forward with the confirmation vote to put Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. Republican Senators Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) joined all Democrats and Independents in opposing the...

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Voting mostly along party lines, the Senate on Oct. 25 voted (51-48) to end debate and move forward with the confirmation vote to put Judge Amy Coney Barrett to the U.S. Supreme Court. Republican Senators Susan Collins (ME) and Lisa Murkowski (AK) joined all Democrats and Independents in opposing the move. The final vote to confirm Judge Barrett is expected to come on the evening of Monday, Oct. 26.

Vice President Pence has said he wants to be present in the Senate when the final vote takes place to break a tie if necessary. However, given the recent outbreak of COVID-19 among Pence’s staff, Senate Democratic leadership sent a letter urging Pence not to come. The Senate floor vote came after the Senate Judiciary Committee last week voted 8-0 along party lines to recommend Barrett’s confirmation, with all of the committee’s Democrats boycotting the vote.

The confirmation of Judge Barrett will alter the court’s balance of power and has evoked outrage from Democrats who said the battle over the court’s vacancy should have been delayed until the next president is sworn into office.

Barrett’s elevation to the court comes as the nine justices are expected to consider a number of election-related challenges, both before and after Nov. 3. Another case on tap: Nov. 10 arguments on the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act.

Other hot-button issues that already have or could reach the court during its current term: the 2020 Census, LGBTQ rights, women’s health, disputes over federal voting rights laws, the consideration of race in university admissions, and the constitutionality of Obama-era immigration reforms.

The Coalition on Human Needs had called on all members of the Senate to reject Barrett’s nomination, citing broad-based concern in five areas: access to health care, immigration, workers’ rights, antidiscrimination, and criminal justice.

In a letter to all members of the Senate signed by CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein, CHN strongly objected to the Senate’s rush to confirmation while refusing to take action on robust COVID-19 relief.

“The real urgency before the Senate is responding to the needs of millions of people who are threatened by the disease itself or its economic repercussions,” CHN said. “Asking people who are experiencing serious hardships to wait months for a response from Congress is an unconscionable abdication of responsibility, as is failing to provide adequate funding for public health measures to combat the pandemic.” (See related article in this Human Needs Report for more information on relief efforts in Congress.)

The letter also documents Barrett’s past opinions detrimental to immigrants, workers, low-income people, people of color, people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, and people suspected of committing crimes.

“Among the extremely consequential decisions likely or certain to face the Supreme Court, in addition to the Affordable Care Act, concern the November 3 elections and the 2020 Census,” the letter states. “A great deal is at stake: access to health care during the pandemic and beyond, and the very functioning of our challenged democracy. The nation demands a very careful examination of any nominee’s approach. For the Senate to rush through this confirmation process is another abdication of its responsibility with consequences lasting decades into the future.”

You can view CHN’s 8-page letter here.

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CHN: 2020 Census Count Ends, but Advocates’ Work Continues https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-2020-census-count-ends-but-advocates-work-continues/ Mon, 26 Oct 2020 16:25:51 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6583 While a Supreme Court decision on Oct. 13 allowed the Trump Administration to end the 2020 Census count on Oct. 15, advocates’ work on the important decennial count continues. The decision suspended a lower court order allowing the head count to continue through Oct. 31, and the Census Bureau is...

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While a Supreme Court decision on Oct. 13 allowed the Trump Administration to end the 2020 Census count on Oct. 15, advocates’ work on the important decennial count continues.

The decision suspended a lower court order allowing the head count to continue through Oct. 31, and the Census Bureau is currently scheduled to deliver apportionment counts for congressional seats to the President by Dec. 31. However, advocates and a bipartisan group of members of Congress agree that, given the delays caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the Census Bureau cannot produce acceptably accurate data by that date. The Trump Administration, including the Census Bureau, had previously taken that position as well.

In April, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham asked Congress to extend the statutory deadlines for apportionment and redistricting by 120 days each, to April 30, 2021 for apportionment counts delivered to the President and July 31, 2021 for redistricting data delivered to the states. However, in an abrupt about-face in August, the Administration rescinded its request to extend the statutory deadlines. As the Associated Press reported, groups suing the Administration over the timetables said the deadline for turning in apportionment numbers was moved up to accommodate an order from President Trump to exclude undocumented people from the numbers used to divvy up congressional seats among the states. Sticking to a Dec. 31 deadline ensures that data processing remains under the Trump Administration’s control, regardless of the outcome of the Nov. 3 election. A panel of federal judges in New York ruled that Trump’s order was unlawful, but the Administration has appealed to the Supreme Court. A second panel of federal judges in California last week also ruled that the order was also unconstitutional, and the Trump administration again said it planned to appeal.

Advocates are extremely concerned that a rushed Census will leave out millions of low-income people, including those in underserved rural areas, children, immigrants, and people of color, leading to billions of dollars lost to low-income communities over the next decade. First, door-to-door Census takers failed to reach their target goals in many areas of the U.S., undercounting hundreds of thousands of Americans. In addition, after field operations cease, the Census begins a painstaking, complex, and highly specialized series of activities to process and correct the raw data (for example, eliminating double-counting) before it is ready for use in apportioning representatives among states, redistricting, and allocating federal funding. A Census document, in fact, notes that, “A compressed review period creates risk for serious errors not being discovered in the data – thereby significantly decreasing data quality.”

The extended deadlines are included in bipartisan legislation, the 2020 Census Deadline Extensions Act (S. 4571), sponsored by Senators Brian Schatz (D-HI), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), and Dan Sullivan (R-AK); other Republican lawmakers have also urged Secretary Ross to extend census operations. The Coalition on Human Needs endorsed this bill, joining more than 200 organizations that affirm the need for adequate time for a fair and complete count. CHN also sent a letter to all Senators supporting the inclusion of extensions for reporting apportionment counts and redistricting data in the COVID relief package or another timely package.

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CHN: In Blistering Ruling, U.S. District Judge Strikes Trump Administration’s Proposed SNAP Cuts https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-in-blistering-ruling-u-s-district-judge-strikes-trump-administrations-proposed-snap-cuts/ Mon, 26 Oct 2020 16:16:30 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6582 A U.S. District Court has struck down an effort by the Trump Administration that could have cut SNAP benefits for 700,000 or more jobless Americans. In a 67-page opinion described by the Washington Post as “scathing,” U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell criticized the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failing...

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A U.S. District Court has struck down an effort by the Trump Administration that could have cut SNAP benefits for 700,000 or more jobless Americans.

In a 67-page opinion described by the Washington Post as “scathing,” U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell criticized the U.S. Department of Agriculture for failing to justify or even address the impact of the Trump Administration’s proposal on states, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, which has seen unemployment and hunger soar and SNAP recipients increase by 17 percent, or more than 6 million new enrollees.

Howell called the proposal “arbitrary and capricious” and said the proposal “at issue in this litigation radically and abruptly alters decades of regulatory practice, leaving States scrambling and exponentially increasing food insecurity for tens of thousands of Americans.”

He added that the Department of Agriculture “has been icily silent about how many [adults] would have been denied SNAP benefits had the changes sought…been in effect while the pandemic rapidly spread across the country.”

The proposal was one of three being pushed by the Trump Administration that would result in cuts to SNAP. Other proposals, still pending, would attempt to cap deductions for utility allowances and to limit access to SNAP for working poor families. In a report published in November, 2019, the Urban Institute estimated that the three proposals combined would have led to 3.7 million fewer people receiving SNAP in an average month. Benefits would be reduced for millions more, and 982,000 students would lose automatic access to free or reduced-price school meals.

The rule struck down by Howell would have curtailed the ability of states to receive waivers during times of economic duress. Under SNAP guidelines, able-bodied adults without dependents, between the ages of 18 and 49, can receive benefits for a maximum of three months during a three-year period, unless they are working or enrolled in an education or training program for 80 hours a month.

States have been able to waive this time limit to ensure access to SNAP – counties with unemployment rates as low as 2.5 percent were included in waived areas. But the new rule would have tightened criteria for states applying for waivers, making 6 percent the minimum unemployment rate for a county to receive a waiver.

Howell’s ruling granted summary judgment to a coalition of 19 states, D.C., New York City, and a number of advocacy groups that had sued to stop the rule. In a statement, New York Attorney General Letitia James called the decision “a win for common sense and basic human decency,” adding that the rule “would have not only made it harder for thousands to feed their families and risk them going hungry, but would have exacerbated the public health crisis we face and the economic recession we are still in the midst of under President Trump.”

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CHN: Advocates Oppose Proposed Rule That Could Harm Millions of Workers https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-oppose-proposed-rule-that-could-harm-millions-of-workers/ Mon, 26 Oct 2020 16:09:15 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6581 Tens of thousands of advocates submitted comments urging the U.S. Department of Labor to reject a proposed change that would make it easier for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. Proposed by the Trump Administration, the rule would give employers and corporations far more leeway in classifying workers as...

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Tens of thousands of advocates submitted comments urging the U.S. Department of Labor to reject a proposed change that would make it easier for employers to classify workers as independent contractors. Proposed by the Trump Administration, the rule would give employers and corporations far more leeway in classifying workers as independent contractors instead of employees, allowing them to pay subminimum wages, hire child labor, avoid overtime pay, withhold health benefits, and undermine other labor protections. Millions of workers could be affected. It would also allow employers to avoid paying into Social Security and Medicare for these workers. Advocates say the rule ignores the language of the Fair Labor Standards Act and decades of court rulings, including by the U.S. Supreme Court. CHN joined with members the Economic Policy Institute, the National Employment Law Project, and others in opposing the proposed rule. Public comments on this rule are being accepted by the Department of Labor through 11:50pm ET on Oct. 26.

According to the New York Times, the Trump Administration is preparing to finalize numerous regulatory changes before Jan. 20 and is taking steps such as, “limiting or sidestepping requirements for public comment on some of the changes and swatting aside critics who say the administration has failed to carry out sufficiently rigorous analysis.”

If there is a change in control of the White House and the Senate after the upcoming election, the next Congress could more easily attempt to overturn some of the regulations put in to place in what would be the final days of the Trump Administration. Under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress has 60 legislative days to review and override certain new regulations issued by federal agencies, with only a simple majority vote in the Senate and presidential approval. If a rule is overturned, the CRA also prevents agencies from enacting similar regulations again in the future unless specifically authorized by a subsequent law. The CRA was used by Congress and President Trump in 2017 to overturn several regulations put into place in the last few months of the Obama Administration.

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CHN: Defense Authorization Amendments Would Shift Away from Militarization https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-defense-authorization-amendments-would-shift-away-from-militarization/ Mon, 20 Jul 2020 19:10:38 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6205 Both the House and Senate are taking up the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021 this week. Different from appropriations, this bill creates the legislative rules the Department of Defense must follow. Advocates seeking a shift towards domestic priorities and away from rapid growth in Pentagon spending have long...

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Both the House and Senate are taking up the National Defense Authorization Act for FY 2021 this week. Different from appropriations, this bill creates the legislative rules the Department of Defense must follow. Advocates seeking a shift towards domestic priorities and away from rapid growth in Pentagon spending have long sought opportunities to support such a move. That opportunity has come in both Senate and House consideration of their defense authorization bills.

Both the House and Senate will get to vote on amendments to limit military spending. They will also get the chance to limit the provision of military hardware to local law enforcement agencies.

The amendments are similar in both Senate and House. In the Senate, the Sanders-Markey amendment (#1788) to the defense bill, S. 4049, would shift $74 billion, about a 10 percent reduction, from Pentagon expenditures in FY 2021 to a federal grant program to fund health care, housing, child care and educational opportunities for cities and towns experiencing a poverty rate of 25 percent or more. Department of Defense expenditures for salaries and health care for personnel would be exempted from reductions. The House version is the Lee-Pocan amendment (#526) to its defense authorization bill (H.R. 6359).

The bipartisan Senate amendment to restrict the transfer of weapons of war from the Pentagon to law enforcement agencies is co-sponsored by Senators Schatz (D-HI), Murkowski (R-AK), Harris (D-CA), and Paul (R-KY). Such weapons and equipment, donated from the military through the current “1033” program, have increased the militarized presence of local police departments. Instead of increasing public safety, the use of military rifles, armored vehicles, aircraft and other equipment has been found to make police violence more prevalent without increasing the safety of officers or reducing crime. On the House side, a similar amendment (#622) is offered by Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) with many co-sponsors.

The Coalition on Human Needs sent a letter to all members of Congress supporting both these amendments.

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CHN: House Moves FY21 Spending Bills to the Floor https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-moves-fy21-spending-bills-to-the-floor/ Mon, 20 Jul 2020 17:01:51 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6200 The Fiscal Year 2021 spending process moves to the House floor this week. The House Appropriations Committee passed seven of the 12 required spending bills last week (details of these bill are below), after passing the other five the previous week. The bills now move to the House floor to...

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The Fiscal Year 2021 spending process moves to the House floor this week. The House Appropriations Committee passed seven of the 12 required spending bills last week (details of these bill are below), after passing the other five the previous week. The bills now move to the House floor to be voted on by the full House. This week, the House is expected to take up a four-bill package (H.R. 7608), often called a minibus, that will consist of the Agriculture, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and State-Foreign Operations spending bills.

It is expected that most of the remaining eight bills will be taken up by the House next week, either in one or two packages, with the goal of having most bills pass before the August recess begins. The House is scheduled to leave DC at the end of July, though it may remain in session into August if necessary to finish enactment of a COVID-19 response package after working out a final bill with the Senate. All appropriations bills are expected to pass mainly along party lines. The Homeland Security bill is not expected to be taken up by the House in the next few weeks due to funding level controversies among Democrats.

The seven spending bills passed by the House Appropriations Committee last week include Labor-Health and Human Services-Education; Transportation-Housing and Urban Development; Commerce-Justice-Science; Defense; Homeland Security; Financial Services; and Energy-Water. Some of the highlights of these bills are noted below.

Labor – Health and Human Services – Education:

According to CQ, while the bill covering the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (known as the “Labor-H” bill) would technically see a 0.1 percent cut from FY20 enacted levels, including unused funds from the Children’s Health Insurance Program would provide about $2.4 billion or 1 percent more for these programs over the current year. The $196.5 billion in overall funding included in the bill would be $20.8 billion above President Trump’s FY21 budget request after accounting for offsets and adjustments. In addition, the bill includes $24.4 billion in emergency funding, mostly for public health needs related to the coronavirus pandemic, including $9 billion for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, $5 billion for the National Institutes of Health, and $5 billion for a permanent “public health emergency fund.” The emergency funding also includes $925 million for a Department of Labor contingency fund to help states cope with higher unemployment insurance workloads.

Despite tight budget caps, advocates were pleased to see important human needs programs received modest increases. Highlights of the bill include: $103 million for the Reintegration of Ex-Offenders, an increase of $5 million above FY20 levels and $10 million above the President’s request; $5.9 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, an increase of $100 million above current levels; $10.8 billion for Head Start, an increase of $150 million; a $20 million bump to $957 million for Senior Nutrition Programs; and $13 billion for Special Education Part B Grants to States, an increase of $194 million above current levels and $94 million above the President’s request. The maximum Pell Grant would increase by $150 under the bill, and new language would allow incarcerated individuals to be eligible for the grant.

The bill rejects the Trump budget proposal to combine several elementary and secondary school programs, including Title I for K-12 low-income schools, which would have cut those programs by $4.7 billion. Instead, the bill provides $16.6 billion for Title I, an increase of $254 million over current levels. Also included is $96 million – a $4 million increase – for the Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers program; $3.8 billion – a $25 million increase – for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides heating and cooling assistance to about 6 million low-income households; and an increase of $13 million to $1.3 billion for the Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers, recently named for the retiring chair of the House Appropriations Committee, a dedicated human needs champion. The House-passed HEROES Act to respond to the pandemic separately includes additional emergency funding, such as $7 billion in new child care funds and $1.5 billion in new funds for the LIHEAP program. These additions would have to be negotiated with the Senate, whose leadership is expected to propose a much smaller bill. (See COVID Response Package article elsewhere in this issue.)

All Republicans on the committee opposed the Labor-H bill. One objection was that the large increases for NIH and CDC are considered emergency spending rather than base spending; in negotiations, it is expected that the Republican-controlled Senate will work to greatly diminish emergency funds as they are outside of the spending caps that were previously agreed upon.

Transportation – Housing and Urban Development:

The bill covering the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development would provide $75.9 billion in discretionary funding, a $1.65 billion or 2.2 percent increase over the current year and $16.8 billion more than the President’s request. Including mandatory funds, the bill would total $158.3 billion in base funding, plus an additional $75 billion in emergency funding. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the bill includes overall funding for HUD at $13 billion above the President’s request and at least $1.5 billion above FY20 levels. The bill likely provides enough funding to renew all existing contracts provided through Housing Choice Vouchers and Project-Based Rental Assistance. It also provides funding increases to most programs over FY20 levels, including the HOME Investment Partnerships (up $350 million to $1.7 billion), Community Development Block Grants (CDBG, up $100 million to $3.525 billion), Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities (up $25 million to $227 million), and the Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard program (up $50 million to $340 million). The Department of Housing and Urban Development would also get $49 billion in emergency funds for housing investments through public housing, CDBG, HOME, tribal housing, and other programs. Advocates had sought additional infrastructure investment in the National Housing Trust Fund, which invests in the production of additional affordable housing, but none was included.

The bill also contains a number of provisions aimed at stopping discriminatory and harmful proposals from the Trump Administration, including an anti-transgender rule related to shelters, a rule forcing mixed-status immigrant families out of HUD housing, and proposals to slash benefits through work requirements and rent increases. For more information, see this analysis and this updated budget chart from the National Low Income Housing Coalition.

Other bills passed:

The Commerce-Justice-Science bill would establish a $400 million grant program for initiatives that would provide independent oversight of police departments. The bill would also set criteria for police departments hoping to receive certain funds from the Justice Department to have training in deescalating, elimination of racial profiling and implicit bias, use of force, and intervening if another officer uses excessive force. In addition, departments would be required to prohibit chokeholds and “no knock” warrants for drug cases. The bill also includes $525 million for Violence Against Women Act programs; $730 million (a $61 million increase over current year) for hiring immigration judges and staff to address the immigration case backlog; and $465 million (a $25 million increase) for the Legal Services Corporation – a program the President’s budget would have eliminated – to provide civil legal assistance for low-income people with housing, domestic violence, employment, consumer, or other legal trouble.

The Defense bill includes $694.6 billion in funding, an increase of $1.3 billion above FY20 enacted levels but $3.7 billion less than President Trump’s request. This includes $626.2 billion in base funding and $68.4 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations account, which is outside the spending cap for appropriations. The bill includes no money for a border wall and would restrict the Pentagon’s ability to redirect funds to the wall project without congressional approval. The bill also includes $1 million to change the names of military facilities and assets that are named after Confederates.

The Homeland Security bill includes $48.1 billion in nondefense discretionary funding, equal to the amount enacted for FY20, and $2.8 billion in defense spending, $250 million more than this year. It also includes $5.1 billion in disaster relief emergency funding and $215 million for the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations account. The bill does not include any money for President Trump’s border wall or additional border patrol agents and would restrict the transfer of funds from other accounts for that purpose. Several amendments adopted by the committee would increase the number of available visas, while another adopted amendment would prohibit the removal of individuals who are eligible for DACA or Temporary Protected Status. Disagreements on controversial funding levels for Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement means this bill likely won’t be taken up by the full House.

The Financial Services bill funds the Department of the Treasury, the Judiciary, the Executive Office of the President, the Small Business Administration, and other agencies. The bill contains $67 billion in emergency funds, the majority of which would allow the Federal Communications Commission to expand broadband internet access in underserved areas. It also contains language making DACA recipients eligible for federal employment and creates a commission to identify and recommend name changes or removal of federal property that is inconsistent with the values of diversity, equity, and inclusion. It would also prohibit the use of funds from the Treasury Forfeiture Fund for the construction of a border wall.

The Energy-Water bill includes $43.5 billion in emergency spending for water and energy infrastructure projects to spur economic recovery. It also includes provisions to prevent money in the bill intended for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from going to fund a border wall.

For more information on the five spending bills the House previously passed, including the Agriculture bill that funds many nutrition programs including SNAP food/stamps, school meal programs, the WIC program and more, see the July 13 Human Needs Report.

What’s Next:

Appropriations work in the Senate came to a standstill before things even really got going after Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) and the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT), failed to reach an agreement about the types of amendments that could be offered to the spending bills. It is highly unlikely that the Senate will take up the bills the House passes, and some believe that the Senate Appropriations Committee may release but not take up or vote on any of its bills this year. In this case, the committee could release its bills and then proceed directly to negotiations with House appropriators. As previously mentioned, it is expected that the Republican-controlled Senate will work to greatly diminish the amount of emergency funds included in all of the spending bills, as they are outside of the spending caps that were agreed upon last year.

Most believe that an impasse on spending bills will lead to Congress being forced to pass a stop-gap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, to keep the government running once the new fiscal year begins on October 1. A CR would fund government programs at FY20 levels; Congress can include ‘anomalies,’ or adjustments to funding levels, for select programs if they can agree upon them. Many believe a CR will last until after the November elections; the outcome of the elections will likely determine whether FY21 spending bills are passed in the lame duck session in December or a CR is extended into January.

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CHN: Senate GOP Expected to Release COVID Response Package This Week https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-senate-gop-expected-to-release-covid-response-package-this-week/ Mon, 20 Jul 2020 16:30:49 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6199 Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to release his party’s latest coronavirus response package this week. While details are not yet known, the bill is expected to be much smaller (roughly a third of the cost) and less comprehensive than the $3 trillion HEROES Act passed by the Democratic-led...

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Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell is expected to release his party’s latest coronavirus response package this week. While details are not yet known, the bill is expected to be much smaller (roughly a third of the cost) and less comprehensive than the $3 trillion HEROES Act passed by the Democratic-led House on May 15.

According to reports, the Senate GOP package is expected to contain some money for state and local governments, but that money may be earmarked for education to get schools reopened. Providing additional money to schools is a bipartisan priority, but advocates are concerned that the Republican plan may not provide the money needed for other support for states, localities, territories, and tribes that are suffering. It is reported that the GOP bill may include $70 billion for education funding, of which 10 percent would be available for private schools; such diversion of funds would be opposed by Democrats. However, President Trump and some other Republicans have said that additional aid for education should be conditioned on schools reopening in the fall; Democrats resist this idea.

In lieu of other funds for state and local governments, the Republican plan may loosen restrictions on the expenditure of the $150 billion previously approved by Congress, which could only be used for expenditures related to COVID-19. On July 17, Sen. Schumer pressed for $1 trillion in state and local aid at a press conference with the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees; AFSCME is a member of CHN. States and localities have lost 1.5 million public jobs through June, and revenues have plummeted.

The Senate GOP plan may also include an extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Compensation that expires in late July, but it is expected to be less than the $600 per week currently in place and likely will not last as long as the proposal in the HEROES Act, which runs through Jan. 31, 2021. Another round of stimulus checks for low-income people may also be included. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has reportedly said he wants language in the package that would allow the hardest hit businesses to apply for a second round of funding through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), with reports that the Administration may also be seeking another $150 billion to add to the loan program, which currently has $100 billion left to give out. (The Coalition on Human Needs has received a loan under the PPP program.) Democrats continue to push for additional priorities in a relief package, such as an extended and expanded eviction moratorium and $100 billion in rental assistance, expanded low-income tax credits, increased SNAP and other nutrition benefits, and more.

According to The Hill, Sen. McConnell’s plan may also include a five-year protection for businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19, retroactive to December, 2019 and extending to 2024, which many Democrats oppose while instead pushing for stronger worker safety protections. The Trump Admin has threatened to veto a new relief bill if it doesn’t include a payroll tax “holiday,” despite the fact that such a policy would give billions of dollars to employers while providing no assistance to the 20 million unemployed Americans; Democrats and some Republicans oppose this as well.

On the other side of the aisle, Senate Democrats unveiled a proposal on July 16 that included $350 billion in child care, job training, health care, and more for minority communities. House Democrats plan to unveil two bills (H.R. 7027 and H.R. 7327) this week focused on providing additional money for child care providers and expenses.

The goal is to have a coronavirus relief package passed by both chambers before the August recess begins. The Senate is currently scheduled to leave DC after the first week in August; the House is scheduled to leave at the end of July, but House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has signaled that she could either keep the chamber in session or call members back to pass legislation if a compromise is reached. For information on pandemic relief packages that Congress has previously passed, see the June 29 Human Needs Report.

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CHN: As Deadlines Loom, Action on Pandemic Package Awaits the Senate’s Return https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-as-deadlines-loom-action-on-pandemic-package-awaits-the-senates-return/ Mon, 13 Jul 2020 19:03:28 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6172 In less than two weeks, the moratorium on evictions from federally subsidized or backed rental units will expire; so will the $600 per week in Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. While the House of Representatives passed its HEROES Act, with more than $3 trillion to address the pandemic, the Senate did not...

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In less than two weeks, the moratorium on evictions from federally subsidized or backed rental units will expire; so will the $600 per week in Pandemic Unemployment Compensation. While the House of Representatives passed its HEROES Act, with more than $3 trillion to address the pandemic, the Senate did not act before leaving for the July 4 recess. Senators will return on July 20 with little time to come up with its approach for negotiating a bill with the House.

The need for action is urgent. Close to one in five households were not able to pay their rent in the past month according to the most recent Census Bureau’s weekly Household Pulse survey. For Latinx and Black households, it was one in four. The fear is that with local, state, and federal moratoria on evictions ending, there will be a massive surge in evictions without emergency rental assistance. Similarly, data show alarming numbers of households that report not having enough to eat in the past week – close to one in five Latinx and Black households with children, for example. With surging COVID-19 cases likely to lead to more job loss, the failure of Congress to extend unemployment assistance and provide housing and increased SNAP benefits by the end of July could result in hardship not seen since the Great Depression.

The position of Senate Republicans has shifted in recent weeks. At first, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) was reluctant to take up any bill, wanting a wait and see approach after the enactment of the CARES legislation. He suggested that states with huge revenue shortfalls consider filing for bankruptcy. He has also made protection of businesses, schools, and health care providers from lawsuits related to COVID-19 a top priority. More recently, with unemployment still high and the COVID-19 caseload surging, he has talked about a $1 trillion package that might include another direct payment to individuals and families. He has also acknowledged that a new bill could include aid to states and localities, specifically for coronavirus-related costs.

While this is movement, it is still far from the scope of the House’s HEROES bill, which includes $1 trillion for state and local aid alone. Plummeting state and local revenues (expected to be down $555 billion through FY2022, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities) and layoffs or furloughs of 1.5 million state and local government workers, coupled with dramatically rising need for services, makes help for states and localities urgent. The HEROES bill also includes another round of an expanded $1,200 per person payment, extension of the $600 per week unemployment benefit through the end of this year, $100 billion in rental assistance for those falling behind in rent as well as an extension of the moratorium on evictions, increased SNAP and other nutrition benefits, improved low-income tax credits and much more. That means there is a lot of ground to cover to get to a final bill.

Senate Democrats have been introducing separate pieces of legislation they would like to see incorporated in a COVID package. Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Ron Wyden (the senior Democrat on the Senate Finance Committee, D-OR) have introduced a bill (S. 4143) to expand and continue unemployment insurance benefits in each state until its unemployment rate drops below 11 percent. Advocates prefer to tie continuation of benefits to economic conditions, rather than the specific date included in the HEROES Act (through the end of the calendar year). In addition, Leader Schumer and Senator Patty Murray (senior on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, D-WA) have introduced a bill to provide $25 billion in emergency spending towards production and distribution of an anti-COVID-19 vaccine.

Another issue advocates hope will be included in the coronavirus package is extension and expansion of paid leave. The House bill would provide up to 80 hours of paid time off related to the pandemic, and would extend this coverage to workers in companies with fewer than 50 or more than 500 employees, who are now excluded. On the Senate side, Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA) is pushing a proposal he co-sponsored with Senator Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) much more narrow in scope: allowing people with a new child (by birth or adoption) to voluntarily “borrow” $5,000 from later child tax credits, by reducing their $2,000 per child credit by $500 for the next ten years. Advocates do not believe this is an adequate response to the need for paid leave.

Previous packages have been negotiated primarily by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin. Some Republicans in Congress have been critical of the broad scope of the previous legislation and have been urging Trump Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to take part in the negotiations. While in Congress, Meadows was a founder of the very conservative House Freedom Caucus and has in the past opposed SNAP and other benefits programs.

Advocates have been ramping up activity over the recess to press for inclusion of urgently needed provisions such as included in the HEROES Act. The Coalition on Human Needs has, working with other groups, encouraged more than 350,000 letters or petitions to Senators seeking a relief package of adequate scope to meet the growing needs, with special attention to preventing hunger and mass evictions.

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CHN: House Begins to Move FY21 Spending Bills https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-begins-to-move-fy21-spending-bills/ Mon, 13 Jul 2020 14:00:50 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6169 The Fiscal Year 2021 spending process was in full swing in the House last week. The 12 House Appropriations Subcommittees passed the FY21 spending bills in their jurisdiction the week of July 6, and the full committee passed five of these bills in the same week (select details of these...

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The Fiscal Year 2021 spending process was in full swing in the House last week. The 12 House Appropriations Subcommittees passed the FY21 spending bills in their jurisdiction the week of July 6, and the full committee passed five of these bills in the same week (select details of these bills are below).

On July 9, the House Appropriations Committee also approved (29-21, along party lines) the topline spending limit for each of the 12 required spending bills, known as 302(b) allocations. The allocations for the 12 subcommittees total $1.298 trillion in discretionary (or annually-appropriated) funding. According to CQ, while the bill covering the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education would technically see a 0.1 percent cut from FY20 enacted levels, including unused funds from the Children’s Health Insurance Program would provide about $2.4 billion or 1 percent more for these programs over the current year. In addition, the Labor-HHS-Education bill includes $24.425 billion in uncapped emergency funding for public health needs related to the coronavirus and for a Department of Labor contingency fund to help states cope with higher unemployment insurance workloads. The bill covering the Departments of Transportation and Housing and Urban Development would see a $1.65 billion or 2.2 percent increase over the current year. The House 302(b) levels are not binding in the Senate.

Advocates were pleased to see that the spending bills put forth by House Democrats also include $247 billion in emergency funding that would allow for additional spending above and beyond of the 302(b) allocations, as emergency funding does not count toward the spending caps. This includes $12.5 billion to meet the rising costs of veterans’ health care, money to respond to the pandemic and resulting economic recession, and more. For example, the Department of Housing and Urban Development would get $49 billion in emergency funds for low-income housing projects and direct rental assistance; the Federal Communications Commission would get $61 billion in emergency funding to expand broadband access and replace telecommunications equipment. Republicans on the committee objected to the inclusion of this level of emergency spending.

Per a bipartisan budget deal Congress passed last July that set topline spending caps, Congress will have $10 billion, or 0.08 percent, more in FY21 base discretionary dollars to work with than it did in FY20; $5 billion more for defense and $5 billion more for nondefense programs. This total does not include funding deemed emergency spending or war funding that Congress approves outside of the caps. Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, advocates were concerned that the $5 billion increase for nondefense programs will be entirely consumed by rising costs of health care for veterans, leading to flat funding or even cuts in other human needs programs.

As mentioned above, the full House Appropriations Committee passed five of the 12 spending bills last week: Agriculture; Military Construction-Veterans Affairs; Interior-Environment; Legislative Branch; and State-Foreign Operations. Of note in these bills:

The Agriculture spending bill, which includes funding for many nutrition programs including SNAP/food stamps, school breakfast and lunch programs, the WIC program and more, provides $23.98 billion in discretionary funding, an increase of $487 million or 2.1 percent above the FY 2020 enacted level. In total, the bill allows for $153 billion in both discretionary and mandatory funding, an increase of $331 million above the FY 2020 enacted level. The bill includes language to block two rules proposed by the Trump Administration that would take away or reduce SNAP benefits for hundreds of thousands of people in need. Also included is $1.1 billion for expanding rural broadband to give rural school children the ability to get online for school. For a full analysis of the nutrition provisions of the bill, including how they compare to FY20 spending levels and relate to nutrition pieces of the coronavirus response bills already passed by Congress, see this piece from the Food Research & Action Center and this piece from the National WIC Association.

The Military Construction-Veterans Affairs bill includes $12.5 billion in emergency spending for veterans’  health care and $350 million in the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, both outside of the spending caps. The bill would bar President Trump from diverting military construction funds to the border wall and would also block military construction funds from going to installations named after Confederate officers unless the names are first changed.

The Interior-Environment bill includes funding for programs within the Department of the Interior, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other related agencies, including the Indian Health Service. The bill includes $36.76 billion in regular appropriations, an increase of $771 million above the FY 2020 enacted level and $5.11 billion over the President’s 2021 request, rejecting the White House’s proposed cuts to the EPA. Additionally, the bill includes $15 billion in emergency supplemental appropriations for investments in critical infrastructure, such as $1.5 billion for the Indian Health Service to construct health care facilities, $500 million for the Bureau of Indian Education for school construction needs, and $10.2 billion for Clean Water and Drinking Water State Revolving Funds.

The Legislative Branch bill includes language to permit Dreamers with work authorization under the DACA program to work for Congress and other Legislative Branch agencies. It also includes language directing the removal of statues and busts in the U.S. Capitol of figures who participated in the Confederacy and statues of four white supremacists.

The State-Foreign Operations bill includes more than $10 billion in emergency funding for global coronavirus preparedness, response, and relief and also includes $8 billion in “war on terror” funding in the uncapped OCO account, both outside of the spending caps.

The stated goal is to have the other seven spending bills passed by the full House Appropriations Committee by July 16. To that end, the full Appropriations Committee will take up the Labor-HHS-Education and Energy-Water bills on Monday, July 13, and will consider Defense, Commerce-Justice-Science, and Transportation-HUD bills on Tuesday, July 14. The full House is expected to take up and vote on the bills during the last two weeks of July, with the goal being to pass all or most of the 12 bills before lawmakers begin the August recess. The House spending bills are expected to pass mainly along party lines.

Over in the Senate, appropriations work came to a standstill before things even really got going. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) and the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT), failed to reach an agreement about the types of amendments that could be offered to the spending bills, putting an indefinite pause on spending work in the upper chamber. Similar to action in the House, Senate Democrats want to be able to offer amendments that would provide additional money for COVID-19 responses, as well as policies that address policing reform and other social justice issues; Sen. Shelby does not want to allow these types of amendments. It is highly unlikely that the Senate will take up the bills the House passes, either.

Most believe that an impasse on spending bills will lead to Congress being forced to pass a stop-gap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, to keep the government running once the new fiscal year begins on October 1. A CR would fund government programs at FY20 levels; Congress can include ‘anomalies,’ or adjustments to funding levels, for select programs if they can agree upon them. Many believe a CR will last until after the November elections; the outcome of the elections may determine whether FY21 spending bills are passed in the lame duck session in December or a CR is extended into January.

A Human Needs Report covering the remaining appropriations bills approved in full committee will be published on Monday, July 20.

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CHN: Advocates Continue to Push for Next COVID-19 Congressional Response Package https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-continue-to-push-for-next-covid-19-congressional-response-package/ Mon, 29 Jun 2020 16:58:46 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6092 With the number of coronavirus cases – and struggling Americans – increasing across the country, advocates continue to push the Senate to act on another federal response package. Congress has already enacted four bills to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting fallout, but advocates are united in saying more...

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With the number of coronavirus cases – and struggling Americans – increasing across the country, advocates continue to push the Senate to act on another federal response package. Congress has already enacted four bills to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting fallout, but advocates are united in saying more must be done to address both the country’s economic recovery and provide immediate and longer-term support to those whose needs were left out or not adequately addressed in the previous packages. To this end, the House has passed a fifth bill, but it is currently stalled in the Senate.

The latest response bill, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, was passed by the House on May 15; one Republican joined most Democrats in supporting the legislation, while 14 Democrats and one Independent joined most Republicans in opposing it. Advocates celebrated many provisions of the $3.5 trillion bill (H.R. 6800), which included nearly $1 trillion in aid to state and local governments to help address budget shortfalls, $100 billion in rental assistance for low-income households, and $24 billion for SNAP/food stamps and other nutrition programs through FY 2025. The bill would also fund another round of direct payments to individuals, including many immigrants left out of the CARES Act; expand sick days and medical leave for workers; provide $3.6 billion to states to help support safe elections and increased access to voting by mail; and extend unemployment insurance, among other things. CHN said in a statement about the bill, “The HEROES Act takes needed steps to help families afford food and rent. It recognizes that states and localities will not be able to provide essential services without plugging the yawning gap in revenues caused by the pandemic shutdown. It addresses what Americans are going through now by improving and extending unemployment benefits, paid leave, and cash aid….[T]he legislation needs to move forward.” For more specifics on the HEROES Act, see these materials from the House Appropriations Committee.

However, the bill has stalled in the Senate, where Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed to let it die. Instead, he has said Republicans will assess economic conditions in July before deciding if they will draft and take up legislation after the chamber’s July 4 recess. He has previously urged protection for businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19 as a top priority for any new package, which Democrats oppose. Reports are that Republicans are split on another round of stimulus payments to individuals, with some in favor of rebates for everyone and some, like White House National Economic Council Director Larry Kudlow, saying rebate checks could be limited to those who have lost work; others are opposed to an additional round of direct aid altogether.

The Trump Administration has voiced a willingness to consider more aid to individuals, but President Trump has also repeatedly demanded that any new package include a payroll tax cut, which Democrats and economists have opposed as ineffectual stimulus that would undermine the stability of Social Security funding if its reduced revenues were not replaced from the general fund.

The severity of current economic conditions and the surging number of COVID-19 cases around the country have pushed both Majority Leader McConnell and the Trump Administration to express more openness to another relief bill: McConnell has talked about a $1 trillion package; members of the Trump Administration have mentioned $2 trillion. But the Senate will leave for its July 4 recess without having acted, and will not return until July 20. That leaves very few days before the $600 per week Pandemic Unemployment Compensation payments and the eviction moratorium expire.

Meanwhile, House committees continue to hold hearings on the importance of an increased federal response. On June 23, the House Budget Committee held a hearing on “Health and Wealth Inequality in America: How COVID-19 Makes Clear the Need for Change,” while the Worker and Family Support Subcommittee of the House Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on “The Child Care Crisis and the Coronavirus Pandemic.” Other House committee hearings last week related to COVID-19 focused on the Trump Administration’s response to the pandemic, access to telehealth for veterans, and more.

And in an effort to urge the Senate to act on the HEROES Act – or at least parts of it – House Democrats have been introducing bills that would address important provisions they want enacted soon. For example, the full House could vote as early as this week on the Emergency Housing Protections and Relief Act (H.R. 7301). This bill contains the housing and homelessness resources passed in the HEROES Act, including $100 billion in emergency rental assistance, a national moratorium on evictions and foreclosures, and more. See the National Low Income Housing Coalition site for more information on the housing provisions in bill and the HEROES Act.

House Democrats also introduced a bill last week “to expand the availability of quality child care, help workers return to their jobs when it is safe, and enable America’s economy to recover from the COVID-19 recession.” The Child Care for Economic Recovery Act would provide a tax credit of up to $3,000 for one child and up to $6,000 for two or more children for low- and middle-income families , as well as create a tax credit for child care providers and offer $10 billion to improve child care facilities and infrastructure. In addition, two bills introduced last week would provide partial fixes for spouses of immigrants who were denied federal relief in the CARES Act.

For more information on the contents of all of the previous COVID-19 Congressional response packages, as well as information on what advocates are pushing for in the next package, see the May 4 Human Needs Report. For more on what CHN believes should be in the next package, click here and here. For many more resources, including statements from many of CHN’s members on the legislation that has passed and on their priorities for additional action, see CHN’s COVID-19 resource page here.

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CHN: FY21 Spending Bills Set to Move in the House, but Are Stalled in the Senate https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-fy21-spending-bills-set-to-move-in-the-house-but-are-stalled-in-the-senate/ Mon, 29 Jun 2020 16:41:35 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6090 The House is gearing up for several weeks of quick action on Fiscal Year 2021 spending bills, expected to start next week. According to a schedule released by House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), House Appropriations Subcommittees will take up the spending bills in their jurisdiction starting July 6, with...

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The House is gearing up for several weeks of quick action on Fiscal Year 2021 spending bills, expected to start next week. According to a schedule released by House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), House Appropriations Subcommittees will take up the spending bills in their jurisdiction starting July 6, with the full committee starting to take up the bills on July 9. Also on the 9th, the committee will approve the topline spending limit for each of the 12 required spending bills, known as 302(b) allocations; these allocations have not yet been made public. The stated goal is to have five spending bills passed by the full House Appropriations Committee by July 10 and the other seven bills passed by the committee by July 16. The full House could then take up and vote on the bills the last two weeks of July, with the goal being to pass all 12 before lawmakers begin the August recess.

Reports are that the House spending bills will include provisions dealing with issues such as additional funding for the federal COVID-19 response and policies that address policing reform, though it’s not yet known how these provisions will differ from provisions in the HEROES Act or the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act passed by the House (for more on the policing bill, see the related article in this Human Needs Report). The House spending bills are expected to pass largely along party lines.

Appropriations work in the Senate, however, has come to a standstill before things even really got going. Senate Appropriations Committee Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) and the committee’s top-ranking Democrat, Sen. Patrick Leahy (VT), failed to reach an agreement about the types of amendments that could be offered to the spending bills, putting an indefinite pause on spending work in the upper chamber. Similar to action in the House, Senate Democrats want to be able to offer amendments that would provide additional money for COVID-19 responses, as well as policies that address policing reform and other social justice issues; Sen. Shelby does not want to allow these types of amendments. It is highly unlikely that the Senate will take up the bills the House passes, either.

In addition to the amendment impasse in the Senate, another challenge for this year is the limited funding due to topline spending caps enacted as part of the bipartisan budget deal Congress passed last July. In total, Congress will have $10 billion more in FY21 base discretionary dollars to work with than it did in FY20; $5 billion more for defense and $5 billion more for nondefense programs. This total does not include some funding, like some emergency disaster aid and war funding, that Congress approves outside of the caps.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, advocates were concerned that the $5 billion increase for nondefense programs will be entirely consumed by rising costs in veterans’ health care, leading to flat funding or even cuts in other human needs programs. With the need for continued increased funding to respond to the pandemic and resulting economic recession, advocates are seeking to move some of the veterans’ health care services outside the cap, and to add emergency titles to all 12 appropriations bills, which would allow for additional spending outside of the caps. If Congress cannot find more flexibility in domestic funding, it is likely that many programs will suffer severe cuts and many services will further erode.

In April, nearly 400 groups, including the Coalition on Human Needs, urged leading appropriators in Congress to allocate a greater share of funds in fiscal year 2021 to programs controlled by the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. These programs largely have been shortchanged in the appropriations process over the last decade.

Most believe that an impasse on spending bills will lead to Congress being forced to pass a stop-gap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, to keep the government running once the new fiscal year begins on October 1. A CR would fund government programs at FY20 levels; Congress can include ‘anomalies,’ or adjustments to funding levels, for select programs if they can agree upon them. Many believe a CR will last until after the November elections; the outcome of the elections may determine whether FY21 spending bills are passed in the lame duck session in December or a CR is extended into January.

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CHN: House Passes Sweeping Criminal Justice Reform Bill, But the Path to Enactment is Murky https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-passes-sweeping-criminal-justice-reform-bill-but-the-path-to-enactment-is-murky/ Mon, 29 Jun 2020 16:34:41 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6089 Both the House and Senate took up policing reform bills last week, with very different results. The House passed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill, while a narrower bill in the Senate was blocked by Democrats who felt it didn’t go far enough. The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act...

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Both the House and Senate took up policing reform bills last week, with very different results. The House passed a sweeping criminal justice reform bill, while a narrower bill in the Senate was blocked by Democrats who felt it didn’t go far enough.

The George Floyd Justice in Policing Act (H.R. 7120) was approved by the House on June 25; three Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the measure. According to materials from the House Judiciary Committee, the bill would ban chokeholds by federal officers and places limits on their use by state and local officers, establish a national database to track police misconduct, and make it easier to hold officers accountable for misconduct in civil and criminal court, eliminating “qualified immunity” that shields police officers from lawsuits (but, disappointing advocates, the legislation for the first time writes qualified immunity into statute for other public employees). The bill also bans no knock warrants in drug cases and bans racial profiling. The bill is not expected to be taken up in the Senate, and the White House has said President Trump would veto the bill if it reached his desk.

Vanita Gupta, president and CEO of The Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights (LCCHR), said in a statement, “We applaud the House for taking critical action toward meaningful accountability in policing that will help curb state sanctioned violence by law enforcement. The deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and all of the Black and Brown people killed by police demand structural change to shift police culture and practices. The Senate must now take up this legislation, work to strengthen it, and pass the bill.”

LCCHR led a group of nearly 140 organizations, including CHN, in urging senators to oppose a procedural move to move forward with the Senate bill (S. 3985) because the bill did not do enough to reform current policies. The groups said the Just and Unifying Solutions to Invigorate Communities Everywhere (JUSTICE) Act (S. 3985) “falls woefully short of the comprehensive reform needed to address the current policing crisis and achieve meaningful law enforcement accountability. It is deeply problematic to meet this moment with a menial incremental approach that offers more funding to police, and few policies to effectively address the constant loss of Black lives at the hands of police.” Politico reported that the bill would require disclosures about the use of force and provide incentives for chokehold bans; it would not limit qualified immunity for police officers. Fifty-five senators voted to move forward with the bill, but 60 votes were needed to proceed.

On June 16, President Trump issued an Executive Order on policing that called for police departments to ban chokeholds except when an officer feels his or her life is endangered. It also creates a national database to track officers with multiple instances of misconduct. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said the order “falls sadly and seriously short” of what is needed. The House Judiciary Committee put out a comparison piece showing the similarities and differences between the House bill, the Senate bill, and the President’s Executive Order.

With partisan differences on the ideas offered in the House and Senate policing reform bills, the path to get a bill passed into law is unclear.

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CHN: Advocates Welcome Supreme Court Decisions Protecting LGBTQ people, Dreamers https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-welcome-supreme-court-decisions-protecting-lgbtq-people-dreamers/ Mon, 29 Jun 2020 14:15:01 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6086 Human needs advocates were pleasantly surprised earlier this month when the Supreme Court handed down two eagerly anticipated rulings, one affirming that LGBTQ people in the workplace are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the other stating that the Trump Administration, at...

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Human needs advocates were pleasantly surprised earlier this month when the Supreme Court handed down two eagerly anticipated rulings, one affirming that LGBTQ people in the workplace are protected from discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the other stating that the Trump Administration, at least for now, cannot deport Dreamers.

“For the first time, this historic decision ensures that LGBTQ people have nationwide employment protection and represents a monumental step that will help to create a safer working environment for everyone,” Imani Rupert-Gordon, Executive Director of the National Center for Lesbian Rights, said in a statement. “During a global health crisis and a growing nationwide movement to focus on supporting and protecting Black lives – particularly Black transgender lives – against systematic racism and violence, this historic ruling is both uplifting and encouraging. However, we know that our work is far from complete, and the fight for full LGBTQ equality continues.”

CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein joined NCLR and others in applauding the Court’s 6-3 ruling, which was written by Justice Neil Gorsuch and joined by Chief Justice John Roberts as well as the Court’s four more progressive Justices. “At a time when millions of Americans are marching in support of Black lives and to dismantle systemic racism, the Supreme Court took an important step toward reversing another form of discrimination,” Weinstein said. “But our work is not done. Discrimination against LGBTQ people still exists – and is legally permissible – in many areas, including access to stores, restaurants, and hotels; in federally funded programs such as hospitals, colleges, and adoption agencies; and in so many other areas. And it is a cruel irony that in the middle of the current COVID-19 crisis, LGBTQ people can still be denied access to the care they need. Our country’s march toward ending systemic discrimination continues on many fronts.”

And in a 5-4 decision written by Roberts and joined by the Court’s four more progressive members, the majority of Justices opined that the Trump Administration violated the Administrative Procedures Act in its effort to deport Dreamers. The Court called the Administration’s actions “capricious and arbitrary.”

The decision, for now at least, will allow the 700,000 Dreamers who benefit from DACA to remain in the country. More than 200,000 Dreamers work in industries deemed essential during the current pandemic; that includes 27,000 Dreamers who work on the front lines as medical professionals.

“Today the Supreme Court sided with the vast majority of Americans by protecting DACA recipients from President Trump’s inhumane mission to deport as many people as possible,” said UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguia. “This decision is a victory for Dreamers – and for the entire country. Dreamers are already home, building families, creating communities and helping lift up everyone in America. Today’s decision validates the need for Congress to act and deliver the lasting decision Dreamers and the millions of American families they are members of deserve. And today we celebrate the commitment and fight of young advocates across the country who have fought so hard to make today possible.”

CHN’s Weinstein also welcomed the decision. “The vast majority of Americans believe, based on their knowledge of how DACA participants came to this country and their contributions to our nation, that decency, justice and humanity require us to recognize and affirm that DACA participants are valued members of our communities and deserve permanent legal status and a path to citizenship,” Weinstein said. “We celebrate the Supreme Court’s ruling, but know that the real celebration of justice and human decency awaits Congress’ enactment of legislation to provide legal status and a path to citizenship for 700,000 DACA recipients and other immigrants who every day make essential contributions to our communities.”

Not all news out of the Supreme Court recently has been good, however. On June 25, the court ruled 7-2 that asylum-seekers have no right to a federal court hearing before being removed from the U.S. In a blog piece, the American Immigration Council said the Supreme Court’s decision on this fast-track deportation process, known as expedited removal, “leaves already vulnerable asylum seekers, suffering from trauma and often without access to attorneys, at even greater risk of abuse in a fast-track deportation system riddled with error.”

The Trump Administration last week also filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging it to strike down the Affordable Care Act. Doing so would threaten the coverage of the 23 million Americans – nearly 3 million of them children – who gained coverage under the Affordable Care Act, and the stakes are even higher now given the current pandemic and the fact that millions of Americans have recently lost health insurance when they lost their jobs. According to The Hill, the case will likely not be decided before the November elections.

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CHN: House Infrastructure Package Contains Money for Housing, Schools, Broadband, and More https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-infrastructure-package-contains-money-for-housing-schools-broadband-and-more/ Mon, 29 Jun 2020 13:31:46 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=6085 House Democrats unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill on June 18, and the full House could take up the bill as early as this week. Advocates have two main interests in any infrastructure package: whether it has human needs-related components, such as money for low-income housing or to rebuild schools...

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House Democrats unveiled a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill on June 18, and the full House could take up the bill as early as this week. Advocates have two main interests in any infrastructure package: whether it has human needs-related components, such as money for low-income housing or to rebuild schools or child care centers, for example, and whether it will be effective in creating jobs targeted to low-income people and communities, with special attention paid to communities of color.

According to materials from the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Democrats, the Moving Forward Act (H.R. 2) will invest $130 billion to improve and rebuild facilities in high-poverty schools; includes $10 billion to improve child care facilities; promotes revitalization in economically distressed communities; and promotes further development in and parity for tribal communities. In addition, the bill would invest $100 billion to promote competition for broadband internet infrastructure to unserved and underserved rural, suburban, and urban communities, prioritizing communities in persistent poverty. On the health front, the bill would invest $25 billion to ensure all communities have clean drinking water, and would invest $30 billion to upgrade hospitals to increase capacity and strengthen care, help community health centers respond to COVID-19 and future public health emergencies, improve clinical laboratory infrastructure, support the Indian Health Service‘s infrastructure, and increase capacity for community-based care. $25 billion is also included in the bill for the U.S. Postal Service infrastructure and operations.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the bill proposes $100 billion to construct and preserve 1.8 million affordable homes, including $70 billion for public housing capital repairs and $5 billion for the national Housing Trust Fund. In addition to the money for affordable housing, the bill would expand the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit by creating targeted housing incentives to build homes in rural and tribal communities and for people at risk of homelessness. The bill would also establish a Neighborhood Investment Tax Credit to subsidize certain development costs for the construction of new homes or rehabilitation of vacant homes. According to CQ, the bill also contains $3.3 billion for energy efficiency projects for low-income housing and $1 billion for solar projects in underserved areas. CQ also reports that the White House may be working on its own $1 trillion infrastructure package.

While statements about HR 2 suggest it will create millions of jobs, no details are provided on that front.

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CHN: COVID-19 Congressional Response Packages: What’s Passed, and What Advocates are Fighting for Next https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-covid-19-congressional-response-packages-whats-passed-and-what-advocates-are-fighting-for-next/ Mon, 04 May 2020 14:10:46 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5875 Congress has already passed four bills to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting fallout, but advocates are united in saying more must be done. The first bill, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, was signed into law on March 6. The $8.3 billion emergency supplemental spending bill...

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Congress has already passed four bills to respond to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting fallout, but advocates are united in saying more must be done.

The first bill, the Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations Act, was signed into law on March 6. The $8.3 billion emergency supplemental spending bill was passed to help government health officials with research and purchases of medications for treatments and vaccines.

The approximately $190 billion Families First Coronavirus Response Act, signed into law on March 18, contained provisions to provide free COVID-19 testing, increased federal funds to support state Medicaid costs, some increase in nutrition assistance, expanded unemployment insurance (UI) compensation, and paid leave and paid sick days for millions of workers. See this summary from the House Appropriations Committee for more information.

The $2.3 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, signed into law on March 27, contained provisions to provide funding to health care providers and researchers; one-time income assistance (known as Economic Impact Payments or Recovery Rebates) to individuals with incomes under $99,000; $15.5 billion more for SNAP to cover the projected increase in applications and the costs of relief authorized in the Families First Act; nearly $900 billion in loans, grants, and tax credits to businesses; further expansion of UI compensation; $3.5 billion for child care; $150 billion in general grants for state, local, tribal and territorial aid; $31 billion for education assistance; and $400 million to facilitate voting by mail efforts. The bill also included $12 billion in housing and homelessness resources  and placed limited moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures, covering property with any federal funding or backing. For more information on the CARES Act, see this detailed analysis from CHN, as well as summaries from Senate Appropriations Committee Republicans and Democrats.

For more on both the CARES Act and the Families First Act, see this captioned webinar and slides from CHN.

The latest package, the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act, was signed into law on April 24. Sometimes referred to as COVID Package 3.5 because it carried a smaller price tag and was in large part aimed at adding more funds to the oversubscribed small business loans in the CARES Act, the $483 billion package provided about $310 billion more for the Paycheck Protection Program loans to help businesses keep some workers employed, as well as roughly $75 billion for hospitals and other health care providers and $25 billion for expanded COVID-19 testing, including funds to cover tests for those without health insurance. For more information, see summaries from the House Appropriations Committee and the House Small Business Committee.

However, even with the advances these bills made, advocates believe more needs to be done to address both the country’s economic recovery and provide immediate and longer-term support to those whose needs were left out or not adequately addressed in the previous packages. Advocates believe the next package (sometimes referred to COVID Package 4 or CARES 2) needs to include a number of important pieces to ensure medical treatment and protection is provided for everyone, support the incomes of struggling people, and shore up state and local institutions.

Provisions that advocates are pushing for related to these needs include, but are not limited to:

  • Health care: expand health coverage for the uninsured; ensure free COVID-19 treatment for all; more funding for poor and rural hospitals
  • Aid to states, localities, tribes, and territories: additional funds with fewer restrictions to prevent disastrous budget cuts; an additional increase in federal Medicaid funds (known as FMAP) for states; additional funds for Puerto Rico and other territories; additional funds for the District of Columbia, which was treated like a territory instead of a state in terms of federal aid in the CARES Act. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that state and local governments could need nearly $1 trillion in additional aid over the next three to four years to cope with the pandemic, with additional money for Medicaid and other expenses needed on top of that.
  • Cash assistance: additional stimulus payments to individuals, including immigrants, children over 17, and other low-income people who were left out last time, and with an easier delivery system that doesn’t create barriers to accessing it; expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit to provide assistance down the road
  • Housing and homelessness: additional funds to prevent homelessness and ensure housing stability, including $100 billion in emergency rental assistance and eviction prevention
  • Additional aid for workers: expanded and extended unemployment insurance; proper protective equipment and OSHA safety requirements; expanded paid sick days and sick leave to cover all workers; $50 billion in additional aid for child care
  • Nutrition assistance: an increase to the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent and an increase to the minimum monthly SNAP benefit to $30; expansion and extension of child nutrition programs; additional nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico
  • Other: expanded consumer protections and nondiscrimination protections; expanded broadband internet access for underserved communities; COVID-19 demographic data collection; allowing voting by mail in elections
  • For more on what CHN believes should be in the next package, click here and here.

While the Senate is returning to DC this week, the House has not yet announced when it will be back in session. While work on this next package continues, a timeline for passage is uncertain. Senate Majority Leader McConnell has talked about a “go-slow” approach to any new legislation, and has also urged protection for businesses from lawsuits related to COVID-19 as a top priority for any new package. Democrats have opposed that emphasis, and have focused on the need for state and local aid and more help for individuals as unemployment surges. The Trump Administration has voiced a willingness to consider more aid to individuals, but President Trump has recently resumed demands that any new package include a payroll tax cut, which Democrats and economists have opposed as ineffectual stimulus that would undermine the stability of Social Security funding if its reduced revenues were not replaced from the general fund. For many more resources, including statements from many of CHN’s members on the legislation that has passed and on their priorities for additional action, see CHN’s COVID-19 resource page here.

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CHN: FY21 Appropriations Season Has Started, but the Path Forward is Murky https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-fy21-appropriations-season-has-started-but-the-path-forward-is-murky/ Mon, 04 May 2020 13:59:56 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5874 While most eyes around Washington and the country are focused on COVID-19, congressional appropriations staffers continue to work on Fiscal Year 2021 spending bills. In early April, House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) distributed preliminary top-line spending limits to the 12 House Appropriations Subcommittees that will be used as guidance...

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While most eyes around Washington and the country are focused on COVID-19, congressional appropriations staffers continue to work on Fiscal Year 2021 spending bills. In early April, House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) distributed preliminary top-line spending limits to the 12 House Appropriations Subcommittees that will be used as guidance to draft their respective spending bills. These allocations (known as 302(b) allocations) have not yet been made public. The House Appropriations Committee had previously planned to begin marking up its 12 annual funding bills on April 21, but with Congress away from the Capitol, that did not happen.

One challenge for this year is the limited funding due to topline spending caps enacted as part of the bipartisan budget deal Congress passed last July. In total, Congress will have $10 billion more in FY21 base discretionary dollars to work with than it did in FY20; $5 billion more for defense and $5 billion more for nondefense programs. This total does not include some funding, like some emergency disaster aid and war funding, that Congress approves outside of the caps.

Even before the coronavirus pandemic hit, advocates were concerned that the $5 billion increase for nondefense programs will be entirely consumed by rising costs in veterans’ health care, leading to flat funding or even cuts in other human needs programs. With the need for continued increased funding to respond to the pandemic and resulting economic recession, advocates are seeking to move some of the veterans’ health care services outside the cap, and to add emergency titles to all 12 appropriations bills, which would allow for additional spending outside of the caps. If Congress cannot find more flexibility in domestic funding, it is likely that many programs will suffer severe cuts and many services will further erode.

In April, nearly 400 groups, including the Coalition on Human Needs, urged leading appropriators in Congress to allocate a greater share of funds in fiscal year 2021 to programs controlled by the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. In a letter sent to the Chair and Vice Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee and the Chair and Ranking Member of the House Appropriations Committee, the groups noted that the programs funded by the Labor-HHS-Education Subcommittee affect health and well-being, child development, educational and skills attainment. Yet these programs largely have been shortchanged in the appropriations process over the last decade.

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CHN: 2020 Census Operations Delayed; Advocates Fear Impact on Redistricting, Minority Representation https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-2020-census-operations-delayed-advocates-fear-impact-on-redistricting-minority-representation/ Mon, 04 May 2020 13:54:07 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5873 The Census Bureau in April announced it is requesting Congress delay for four months its deadline for reporting census data that will be used in 2021 and beyond to draw political boundaries at the local, state, and congressional level. Congressional approval for the change in deadline is required, and could be...

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The Census Bureau in April announced it is requesting Congress delay for four months its deadline for reporting census data that will be used in 2021 and beyond to draw political boundaries at the local, state, and congressional level. Congressional approval for the change in deadline is required, and could be included in the next coronavirus response package.

The current deadline for reporting data is Dec. 31. However, acknowledging the effect that the coronavirus pandemic has had on data collection, the Census Bureau requested that the deadline be extended to April 30, 2021. The Bureau also announced that it will begin opening its field offices sometime after June 1, and will extend the deadline for collecting household data from Aug. 15 to Oct. 31.

According to the New York Times, a four-month delay would mean that states will not get the final data they need for redistricting until July 31, 2021 – long after some states have adjourned their legislative sessions.

This could cause problems, the newspaper reports. Some states have fixed deadlines to approve political maps – deadlines that in some cases are even written into their state constitutions. This has sparked fears that some states could use other data besides that provided by the Census Bureau for political apportionment.

The U.S. Constitution requires states to use census data for drawing political districts. But courts have left the door open for states to use different population figures to draw maps. Republicans in some states have floated the idea of excluding noncitizens from counts or only include registered voters. While either approach would invite heated court challenges, any successful effort to redistrict this way would result in disenfranchising minority voters and diluting their representation.

Advocates for a fair and accurate 2020 Census still do not know if the Census Bureau will need additional funds to carry out its mandate in light of the coronavirus pandemic. The Bureau expects to spend $1.5 billion more on advertising and on census field staff – “enumerators” – because of the shift in timeline. It has $2 billion in contingency funds and as of now is not requesting additional funds beyond this from Congress, but advocates and some in Congress are skeptical that the $2 billion will cover those additional expenses with enough available if other emergencies unrelated to the coronavirus should arise.

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Now more than ever: We can’t count fewer people in poverty! https://www.chn.org/articles/now-more-than-ever-we-cant-count-fewer-people-in-poverty/ Tue, 14 Apr 2020 13:16:08 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5730 THE COMMENT PERIOD FOR THIS REQUEST FOR COMMENTS ON THE PROPOSAL TO CHANGE THE OFFICIAL POVERTY MEASURE HAS NOW ENDED. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO TOOK ACTION AND SUBMITTED A COMMENT. A link to CHN’s statement on this proposal is here. Too many people can’t afford to pay for their...

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THE COMMENT PERIOD FOR THIS REQUEST FOR COMMENTS ON THE PROPOSAL TO CHANGE THE OFFICIAL POVERTY MEASURE HAS NOW ENDED. THANK YOU TO EVERYONE WHO TOOK ACTION AND SUBMITTED A COMMENT.

A link to CHN’s statement on this proposal is here.

Too many people can’t afford to pay for their groceries, housing, child care, and health needs on their own. That’s what we mean when we say people are living in poverty. And to measure how many people are struggling, the government determines a poverty line. Setting this line is extremely important because it allows for research to show the extent of poverty and leads to standards used to determine who gets benefits like food assistance, housing vouchers, health benefits, and more.

Right now, the Trump administration is trying to change the way poverty is measured so fewer people are counted. They’re accepting comments on some of these proposed changes until April 14, 2020, 11:59 p.m. ET.

The administration claims there really aren’t as many people living in poverty as we think; we’re just measuring poverty wrong. But we know that’s not true: Gains in the economy are disproportionately going to the rich while the poor continue to struggle to make ends meet. In fact, research and public opinion alike show that the poverty measurement we’ve got now is not counting enough people as living in poverty. For example, research by the Urban Institute found that more than 60 percent of non-elderly adults with incomes up to twice the poverty line reported difficulties paying for food, utilities, rent, or medical bills.

The deadline for submitting comments is 11:59 p.m. Eastern time, April 14, 2020. While we urge the OMB to extend the deadline for comments until 30 days after the COVID-19 crisis has ended, we also urge organizations and individuals to submit a comment before the current deadline. Below, find a list of resources to take action, statements by other organizations, and other background information.

Background information for writing comments

Key points (you’ll see more detail in the resources above):
  • We’re in a pandemic – they should have extended the deadline.  They haven’t so far, but they should accept comments through at least 30 days after the end of the state of emergency.  OMB should reject further outreach that is not very inclusive, both of expert researchers, people who have experienced poverty, service providers and community-based organizations.
  • There is a lot of evidence that the current official poverty measure understates the extent of poverty.  Alternative measures that will understate it even more (or shrink the inflation rate the measure is annually adjusted for) will make it far less accurate.
  • While the current official measure does not fully count either income or expenditures, research into adding more sources of income or expense needs to be carefully done.  One key example:  treating health insurance as an income source would hugely increase a family’s income total, but it would be quite misleading to suggest that the family has more income to pay for rent, heat, food, or clothes because they have health insurance.
  • Measuring poverty is extremely important:  telling the truth about hardship can lead to better policy solutions; inaccuracies may over time lead to restrictions on eligibility that will hurt people, adults and children alike.

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CHN: President Trump’s FY21 Budget Slashes Critical Human Needs Programs https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-president-trumps-fy21-budget-slashes-critical-human-needs-programs/ Tue, 18 Feb 2020 17:02:35 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5520 The Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year 2021 budget on Feb. 10. From slashing housing assistance, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, education, Social Security, and other basic needs programs, to proposing harsh work reporting requirements for several federal programs, to completely eliminating programs like home heating and cooling assistance for low-income people and...

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The Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year 2021 budget on Feb. 10. From slashing housing assistance, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, education, Social Security, and other basic needs programs, to proposing harsh work reporting requirements for several federal programs, to completely eliminating programs like home heating and cooling assistance for low-income people and food delivery to low-income seniors, President Trump’s FY21 budget would push millions of Americans into or deeper into poverty and leave them without the assistance they need. At the same time, the budget permanently extends the 2017 individual tax cuts which were scheduled to expire in 2025. While the White House estimates this will cost $1.4 trillion over 10 years, the Tax Policy Center estimates the cost as $3 trillion over 10 years.

Overall, the Trump budget proposes large cuts to funding for FY21 domestic and international annually-appropriated (discretionary) programs below FY20 enacted levels. In doing so, the budget walks away from the bipartisan budget deal agreed to by Congress and the president last year. While the previously enacted bipartisan budget deal allocates a $5 billion increase for domestic and international annually-appropriated programs for FY21 above FY20 levels, the Trump budget would cut these programs by $51 billion below the agreement and $46 billion below FY20 levels, to $590 billion in base discretionary dollars. This equates to cuts of to 7 percent below FY20, or 9 percent when adjusting for inflation. By the end of the 10-year window projected in the budget, nondefense discretionary funding would be 38 percent below the FY20 level, after adjusting for inflation. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities points out that under the President’s budget, domestic and international discretionary funding would shrink by 2030 to 1.6 percent of the economy, a level not seen since Calvin Coolidge was president nearly 100 years ago.

The cuts to mandatory programs include reductions over 10 years of $1 trillion to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act subsidies, $182 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), $21 billion to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, and more than $75 billion to Social Security disability programs.

The budget includes a previously-endorsed plan for paid parental leave which would be paid for by parents “borrowing against” future Social Security benefits. While advocates have long favored paid family leave (both for newborn and adopted children and for other forms of relative caregiving), they do not support requiring parents to give up later retirement benefits in order to manage staying home with their newborns or adoptees.

On the defense side, the Trump budget sticks to the spending caps agreed to in the bipartisan budget deal for defense spending by proposing $69 billion for the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, in addition to the capped funding of $671.5 billion for defense spending for FY21, leading to a total defense-related budget allocation of $740.5 billion. The Trump budget would increase Pentagon spending each year through FY25, and then hold it flat through FY30 at $808 billion. Despite five years of flat spending (unrealistic if the past is any guide), military spending would still have risen about 15 percent over 10 years, adjusted for inflation.

The budget also relies on what many experts believe to be unrealistic expectations for economic growth, giving it a rosier scenario than most economists would predict for revenues and deficits.

While the President’s budget as a whole does not move through Congress or become law, it is a statement of priorities from the White House. As CHN’s statement notes, “President Trump calls his proposal, ‘A Budget for America’s Future.’ But the future he envisions is bleak indeed. He proposed less health care, less food for Americans in need, large cuts to Social Security disability benefits, and other harmful cuts, ranging from affordable housing to heating and cooling assistance to student loans and so much more.” Even as some members of President Trump’s own party reject his budget, some proposals it contains are ones advocates have seen before from previous GOP budgets and legislation, and they may be a sign of proposals to come in future budgets and spending bills. Moreover, the Trump Administration is intent on implementing some of its restrictive policy proposals, such as cutting and capping Medicaid funding and inserting harmful work reporting requirements, through rule changes they assert do not require Congressional action. Advocates have committed to fighting proposals like these that will harm low-income families and individuals.

A note on budget terminology: throughout these articles, you will see references to the two main categories of federal spending: “discretionary” and “mandatory.” Discretionary spending refers to those programs that require annual appropriations by Congress. Most defense, education, and housing fall into this category, plus many social service, environmental and community development programs. Mandatory spending includes programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and other basic safety net programs that do not require annual appropriations. Instead, Congress authorizes the way they spend money by legislation. Congress can cut or expand these programs by amending the legislation that authorizes them.

CHN’s FY21 Budget and Appropriations resource page is constantly updated with helpful resources and analyses of the Trump budget from many expert organizations, including resources on health, nutrition, housing, fair revenues, and more. The Coalition on Human Needs also hosted a webinar on President Trump’s budget on Feb. 13; a recording of the webinar will be added to the resource page as soon as it is available.

For more information on congressional FY21 budget and appropriations work, see the January 28 Human Needs Report. Stay tuned to upcoming Human Needs Reports for additional analysis of as the FY21 federal budget and appropriations process moves forward.

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CHN: Select Trump FY21 Departmental Budget Requests https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-select-trump-fy21-departmental-budget-requests/ Tue, 18 Feb 2020 15:47:43 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5521 The Coalition on Human Needs compiled information from the President’s FY21 budget request for select government departments that most directly impact low-income and other disadvantaged populations, including the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor, as well as other areas of note. Department...

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The Coalition on Human Needs compiled information from the President’s FY21 budget request for select government departments that most directly impact low-income and other disadvantaged populations, including the Departments of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor, as well as other areas of note.

Department of Agriculture

In addition to supporting rural and agricultural programs, the Department of Agriculture’s budget funds a variety of nutrition assistance programs for people with low incomes. The proposed budget would cut USDA’s base discretionary budget by roughly 14 percent from FY20 to FY21, according to USDA’s own FY21 budget summary. (We note that the Trump budget overview shows an 8 percent reduction.) The discretionary side of USDA spending includes programs like WIC and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program; mandatory spending within USDA includes SNAP and most child nutrition programs.

President Trump’s budget calls for massive cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) of roughly $182 billion, or nearly 30 percent, over 10 years. These cuts are achieved in part by reviving the widely ridiculed proposal from his FY19 and FY20 budgets to replace some of the debit card assistance SNAP recipients currently receive with boxes of non-perishable food items (so-called “Harvest boxes”) that would be administratively costly, inefficient, stigmatizing, and would not allow families to choose the foods they need. In addition, the budget eliminates SNAP nutrition education funding and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which distributes food boxes to low-income home-bound seniors. These proposals are on top of multiple attacks against SNAP by the Administration, including a recently finalized rule change (subject to litigation in opposition filed by 15 attorneys general plus the City of New York), to take flexibility away from states that sought to exempt certain SNAP beneficiaries without dependents from a three-month time limit on assistance if they could not work a steady 20 hours per week. Such a change is estimated to take benefits from nearly 700,000 people; another proposed rule change would take free school meals from 1 million kids. If implemented, these regulatory attacks would cut SNAP by an additional $50 billion over 10 years.

According to the Food Research & Action Center, the President’s fiscal year 2020 budget cuts school meals programs by $1.7 billion over the next 10 years. It reduces the number of schools eligible to implement the Community Eligibility Program, an option that allows high-poverty schools or school districts to make free school meals available to all students, reducing the administrative costs in places where nearly all students would qualify.

The budget includes $5.5 billion in funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which constitutes an 8.3 percent ($500 million) reduction in WIC funding from the FY20 appropriated level. The President’s budget also rejects the expansion of WIC’s Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program that was included in the spending deal that passed in December. Instead of supporting funding at $90 million, the President’s budget calls for a return to the $60 million funding levels last seen in fiscal year 2019. According to research by CHN, funding for WIC has been cut by nearly 31 percent from FY10 to FY20 when taking inflation into account.

For more information, see pieces from the Food Research & Action Center, the National WIC Association, and the budget summary from the Department of Agriculture.

 

Department of Education

President Trump’s proposed budget would make college more costly for low- and moderate-income students and their families, would flat-fund or cut various K-12 programs, and diverts billions of dollars into support for private K-12 schools. The proposed budget would cut the Department of Education’s budget by $5.6 billion, or 7.8 percent below the FY20 level, to $66.6 billion.

The President’s proposal would slash federal student financial aid programs for higher education by $170 billion over 10 years, eliminate Subsidized Stafford loans, and eliminate Public Service Loan Forgiveness (which help people who go to work for government or non-profits). The budget would also eliminate the GEAR UP program, which supports low-income students from high school into their first year of college, and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants that augment Pell Grants for more than a million of the neediest college students. The TRIO program would be turned into a block grant to states, with funding cut by 13 percent.

The annually-appropriated funding for Pell Grants would support a maximum annual grant of $6,345, flat funded from FY20, and would be frozen for the next decade. (By 2030, if the value of the maximum grant were just to keep up with inflation, it would have to rise to just under $8,000.) The budget would expand Pell eligibility to certain short-term certification programs and for incarcerated prisoners due to be released within five years. The Federal Work Study program would be cut by more than half, from $1.2 billion to $500 million. Funding for adult education and family literacy state grants that help foundation skills and English literacy instruction to over 1.5 million individuals are flat funded from FY20. The Trump budget does increase some funds for vocational education. Perkins career and technical education state grants, which support post-secondary education for more than 12 million students, receive a $680 million, or 53 percent, increase over FY20. Vocational Rehabilitation State Grants would rise from nearly $3.4 billion in FY20 to $3.67 billion in FY21.

In K-12 education programs, the budget would eliminate and consolidate 29 federal elementary and secondary education programs into a single block grant, the total of which would equal $4.7 billion less for these programs in FY21 compared to FY20. Separate funding streams for Title I low-income schools would be eliminated and consolidated in this block grant, as would funding for migrant education, education for homeless children and youth, literacy grants, rural education, and many other programs. Funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provide before-school, after-school, and summer school programs for nearly 2 million children, would also be eliminated as part of the consolidation into a single block grant. The Trump budget includes a small 0.8 percent increase for K-12 special education (IDEA programs). It level-funds the modest $20.1 million appropriation for the Special Olympics; funding for this program had been eliminated in previous Trump budget requests. The budget includes a proposal to implement a private school scholarship tax credit of up to $45 billion over 10 years, an increased effort to subsidize private K-12 school attendance that critics say would divert resources from improving education for low-income students.

According to research by CHN, many of the programs slated for cuts have suffered cuts and declining value for years. Funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, for example, has been cut by 10.5 percent from FY10 to FY20 when taking inflation into account. Funding for rural education has similarly been cut by 11.3 percent over this same time period.

The Center for American Progress has state-by-state impacts of some of the K-12 cuts in the Trump budget. For more information, see the National Skills Coalition and the budget summary from the Department of Education.

 

Department of Health and Human Services

While the vast majority of the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides funds for Medicare and Medicaid, the agency covers a wide variety of programs, from the Affordable Care Act and medical research to child care and vital community services for low-income people. The President’s proposal cuts the HHS discretionary budget by roughly 9 percent for FY21.

Several important programs and services are eliminated in the Trump budget, including the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which provides operating expenses for roughly 1,100 poverty-fighting community action agencies, the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), which funds services for low-income children, families, and seniors, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides heating and cooling assistance to about 6 million low-income households.

The Trump budget proposes $1 trillion in cuts to Medicaid and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies over 10 years. The budget would eliminate the ACA’s enhanced federal matching funding for states’ Medicaid expansion to low-income adults, which would almost certainly lead states to end Medicaid coverage for most of the 13 million people who gained access to it through the ACA. Medicaid would also be taken away from adults who can’t document sufficient weekly work hours, which could cause millions more people to lose coverage. The budget proposes various ways of achieving Medicaid cuts, such as increased documentation requirements to prove immigration/citizenship status and making it harder for some seniors and people with disabilities to qualify for Medicaid without selling their homes. The budget assumes $844 billion over ten years in reduced health care spending, totally unspecified and labelled “President’s health reform vision allowance.” After three years in office and promising to replace the Affordable Care Act with something “beautiful,” the Administration still has not shared anything much about the President’s vision except that it would cut an enormous amount.

The budget includes no protections for people with pre-existing conditions, which could cause millions more people to become uninsured, and would increase costs and otherwise impede access to health care for millions more. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 20 million individuals in total could lose health coverage over the 10 year period of the budget.

As Medicaid is the largest payer of mental health care, cuts to Medicaid would also detrimentally affect access to mental health care and substance use treatment and would more than offset any small increases to specific programs. For example, while the budget includes an investment in behavioral health, it amounts to less than 1.5 percent of cuts to Medicaid and the ACA.

These cuts come on top of numerous Medicaid attacks from the Trump Administration, including a new proposal to dismantle Medicaid by encouraging states to accept capped funding in exchange for expanded authority to cut benefits or eligibility, as well as numerous attacks on the Affordable Care Act, including a pending lawsuit to strike down the ACA.

The budget also proposes about $750 billion in reduced Medicare spending over 10 years, including lower payments to certain health care providers. Some of the savings to Medicare are offset by shifting payments for hospitals’ uncompensated care (for low-income patients) and for graduate medical education to the federal general fund instead of the Medicare revenues funding stream, leaving a net reduction of about $500 billion. While some of the proposals included here have had bipartisan support in the past, the budget does not take into account the significant damage to Medicare beneficiaries that would occur should the lawsuit to overturn the ACA succeed (for example, drug coverage would worsen and patients would again have to pay a share of the cost of preventive services).

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is cut by roughly $21 billion over 10 years. The basic block grant, which had been flat-funded since TANF’s inception in 1996, is cut by $1.5 billion in FY 2021. The logic of the TANF block grant cut is that states could shift that proportion of funding to the Social Services Block Grant, but since the Trump budget would terminate SSBG entirely, there would be no possibility of transfer. In addition, the TANF Contingency Fund is eliminated with a cut of $608 million from FY20 to FY21. Originally designed for states to tap if economic conditions cause an increase in eligible families, the Contingency Fund has not proved usable for most states.

The budget includes a one-time $1 billion investment for states to encourage private sector investment in child care, but the proposal would require states to roll back basic protections that keep children safe to get the funding. Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant are level funded at FY20 levels. However, as noted elsewhere in this Human Needs Report, funding for the 21st Century Community Learning Centers afterschool program, as well as the Social Services Block Grant, which provides child care, senior care and other family services, is slated for elimination.

The Child Support Enforcement Program would be receive an increase of $56 million for FY21. It would incorporate a work requirement for noncustodial parents overdue in their child support payments, and would allow limited federal funding to support employment and training services for these parents.

For more information, see this piece from Families USA, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the budget summary from the Department of Health and Human Services.

 

Department of Housing and Urban Development

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Administration proposes to cut HUD’s budget by $8.6 billion, or 15.2 percent below 2020 enacted levels.

President Trump’s budget would slash or eliminate many critical low-income housing programs and increase rents and impose harmful work reporting requirement on struggling families. The proposal would eliminate essential housing and community development programs like the National Housing Trust Fund, which supports construction of rental housing for low-income renters such as seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and households that have experienced homelessness, and the Public Housing Capital Fund, which is needed to maintain units. Also slated for elimination in the proposal are the Choice Neighborhoods program, the Community Development Block Grant, and the HOME Investment Partnership Program, which together aid low-income communities in improving basic infrastructure, providing services to youth and seniors, rehabilitating housing, and promoting economic development. The budget cuts funding for the Native American Housing Block Grant by 7 percent ($46 million) and for public housing operating funds by 21 percent ($977 million) from FY20 to FY21.

In addition, the proposed HUD budget cuts funding for the Housing Choice Voucher program by $5 billion (not including inflationary adjustments) from FY20 to FY21 and repurposes some of these funds in block grants for Moving to Work public housing agencies. With these changes, more than 160,000 families who currently receive rental assistance could be at risk of losing their assistance and their ability to afford their home. Funding for Project-Based Rental Assistance increases by $72 million, though it is unclear if this amount will be sufficient to renew all existing contracts.

The budget would also impose harmful rent increases and harsh work reporting requirements. It would increase the amount of rent paid by non-elderly, non-disabled tenants from 30 percent of adjusted income to 35 percent of gross income, triple minimum rents paid by some, and eliminate deductions that help seniors and people with disabilities. The proposal also allows housing providers to impose harsh work reporting requirements, without providing resources to help people gain needed skills or employment. These cuts and harmful policy changes come on top of administrative attempts by HUD to make it harder for people to challenge discriminatory housing policies and practices and to prohibit families with mixed immigration status from receiving housing assistance.

A small number of other programs receive modest increases in the budget; the Healthy Homes and Lead Hazard Control program receives an increase of $70 million, or 24.1 percent, and Housing for People with Disabilities receives an increase of $50 million, or 24.8 percent. However, according to research by CHN, funding for Housing for People with Disabilities has been cut by nearly 44 percent from FY10 to FY20 when taking inflation into account. Funding for Choice Neighborhoods has similarly been cut by nearly 27 percent over this same time period.

For more information, see the National Low Income Housing Coalition and the budget summary from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

 

Department of Labor

The proposed budget would cut the Labor Department’s discretionary budget by 10.5 percent, or $1.3 billion, from FY20 to FY21.

As the National Skills Coalition reports, the President’s budget requests level funding for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I state formula grants, which help adults and youth with barriers to work gain new skills and find employment. However, language is added requiring a 1.5 percent set-aside for American Indians, Native Hawaiians, and Native Alaskans, in effect requiring more training to be carried out for the same funding, because of the elimination of Indian and Native American Programs, funded in FY20 at $55 million. The budget would cut $110 million – or more than 8 percent – from Dislocated Workers grants, $5 million (5.1 percent) from Reentry Employment Opportunities and $10 million (10.6 percent) from YouthBuild. It would eliminate funding for Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Programs (also known as the National Farmworker Jobs Program), which provides workforce and development and employment assistance for migrant and seasonal farmworkers to help them prepare for stable, year-round employment. The Senior Community Service Employment Program, which helps low-income senior citizens find work, would also be eliminated. Job Corps would be cut by more than 40 percent.

The Office of Disability Employment Policy is cut by $11.4 million, or more than 29 percent, from FY20 to FY21. The budget requests $200 million for Apprenticeship programs, $25 million more than FY20. Funding for the Women’s Bureau is slashed by 75 percent.

These cuts come on top of multiple attacks against workers put forth by the Trump Administration. In addition, according to research by CHN, many of the programs slated for cuts have suffered cuts and declining value for years. Funding for YouthBuild, for example, has been cut by 23 percent from FY10 to FY20 when taking inflation into account. The Senior Community Service Employment Program has similarly been cut by 59 percent, and the Office of Disability Employment Policy has been cut by nearly 18 percent over this same time period.

For more information, see an analysis from the National Skills Coalition and the budget summary from the Department of Labor.

 

Other Areas of Note

The Trump budget would slash about $75 billion over the coming decade from federal disability programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) and Supplemental Security Income (SSI). In addition to this budget proposal requiring approval by Congress, the Trump Administration also recently proposed an administrative rule that would strip Social Security Disability Insurance benefits from millions of Americans who need it most.

The Trump Administration’s efforts to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continue with this budget proposal. Funding for the CFPB would be made subject to the appropriations process (rather than receiving money from the Federal Reserve, as it currently does) in 2022 and then be almost completely zeroed out. Funding for FY21 would be cut back to FY15 levels.

The Legal Services Corporation would be eliminated, ending federal support for civil legal assistance for low-income people with housing, domestic violence, employment, consumer, or other legal trouble. Also eliminated would be the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs programs including AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Senior Corps.

The budget requests $2 billion for the construction of a border wall. It also requests funding for 60,000 immigrant detention beds, and hiring more than 4,600 ICE agents. The budget seeks $126 million to execute the President’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, which has significantly undercut asylum and other humanitarian protections.

The budget also eliminates the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, and D.C. Tuition Assistance Grants.

The budget would require a Social Security number that is valid for employment to claim the Child Tax Credit. This would deny this assistance to certain immigrant families, most of whose children are U.S. citizens.

The Department of Transportation discretionary budget would see a 13 percent cut. Funding for the Environmental Protection Agency would be cut by 26.5 percent.

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CHN: With FY20 Spending Bills Wrapped Up, FY21 Budget Season Begins https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-with-fy20-spending-bills-wrapped-up-fy21-budget-season-begins/ Tue, 28 Jan 2020 15:00:41 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5421 With Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations finally signed into law in December, talks and speculation about Fiscal Year 2021 have begun. One thing that may make the FY21 process smoother than FY20 is that topline spending caps for discretionary (annually appropriated) defense and nondefense spending were already agreed upon as part...

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With Fiscal Year 2020 appropriations finally signed into law in December, talks and speculation about Fiscal Year 2021 have begun. One thing that may make the FY21 process smoother than FY20 is that topline spending caps for discretionary (annually appropriated) defense and nondefense spending were already agreed upon as part of the bipartisan budget deal Congress passed last July.

In total, Congress will have $10 billion more in FY21 base discretionary dollars to work with than it did in FY20; $5 billion more for defense and $5 billion more for nondefense programs. This total does not include some funding, like some emergency disaster aid and war funding, that Congress approves outside of the caps.

Advocates are concerned that the $5 billion increase for nondefense programs will be entirely consumed by rising costs in veterans’ health care, leading to flat funding or even cuts in other human needs programs. One solution would be to move some of veterans’ health care services outside the cap, but the Trump Administration opposes this. If Congress cannot find more flexibility in domestic funding, it is likely that many programs will slip back into the pattern of the past decade in which many services eroded. As CHN research shows, 71 percent of human needs programs lost funding from FY10 to FY19 when taking inflation into account; 54 programs were cut by 25 percent or more.

Because the bipartisan budget deal already set spending caps for FY21, Congress does not need to pass a budget resolution – which would historically serve this purpose – this year. In fact, House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) said “it’s more unlikely than likely” that his committee will draft and pass a budget resolution this year, while Senate Budget Committee Chairman Michael Enzi (R-WY) has indicated that he expects his committee to take up such a blueprint. A budget resolution does not go to the President for his signature and does not become law. Failure to pass a FY21 budget does not stop Congress from working on and passing FY21 appropriations bills.

On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, the Trump Administration is expected to release its FY21 budget proposal on Monday, Feb. 10. It is expected to be a full budget, complete with details about program funding levels. The budget will be released the week following President Trump’s State of the Union address, which is scheduled for Tuesday, Feb. 4. CHN will host a webinar discussing the Trump budget on Feb. 13 at 2pm ET; stay tuned for details on how to register.

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CHN: Puerto Rico May Get Long-Overdue Hurricane Aid, and House Moves to Provide Additional Support for Earthquakes https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-puerto-rico-may-get-long-overdue-hurricane-aid-and-house-moves-to-provide-additional-support-for-earthquakes/ Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:57:10 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5420 House Democrats on Jan. 16 proposed a $3.35 billion emergency spending bill to provide aid to Puerto Rico to help residents recover from recent earthquakes. The figure includes $2 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds for long-term rebuilding efforts, housing needs, and disaster recovery, among other projects; $1.25...

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House Democrats on Jan. 16 proposed a $3.35 billion emergency spending bill to provide aid to Puerto Rico to help residents recover from recent earthquakes. The figure includes $2 billion in Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery funds for long-term rebuilding efforts, housing needs, and disaster recovery, among other projects; $1.25 billion for road repairs; and $100 million for educational needs. The House is expected to vote on the bill when it returns this week, but the measure’s future in the Senate is uncertain. The Trump Administration told Politico that it would oppose the House bill, pointing out that it had approved an emergency declaration after the initial earthquakes. Such disaster relief is used to respond to immediate emergencies. More funding is needed for restoration of roads and buildings, public or private, and is routinely provided by Congress to help communities recover.

The bill’s unveiling came the same day that Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson announced that the Trump Administration would – after months of delay – free up access to more than $8 billion in funds Congress had previously appropriated for hurricane relief for the U.S. territory. In a statement, Secretary Carson also said that HUD would “soon” publish a notice outlining guidelines needed to free up nearly $8.3 billion in long-term mitigation aid appropriated in 2018. The deadline for HUD to publish the notice was last September.

Advocates have expressed great concern for the Americans citizens of Puerto Rico, especially in light of the fact that congressionally-appropriated funds to help in the recovery of the island have been routinely held up by the Trump Administration. According to Politico, Puerto Rico has received just $1.5 billion of the roughly $20 billion of congressionally authorized disaster funds that HUD is supposed to administer. In a statement released after Secretary Carson’s announcement, House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said, “The Trump administration has finally showed signs of relenting in its attempts to illegally withhold vital aid to Puerto Rico, and must provide the rest of the assistance this Congress has already enacted for the island. However, there are still urgent unmet needs on the island that necessitate additional relief. These needs have been compounded by recent earthquakes, which have forced thousands of families from their homes, flattened schools, and severely damaged roads and other infrastructure.”

Shortly after the announcement that it would release the funds, HUD laid out unusual conditions that would yet again make it less likely that Puerto Rico could use the money. HUD will require Puerto Rico to turn over part of its oversight of these funds to the unelected Fiscal Control Board set up by the federal government in the aftermath of Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis. HUD also would limit pay of contractors involved in reconstruction to less than $15/hour and would not allow these funds to be used to repair the island’s electrical grid. Congress had specifically appropriated $2 billion out of the total $20 billion it approved for restoration after the hurricane for the grid’s repair, but these funds are still held up. Further, HUD would require creation of a home ownership registry. Many properties in Puerto Rico have been passed from generation to generation without formal legal title, making it difficult for homeowners to qualify for federal aid. While regularizing title would help, advocates are concerned that a registry would wind up denying ownership status to families that cannot provide formal documents.

In opposing the House earthquake recovery package, the same kind of aid routinely granted to states after natural disasters, and placing unprecedented restrictions on the long-delayed hurricane aid, the Trump Administration maintained its reluctance to help Puerto Ricans. Ironically, improving buildings’ resistance to earthquakes was among the rebuilding sought by Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria but denied by the Administration.

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CHN: Trump Administration Plans to Divert Money from the Pentagon to the Border Wall, Again https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-trump-administration-plans-to-divert-money-from-the-pentagon-to-the-border-wall-again/ Tue, 28 Jan 2020 14:53:20 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5419 The Trump Administration plans to divert an additional $7.2 billion from the Pentagon to border wall construction, according to reports from the Washington Post. This would be more than five times the $1.375 billion Congress appropriated for a wall for FY20, and it would be in addition to the $6.7...

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The Trump Administration plans to divert an additional $7.2 billion from the Pentagon to border wall construction, according to reports from the Washington Post. This would be more than five times the $1.375 billion Congress appropriated for a wall for FY20, and it would be in addition to the $6.7 billion the Administration announced in 2019 it would divert from the Pentagon and the Department of the Treasury. This would bring the total amount of taxpayer dollars allocated to the border wall to more than $18 billion under President Trump. The White House has not confirmed the plan, which drew bipartisan criticism.

A federal district court in Texas ruled in December that the White House broke the law by diverting to wall construction $3.6 billion that Congress had appropriated for military construction projects. But earlier this month, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans lifted the injunction, saying the money could be used for the wall while the legal challenges are pending.

Senate Democrats have vowed to again force a vote on termination of the national emergency declaration that President Trump signed on Feb. 15, 2019, which allows him to move the funds. Congress has voted twice since then to terminate Trump’s declaration and end his transfer authority, but Trump has vetoed the legislation, and Congress has been unable to secure enough votes to override his veto. An attempt to repeal the President’s transfer authority via the FY20 spending bills also fell short.

In addition, there is speculation that the Trump Administration may request additional funds for the Pentagon for military operations in the Middle East. In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, top Democratic senators said such a proposal “would make no sense if the very same funds are to be raided for further wall construction.”

Two court decisions provided other immigration news. On January 27, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to end the nationwide injunction that was preventing the Trump Administration from implementing its broad definition of “public charge” in determining whether immigrants can either enter the country or, if present, receive a green card. This means that while the lawsuit against this policy continues its path through lower courts, the Administration can deny entrance or permission to work to immigrants if they have made use of benefits programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, or public housing, and would exclude immigrants with low incomes. Even the threat of this policy has caused many immigrant families to stop making use of benefits despite their eligibility for them, for fear they will lose legal status.

In addition, a federal judge on Jan. 15 in Maryland temporarily blocked an executive order by President Trump that allows state and local officials to turn away refugees from resettling in their areas. The executive order would have required states and municipalities to give written consent before refugees could be resettled. Advocates sued to block the order, saying it undermines existing law allowing refugees to resettle within the U.S. NPR reported that more than 40 governors have formally said they would welcome refugees, while Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) said the state would reject any new refugees.

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We can’t deny Social Security for the seriously ill! https://www.chn.org/articles/comment-today-we-cant-deny-social-security-for-the-seriously-ill/ Fri, 17 Jan 2020 18:51:27 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5355 On November 18, 2019, the Social Security Administration published a notice in the Federal Register calling on comments regarding when and how often the SSA conducts continuing disability reviews for Social Security Disability insurance beneficiaries. While the Trump administration claims that this change would help identify beneficiaries who can go...

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On November 18, 2019, the Social Security Administration published a notice in the Federal Register calling on comments regarding when and how often the SSA conducts continuing disability reviews for Social Security Disability insurance beneficiaries. While the Trump administration claims that this change would help identify beneficiaries who can go back to work at the earliest point possible, the Coalition on Human Needs believes this proposal would strip Social Security Disability benefits from many of those who need them most.

Background: Between 1981-1984, the Reagan administration implemented a policy resulting in more than 315,000 Americans being denied their earned Social Security disability benefits. The denials were so misguided that nearly two-thirds of those terminated were reinstated. People suffering from cancer, strokes, mental illness and many other serious conditions had to struggle while they appealed; some did not have the resources to appeal. Even taking into account successful appeals, over 100,000 lost benefits. More than 21,000 of those denied benefits lost their lives. At the time, thanks to a massive public outcry, the Reagan administration was forced to reverse this attack on Social Security.

Because the reviews are so difficult to complete and people with disabilities often cannot get adequate medical evaluations and evidence, more frequent reviews will mean people with serious medical conditions will be more likely to be terminated.

The rule would require millions of people with serious health conditions to undergo more frequent reviews of their medical conditions, but there is no evidence that conditions will have improved enough to allow them to work with adequate earnings. While the Trump Administration claims they will be able to work, their own proposal cites evidence to the contrary: a study of people denied Social Security Disability benefits found that three years after loss of benefits only about one in five (22 percent) was able to sustain even modest earnings.

Resources:

The comment period for this proposed rule ended on January 31, 2020. The resources below provide more details on the rule and why it should be opposed:

 

 


 

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CHN: FY20 Spending Bills Passed with Mixed Outcomes for Human Needs Programs https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-fy20-spending-bills-passed-with-mixed-outcomes-for-human-needs-programs/ Fri, 20 Dec 2019 16:43:13 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5289 After months of negotiations, uncertainties, and multiple stopgap spending measures, Congress finally passed a nearly $1.4 trillion FY20 spending package to fund the federal government for the full fiscal year. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday, Dec. 20. While topline spending caps for discretionary...

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After months of negotiations, uncertainties, and multiple stopgap spending measures, Congress finally passed a nearly $1.4 trillion FY20 spending package to fund the federal government for the full fiscal year. President Trump is expected to sign the bill into law on Friday, Dec. 20. While topline spending caps for discretionary (annually appropriated) defense and nondefense programs were agreed upon in a bipartisan budget deal passed by Congress earlier this year, the two “minibus” spending bills, which combined the 12 required appropriations bills covering all government agencies for the rest of the fiscal year in two packages, includes item-by-item spending details.

The spending package includes some wins for advocates and for the communities they fight for, while other parts of the package left advocates disappointed. As CHN noted in its statement released on Dec. 18, “The appropriations bills will provide important help to many Americans…. [But] there are also some bitter disappointments.” A summary of some of the highs and lows within the legislation follows by department.

For more information, see the following summaries of the spending package from the Senate Appropriations Committee Majority, Senate Appropriations Committee Minority, House Appropriations Committee Majority, and House Appropriations Committee Minority.

 

Department of Agriculture:

The package included many important increases for nutrition programs for low-income children and adults. The bill includes $35 million for the Summer EBT program to benefit children when school is not in session. It also includes $6 billion for the Special Supplemental Nutrition for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which according to the National WIC Association is sufficient to meet expected need based on current estimates, as well as full funding of $90 million (an increase of $30 million over FY19) for WIC’s Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program. This is the first time since the program was expanded in 2010 that Congress has provided full funding for the program. The Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which distributes food boxes to low-income home-bound seniors, received $245 million, an increase of $22 million over FY19 levels; this program was proposed for elimination in President Trump’s budget.

Mandatory spending for SNAP/food stamps is included at a level of $67.9 billion to cover all eligible participants. Due to declining enrollment, this is $5.6 billion below FY19 levels. Language was included that would take steps in the right direction to help ensure SNAP payments are still available in the event of a future federal government shutdown. Child Nutrition Programs received $23.6 billion in mandatory funding to fully fund the National School Lunch Program, School Breakfast Program, Summer Food Service Program, and Child and Adult Care Food Program, an increase of $474 million over FY19 levels.

 

Department of Education:

Overall, the Department of Education is funded at $72.8 billion, up $1.3 billion from FY19 levels. Some programs within the Education Department that received increases include K-12 Special Education (IDEA) programs, which was increased by $410 million to $13.6 billion. 21st Century Community Learning Centers (afterschool programs) received a $28 million bump to $1.2 billion, despite the fact that President Trump’s budget would have eliminated the program. Title I grants for low-income K-12 schools rose $450 million to $16.3 billion.

The GEAR UP program, which supports low-income students from high school into their first year of college (also slated for elimination in President Trump’s budget), received a $5 million bump to $365 million. The federal TRIO program, which supports low-income, disabled, and first-generation college students, was funded at $30 million over FY19 levels to $1.1 billion. Maximum Pell Grant awards will be increased by $150 to $6,345 per recipient. For more information, see this statement from the National Education Association.

 

Department of Health and Human Services:

There were several important increases in the HHS department budget, with base funding of $94.9 billion, an increase of $4.4 billion above FY19. Funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) was increased by $550 million to $5.8 billion. This follows historic increases in FY18. Head Start funding was increased by $550 million to $10.6 billion. Senior Nutrition programs received an increase of $30 million to $937 million. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) received an increase of $50 million over FY19 to $3.7 billion; President Trump’s budget had slated LIHEAP for elimination again this year. Despite the increase, funding for LIHEAP is still below FY10 levels. The Community Services Block Grant, which provides operating funds for community action programs nationwide, received a small $15 million increase to $740 million; this was another program proposed for termination in the Trump budget. Similarly, the Trump budget would have ended the Social Services Block Grant, which was level-funded at $1.7 billion in the spending package.

Many child welfare programs funded through annual appropriations were also level-funded or received small increases. Child protective services state grants provided under the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) grew from $85.3 million to $90.1 million. Adoption Incentive Grants were level funded (at $75 million), as was the Promoting Safe and Stable Families program, which received $345 million.

 

Department of Homeland Security:

The Trump Administration had requested $8.6 billion for construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, while advocates opposed any funding for the wall; the appropriations package provides $1.375 billion, the same level as FY19, but provides greater flexibility on where a wall could be built. The package also allows President Trump to retain his authority to transfer funds from the Department of Defense to the wall, which advocates opposed, but it denied a Trump Administration request to backfill $3.6 billion that is being diverted from military construction projects to finance the wall. A federal district court in Texas recently issued a permanent injunction against shifting funds from military construction projects to the wall.

The spending deal also provides $8.1 billion for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, $494 million above FY19, and it allows the White House to later transfer more money to ICE for additional detention beds. The National Immigration Law Center opposed the provisions in the package, saying in a statement that the package “will ultimately allow this administration to continue to inflict widespread harm on immigrant communities and flagrantly abuse its power right under Congress’s nose.”

 

Department of Housing and Urban Development:

The spending package provides HUD programs with $4.9 billion in funding over FY19 and $12.4 billion above the President’s request for a total of $49.1 billion. The spending bill renews all Housing Choice Vouchers and provides $793 million to the Section 202 Housing for the Elderly program, a significant increase of $115 million above FY19 levels. The bill provides $12.6 billion to renew project-based rental assistance contracts for 2020, an increase of $823 million more than in FY19. Advocates estimate this will be sufficient to renew all contracts. The bill includes $229 million for the Section 811 Housing for People with Disabilities program, a slight increase from FY19.

The bill would increase funding for the HOME program by $100 million to $1.35 billion, and the Community Development Block Grant program grows to $3.43 billion. President Trump had proposed to eliminate both programs. The Choice Neighborhoods Initiative saw a funding increase when compared to last year’s allocation, from $150 million to $175 million. The bill provides $290 million to the Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes’ grants, a small $11 million increase over FY19. Public Housing Operating Funds were cut modestly compared to FY19 levels.

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, House and Senate leaders also agreed to include stronger legislative language to force HUD to finally release critical disaster mitigation funds for Puerto Rico. Congress approved more than $16 billion in mitigation funding for Puerto Rico nearly two years ago, but HUD has delayed releasing the aid. HUD has ignored a congressionally mandated deadline to release the funds by September of this year. Advocates were disappointed that the bill does not include language to prevent HUD from moving forward with harmful policy proposals to force mixed-status immigrant families to separate or face eviction from HUD-assisted housing. Nor does it include language to prevent shelters from discriminating against transgender and LBGT people experiencing homelessness. For more information, see this piece from the National Low Income Housing Coalition as well as their updated budget chart.

 

Department of Labor:

Several important programs within the Department of Labor received modest increases as well, as the agency’s budget was increased by $291 million over FY19 to $12.4 billion. Job Corps vocational training programs received $25 million more than FY19, to $1.7 billion. Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act grants, which help people with barriers to work gain new skills and find employment, is funded at $2.8 billion, $30 million more than FY19. Registered apprenticeship programs received a $15 million boost to $175 billion. Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers programs received a $3 million increase to $92 million; President Trump’s budget eliminated this program.

 

Other areas of note:

The deal included the extension of many programs. Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and the territories is extended for two years. It was reported that Congressional leaders on a bipartisan basis wanted a four-year extension, but President Trump objected. Funding for Community Health Centers and several other health care programs, as well as funding for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, was only extended through May 22, 2020; it is suggested that perhaps a deal on surprise medical bills and prescription drug costs could be wrapped up at this time.

For the first time in decades, the spending deal includes $25 million to research gun violence at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health. The deal also contains $502.5 million, the highest funding level ever, for grants provided by the Office on Violence Against Women.

The bill included $7.6 billion for the Census Bureau, $3.7 billion higher than in FY19, the amount sought by census experts to ensure the department has the resources to carry out the 2020 Decennial Census. The Legal Services Corporation, which provides legal assistance for low-income people with housing, domestic violence, employment, consumer or other legal trouble, received a boost of $25 million to $440 million; President Trump’s budget would have eliminated the program. The Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs programs including AmeriCorps, VISTA and Senior Corp, received a boost of $21 million to $1.1 billion; this program was also eliminated in Trump’s budget.

The spending deal also included several tax provisions; see the related article in this Human Needs Report for more information.

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CHN: Year-end Tax Package Fails to Help Low-Income Families https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-year-end-tax-package-fails-to-help-low-income-families/ Fri, 20 Dec 2019 16:35:50 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5288 Advocates were deeply disappointed that a tax package added on to the FY20 spending deal did not include provisions to help low-income families. Advocates had been pushing members of Congress to include improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to any tax package...

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Advocates were deeply disappointed that a tax package added on to the FY20 spending deal did not include provisions to help low-income families. Advocates had been pushing members of Congress to include improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to any tax package that passed this year. Instead, Congress added legislation to the FY20 spending package to continue expired or soon-to-expire tax provisions largely benefiting businesses, and known as “tax extenders.” The spending deal also repealed three key taxes included in the 2010 Affordable Care Act: the so-called “Cadillac” tax on high-cost insurance plans, a tax on medical device manufacturers, and a tax on health insurers. In total, the tax package will cost $426 billion over 10 years, according to Americans for Tax Fairness. As CHN said in a statement, “The most basic fairness requires that if billions in extended or new tax reductions for businesses are included, the poorest children and workers should not be left out. But they were.”

The tax package did not include “technical corrections” to the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that some businesses had been pushing for. This gives advocates hope that a deal on these corrections and improvements to the EITC and CTC can be reached in early 2020.

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CHN: Congress Passes Paid Parental Leave and Ban the Box Provisions for Federal Workers https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-congress-passes-paid-parental-leave-and-ban-the-box-provisions-for-federal-workers/ Fri, 20 Dec 2019 16:31:45 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5287 Advocates applauded congressional passage of two provisions that will benefit federal workers and prospective employees. The first will give all federal civilian employees 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child. The benefit will apply to roughly 2 million employees. Federal workers currently have...

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Advocates applauded congressional passage of two provisions that will benefit federal workers and prospective employees. The first will give all federal civilian employees 12 weeks of paid leave for the birth, adoption, or fostering of a child. The benefit will apply to roughly 2 million employees. Federal workers currently have access to 12 weeks of unpaid leave through the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The National Partnership on Women and Families said the measure, “promotes economic justice for women and women of color.” The American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) called the deal the “first major benefit expansion for federal workers since FMLA was enacted in 1993” and said it will continue to advocate for a broader paid leave law – including one that allows workers paid leave to care for other family members – for all workers.

The second provision will prohibit federal agencies and private-sector federal contractors from asking about job applicants’ arrest and conviction record until later in the hiring process. The National Employment Law Project (NELP), which has been involved in the “Ban the Box” campaign for years, said in a statement,  “By requiring employers to hold off on asking job applicants about their conviction records until after a conditional job offer has been made, more than 700,000 Americans will gain a fairer chance at finding employment and securing a better future for themselves and their families.”

The provisions were passed as part of the defense authorization compromise bill (known as the conference report), which is a broad package affecting defense and security policies. The bill cleared the House on Dec. 11, and the Senate passed the legislation on Dec. 17. President Trump is expected to sign the measure in the evening of Friday, December 20.

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CHN: Advocates Oppose Trump Administration Effort to Radically Increase Fees for Aspiring Citizens, Asylum Seekers, and DACA recipients; Comments due by Dec. 30 https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-oppose-trump-administration-effort-to-radically-increase-fees-for-aspiring-citizens-asylum-seekers-and-daca-recipients-comments-due-by-dec-30/ Fri, 20 Dec 2019 16:27:29 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5286 Last month, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a proposed rule that would drastically raise the costs of vital immigration benefits while simultaneously reducing access to benefits for low-income and other vulnerable immigrants. It’s the latest attack by the Trump Administration on the immigrant community. The proposal would...

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Last month, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) published a proposed rule that would drastically raise the costs of vital immigration benefits while simultaneously reducing access to benefits for low-income and other vulnerable immigrants. It’s the latest attack by the Trump Administration on the immigrant community.

The proposal would raise the cost of the naturalization fee a whopping 83 percent, from the current cost of $640 to $1,170. The cost for DACA renewals would increase in similar fashion, from $495 to $765.

More ominous is that the proposal would eliminate critical fee waivers for immigrants experiencing severe financial hardship. It would end a long-standing fee waiver program that has kept naturalization, green card renewals and other benefits accessible. These waivers historically have allowed qualifying, low-income and other vulnerable people to maintain their immigration status or take the next step to become a permanent resident or citizen. Terminating this program will put people at risk of potentially losing their documents and becoming subject to deportation.

Immigration advocates say the proposal would make it nearly impossible for low-income and working-class immigrants to apply for naturalization, preventing them from becoming fully integrated and participating members of society. They are urging organizations to submit comments to USCIS by Dec. 30.

You can download the Catholic Legal Immigration Network’s template comment guide here. The guide has background information on the proposed fee schedule and how to comment. It also includes template comments that organizations can customize according to their area of expertise. You can review the paragraphs in the template and pull any that are of particular interest to your organization into the main body of your letter, then customize the language to fit your own organization’s position and experiences.

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CHN: House Vote Boosts Prospects for Immigrant Farmworkers https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-vote-boosts-prospects-for-immigrant-farmworkers/ Fri, 20 Dec 2019 16:15:43 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5285 Undocumented farmworkers and their families could have a path to legal immigration status and citizenship if landmark legislation approved earlier this month by the House becomes law. On a 260-165 vote, House members approved the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which, if passed by the Senate and signed by President Trump,...

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Undocumented farmworkers and their families could have a path to legal immigration status and citizenship if landmark legislation approved earlier this month by the House becomes law.

On a 260-165 vote, House members approved the Farm Workforce Modernization Act, which, if passed by the Senate and signed by President Trump, would be the first comprehensive agriculture reform legislation passed by Congress in more than three decades. 226 Democrats and 34 Republicans voted for the bill, while 161 Republicans, three Democrats and one independent opposed it. One Democrat voted present.

A path to immigration status for undocumented farmworkers is critically important to the country’s food and agriculture system. A majority of the nation’s 2.4 million farmworkers are undocumented and living in fear of deportation. With legal status and a path to citizenship, farmworkers would be better able to improve their wages and working conditions and challenge serious labor abuses. This would result in a more stable farm labor force, and greater food safety and security to the benefit of employers, workers, and consumers.

The legislation was the result of months of delicate negotiations between representatives of farmworkers and leaders of the agricultural industry. Although many agricultural groups backed the legislation, some – such as the powerful American Farm Bureau Federation – balked, saying it would result in higher labor costs as well as increased legal risk for employers. The bill’s future in the Senate is uncertain.

Nonetheless, advocates praised the legislation as an extraordinary breakthrough.

“Achieving compromise on complex, polarizing labor-management and immigration issues was possible because of the wide recognition that farmworkers are essential to our nation’s food and agriculture systems,” said Bruce Goldstein, President of Farmworker Justice. “Our nation’s immigration system is broken and results in great unfairness, as over one-half of the 2.4 million people who labor on our farms and ranches to feed us are undocumented immigrants. This bill, despite shortcomings that are inevitable in any compromise, is a responsible effort to fix our broken immigration system and enable many farmworkers and their families to gain a greater measure of justice.”

The House bill was sponsored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA). The compromise measure includes important new protections for immigrant farmworkers, such as granting them the same legal protections that U.S. farmworkers have.

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CHN: 5th Circuit Panel Voids ACA Individual Mandate – but Not the Law’s Protections; Future of Case Uncertain https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-5th-circuit-panel-voids-aca-individual-mandate-but-not-the-laws-protections-future-of-case-uncertain/ Fri, 20 Dec 2019 16:10:59 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5284 A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday struck down the individual mandate included in the Affordable Care Act. The 2-1 ruling raised more questions than it answered, but guarantees that the ACA will remain a potent political issue for some time to come. The panel,...

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A three-judge panel of the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday struck down the individual mandate included in the Affordable Care Act. The 2-1 ruling raised more questions than it answered, but guarantees that the ACA will remain a potent political issue for some time to come.

The panel, consisting of two judges appointed by Republican presidents and one judge appointed by a Democrat, dodged the issue of “severability,” which involves whether the entire body of the ACA can be struck down after Congress removed the penalty for not having health insurance in its sweeping 2017 tax legislation. If a future court says the ACA can be struck down, then such provisions as guarantees against denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and bans on a lifetime cap on receiving benefits would be in danger – potentially affecting millions of Americans, to say nothing of those who benefited from Medicaid expansion.

Instead, the court remanded the case back to a conservative federal district judge in Texas who has been a harsh critic of the ACA. The court – in a minor but notable chastisement – instructed the judge to employ a “fine-tooth comb” in ascertaining which parts of the ACA should be stricken beyond the individual mandate, if any.

According to media reports, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who is leading a coalition of 20 states plus D.C. in defending the law, has indicated that they probably will ask the U.S. Supreme Court for an expedited review of the 5th Circuit’s ruling. A brief requesting such a review would have to be filed in fairly short order in order for the case to have any chance of appearing on the Supreme Court’s docket this term. If the high court declines to hear the case this term, it likely will not be decided until after the November 2020 election.

“It’s time to get rid of the uncertainty,” Becerra told Politico. “In many respects, many of us believe that this is a merry-go-around. The last thing Americans need is to have their security and the health of their kids depend on these circular arguments that are going around.”

“The rule of law demands a careful, precise explanation of whether the provisions of the ACA are affected by the constitutionality of the individual mandate as it exists today,” read the two-judge majority opinion.

But the appeals court dodged the question of whether the ACA’s protections, such as pre-existing conditions, should be struck down. Politico noted that the ruling came just hours after the latest ACA enrollment period ended, and that the decision does not interrupt coverage for anyone covered through the ACA’s insurance marketplaces or Medicare expansion.

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CHN: Bill to Lower Prescription Drug Costs Passes House https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-bill-to-lower-prescription-drug-costs-passes-house/ Fri, 20 Dec 2019 16:00:07 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5283 The House on Dec. 5 passed (230-192) legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Two Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The bill would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, and those negotiated prices would be available...

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The House on Dec. 5 passed (230-192) legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs. Two Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting H.R. 3, the Elijah E. Cummings Lower Drug Costs Now Act. The bill would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices, and those negotiated prices would be available to Americans with private insurance as well. It would levy steep taxes on drug manufacturers who refuse to accept a Medicare price keyed to what’s paid in other economically advanced countries. It would also create a new $2,000 out-of-pocket limit on prescription drug costs for Medicare beneficiaries. In addition, the bill would expand the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) and tribal home visiting programs.

Families USA called the bill “the most significant step Congress has taken to combat high prescription drug prices.” Savings generated from the bill would be used to expand Medicare benefits to cover dental, vision, and hearing and, according to the Child Welfare League of America, to pay for important provisions related to child welfare, foster care, and home visiting programs. The bill is likely to die in the Senate, however, and the White House has issued a veto threat against it.

The White House has, however, indicated its support for a Senate bill also intended to lower drug prices. Sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), the Prescription Drug Pricing Reduction Act (S. 2543) previously passed the Senate Finance Committee with support from both Republicans and Democrats. The Senate bill does not grant Medicare negotiating power, but it would limit what seniors have to pay out of their own pockets for prescription drugs. It also would require drug companies to pay rebates to Medicare if they hike prices beyond the inflation rate.

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CHN: House Members Announce They Will Sue USDA Over Final Rule to Deny SNAP to Nearly 700,000 Poor People https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-members-announce-they-will-sue-usda-over-final-rule-to-deny-snap-to-nearly-700000-poor-people/ Fri, 20 Dec 2019 15:52:25 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5282 Many members of Congress joined with anti-hunger advocates on December 19 to stand outside the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s offices to voice strong opposition to USDA’s recently announced final rule expected to result in close to 700,000 poor individuals losing SNAP assistance. The rule significantly restricts states’ authority to waive...

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Many members of Congress joined with anti-hunger advocates on December 19 to stand outside the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s offices to voice strong opposition to USDA’s recently announced final rule expected to result in close to 700,000 poor individuals losing SNAP assistance. The rule significantly restricts states’ authority to waive the harsh time limit imposed on individuals without dependents. The rule is contrary to the intent of Congress, which rejected these restrictions in the bipartisan farm bill passed in 2018.

Members of Congress speaking passionately against the USDA rule included Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Chair of the Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations Subcommittee of the House Agriculture Committee, and many members of the Congressional Black Caucus. Also speaking was Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), a member of this subcommittee and also Chair of the House Rules Committee. He announced that Congress had included legislative language giving it the right to sue USDA if it imposed restrictions such as this new rule, and that they would pursue such a lawsuit.

Anti-hunger champions including Jim Weill, President of the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) and Sr. Simone Campbell, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, also spoke against the final rule, which unless stopped in court or by Congress will take effect on April 1. For more information, see FRAC’s website.

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Action Alert: Don’t let Trump’s LGBTQ+ discrimination hurt foster children https://www.chn.org/articles/action-alert-dont-let-trumps-lgbtq-discrimination-hurt-foster-children/ Fri, 22 Nov 2019 18:15:55 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5218 Stand up for human needs! Tell Congress: Trump’s LGBTQ+ discrimination can’t be allowed to hurt foster children Trump’s attack on LGBTQ+ community rights is now threatening to deprive children in need of a loving home. A proposed rule would remove language protecting LGBTQ+ people and others from discrimination in foster...

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Stand up for human needs!

Tell Congress: Trump’s LGBTQ+ discrimination can’t be allowed to hurt foster children

Trump’s attack on LGBTQ+ community rights is now threatening to deprive children in need of a loving home. A proposed rule would remove language protecting LGBTQ+ people and others from discrimination in foster care and adoption programs funded by grants from the Department of Health and Human Services.

That means foster care and adoption agencies could continue getting taxpayer funding even if they exclude LGBTQ+ families and others from their services based on religious beliefs. This would block children from access to qualified, loving homes.

And this won’t only hurt the more than 400,000 children in the US foster care system. According to the ACLU, Meals on Wheels and other HHS-funded community meal programs designed to support older adults could refuse to deliver food to older Americans who are Jewish, Muslim, or LGBTQ+. Additionally, Head Start grant recipients and other federally funded child care facilities could refuse to serve transgender youth and children with LGBTQ+ parents.

This is an attack not only on the LGBTQ+ community, but on human needs. So join the Coalition on Human Needs and our partners to demand Congress block Trump’s anti-LGBTQ+ HHS rule.

Sign the petition: Trump’s LGBTQ+ discrimination is costing foster children safe homes

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Action alert: Co-sign The Millionaires Surtax! https://www.chn.org/articles/action-alert-co-sign-the-millionaires-surtax/ Thu, 21 Nov 2019 20:24:40 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5215 It’s time that millionaires start paying their fair share. Our nation faces two big obstacles, among others, to creating an economy that works for all of us: The gap between the rich and everyone else keeps getting wider. While those at the top are soaring way ahead, working families are...

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It’s time that millionaires start paying their fair share.

Our nation faces two big obstacles, among others, to creating an economy that works for all of us:

  • The gap between the rich and everyone else keeps getting wider. While those at the top are soaring way ahead, working families are struggling.
  • The wealthy and corporations are not paying their fair share of taxes. If they did, we could raise trillions of dollars to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and to make new investments in healthcare, education, housing, childcare, infrastructure and clean renewable energy.

Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA) have introduced a Millionaires Surtax ― paid by the richest 0.2% ― that would begin to close the gap between the rich and everyone else and allow us to fund new investments that benefit working families.

Become a co-signer of the Millionaires Surtax today to begin to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few.

The Millionaires Surtax will create an additional 10-percentage point tax on all income earned by households making $2 million or more each year and individuals making $1 million or more.

According to the Tax Policy Center, the surtax will generate an additional $635 billion over ten years that can be used to invest in critical services for working families.

A Millionaires Surtax would apply to all income earned by the top 0.2% ― including wages, salaries and wealth that comes from Wall Street investments such as stocks. The rest of us (the other 99.8%) would not pay an extra dime.

Become a co-signer of the Millionaires Surtax today to begin to create an economy that works for all of us, not just the wealthy few.


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CHN: Some Progress, but FY20 Spending Will Need Another Stopgap https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-some-progress-but-fy20-spending-will-need-another-stopgap/ Tue, 12 Nov 2019 14:33:00 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5163 With government funding set to run out in less than two weeks, appropriators in Congress are in talks over the length of the next stopgap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR. The current CR, which was passed just before the start of the new fiscal year on...

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With government funding set to run out in less than two weeks, appropriators in Congress are in talks over the length of the next stopgap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR. The current CR, which was passed just before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, provides funding for all government agencies through Nov. 21. Fights over spending allocations amongst the various government agencies and funding for President Trump’s border wall have held up progress in getting spending bills through Congress.

Some progress was made when the Senate on Oct. 31 overwhelmingly passed (84-9) its first package of spending bills, a “minibus” consisting of four of the required 12 bills: Agriculture; Transportation – Housing and Urban Development (THUD); Commerce – Justice – Science; and Interior – Environment. The combined spending package totaled $214 billion. According to CQ, this is roughly $5 billion less than the House versions of these bills.

However, as Senate Republicans tried to move to the next package – which would have consisted of spending bills for the Departments of Defense, Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, State-Foreign Operations, and Energy-Water – Senate Democrats blocked the measure from coming to the floor. Senate Democrats cited inadequate funding levels in the Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill, which they saw as far too low because of a decision by the Senate Republican leadership to reduce Labor-HHS-Ed funding in order to add $5 billion for border wall construction and other funds for anti-immigrant enforcement in the separate Department of Homeland Security spending bill, which would lead to human needs programs being harmed. The White House has requested $8.6 billion for wall construction – though recent reports are that President Trump may be willing to accept a lower level of funding – and is insisting upon President Trump’s authority to transfer funds from the Department of Defense to the wall. Democrats oppose any funding for a wall and want to bar transfers of defense funds to the wall. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Senate Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill funding would be cut 1.4 percent below its inflation-adjusted 2019 level, a cut of $2.7 billion. The Department of Homeland Security bill as approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee, on the other hand, would receive an inflation-adjusted funding increase of 4.3 percent, or $2.1 billion.

In addition, Senate Democrats opposed moving forward with the package because House and Senate appropriators still haven’t agreed upon the topline spending limits for each of the 12 bills, known as 302(b) allocations. The House 302(b) allocations were passed before a bipartisan budget deal was agreed to by both the House and Senate, which set overall spending levels lower than the total spending agreed to in the House.

With progress slowed, Congress will need to pass a second CR to keep the government open after Nov. 21. The most recent reports suggest that Congress might  pass a CR to last through December 20, by which time negotiators will have worked out final funding details for all appropriations bills. Most Democrats and Republicans oppose a full-year CR, which would grow more likely if the next CR extends into February or March. President Trump recently did not rule out the threat of a shutdown.  Members of Congress in both parties have no enthusiasm for that.  The possible collision of an impeachment trial in the Senate and final work on funding bills opens up further uncertainty.

In the likely event of another CR, most government agencies and programs will see flat FY19 funding levels during this time; a few so-called ‘anomalies,’ or adjustments to funding levels, will likely be included for select programs. Advocates are urging Congress to include the full-year direct funding for the 2020 Census in the CR to avoid disruptions in the launch and implementation of the mandated decennial count. Prolonged flat funding in an extended CR is hard on other programs as well, including expected increased costs for subsidized housing.

The CR in place now also includes a package of health care-related funding extensions for community health centers and for the enhanced Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories through November 21. In addition, continued authority for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) must be extended. The expiring extensions will also need to be included if another CR is passed. In addition, advocates are asking negotiators to include a change in the SNAP rules so that, in the event of a government shutdown, USDA would be authorized to fund SNAP for 120 days after the expiration of the funding legislation.  Currently, USDA is only allowed 30 days of funding after a shutdown, which caused serious problems during the most recent 35-day lapse.  Other mandatory basic needs programs have authority to continue operating longer during a funding lapse.

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CHN: Budget Process Reform Bill Concerns Advocates https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-budget-process-reform-bill-concerns-advocates/ Tue, 12 Nov 2019 14:28:38 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5162 The Senate Budget Committee on November 6 passed legislation that contains changes to the budget process considered highly problematic by advocates. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the legislation, introduced by Senate Budget Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), would trigger a new,...

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The Senate Budget Committee on November 6 passed legislation that contains changes to the budget process considered highly problematic by advocates. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the legislation, introduced by Senate Budget Committee Chair Michael Enzi (R-WY) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), would trigger a new, automatic deficit-reduction process in the second year of a budget if the debt projection calculated by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) is higher than that projected in the budget resolution for the final year covered by the budget resolution. This special expedited “reconciliation” process would only pertain to deficit reduction and could force harmful spending cuts that could be quickly rammed through the Senate. Using this special expedited reconciliation process instructs committees to suggest cuts and moves them quickly to the Senate floor, and allows the Senate to pass such cuts with only a simple majority (51 votes) instead of with the usual 60 votes required.

Experts at CBPP believe this could lead to “deep cuts in mandatory programs such as Medicare, Medicaid, health insurance subsidies, SNAP, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) – and at a time when the economy is weak, thus making the economy still weaker.” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the Ranking Member of the Committee, said in a statement, “Though this bill has some positive aspects, at its core is the creation of a new, expansive ‘budget reconciliation’ process that could be used by Republicans to unilaterally cut programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and nutrition assistance—all supposedly to reduce the deficit. This new proposed process comes less than two years after Republicans on this Committee showed no hesitation in adding $2 trillion to deficit in order to pass the Trump tax cuts for the wealthiest families and the most profitable corporations in America, using the budget reconciliation process. At a time when Senate Republicans came within one vote of kicking 32 million Americans off their health care, the last thing we need is a new Senate procedure that could help speed through a repeat of that effort.”

Democratic Sens. Wyden (OR), Murray (WA), and Stabenow (MI) introduced an amendment that would strip the harmful expedited reconciliation provisions from the budget reform process legislation. Seven senators voted in favor of the amendment, while 14 voted against it.

The legislation (S. 2765) also has some elements that advocates like, including tactics to end the partisan brinksmanship surrounding the debt limit and reduce the risk of a federal default. It would also replace the current annual budget resolution with a two-year budget resolution while retaining the process for annual appropriations bills to fund the government. However, advocates believe the negative aspects of the bill far outweigh the positive.

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CHN: Judge Blocks Trump Administration’s Onerous Health Coverage Mandate for Immigrants https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-judge-blocks-trump-administrations-onerous-health-coverage-mandate-for-immigrants/ Tue, 12 Nov 2019 14:24:20 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5161 A federal judge in Portland, Oregon has blocked a Trump Administration rule requiring immigrants to prove they will have health insurance or can pay for medical care before they can get visas and enter the United States. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael Simon came on Saturday, Nov. 2,...

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A federal judge in Portland, Oregon has blocked a Trump Administration rule requiring immigrants to prove they will have health insurance or can pay for medical care before they can get visas and enter the United States.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Michael Simon came on Saturday, Nov. 2, just one day before the rule was to take effect. The temporary injunction issued by Simon lasts for 30 days, during which time the Trump Administration and those challenging the ruling are expected to file briefs arguing their case.

“We’re very grateful that the court recognized the need to block the healthcare ban immediately,” said Justice Action Center Senior Litigator Esther Sung, who argued at a hearing on Saturday on behalf of the plaintiffs. “The ban would separate families and cut two-thirds of green-card-based immigration starting tonight, were the ban not stopped.”

“Countless thousands across the country can breathe a sigh of relief today because the court recognized the urgent and irreparable harm that would have been inflicted,” added Jesse Bless, director of federal litigation at the American Immigration Lawyers Association.

The ban would apply to people seeking immigrant visas from abroad, not those in the U.S. already. It does not affect lawful permanent residents. It does not apply to asylum seekers, refugees, or children. The proposed rule states that immigrants would be barred from entering the U.S. unless they are to be covered by health insurance within 30 days of entering or have enough financial resources to pay for any medical costs.

The judge’s ruling comes on the heels of injunctions issued in five different U.S. district courts blocking the Trump Administration from implementing its “Public Charge” proposal, which would have denied visas or green cards to immigrants if they have used certain aid programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, or housing assistance. For more information on this issue, see the October 29 Human Needs Report.

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CHN: Tuesday Elections Deliver Blow to Medicaid Work Requirements https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-tuesday-elections-deliver-blow-to-medicaid-work-requirements/ Tue, 12 Nov 2019 14:17:24 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5160 Opponents of Medicaid work requirements received good news with several Election Day outcomes this past Tuesday. In Kentucky, which has been at the forefront of efforts to impose the work requirements, Democrat Andy Beshear apparently defeated incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin by about 5,000 votes. Bevin is contesting the vote, and...

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Opponents of Medicaid work requirements received good news with several Election Day outcomes this past Tuesday. In Kentucky, which has been at the forefront of efforts to impose the work requirements, Democrat Andy Beshear apparently defeated incumbent Gov. Matt Bevin by about 5,000 votes. Bevin is contesting the vote, and under the Kentucky constitution, it is possible for the state legislature to step in to decide the outcome.  That leaves the outcome uncertain, but Beshear is making plans to assume office.

Bevin had been a strong proponent of the work requirements, even though his own office estimated that the new rules would have caused more than 90,000 Kentucky residents to lose access to Medicaid. An analysis conducted by the Georgetown University Center on Children and Families found that nine of the top 10 rural counties nationwide with the highest percent of adults on Medicaid are in Kentucky, and enrollment of adults in these counties ranges from 45 to 50 percent. (The tenth county with a high percent of adults on Medicaid is in neighboring West Virginia.)

On Wednesday, Joan Alker, the Center’s executive director, tweeted that Bevin’s margin of victory in those nine Kentucky counties appeared to have diminished compared with four years ago.

Beshear, a strong proponent of both the Affordable Care Act and of Medicaid expansion, has vowed to rescind the Kentucky work requirements during his “first week” in office. The work requirements have not yet been implemented after a U.S. district court blocked them.

Other good news for opponents of work requirements came from Virginia, where Democrats will control all branches of government for the first time since 1993. When Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam succeeded in pushing Medicaid expansion through the Virginia House of Delegates and state Senate in 2018, it came with a price: to go along with the expansion, Republicans, who narrowly controlled both legislative chambers, insisted on attaching a scaled-back version of the work requirements to the legislation. Now, Democrat legislators say, they plan to repeal the requirements altogether.

Meanwhile, in D.C., health care advocates continue to work on health care legislation in three very different but important areas.

First, advocates are waging a No Surprises: People Against Unfair Medical Bills campaign. The campaign, which reports that one out of every five emergency room visits results in an out-of-network medical bill that in some cases can run into the thousands or tens of thousands of dollars, seeks to pass legislation to rein in this abusive and extremely harmful practice. The campaign is backed by a number of CHN member groups and allies, including Families USA, AFSCME, Americans for Financial Reform, Health Care for America Now!, National Partnership for Women & Families, Public Citizen, and Voices for Progress.

The campaign is circulating an organizational sign-on letter. The letter asks congressional leadership to include legislation addressing surprise billing in any end-of-the-year spending package.

Second, advocates are urging Congress to approve a package of health care-related funding extensions that currently are set to expire on Nov. 21, along with funding for the rest of the federal government. The extensions cover such areas as Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, a juvenile diabetes program, and community health centers.

Third, advocates continue to push for legislation to lower the cost of prescription drugs. H.R. 3, which has cleared three different House committees, could come to the House floor for a vote as early as this month. However, its fate in the Senate is uncertain. Senators are pursuing their own legislation, which is being sponsored by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) and Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA). That legislation passed the Senate Finance Committee with support from both Republicans and Democrats; the White House this week indicated its support for the Senate approach.

The key difference between the House and Senate versions? The House bill, backed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, would allow Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices. It would levy steep taxes on drug manufacturers who refuse to accept a Medicare price keyed to what’s paid in other economically advanced countries. President Trump has at times supported Medicare negotiations, but the House bill goes farther than the White House now prefers, offering support for the Senate bill and opposing the House version for its lack of Republican support.

The Senate bill, while not granting Medicare negotiating power, does have some selling points for health care advocates. It would, for the first time, limit what seniors have to pay out of their own pockets for prescription drugs. It also would require drug companies to pay rebates to Medicare if they hike prices beyond the inflation rate.

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CHN: Advocates Call on Senators to Improve Low-Income Tax Credits in Final Spending Package https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-call-on-senators-to-improve-low-income-tax-credits-in-final-spending-package/ Tue, 12 Nov 2019 14:06:49 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5158 Advocates took to the phones on Nov. 6 as part of a national call-in day to tell their senators that any tax package that moves through Congress must include provisions to help low-income families. As reported in the October 29 Human Needs Report, members of Congress are expected to try...

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Advocates took to the phones on Nov. 6 as part of a national call-in day to tell their senators that any tax package that moves through Congress must include provisions to help low-income families. As reported in the October 29 Human Needs Report, members of Congress are expected to try to add a package of tax cut provisions onto end-of-year spending legislation. Congress routinely passes legislation to continue expired or soon-to-expire tax provisions (largely benefiting businesses, and known as “tax extenders”), often attached to must-pass spending legislation.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) overwhelmingly benefited corporations and wealthy individuals. It largely left out, however, improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC), but mostly for the benefit of families with higher incomes. Despite bipartisan support for improving these effective tax credits for low-income working families, the TCJA failed to target assistance to those with the lowest incomes.

Since the enactment of the TCJA, several industries have been urging Congress to pass “technical corrections” for some of the business provisions in the TCJA. These “corrections” will add more tax breaks, worth billions, for certain businesses. Advocates reached out to members of Congress on Nov. 6 via the national call-in day and social media to ensure that any tax package that passes this year include improvements to the EITC and CTC as well. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), the EITC and CTC lifted 10.6 million people out of poverty in 2018 and made 17.5 million others less poor, taking into account both federal and state versions of the credits. This includes 11.9 million children, 5.5 million of whom were lifted out of poverty and another 6.4 million of whom were made less poor.

Several bills to expand the EITC and CTC have been introduced in Congress this year, including the Economic Mobility Act of 2019 (H.R. 3300), the American Family Act (H.R. 1560/S. 690), and the Working Families Tax Relief Act (H.R. 3157/S. 1138). CBPP recently released a collection of fact sheets for all 50 states and the District of Columbia on the impact of the Working Families Tax Relief Act. The fact sheets have details of the number of people who would benefit broken down by race, occupation, and congressional district. The National Women’s Law Center also produced a fact sheet on how the Working Families Tax Relief Act would help women and families.

For more information, see the October 29 Human Needs Report.

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CHN: Advocates Push for Boosting Low-Income Tax Credits in Year-End Package https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-push-for-boosting-low-income-tax-credits-in-year-end-package/ Tue, 29 Oct 2019 13:44:25 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5095 Congress routinely passes legislation to continue expired or soon-to-expire tax provisions (largely benefiting businesses, and known as “tax extenders”), often attached to must-pass spending legislation. Details are still fuzzy about what a spending package may look like in the coming weeks and months to keep the government funded (see related...

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Congress routinely passes legislation to continue expired or soon-to-expire tax provisions (largely benefiting businesses, and known as “tax extenders”), often attached to must-pass spending legislation. Details are still fuzzy about what a spending package may look like in the coming weeks and months to keep the government funded (see related article in this Human Needs Report). But what is known is that members of Congress are expected to try to add a package of tax cut extenders onto end-of-year spending legislation. Advocates are making the case that any tax package that moves through Congress must include provisions to help low-income families.

The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) overwhelmingly benefited corporations and wealthy individuals. It largely left out, however, improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC), but mostly for the benefit of families with higher incomes.  According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the EITC and CTC lifted more than 8.9 million people out of poverty in 2018 and helped millions more just below and above the poverty line.  Despite bipartisan support for improving these effective tax credits for low-income working families, the TCJA failed to target assistance to those with the lowest incomes

Since the enactment of the TCJA, several industries have been urging Congress to pass “technical corrections” for some of the business provisions in the TCJA. These “corrections” will add more tax breaks, worth billions, for certain businesses. Advocates are reaching out to members of Congress to ensure that any tax package that passes this year include improvements to the EITC and CTC as well.

The TCJA did include an increase in the CTC from $1,000 to $2,000 per child, and raised to $400,000 the income cut-off for eligibility for a partial credit.  But under the law the CTC doesn’t start to phase in for low-income families until a tax filer has more than $2,500 in earnings, and it then phases in slowly. As a result, low-income working families with 11.4 million children are receiving only a token CTC increase of $75 or less. Families of 15 million more children are receiving CTC increases that are substantially less than $1,000. And if a family’s Child Tax Credit would exceed the federal income tax it owes (a “refundable credit”), the family cannot, under the TCJA, receive more than $1,400 per child as a tax refund.

It has been recognized for a long time that the EITC for low-wage workers who aren’t raising children in their homes is often too small even to offset the income and payroll taxes these workers must pay. This is the main reason the federal tax code taxes more than 5 million such workers into, or deeper into, poverty.

Several bills to expand the EITC and CTC have been introduced in Congress this year. The House Ways and Means Committee passed the Economic Mobility Act of 2019 (H.R. 3300), introduced by Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA), on June 20. Among other improvements, the bill would, for the next two years, nearly triple the maximum EITC for workers who aren’t raising children in their home; make the credit available for people who aren’t full-time students starting at age 19 and up to age 66; and provide federal matching funds for Puerto Rico’s new EITC and would provide similar matching funds for other U.S. territories. Additionally, the bill would, for the next two years, make the CTC fully refundable so children in households with little or no earnings will benefit from it. It would also introduce a new Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) worth an additional $1,000 for a child under age 4. The bill would also expand for two years the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which subsidizes child care expenses, and make it refundable. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the legislation would raise the after-tax income of 16 million childless adults. The bill’s CTC changes would benefit more than 42 million children.

As reported in the June 17 Human Needs Report, the Working Families Tax Relief Act (H.R. 3157/S. 1138) would also expand and improve the EITC and CTC in multiple ways. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the legislation would raise the incomes of 46 million low- and moderate-income households with 114 million people. It would lift 29 million people, including 11 million children, above or closer to the poverty line.

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CHN: Trump Administration Escalates Attempt to Cut Nutrition Assistance; Advocates Fight Back https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-trump-administration-escalates-attempt-to-cut-nutrition-assistance-advocates-fight-back/ Tue, 29 Oct 2019 13:38:45 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5094 Anti-hunger advocates are fighting the Trump Administration’s continued efforts to cut nutrition assistance on two fronts, even as new information has emerged that one U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal would cut benefits more sharply than was previously reported. On the first front, the Administration has proposed curtailing “broad-based categorical eligibility,”...

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Anti-hunger advocates are fighting the Trump Administration’s continued efforts to cut nutrition assistance on two fronts, even as new information has emerged that one U.S. Department of Agriculture proposal would cut benefits more sharply than was previously reported.

On the first front, the Administration has proposed curtailing “broad-based categorical eligibility,” which states use to provide SNAP benefits to more low-income households. The comment period for this proposal originally ended in September, but has been extended to Friday, Nov. 1.

The reason for the extension? New USDA data reveals that the proposal could harm as many as 982,000 children, who currently have access to free or reduced price school meals due to their families’ eligibility for SNAP. A previous analysis had estimated that just over 500,000 would be affected. Of the 982,000 children, 497,000 would move from free to reduced-price lunch, while 40,000 would completely lose access to free or reduced-price meals.  Anti-hunger experts are skeptical that only 40,000 would lose all school meals help.  They know that increased paperwork burdens would inevitably cause additional families to lose benefits. As Rep. Bobby Scott noted in a statement, “Even for those who remain eligible, forcing low-income families to navigate the burdensome paperwork will inevitably lead to eligible children losing access to a critical source of daily nutrition.” In addition, under the Community Eligibility Provision, nearly 2,000 schools across the country provide free school meals to all their students because more than 40 percent of their students participate in an anti-poverty program, such as SNAP. If fewer families receive SNAP, some communities may not qualify for the program, increasing bureaucratic hurdles and ensuring that some poor children will no longer receive free meals.

Members of the public can submit comments using this portal; advocates are requesting that even if you commented previously, you should consider submitting an additional comment based on the new data. However, USDA will only take into account comments related to the impact of its proposed rule on school meals.

You can read more about this issue in our Sept. 30 Human Needs Report and you can read CHN’s comments to USDA in opposition to the proposal here.

On the second front, the Administration has proposed a rule that would limit states’ discretion in  taking households’ utility costs into account to determine the amount of SNAP benefits for which they qualify. This rule would cut SNAP by $4.5 billion over five years and would affect about one in every five SNAP households.

Advocates warn that the proposal would exacerbate the struggles many low-income people have in paying for costs of food and utilities; have harmful impacts on health and well-being as well as on the economy.  Of the 3.4 million households facing reduced SNAP benefits, 68 percent are families with children, 20 percent are households with seniors, and 29 percent include a person with a disability.

For more information, and to access the portal for leaving comments, go here. The comment period for this proposal ends Monday, Dec. 2.

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CHN: Courts Block “Public Charge” Implementation; Trump Issues Harsh Proclamation on Immigrants and Health Care https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-courts-block-public-charge-implementation-trump-issues-harsh-proclamation-on-immigrants-and-health-care/ Tue, 29 Oct 2019 13:24:13 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5093 No fewer than five federal judges earlier this month blocked the Trump Administration from implementing its “Public Charge” proposal, which would have denied visas or green cards to immigrants if they have used certain aid programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, or housing assistance. U.S. District judges in California, Illinois, Maryland,...

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No fewer than five federal judges earlier this month blocked the Trump Administration from implementing its “Public Charge” proposal, which would have denied visas or green cards to immigrants if they have used certain aid programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, or housing assistance.

U.S. District judges in California, Illinois, Maryland, New York, and Washington ruled against the proposal, which had been set to take effect Oct. 15. Three of the rulings – from Maryland, New York, and Washington — included nationwide injunctions against the public charge regulations; the other two were more limited in jurisdiction.

The Trump Administration has not announced plans to appeal the rulings, but is expected to do so. Meanwhile, advocates are declaring victory and relief that the new rules will not go into effect any time soon.

Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, said the court orders “will preserve dignity for countless families, who will be able to continue making empowered decisions about their well-being without concern.”

“We have known from day one that this racially motivated public charge rule is unlawful,” she added. “The public charge attack is about sending one message: if you’re not white or you’re not wealthy, you’re not welcome. We will continue to fight to defend children and their families until the public charge rule is ultimately struck down, because it has no place in a country that’s supposed to be the land of freedom and justice for all.”

Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy, said the public charge regulations are “rooted in discrimination and racial animus, target lawfully present immigrants, and send the message that only wealthy and white immigrants have a place in the United States.”

“But today, once again, the courts have stepped in to stop this Administration in its attempt to implement a policy that divides us as a nation and damages the lives of millions of immigrants, their families, their children, and their communities,” Golden added. “Today’s ruling means a temporary halt in the implementation of the public charge rule….We encourage immigrants to continue to seek the services they need to take care of their families and ensure their children’s health and economic security.”

Ample evidence exists that the changes included in the public charge proposal have already had the effect the Trump Administration intended – to chase immigrant families into the shadows and convince them not to apply for aid they are eligible to receive. According to the Urban Institute, one in seven adults in immigrant families reported that they or a family member did not participate in a noncash government benefit program in 2018 for fear of risking future green card status as the Administration was preparing to roll out its public charge regulations. This share was even larger (one in five) among adults in low-income immigrant families.

Meanwhile, just days before the updated public charge proposal was to go into effect, President Trump issued a proclamation that will require immigrants outside of the United States to prove they can obtain health insurance before they are issued a visa.

The rule, which is set to take effect Nov. 3, says immigrants must demonstrate they have health insurance within 30 days of entering the country or that they can afford to cover any medical expenses.

The required insurance can be provided by an employer or be purchased individually, and it can be for catastrophic or short-term coverage. However, immigrants would not be able to obtain a visa if they use the Affordable Care Act’s subsidies when purchasing coverage. The ACA’s subsidies, paid for by the federal government, typically help those purchasing insurance save hundreds or thousands of dollars per year when buying health coverage.

The proclamation effectively creates a health insurance mandate for immigrants – somewhat ironic, given that Trump and the GOP-led Congress repealed the ACA’s individual mandate, arguing that its tax penalty was “cruel” and created an unfair burden.

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CHN: Another Stopgap Expected as FY20 Spending Bills Creep Forward https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-another-stopgap-expected-as-fy20-spending-bills-creep-forward/ Tue, 29 Oct 2019 13:16:34 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5091 With less than a month before the government runs out of funding, the process forward looks rocky. The current stopgap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, provides funding for all government agencies through Nov. 21. When it was passed in late September, just before the start of...

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With less than a month before the government runs out of funding, the process forward looks rocky. The current stopgap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, provides funding for all government agencies through Nov. 21. When it was passed in late September, just before the start of the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, members of Congress had been hopeful that full FY20 spending bills would be completed by the mid-November date. However, fights over funding for President Trump’s border wall and other issues have held up progress.

The full Senate is expected to vote this week on amendments to its first package of spending bills, a “minibus” consisting of four of the required 12 bills: Agriculture; Transportation – Housing and Urban Development (THUD); Commerce, Justice, Science; and Interior – Environment (for details on the Senate THUD spending bill, see this full analysis and updated budget chart from the National Low Income Housing Coalition). While all four of these bills received bipartisan support at the committee level, they are not without controversy. House and Senate appropriators still haven’t agreed upon the topline spending limits for each of the 12 bills, known as 302(b) allocations. The House 302(b) allocations were passed before a bipartisan budget deal was agreed to by both the House and Senate, which set overall spending levels lower than the spending levels in many of the House bills. Senate Democrats on the Appropriations Committee opposed the allocations passed along party lines by their Republican colleagues, citing inadequate funding for the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education and too much money for the border wall and anti-immigrant enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security spending bill, which would lead to human needs programs being harmed. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Senate Labor-HHS-Education appropriations bill funding would be cut 1.4 percent below its inflation-adjusted 2019 level, a cut of $2.7 billion. The Department of Homeland Security, on the other hand, would receive an inflation-adjusted funding increase of 4.3 percent, or $2.1 billion. Some House leaders reportedly want to see agreement on the 302(b) allocations before the Senate votes on spending bills.

With progress slowed, it is expected that Congress will need to pass a second CR to keep the government open after Nov. 21. While it is possible Congress could pass a short-term CR for a few weeks, it is also possible that they could decide instead to pass a CR extending into February or March to avoid a funding fight and possible government shutdown during an anticipated impeachment trial in the Senate.

In the likely event of another CR, most government agencies and programs will see flat FY19 funding levels during this time; a few so-called ‘anomalies,’ or adjustments to funding levels, will likely be included for select programs. One such anomaly will be needed for the 2020 Census, which needs a significant increase to stay on target for the mandated decennial count. Seven former Census directors recently penned a letter to House and Senate leaders as well as members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees urging that Congress enact the full 2020 Census appropriation as soon as possible. “Because we share your goal of a full, fair, and accurate census, as the Constitution requires, we urge you to allocate a full-year appropriation for the 2020 Census as soon as legislatively possible, to avoid disruptions in the launch and steady implementation of robust census operations,” the letter states. Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) and 24 other senators previously urged appropriators to include full-year funding for the Census Bureau ($8.175 billion, including $7.5 billion for the 2020 Census) up front as part of the existing CR. The current CR does not increase funding, but allows the Census Bureau to spend “up to the rate for operations necessary to maintain the schedule and deliver the required data.” If the CR is extended, more money for the census must be approved if the 2020 Census is not to be jeopardized.  Prolonged flat funding in an extended CR is hard on other programs as well, including expected increased costs for subsidized housing.

The CR in place now also includes a package of health care-related funding extensions  for community health centers and  for the enhanced Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories through November 21. In addition, continued authority for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF) must be extended. The expiring extensions will also need to be included if another CR is passed. For more information, see the September 30 Human Needs Report.

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CHN: Congress Avoids a Shutdown while FY20 Bills Move in the Senate https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-congress-avoids-a-shutdown-while-fy20-bills-move-in-the-senate/ Mon, 30 Sep 2019 14:46:40 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5022 With only a few days to spare, the Senate on Sept. 26 passed (81-16) a stopgap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, to avoid a government shutdown, and President Trump signed the bill on September 27. The House had passed (301-123) the CR on Sept. 19; three...

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With only a few days to spare, the Senate on Sept. 26 passed (81-16) a stopgap spending bill, known as a Continuing Resolution or CR, to avoid a government shutdown, and President Trump signed the bill on September 27. The House had passed (301-123) the CR on Sept. 19; three Democrats opposed it and 76 Republicans supported it. The measure (H.R. 4378) will keep the government funded through from Oct. 1 – the start of the new fiscal year – through Nov. 21.

Most government agencies and programs will see flat FY19 funding levels during this time; a few so-called ‘anomalies,’ or adjustments to funding levels, were included for select programs. One such anomaly was included for the 2020 Census, which needs additional funding at the beginning of the fiscal year to stay on target for the mandated decennial count. According to CQ, the CR would allow the Census Bureau to be apportioned money “up to the rate for operations necessary to maintain the schedule and deliver the required data.” Sen. Brian Schatz (D-HI) was joined by 24 other senators in instead urging appropriators to include full-year funding for the Census Bureau ($8.175 billion, including $7.5 billion for the 2020 Census) up front as part of the CR. The CR also includes a package of health care-related extensions of programs funding community health centers, continued authority for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, and an extension of the enhanced Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories through November 21.

In addition to the CR to keep the government temporarily funded, Senate appropriators have spent much of the past few weeks working on their chamber’s versions of FY20 spending bills to fund the government for the rest of the fiscal year. On Sept. 12, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved the topline spending levels for each of its subcommittees, known as 302(b) allocations. These funding levels were opposed by Democrats on the Committee, who objected to inadequate funding for Labor-HHS-Education programs (see below), and too much money for the border wall and anti-immigrant enforcement.  The 302(b) allocations were approved in Committee with a party-line vote, in contrast to previous years’ bipartisanship. Since then, the Senate Appropriations Committee has passed 10 of the 12 FY20 bills to date, though none has reached the Senate floor.

One bill that has made it through the full Senate Appropriations Committee is the Transportation-Housing and Urban Development spending bill. According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), the Senate appropriations bill provides modest funding increases for affordable housing programs. Overall, the bill provides HUD programs with more than $11.9 billion above President Trump’s FY20 request and $2.3 billion above FY19 enacted levels. The bill fails, however, to include legislative language approved in the House version that would halt cruel proposals from the president to evict mixed-status families from assisted housing and to roll back LGBT protections. For additional details on the Senate spending bill, see NLIHC’s full analysis and updated budget chart.

The Senate Appropriations Committee also passed its Agriculture spending bill. According to Committee Democrats, the bill provides full funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and provides $245 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which provides seniors with healthy and nutritious home-delivered food.  The President’s budget proposed to eliminate this program.

One bill that has not yet made it through the Committee is the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (“Labor-H”) bill. Advocates expressed concern that the Senate Appropriations Committee’s 302(b) allocations for some areas – including those covered by the Labor-H bill – are too low and would cause harm to human needs programs. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Senate appropriations bill funding these departments would be cut 1.4 percent below its inflation-adjusted 2019 level, a cut of $2.7 billion. The Department of Homeland Security, on the other hand, would receive an inflation-adjusted funding increase of 4.3 percent, or $2.1 billion.

The House of Representatives has already passed 10 of the 12 required FY20 spending bills, but these were passed before a bipartisan budget deal was agreed to by both the House and Senate; the topline spending levels in the budget deal were lower than the spending levels in many of the House bills. For more information on the House version of spending bills, see the July 1 Human Needs Report.

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CHN: Border Security Funding Up in the Air, as is Deferred Medical Status https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-border-security-funding-up-in-the-air-as-is-deferred-medical-status/ Mon, 30 Sep 2019 14:37:23 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5021 Funding decisions for the Department of Homeland Security, including the border wall and other controversial measures such as additional detention beds and other immigration enforcement activities, appear to have been punted well into November. On September 27, President Trump signed a stopgap spending measure enacted by Congress that keeps government...

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Funding decisions for the Department of Homeland Security, including the border wall and other controversial measures such as additional detention beds and other immigration enforcement activities, appear to have been punted well into November.

On September 27, President Trump signed a stopgap spending measure enacted by Congress that keeps government running through Nov. 21 (see related article in this Human Needs Report for more information).

The House and Senate also passed a joint resolution that would overturn President Trump’s emergency declaration at the southern border, a declaration that, for now, has allowed him to divert other government spending to build his wall. But the votes – 236-174 in the House and 54-41 in the Senate, with 11 Republicans in each chamber joining all Democrats in each chamber – did not represent the two-thirds majorities that would be needed to override an anticipated presidential veto. President Trump vetoed a similar resolution back in March.

Meanwhile, on Friday, Sept. 20, the Washington Post reported that the Trump Administration plans – once again – to divert billions of dollars in military funding to pay for border wall construction next year, a way to circumvent congressional opposition to the measure.

The Trump Administration is striving to complete nearly 500 miles of new barriers by the 2020 elections. But, the Post reported, that construction goal will require a total of $18.4 billion in funding through 2020, far more than the Administration has publicly disclosed. The Post obtained documents that show the cost of building the wall works out to $36 million per mile. And the newspaper said the Administration plans once again to divert $3.6 billion from military funding to pay for the wall – equal to the amount it already has planned to divert. Some of that money currently is slotted to pay for child care centers and schools on military bases; other dollars were intended to pay for needed maintenance.

The diversion, which is sure to again be challenged in court, is intended as a work-around to action taken earlier this summer by the House Appropriations Committee. That committee passed a bill that provides no funding whatsoever for new border barriers, additional Border Patrol agents or new Border Patrol checkpoints. It also prohibits the use of funds for the detention or removal of DACA recipients and certain ICE and CBP raids and other immigration enforcement activities.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, two Trump Administration officials appeared before the Civil Rights and Civil Liberties subcommittee of the House Judiciary Committee to explain the Administration’s decision, since reversed, sort of, to deny requests for seriously ill immigrants – including children – who are receiving lifesaving medical treatment in the United States to be allowed to remain here for treatment.

According to the Washington Post, two DHS officials, Timothy S. Robbins, acting executive associate director of enforcement and removal operations, and Daniel Renaud, associate director, field operations directorate, would not answer the following questions:

  • Who came up with the policy?
  • What was the reason for the policy?
  • Did it come from the White House?
  • What section of DHS issued the directive?
  • Is there even an official policy in writing somewhere?
  • Did anyone think to calculate the potential loss of life?

The two Trump Administration officials said they could not answer the questions because of pending litigation (a Boston-based human rights group has sued the Administration).

But the stonewalling led an exasperated Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (D-MD), who chairs the subcommittee, to tell the Post, “The only thing saving us from the utter depravity of the Trump Administration is its rank incompetence. I was flabbergasted by the performance of these government officials who could not tell Congress who is behind this policy, why it was adopted, where it came from, when it goes into effect or even what it is.”

Back in August, immigrant families with very sick children began receiving letters from the federal government informing them that their application to stay in the U.S. under medical deferred action had been denied, and they had 33 days to leave the country, meaning their children would have to forgo additional medical treatment.

After news of the letters broke the Trump Administration backtracked, saying the families would be allowed to remain in the U.S. However, the Administration has been unable to state what will happen with future applications for medical deferred status, and has broadly hinted that few applications will be approved.

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CHN: Advocates Oppose Repeal of Medicaid Access Monitoring Rule https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-oppose-repeal-of-medicaid-access-monitoring-rule/ Mon, 30 Sep 2019 14:32:52 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5020 The Trump Administration recently proposed a rule that would rescind an important Obama Administration Medicaid regulation. The Medicaid Access Monitoring Rule ensures providers are paid sufficiently under Medicaid to ensure that enough participate in the program to give beneficiaries access to covered services. Advocates believe that a rescission of the...

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The Trump Administration recently proposed a rule that would rescind an important Obama Administration Medicaid regulation. The Medicaid Access Monitoring Rule ensures providers are paid sufficiently under Medicaid to ensure that enough participate in the program to give beneficiaries access to covered services. Advocates believe that a rescission of the Access Monitoring Rule with no meaningful replacement could have a negative impact on access to care and a disproportionate impact on people of color, who make up approximately 60 percent of Medicaid enrollees and who are already less likely to have access to a usual source of care. Access to needed services is essential for children and adults who are enrolled in Medicaid. The Georgetown University Center for Children and Families noted that by repealing the Access Rule, this proposed rule would harm more than 2.5 million Medicaid children whose providers are paid on a fee-for-service basis. CHN joined a sign-on comment circulated by Families USA urging the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services to withdraw its proposed rule.

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CHN: New Census Bureau Data Show Fewer Americans with Health Care Coverage, Tremendous Disparities in Poverty Rates Based on Race and Age https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-new-census-bureau-data-show-fewer-americans-with-health-care-coverage-tremendous-disparities-in-poverty-rates-based-on-race-and-age/ Mon, 30 Sep 2019 14:30:51 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5019 For the first time since implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the number of uninsured Americans is on the rise. That’s the headline that emerged earlier this month when annual U.S. Census Bureau statistics were released. The statistics showed that 27.5 million Americans, or 8.5 percent of the population,...

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For the first time since implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the number of uninsured Americans is on the rise. That’s the headline that emerged earlier this month when annual U.S. Census Bureau statistics were released. The statistics showed that 27.5 million Americans, or 8.5 percent of the population, did not have health insurance in 2018, an increase of 1.9 million people over 2017.

Experts attributed the decline to the Trump Administration’s relentless attacks on the ACA, which range from cutting the budgets for promoting the ACA and helping people enroll in marketplaces, to attempts to scale back Medicaid coverage.

Medicaid coverage dropped by nearly 2 million people from 2017 to 2018.  Those losing Medicaid did not shift to private insurance; there were 429,000 fewer private insurance enrollees in 2018 than in 2017.

The Census Bureau actually released two broad sets of numbers in September. National statistics released in early September reported on poverty and income levels, as well as the number of people with health care coverage. On Thursday, Sept. 26, the Census Bureau released state and local data derived from the American Community Survey (ACS).

The newest data released last week show a poverty rate of 13.1 percent in 2018, down from 13.4 percent over the previous year. While the downward trend is good news, the data continue to show troubling disparities. Income inequality rose nationwide. More than 30 percent of all people in the U.S. have incomes less than twice the federal poverty line (just under $40,000 a year for a family of 3). In 24 states and Puerto Rico, at least 30 percent of people had incomes this modest – above poverty, but on the edge.

Poverty is declining for communities of color as well, but African Americans, Latinx, and American Indians and Alaska Natives remain disproportionately poor. “The racial poverty gap is an old story in our nation,” said Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of the Coalition on Human Needs, a national advocacy group focused on reducing poverty. “The new data continue to show stubbornly high poverty rates for all African Americans, Latinx, and American Indians. But poverty is far worse for our youngest children, during their crucial developmental years. Failing to help families with young children to raise their children out of poverty threatens our future.”

You can read CHN’s statement in response to the newest numbers here, and see CHN’s table showing total poverty, under 200 percent of poverty, and child poverty with certain race/ethnicity details, for 50 states plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico here. CHN also summarized a number of CHN members’ responses to the national data here. And CHN’s poverty resource page is here. Finally, click here to view CHN’s “First Look at Poverty and Health Insurance: Fewer Americans Have Health Insurance – And Millions Are Not Sharing in Economic Growth.”

As always, the national Census Bureau data showed that race plays a disproportionate impact on who is poor and who is not. Among non-Hispanic Whites, the national poverty rate in 2018 was 8.1 percent; among Blacks, it was 20.8 percent; and among Hispanics (any race) it was 17.6 percent. The poverty rate for non-Hispanic Whites declined from 8.5 percent in 2017 to 8.1 percent in 2018 while the poverty rate for Blacks, Asians and Hispanics did not change significantly from the previous year. And children remain disproportionately poor: 16.2 percent of children under the age of 18 lived in poverty in 2018, down 1.2 percentage points from 2017. 8.9 percent of non-Hispanic White children live in poverty, compared with 29.5 percent of Black and 23.7 percent of Hispanic (any race) children.

The good news, however, is that programs such as Social Security, low-income tax credits, SNAP/food stamps and housing assistance helped lift millions out of poverty. The Supplemental Poverty Measure data show that Social Security continues to be the most important anti-poverty program, moving 27.3 million Americans out of poverty. SNAP/food stamps moved 3.1 million out of poverty, housing assistance, 3 million people, and SSI, 2.9 million people.

The bad news, however, is that the Trump Administration is trying to cut SNAP, housing aid, and other programs that help move people out of poverty.

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CHN: Advocates Respond to Proposal to Take SNAP Away from Millions https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-respond-to-proposal-to-take-snap-away-from-millions/ Mon, 30 Sep 2019 14:26:04 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=5018 More than 75,000 comments were submitted in response to a proposed rule that would take SNAP/food stamps away from 3 million people and jeopardize more than 500,000 children’s access to free school meals. The rule, proposed by the Trump Administration’s Department of Agriculture, would roll back states’ ability to tailor...

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More than 75,000 comments were submitted in response to a proposed rule that would take SNAP/food stamps away from 3 million people and jeopardize more than 500,000 children’s access to free school meals. The rule, proposed by the Trump Administration’s Department of Agriculture, would roll back states’ ability to tailor their SNAP income and asset limits to help more low-income households. According to the Food Research & Action Center (FRAC), the option, known as “broad-based categorical eligibility,” allows states to screen families with gross incomes slightly above 130 percent of the poverty line to determine if their net incomes would make them eligible for SNAP benefits. Categorical eligibility has been a success for more than 20 years, and more than 40 states have adopted it to streamline the process for participating in federal nutrition programs and to make SNAP more responsive to the needs of low-income families.

Congress has repeatedly rejected proposals to roll back the option, including most recently in the bipartisan 2018 Farm Bill. Advocates see the proposed rule as an attempt to sidestep Congress and attack struggling Americans. SNAP advocates expect the number of comments submitted will climb significantly as additional comments submitted before the Sept. 23 deadline are processed. CHN created a portal to make the process of submitting comments easier; through CHN’s portal, 8,513 comments were submitted. CHN also submitted comments opposing the rule. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is obliged to take into account comments submitted, although they do not have to make the changes recommended. If there are lawsuits against the proposal, courts often pay attention to the comments. For more information about the proposed rule, see this piece from FRAC.

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CHN: Deal on Spending Levels Passes House https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-deal-on-spending-levels-close/ Mon, 22 Jul 2019 15:36:29 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4773 UPDATE: The House on July 25 passed (284-149) a measure to raise tight spending caps for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 and raise the debt ceiling through July 31, 2021. The Senate is expected to pass the measure next week, and the President is expected to sign the bill (H.R....

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UPDATE: The House on July 25 passed (284-149) a measure to raise tight spending caps for Fiscal Years 2020 and 2021 and raise the debt ceiling through July 31, 2021. The Senate is expected to pass the measure next week, and the President is expected to sign the bill (H.R. 3877).

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin reached the deal earlier this week, which would raise tight spending caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act. The agreed-upon top-line spending levels will include about $324 billion in additional spending over the current caps over the two fiscal years, including an increase of $56.5 billion over the next two years above the 2019 level for non-defense discretionary programs (those programs subject to annual appropriations). That is a smaller increase for these appropriations than the House has proposed for FY2020, but it’s more money for these programs than had a deal not been reached. The bill also raises defense funding relative to its 2019 level, by $10 billion less than the non-defense increase. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, overall non-defense appropriations would still be near a historic low when measured as a percentage of the economy (with data back to 1976).

The deal will also include roughly $77 billion in offsets to partially pay for the additional spending; these offsets are similar to those used in the last two-year spending deal, which included extending automatic cuts to mandatory programs (those not subject to the annual appropriations process), currently set to expire in 2027. The White House originally pushed for $150 billion in offsets.

CHN sent a letter before the House vote urging representatives to support the bill, saying that while there are reservations about the deal, “it allows for important if modest progress in addressing unmet needs and makes it far less likely that the appropriations process will be stymied, leading to the destructive recurrence of a government shutdown.”

Without a deal to change current budget law, domestic programs subject to appropriations would have faced cuts of about 10 percent overall in the fiscal year that begins October 1. Because certain program areas must increase, such as the constitutionally required 2020 Census and previously enacted increases in veterans’ health services, other programs will lose even more.

Reaching a deal became more of a time-sensitive matter after the Treasury Department called on Congress last week to increase the debt limit before the August recess to ensure the government would continue to be able to borrow to pay its bills. Economists and business leaders overwhelmingly agree that failure to raise the debt ceiling would do catastrophic damage to the U.S. and to economies and markets worldwide. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other top Democrats said they would not pass a debt ceiling increase without a spending caps deal.

In June, more than 250 national organizations joined CHN in urging Congress to lift budget caps and set domestic and international spending for FY 2020 at levels no less than the House totals. The House agreed on a FY 2020 cap for appropriations of $631 billion for programs other than defense, and placed additional funds for programs including the 2020 Census outside the budget cap.

With a top-line spending limits in place, appropriators can return to the business of passing detailed spending bills for FY20. The House of Representatives has passed 10 of the 12 required FY20 spending bills, while the Senate has not yet moved any bills. For more information, see the July 1 Human Needs Report

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CHN: Trump Administration Moves to End Asylum; ACLU Cries Foul https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-trump-administration-moves-to-end-asylum-aclu-cries-foul/ Mon, 22 Jul 2019 15:00:40 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4772 The Trump Administration last week announced a sweeping rule that cuts off asylum for almost all migrants who pass through another country en route to the U.S.-Mexico border, and it took the ACLU all of 48 hours to file a lawsuit. The rule, which took effect almost immediately, applies to...

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The Trump Administration last week announced a sweeping rule that cuts off asylum for almost all migrants who pass through another country en route to the U.S.-Mexico border, and it took the ACLU all of 48 hours to file a lawsuit.

The rule, which took effect almost immediately, applies to almost anyone arriving at the U.S. southern border. Sometimes asylum seekers from Africa and other continents arrive there, but the overwhelming majority of migrants arriving are Central Americans from El Salvador, Guatemala, or Honduras.

The move by the Trump Administration is aimed at essentially ending asylum protections on the southern border, reversing decades of U.S. policy on how refugees are treated. It comes as the government continues to clamp down on migrants, and as migrant advocates protest the inhumane treatment of those being held in border facilities.

The ACLU was not impressed.

On behalf of four advocacy organizations, it filed a lawsuit arguing that this latest crackdown violates federal immigration and regulatory laws.

“This is the Trump Administration’s most extreme run at an asylum ban yet,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt. “It clearly violates domestic and international law and cannot stand.”

In the lawsuit, filed in the Northern District of California, the ACLU asserted that the new regulation “is part of an unlawful effort to significantly undermine, if not virtually repeal, the U.S. asylum system.”

The ACLU further contends that the rule violates federal asylum law, which makes protections available to migrants whether or not they arrive at a port of entry. In addition, the ACLU is arguing that the Trump Administration violated regulatory guidelines when it issued the sweeping change immediately and without going through a thorough public process that would allow for a public comment period.

In a related development, threatened raids by ICE targeting 2,000 immigrants in nine U.S. cities failed to develop, leaving advocates temporarily relieved but still on edge and immigrants remaining in hiding.

In Miami, according to NPR affiliate WLRN, a hush fell over a market usually buzzing with activity among immigrant merchants and shoppers.

“People are clearly hiding,” Yohanna Gomez, a Honduran immigrant who runs a Central American stall at the market, told WLRN. “If you look around, it’s the people who are working are basically the only people here. But the majority of our clients are immigrants. Some with papers, others with no papers, but they’re all scared.”

Click here to read CHN’s response to the threatened raids.

And in yet another development on the immigration front, emotions ran raw when the House Oversight Committee conducted a hearing on conditions in immigrant facilities along the southern border. The hearing was one of a series of hearings taking place not only on migrant detention facilities but also examining the Trump Administration’s overall immigration policies.

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CHN: Citizenship Question Out of 2020 Census, Trump Concedes; But Controversy over Citizenship Question Continues https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-citizenship-question-out-of-2020-census-trump-concedes-but-controversy-over-citizenship-question-continues/ Mon, 22 Jul 2019 14:56:08 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4771 Even though the U.S. Supreme Court in late June put a halt to the Trump Administration’s efforts to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census, and President Trump announced on July 11 his Administration would stop pushing for the addition of such a question – controversy over the effort...

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Even though the U.S. Supreme Court in late June put a halt to the Trump Administration’s efforts to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census, and President Trump announced on July 11 his Administration would stop pushing for the addition of such a question – controversy over the effort continues.

Last week, on Tuesday, July 16, attorneys for plaintiffs who sued to prevent the citizenship question filed a formal request for U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman of New York to consider imposing sanctions on the Trump Administration for allegedly providing misleading statements as part of the multiple lawsuits over the question, which was originally approved by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. Administration officials allegedly engaged in conduct that is “nothing less than a fraud on the Court,” plaintiffs’ attorneys with the ACLU and New York Civil Liberties Union argued.

“Through the use of false or misleading testimony, they obscured evidence suggesting that the true purpose of Secretary Ross’s decision to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census – suppressing the political power of minority immigrant communities,” the lawyers argued.

Meanwhile, on the evening of Wednesday, July 17, the House voted largely along party lines to hold Ross and Attorney General William Barr in criminal contempt for defying subpoenas for documents relating to their efforts to add the citizenship question. The House approved the contempt measure 230-198, with four Democrats joining all Republicans in voting against the resolution.

Democrats argued that the measure was necessary to hold officials accountable for obstruction and for pursuing efforts to undermine the Census. “The resolution that’s before us today is about protecting our democracy….It is about protecting the integrity of this body – it’s bigger than the Census. It’s about protecting the integrity of the Congress of the United States of America,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD), chairman of the House Oversight and Reform Committee.

Finally, some confusion exists over an executive order issued by President Trump instructing the Social Security Administration, the Department of Homeland Security, and other federal agencies to gather information on citizenship data. The confusion exists in part because Secretary Ross already had directed the Census Bureau to gather that information last year. A recent filing to the White House Office of Management and Budget confirms that Ross has now ordered the Census Bureau to release citizenship data based on those records to state redistricting officials in 2021.

Combined, these actions raise red flags among advocates of democratic reform and fair elections. Why? Because some conservatives in the past have endeavored to base political districts on the number of citizens who live in the districts as opposed to the number of persons. The result of such maneuvering is to dilute the voting power, in particular, of people of color and immigrant communities, resulting in Congressional or other districts that are skewed to over-represent white and more conservative voters.

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CHN: ACA Headed Back to Supreme Court? https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-aca-headed-back-to-supreme-court/ Mon, 22 Jul 2019 14:49:39 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4770 A full nine years after its enactment, the future of the Affordable Care Act remains uncertain as courts continue to grapple over its constitutionality. Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments over whether the fact that Congress eliminated the ACA’s penalty for...

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A full nine years after its enactment, the future of the Affordable Care Act remains uncertain as courts continue to grapple over its constitutionality. Earlier this month, a three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals heard arguments over whether the fact that Congress eliminated the ACA’s penalty for not signing up for health care rendered the entire law invalid.

The argument pitted 18 Republican state attorneys general and the Trump Administration against 20 state attorneys general and the U.S. House. Of the 20, 18 are Democrats, and two are Republicans – the Republican attorneys general of Montana and Ohio crossed over to join the Democrats after warning that millions of people in their two states combined would lose coverage if the ACA is overturned.

A ruling from the Fifth Circuit is expected in early fall; based on arguments before the court, it is impossible to conclude how the court will rule. However, whichever side loses is expected to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which – if the high court accepts the case – presumably would add it to its 2020 term, setting the stage for a decision in the middle of an election year. This would be the third time that the Supreme Court has taken up the ACA’s constitutionality.

During arguments before the Fifth Circuit, two of the panel’s three judges – both appointed by Republican presidents – aggressively questioned defenders of the ACA whether the ACA’s individual mandate is constitutional and whether the entire law could stand without it.

Appellate Judge Jennifer Elrod, a George W. Bush appointee, posited that members of Congress – who failed to agree on an ACA replacement plan two years ago – deliberately eliminated the mandate penalty because they knew the rest of the law would have to fall. She said perhaps lawmakers thought, “Aha, this is the silver bullet that’s going to undo Obamacare.”

But attorneys for the states defending the ACA pushed back. They said that Congress clearly intended for the rest of the law to survive when it eliminated the mandate penalty. “All the court has to do is look at the text,” said Samuel Siegel, the attorney representing the mostly Democratic-led states.

You can read more about the intricacies of the case before the Fifth Circuit here.

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CHN: Advocates Celebrate House Passage of $15 Minimum Wage Bill https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-celebrate-house-passage-of-15-minimum-wage-bill/ Mon, 22 Jul 2019 14:46:23 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4769 Advocates celebrated the July 18 House passage of legislation to gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025 and index it to inflation after that. The Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582) would also phase out the outdated subminimum wage for tipped workers, which has been...

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Advocates celebrated the July 18 House passage of legislation to gradually raise the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $15 by 2025 and index it to inflation after that. The Raise the Wage Act (H.R. 582) would also phase out the outdated subminimum wage for tipped workers, which has been frozen at $2.13 since 1991, and sunset the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities and workers under age 20. The bill passed by a vote of 231-199; three Republicans supported the measure, while six Democrats and one Independent opposed it. CHN sent a letter to representatives before the vote urging them to support the bill.

A Republican effort opposed by advocates that would have substantially undermined the bill narrowly failed (210-218). The effort would have exempted employers with fewer than 10 employees or annual gross income of less than $1 million. Advocates warned that the amendment would exclude most business employers and would not only hurt low-wage workers but also hurt small businesses by incentivizing employees to not work for them. Members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus said they would vote against the bill if this language was added.

One amendment, offered by Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D-AZ), did pass (248-181). It would require the Government Accountability Office to submit a report to Congress on the economic and employment impacts of the wage increases in the bill, with the report to be prepared after the second wage increase and before the third wage increase. The amendment also requires Congress to assess the report’s findings and to take any appropriate legislative action, including action to delay or otherwise modify the next scheduled wage increases.

Analysis from the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) shows that the bill would lift wages for more than 33 million workers – including more than 9.4 million parents and 6.2 million workers in poverty – and would boost annual earnings for the average affected year-round worker by $2,800. The Congressional Budget Office, Congress’s nonpartisan scorekeeper, estimated that the bill would lift 1.3 million people out of poverty, nearly half of them children.  CBO also estimated that there could be job loss if the $15 minimum wage were in effect (possibly 1.3 million people jobless in an average week in 2015, although they concede there is a good chance job loss could range from essentially zero up to 3.7 million).  EPI notes that the most credible evidence from areas where the minimum wage has been raised the highest, such as Seattle, does not show job loss.

Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, one of the leads of the Raise the Wage campaign, said in a statement after the successful vote, “Today’s House vote for a $15 minimum wage reflects the will of the people: Raising the minimum wage is long overdue, and it’s popular with voters in every state, and across all demographics including political affiliation. We applaud the House for doing its job. Now there’s no other moral choice but for the Senate to take up the Raise the Wage Act and move it forward.” A statement from the National Women’s Law Center said in part, “This is an historic, bipartisan vote for millions of working people—especially for women, who are the majority of workers who will see bigger paychecks thanks to the Raise the Wage Act. … [A]l of us will benefit from an economy that values everyone’s work.” Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director of CHN, said, “Lifting low-income workers is the right and moral thing to do, pure and simple, and the Senate should take up the Raise the Wage Act for its consideration.”

A $15 minimum wage bill has been introduced in the Senate (S. 150) by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Whether or not the legislation will move in that chamber is uncertain.

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CHN: Proposed Rule Would Favor Abusive Debt Collectors over Consumers https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-proposed-rule-would-favor-abusive-debt-collectors-over-consumers/ Mon, 22 Jul 2019 14:42:35 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4767 Aug. 19 is the deadline for commenting on a proposed rule that would do more to protect the interests of abusive debt collectors than protect consumers. Advocates believe the proposed rule weakens the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by undermining its goals of stopping harassment, protecting consumer privacy, and...

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Aug. 19 is the deadline for commenting on a proposed rule that would do more to protect the interests of abusive debt collectors than protect consumers. Advocates believe the proposed rule weakens the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) by undermining its goals of stopping harassment, protecting consumer privacy, and preventing collection against the wrong person or in the wrong amount.

The rule, proposed by the Trump Administration’s Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), would allow debt collectors to:

  • Call consumers seven times per week, per debt. A consumer with eight medical debts could hear the phone ringing up to 56 times a week.
  • Contact consumers by text, email, or direct message without their permission and send important information through hyperlinks. In addition to the obvious harassment, this raises huge cyber security concerns.
  • Sue consumers without the debt collector’s attorneys reviewing original account documents to make sure the consumer is the right person and the debt is the right amount.
  • Collect debt that is so old that the deadline for a lawsuit has passed and records of who owes the debt and for how much may be lost.

For more information about the proposed rule, and what can be done to improve it, see this issue brief published by the National Consumer Law Center (NCLC). NCLC also set up a portal for submitting public comments to the CFPB about the rule and a tool for collecting personal stories from individuals who have encountered abusive debt collectors.

In 2017, 71 million Americans – nearly one in three adults with a credit report – had a debt in collection reported on their credit reports. Nationally, the percentage of people with debt in collection reaches 45 percent for residents of predominantly non-white zip codes. Abuses by debt collectors are consistently among the top consumer complaints to the CFPB.

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CHN: House Passes 10 of 12 FY20 Spending Bills, but Still No Deal on Spending Levels https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-passes-10-of-12-fy20-spending-bills-but-still-no-deal-on-spending-levels/ Mon, 01 Jul 2019 17:54:33 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4669 The House of Representatives fell slightly short of its goal of passing all 12 required FY20 spending bills before the end of June. On June 19, the House passed  a “minibus” package (H.R. 2740) consisting of the FY20 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill; the Defense bill;...

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The House of Representatives fell slightly short of its goal of passing all 12 required FY20 spending bills before the end of June. On June 19, the House passed  a “minibus” package (H.R. 2740) consisting of the FY20 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill; the Defense bill; the Energy and Water bill; and the State and Foreign Operations bill (226-203; seven Democrats and all Republicans voted no). The National Education Association said the package “includes several billion dollars in crucial increases for early childhood, K-12, and higher education initiatives.”

On June 25, the House passed a second FY20 minibus package (H.R. 3055) consisting of the Agriculture spending bill; the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill; the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill; the Interior-Environment bill; and the Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs bill (227-194; one Democrat joined all Republicans in opposition). The National Low Income Housing Coalition said the package, “includes robust funding for affordable housing and community development investments at HUD and USDA, as well as several positive amendments.” The second minibus also included back pay for an estimated 580,000 federal contractors who were furloughed or had to work without pay during the partial government shutdown that ended in January, as well as funds for gun violence research and language blocking the Trump Administration from repurposing military construction funds to build a wall on the southern border. The package also includes language blocking the inclusion of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census (for more information on this, see the related article in this Human Needs Report).

Before last week ended, the House on June 26 also passed the FY20 Financial Services spending bill (H.R. 3351), which funds the Treasury Department, IRS, Securities and Exchange Commission, White House, and other government agencies (224-196; five Democrats joined all Republicans in voting no). The measure included language blocking the Trump Administration from using Treasury Department funds to build a wall on the southern border.

The Trump Administration issued Statements of Administration Policy saying it would recommend vetoes if either of the minibuses or the Financial Services bill reach his desk. The House left two FY20 spending bills unfinished, however — the Homeland Security bill and the Legislative Branch bill.

Formal action on FY20 spending bills has not yet begun in the Senate. A new bipartisan deal to raise tight spending caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act still needs to be reached between the House and Senate and signed by President Trump if Congress is to avoid the deep cuts required by the 2011 law. Last week, more than 250 national organizations joined CHN in urging Congress to lift budget caps and set domestic and international spending for FY 2020 at levels no less than the House totals.  The House agreed on a FY 2020 cap for appropriations of $631 billion for programs other than defense, and placed additional funds for programs including the 2020 Census outside the budget cap. If current budget law is not changed, domestic programs will face cuts of about 10 percent in the fiscal year that begins October 1.  Because certain program areas must increase, such as the constitutionally required 2020 Census and previously enacted increases in veterans’ health services, other programs will lose even more.

Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) said again on June 27 that if a spending caps agreement is not reached by the time Congress returns from its July 4 recess, he will push for his committee to set its own spending limits so it can begin work on the Senate’s version of spending bills. He had previously said his committee would write spending bills to the lower numbers required by existing law, with the expectation that they could add funds if there was an agreement to lift the caps. However, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) responded later that day saying he did not want the Senate to set its own spending limits or to proceed with work on spending bills until a spending caps deal was reached with the House and the Trump Administration.

For more information, see the June 17 Human Needs Report.

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CHN: Congress Passes Emergency Border Aid after Disagreement among House Democrats https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-congress-passes-emergency-border-aid-after-disagreement-among-house-democrats/ Mon, 01 Jul 2019 17:48:33 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4668 Last week the House passed and sent to President Trump a $4.59 billion emergency spending bill for the humanitarian crisis on the southern U.S. border. President Trump on July 1 signed the measure, which primarily consists of funds for food, shelter, medicine, and enforcement personnel. The vote was a victory...

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Last week the House passed and sent to President Trump a $4.59 billion emergency spending bill for the humanitarian crisis on the southern U.S. border. President Trump on July 1 signed the measure, which primarily consists of funds for food, shelter, medicine, and enforcement personnel.

The vote was a victory of sorts for the Trump Administration; the House had previously passed a different version of the bill, one which contained additional protections for unaccompanied minor immigrants, and restrictions on the Administration’s use of funds.

The legislation revealed a split between House progressives and centrist Democrats. The Senate had passed a bill with fewer protections for minor immigrants and fewer restrictions on the Trump Administration by a bipartisan 84-8 vote. House progressives favored their more sweeping measure, but the Trump Administration was vigorously opposed, and fears arose that if the House did not go along with the Senate version before the chambers adjourned for their week-long 4th of July recess, the legislation would stall and some agencies responsible for addressing the humanitarian crisis would run out of money at the end of June.

In the end, the House passed the Senate version of the emergency spending bill on a 305-102 vote. And it passed largely because of GOP votes – 176 Republicans voted yes, while seven Republicans voted no. Among Democrats, 129 members voted yes, while 95 members voted no.

In a letter to every member of Congress before the final vote, CHN expressed dismay over the failure of the Trump Administration to safeguard the immigrant children and adults in its care. The letter urged members to approve the funding, but also to pass many more protections for children and other immigrants, closer to the initial House bill. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) had hoped to amend the Senate bill with changes that included a 90-day limit on how long children can spend in holding facilities; less funding for the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency; and a provision to ensure lawmakers could visit facilities that hold children without prior notice. But Senate Republicans and the Trump Administration opposed these changes.

In the end, Pelosi decided to take up the Senate bill for a vote with no changes after an hour-long conversation with Vice President Pence. Pence did agree to administratively implement two changes sought by Pelosi – the 90-day limit on keeping children in holding facilities, and an agreement to notify Congress within 24 hours after the death of a child in custody.

“At the end of the day, we have to make sure that the resources needed to protect the children are available,” Pelosi said in a letter to her Democratic colleagues. “In order to get resources to the children fastest, we will reluctantly support the Senate bill.”

The legislation includes $2.88 billion for the HHS Office of Refugee Resettlement, which cares for unaccompanied children. The spending bill also includes more than $200 million in funding for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and $110 million in overtime funding for DHS Customs and Border Protection employees, as well as money for the Pentagon and other agencies.

Meanwhile, immigrant advocates expressed outright alarm over reports that ICE soon would begin rounding up thousands of immigrants in ten U.S. cities who had court-ordered removal notices. The imminent raids, announced by President Trump in a tweet, were to begin Sunday, June 23, but Trump subsequently announced the raids would be delayed by two weeks.

CHN condemned the impending raids, saying in a statement that they “are the latest reminder that President Trump’s immigration policies are cruel and inhumane and not representative of the type of nation we aspire to be.”

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CHN: Supreme Court Blocks Citizenship Question; Next Steps Uncertain https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-supreme-court-blocks-citizenship-question-next-steps-uncertain/ Mon, 01 Jul 2019 17:37:59 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4667 A deeply divided Supreme Court last week halted, for now, efforts by the Trump Administration to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. A majority of justices did not find that a citizenship question is unconstitutional per se, but rather that the Department of Commerce had offered up a...

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A deeply divided Supreme Court last week halted, for now, efforts by the Trump Administration to include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census. A majority of justices did not find that a citizenship question is unconstitutional per se, but rather that the Department of Commerce had offered up a “contrived” reason for wanting to include the question, and in doing so had violated the Administrative Procedure Act.

The key passage in the controlling, 5-4 opinion, authored by Chief Justice John Roberts and joined by the Court’s more liberal justices, noted that governmental agencies must offer “genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public.”

“Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise,” the opinion continued. “If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case.”

The decennial count of the nation’s population determines the size of each state’s congressional delegation, the number of votes it receives in the electoral college, and how the federal government allocates hundreds of billions of dollars. In addition, state and local officials use the data to redraw political districts ranging from city council to school board to state legislative and congressional seats.

Census officials have estimated that including a citizenship question would result in an undercount of more than 8 million people. Areas most affected would be states and urban areas with large Hispanic and immigrant populations. In particular, households with young children, especially children of color, would be adversely affected, as would immigrant families, those who identify as Hispanic/Latino, and low-income households.

The central question that now confronts the Trump Administration, which still wants to include a citizenship question, as well as advocates for an accurate 2020 Census, is whether the Trump Administration can move quickly enough to come up with a new rationale and gain judicial clearance for that rationale.

The Trump Administration had claimed that the deadline for finalizing the Census questionnaire was June 30; however, some government officials have said the “real” deadline is in the fall. Even if the deadline is in the fall, there are any number of hoops the Administration must jump through in order to prevail. In addition, litigation against the citizenship question continues in U.S. District Courts in Maryland and New York over allegations that the Trump Administration’s motivation was racially discriminatory.

The judges in Maryland and New York have said they would consider new allegations regarding the claim that Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’s actions violated equal protection guarantees and were part of a conspiracy to drive down the count of minorities.

The allegations arose after files of a deceased Republican operative, Thomas Hofeller, were turned over to plaintiffs by his estranged daughter. The files showed that Hofeller, who had been in touch with Census officials early in the Trump Administration, wrote a memo that said adding the citizenship question might help Republicans and white voters in subsequent redistricting decisions based on census data.

In a statement released after the Supreme Court’s ruling, CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein said Secretary Ross should give up on his efforts to include the citizenship question and instead focus on carrying out the Census Bureau’s plan to conduct the Census. “The Census Bureau should now move forward to ensure an accurate count with no more interference from the Secretary,” she said, adding that Ross “should follow the advice of the Census Bureau’s expert staff and drop his effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census. The clock is ticking. It is time to focus on operational preparations and securing IT systems prior to the Census commencing.”

For more information, see CHN’s 2020 Census resource page.

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CHN: House Committees Highlight the Importance of Public Benefits https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-committees-highlight-the-importance-of-public-benefits/ Mon, 01 Jul 2019 17:34:49 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4666 Multiple House committees have recently held several hearings highlighting the importance of public benefits in meeting the needs of low-income people and investigating the impact of cuts to these programs. On June 19, the House Budget Committee held a hearing titled, “Poverty in America: Economic Realities of Struggling Families.” Witnesses...

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Multiple House committees have recently held several hearings highlighting the importance of public benefits in meeting the needs of low-income people and investigating the impact of cuts to these programs. On June 19, the House Budget Committee held a hearing titled, “Poverty in America: Economic Realities of Struggling Families.” Witnesses included Rev. Dr. William J. Barber and others from the Poor People’s Campaign. Rev. Dr. Barber, in his testimony, made the case that it is economically irresponsible for Congress not to comprehensively address poverty. Several other witnesses shared their personal experience with living in poverty.

On June 20, the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Nutrition, Oversight, and Department Operations held a hearing on a Trump Administration proposal to roll back states’ ability to tailor their SNAP/food stamps income and asset limits to help more low-income households. According to the Food Research & Action Center, the option, known as “broad-based categorical eligibility” allows states to screen families with gross incomes slightly above 130 percent of the poverty line to determine if their net incomes would make them eligible for SNAP benefits. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, categorical eligibility has been a success for 20 years, and more than 40 states have adopted it to make SNAP more responsive to the needs of low-income families. While Congress has repeatedly rejected proposals to roll back the option, the Trump Administration has said it will try to implement the change through executive action.

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CHN: Two Pro-Labor, Pro-Union Bills Introduced https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-two-pro-labor-pro-union-bills-introduced/ Mon, 01 Jul 2019 17:30:47 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4665 Collective bargaining agreements are especially important in closing the gender and racial wage gaps. Two bills that would protect the rights of workers to organize have recently been introduced in Congress. The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (H.R. 3463/S. 1970) was introduced on June 25 by Rep. Matt Cartwright...

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Collective bargaining agreements are especially important in closing the gender and racial wage gaps. Two bills that would protect the rights of workers to organize have recently been introduced in Congress.

The Public Service Freedom to Negotiate Act (H.R. 3463/S. 1970) was introduced on June 25 by Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) and Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI). Unlike private sector workers, there is currently no federal law that protects the freedom of public service workers to join together in a union and collectively bargain for fair wages, hours, and working conditions. This bill would set a minimum nationwide standard of collective bargaining rights that states must provide, giving public sector workers the same basic rights and freedoms enjoyed by workers in the private sector. The House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions held a hearing on the bill on June 26.

In a statement praising the bill’s introduction, Lee Saunders, President of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) said, “This legislation is about defending the freedom of public sector employees to form and join unions if they choose to do so. Public service workers show up every day to make our communities healthier, safer and stronger. It’s time for elected officials to show up for them and give them the respect and voice on the job they deserve to negotiate for themselves and their communities.” The bill is supported by CHN members AFSCME, the National Education Association, and the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), among others.

The Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act (H.R. 2474/S.1306) was introduced in May by Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA). According to the Economic Policy Institute, the bill would provide stronger and swifter remedies when employers in the private sector interfere with workers’ rights to form a union and provide more freedom to organize without employer interference. The bill would also ensure unions can collect “fair share” fees from non-union members. In his testimony at a May hearing of the House Education and Labor Subcommittee on Health, Employment, Labor, and Pensions, Richard Trumpka, President of the AFL-CIO, said, “The PRO Act would do many important things, chief among them provide more substantial relief for workers whose rights have been violated…ensure a process for reaching a first contract once a union is recognized…and create a true deterrent, so employers think twice before violating the law.”

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CHN: Bill to Expand Tax Credits for Working Families Passes House Committee https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-bill-to-expand-tax-credits-for-working-families-passes-house-committee/ Mon, 01 Jul 2019 17:12:27 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4664 The House Ways and Means Committee on June 20 passed legislation that would expand and improve the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) for working families. The Economic Mobility Act of 2019 (H.R. 3300) was introduced by Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA). Among other improvements, the...

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The House Ways and Means Committee on June 20 passed legislation that would expand and improve the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) for working families. The Economic Mobility Act of 2019 (H.R. 3300) was introduced by Committee Chair Richard Neal (D-MA).

Among other improvements, the bill would, for the next two years, nearly triple the maximum EITC for workers who aren’t raising children in their homes (the sole group that the federal tax code taxes into, or deeper into, poverty); make the credit available for people who aren’t full-time students starting at age 19 up to age 66; and provide federal matching funds for Puerto Rico’s new EITC and would provide similar matching funds for other U.S. territories. Additionally, the bill would, for the next two years, make the CTC fully refundable so children in households with little or no earnings will benefit from it. It would also introduce a new Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) worth an additional $1,000 for a child under age 4. The bill would also expand for two years the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, which subsidizes child care expenses, and make it refundable.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the legislation would raise the after-tax income of 16 million childless adults. The bill’s CTC changes would benefit more than 42 million children.

The Committee also passed several other bills on June 20, including ones that would increase federal funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (H.R. 3298); continue roughly 30 expired or soon-to-expire tax provisions (known as “tax extenders”) and provide some tax benefits to victims of certain 2018 and 2019 natural disasters; and extend some tax benefits to same-sex married couples. As reported in the June 17 Human Needs Report, another bill previously introduced in the House and Senate, the Working Families Tax Relief Act, would also expand and improve the EITC and CTC in multiple ways.

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CHN: House Poised to Pass First FY20 Spending Package https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-poised-to-pass-first-fy20-spending-package/ Mon, 17 Jun 2019 14:34:36 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4577 The House of Representatives is poised to pass a package of four of the 12 required spending bills to keep the federal government operating after the new fiscal year begins on October 1. The “minibus” package (H.R. 2740) consists of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill;...

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The House of Representatives is poised to pass a package of four of the 12 required spending bills to keep the federal government operating after the new fiscal year begins on October 1. The “minibus” package (H.R. 2740) consists of the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill; the Defense bill; the Energy and Water bill; and the State and Foreign Operations bill. Dozens of amendments were voted on during floor proceedings last week, with hundreds of additional amendments on tap before a final vote on the package, which is expected this week. The Trump Administration has issued a Statement of Administration Policy saying it would recommend a veto if the minibus reaches his desk.

Following completion of the first spending package, the House is expected to take up a second minibus package (H.R. 3055) consisting of the Agriculture spending bill; the Transportation and Housing and Urban Development bill; the Commerce, Justice, and Science bill; the Interior-Environment bill; and the Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs bill. The package also includes back pay for an estimated 580,000 federal contractors who were furloughed or had to work without pay during the partial government shutdown that ended in January. The three remaining spending bills – the Financial Services bill, the Homeland Security bill, and the Legislative Branch bill – are also expected to pass the House floor before Congress leaves for its July 4 recess.

The House Appropriations Committee approved the top-line spending limits for these 12 FY20 spending bills in May ($631 billion for domestic/international programs, also known as non-defense discretionary; $733 billion for defense), but these levels are not binding in the Senate. A new bipartisan deal to raise tight spending caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act still needs to be reached with the Senate and signed by the President, if Congress is to avoid the deep cuts required by the 2011 law. Without legislation to lift the caps, non-defense discretionary programs would be cut by $54 billion and defense by $71 billion in FY20, compared to FY19 levels. While a deal to lift the austere spending caps for the next two fiscal years is preferred, there is talk on Capitol Hill that a one-year deal may be more achievable: both Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) and House Budget Chair John Yarmuth (D-KY) mentioned the possibility of a one-year agreement over the weekend

Senate Appropriations Chair Shelby previously said he would not agree to the House spending limits and suggested that in the absence of an agreement to lift the caps, his Committee would write spending bills to the lower numbers required by existing law, with the expectation that they could add funds if there was an agreement to lift the statutory caps. The latest report is that the Senate Appropriations Committee could begin taking up its own versions of FY20 spending bills after Congress returns from its July 4 recess, even if an agreement between the House, the Senate, and the White House on spending limits hasn’t been reached by then.

President Trump’s FY20 budget retained the spending caps, but in order to increase military spending proposed a huge increase in the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, from $69 billion to $165 billion. Now reports are that the Administration would prefer a year-long stop-gap spending measure (known as a Continuing Resolution, or CR) for FY20, which would provide level funding from FY19 ($597 billion for domestic/international programs). However, advocates contend that, because of a need for increased funding for the 2020 Census, veterans’ health care, and other programs, flat funding would actually result in a roughly $20 billion loss for other human needs programs.

For more information on what’s in some of the bills the House is voting on, see the May 20 Human Needs Report.

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CHN: Congress Finally Passes, Trump Finally Signs Disaster Aid Bill https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-congress-finally-passes-trump-finally-signs-disaster-aid-bill/ Mon, 17 Jun 2019 14:30:34 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4576 On Thursday, June 6, President Trump signed a long-awaited and long-delayed $19.1 billion disaster relief bill. The package will provide billions of dollars to areas struggling to recover from wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, and other natural disasters. Notably, the funds include $1 billion in aid for Puerto Rico, including $600 million...

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On Thursday, June 6, President Trump signed a long-awaited and long-delayed $19.1 billion disaster relief bill. The package will provide billions of dollars to areas struggling to recover from wildfires, hurricanes, flooding, and other natural disasters.

Notably, the funds include $1 billion in aid for Puerto Rico, including $600 million for the island’s Nutrition Assistance Program and $300 million in Community Development Block Grant funding. The Puerto Rican assistance had become a point of contention between both Democrats and Republicans in Congress and Trump, who repeatedly has overstated the amount of money Puerto Rico has received and has mischaracterized how it has been spent. The funds also include Medicaid assistance for American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas.

The legislation includes $2.4 billion for Community Development Block Grant funds to address disasters that have occurred since 2017, $3 billion for the Agriculture Department to cover producers’ losses from those disasters, and $720 million for the Forest Service to repay money spent fighting last year’s forest fires.

According to the Washington Post, the bill is among the broadest pieces of disaster legislation to have been considered by Congress, both in the scope of aid and the number of disasters addressed. The newspaper noted that those disasters include Hurricanes Maria, Florence, and Michael; Typhoon Mangkhut, Super Typhoon Yutu and Tropical Storm Gita; plus wildfires in California, volcanic eruptions in Hawaii, and an earthquake in Alaska.

CHN noted in a statement that 1.3 million Puerto Ricans saw their nutrition assistance benefits significantly cut and people across the United States were hurt by Trump’s hostility toward the U.S. territory, and the impasse caused by Trump’s intransigence delayed aid to many other places as well.

“Communities battered by natural disasters should not have to wait three years or more for help in rebuilding,” CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein said. “People struggling to put their lives back together should not see their food assistance slashed. They should not have to wonder whether there will continue to be enough Medicaid funding to cover their medical treatment. A slow government response should not add to the damage farmers sustained.”

Weinstein added that CHN members and allies spent months sending letters to Congress and making visits to congressional offices to make sure that disaster aid was passed for all who were affected, states and territories alike. “Those months of insistence made a difference,” she said.

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CHN: House Approves American Dream and Promise Act; Meanwhile, Advocates Brace for Census Ruling https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-approves-american-dream-promise-act/ Mon, 17 Jun 2019 14:25:46 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4575 The House on June 4 passed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R.6), a measure that would offer a path to citizenship to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers. The bill, which passed 237 to 187, would grant Dreamers 10 years of legal residence status if they...

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The House on June 4 passed the American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 (H.R.6), a measure that would offer a path to citizenship to more than 2 million undocumented immigrants, including Dreamers.

The bill, which passed 237 to 187, would grant Dreamers 10 years of legal residence status if they meet certain requirements. They would then receive permanent green cards after completing at least two years of higher education or military service, or after working for three years.

The measure would provide long-awaited clarity to the millions of Dreamers who for years have been caught in legal limbo. The Obama Administration granted work permits to many of them through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, but President Trump called for an end of the program in late 2017. Its fate rests with the Supreme Court, which may take up the issue during its next term.

In a statement, CHN Executive Director Deborah Weinstein said the vote “was a long time coming.”

“It was made possible by the courage of Dreamers and immigrants here through Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) status,” she said. “They came forward to remind us that they are essential members of our communities. Fighting alongside them are their neighbors, extended families, colleagues, fellow students, congregants, and others who recognize that we cannot afford to lose them.”

CHN members heralded the vote.

“Today is an historic step for Dreamers, TPS holders, and DED recipients,” said Sister Simone Campbell, SSS, Executive Director of NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice. “While the struggle for comprehensive immigration reform goes on, we need to protect immigrants from President Trump’s attacks now. That’s why the Catholic Sisters and activists of NETWORK were so proud to support the passage of the American Dream and Promise Act in the House. The Senate must quickly follow suit to provide a pathway to citizenship and protection from deportation for our immigrant sisters and brothers. These are valued community members with inherent dignity who must be protected.”

In a statement, UnidosUS called the vote “an urgently needed step towards protecting DACA and TPS holders, who are integral to American society.”

“We thank Congresswomen Roybal-Allard and Velazquez for shepherding this measure as well as Speaker Pelosi for her leadership. For far too long, DACA recipients and TPS holders have been forced to a life in limbo because of the cruel decisions and actions of the Trump administration. Today’s vote represents a good-faith effort from Congressional leaders to fix the problem and deliver on a measure that has the backing of the American people.

Also relating to immigration: immigrant advocates are bracing themselves for an anticipated U.S. Supreme Court ruling on whether the 2020 Census will include a question relating to citizenship. As has been well documented, such a question would create a massive undercount, particularly among communities of color and households with children. The court ruling could come any time between Monday, June 17 and the end of June. The Census Bureau has said that it must begin printing the Census questionnaires by the beginning of July.

Last week, the Trump Administration, responding to a congressional investigation into why the citizenship question was proposed in the first place, refused to turn over relevant documents to the House Oversight and Reform Committee, citing executive privilege.

In response, Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, which is playing a lead role in opposing the citizenship question, said the Trump Administration’s action is further proof that the citizenship question was added “to depress participation in the census by communities of color.”

“Every revelation since the question was first proposed has reinforced that fact,” she said in a statement. “The Trump Administration has deployed a dizzying array of false pretexts for adding the question, ignored Census Bureau findings that the question would lead to an inaccurate count, and dismissed unmistakable evidence regarding the political motivation behind the question. Through it all, keeping vulnerable communities from accessing their duly deserved resources and representation has remained the focal point of the Administration’s efforts.”

Plaintiffs in suits against the inclusion of the citizenship question filed additional evidence of racial bias with a federal court in Maryland after it was revealed that Thomas Hofeller, a recently deceased Republican expert on gerrymandering political districts, had written reports for Republicans about the impact of a citizenship question in skewing political representation towards white non-Hispanic voters, and had been in communication with a Census Bureau staff person to share that information.

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CHN: Bill Introduced to Boost Tax Credits for Working Families https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-bill-introduced-to-boost-tax-credits-for-working-families/ Mon, 17 Jun 2019 13:55:20 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4574 On June 6, Reps. Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Dwight Evans (D-PA) introduced a bill that would substantially expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The Working Families Tax Relief Act (H.R. 3157) is the House counterpart to a Senate bill (S. 1138) introduced in...

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On June 6, Reps. Dan Kildee (D-MI) and Dwight Evans (D-PA) introduced a bill that would substantially expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The Working Families Tax Relief Act (H.R. 3157) is the House counterpart to a Senate bill (S. 1138) introduced in April by Democratic Sens. Sherrod Brown (OH), Michael Bennet (CO), Richard Durbin (IL), and Ron Wyden (OR). The Senate bill currently has 46 cosponsors.

As previously reported on CHN’s blog, Voices for Human Needs, the bill would expand and improve the EITC and CTC in multiple ways. Specifically, the bill would expand the EITC for families with children by approximately 25 percent; significantly expand the EITC for workers who aren’t raising children in their homes (the sole group that the federal tax code taxes into, or deeper into, poverty); make the credit available for people starting at age 19 up to age 67; and provide a match for Puerto Rico’s new EITC. Additionally, the bill would make the CTC fully refundable so children in households with little or no earnings will benefit from it. It would also establish a higher Young Child Tax Credit (YCTC) for families with children under six years old.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the legislation would raise the incomes of 46 million low- and moderate-income households with 114 million people. It would lift 29 million people, including 11 million children, above or closer to the poverty line.

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CHN: Spending Work Continues in the House without Agreement on FY20 Spending Caps https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-spending-work-continues-in-the-house-without-agreement-on-fy20-spending-caps/ Mon, 20 May 2019 15:00:17 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4454 The House Appropriations Committee on May 8 approved (30-22, along party lines) top-line spending limits for the subcommittees responsible for its 12 FY20 spending bills, known as 302(b) allocations. Totaling $1.295 trillion in discretionary (annually-appropriated) funding, the allocations represent enough to maintain existing program levels and in some cases to...

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The House Appropriations Committee on May 8 approved (30-22, along party lines) top-line spending limits for the subcommittees responsible for its 12 FY20 spending bills, known as 302(b) allocations. Totaling $1.295 trillion in discretionary (annually-appropriated) funding, the allocations represent enough to maintain existing program levels and in some cases to serve more people. In maintaining programs, for example, the National Low Income Housing Coalition said the 6.6 percent increase over FY19 funding for the FY20 Transportation-Housing and Urban Development spending bill should be adequate to “fully renew housing vouchers and project-based rental assistance contracts.” Funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) in the FY20 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill is increased by $2.4 billion to a total of $7.7 billion, a 45 percent increase over FY19 levels without adjusting for inflation. This builds on a substantial increase in CCDBG funding provided in FY18, though child care resources would still remain short of what is needed to assist all eligible children. The 302(b) subcommittee allocations are here. House Appropriations subcommittees had already begun writing and passing bills based on these limits.

These levels are not binding in the Senate, however, and a new bipartisan deal to raise tight spending caps put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act still needs to be reached with the Senate and signed by the President, if Congress is to avoid the deep cuts required by the 2011 law. Without legislation to lift the caps, non-defense discretionary programs would be cut by $55 billion and defense by $71 billion in FY20, compared to FY19 levels.

Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) previously said he would not agree to the House spending limits and suggested that in the absence of an agreement to lift the caps, his Committee would write spending bills to the lower numbers required by existing law. The latest report is that the Senate Appropriations Committee could begin taking up its own versions of FY20 spending bills as early as June, even if an agreement between the House, the Senate, and the White House on spending limits hasn’t been reached by then. President Trump’s FY20 budget retained the spending caps, but in order to increase military spending proposed a huge increase in the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, from $69 billion to $165 billion. Now reports are that the Administration would prefer a year-long stop-gap spending measure (known as a Continuing Resolution, or CR) for FY20, which would provide level funding from FY19. However, advocates contend that, because of a need for increased funding for the 2020 Census, veterans’ health care, and other programs, flat funding would actually result in a roughly $20 billion loss for other human needs programs.

Analysis from CHN shows the importance of lifting the spending caps in order to prevent serious losses in human needs programs. CHN’s work showed that out of 184 programs tracked, 131 of the programs, or 71 percent, lost ground between FY 2010 and FY 2019. Without changing the law to lift next year’s low spending caps, the cuts in spending would mean that far fewer people would be served by the 184 human needs programs CHN looked at.

The full House Appropriations Committee also passed on May 8 (30-23, along party lines) its FY20 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education spending bill. The “Labor-H” bill provides $189.9 billion for these departments, up $11.8 billion or 6 percent over FY19 and up $48 billion over President Trump’s FY20 budget request. Including unused funds in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the bill would spend $204 billion in total. Advocates were pleased that the proposed increase for this spending bill is proportional to the total nondefense discretionary spending increased proposed by House leaders, which has not always been the case in past years. Advocates were also pleased that the proposal contains increases for numerous important human needs programs. A summary of the Labor-H bill from House Democratic appropriators can be found here. The full text of the bill can be found here. For more information on parts of the bill important to human needs advocates, see the May 6 Human Needs Report. Even with the increases, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that total funding for all programs covered in the Labor-H bill would be just 3 percent above what it was a decade ago in inflation-adjusted terms.

Three other FY20 spending bills have been approved by the full House Appropriations Committee to date: State and Foreign Operations; Legislative Branch; and Military Construction and Veterans’ Affairs.

Several other FY20 spending bills have passed out of the respective House Appropriations Subcommittees. Among them is the FY20 Defense spending bill, which would prohibit the Trump Administration from using more Pentagon money for construction of a wall along the U.S. southern border, but it would also approve funding for 12 more of the problem-plagued F-35 fighter jets than the Pentagon requested. The FY20 Commerce-Justice-Science spending bill, which was passed by its subcommittee on May 17, contains $8.45 billion for the Census Bureau (including $7.5 billion for the 2020 Decennial Census), and contains an additional $109.6 million to hire additional immigration judge teams to address the immigration case backlog. It would also provide $550 million for the Legal Services Corporation, an increase of $135 million above fiscal year 2019, to help increase the availability of civil legal assistance for low-income people with housing, domestic violence, employment, consumer, or other legal trouble; President Trump’s budget would have eliminated this program. The bill also includes a provision that would prevent the addition of a citizenship question on the 2020 Census; it is a symbolic move, as the Supreme Court is expected to rule on the question in June, before the appropriations bill will be enacted.

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CHN: Senate Edges Closer Still to Disaster Aid https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-senate-edges-closer-still-to-disaster-aid/ Mon, 20 May 2019 14:55:21 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4453 This could finally be the week that the Senate approves long-awaited disaster aid for the 16 states and U.S. territories that have faced a devastating array of natural disasters, ranging from hurricanes and floods to wildfires, tornadoes, hail damage and drought. Senate leaders, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have...

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This could finally be the week that the Senate approves long-awaited disaster aid for the 16 states and U.S. territories that have faced a devastating array of natural disasters, ranging from hurricanes and floods to wildfires, tornadoes, hail damage and drought.

Senate leaders, including Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), have indicated they want to pass a disaster aid bill before Congress breaks for Memorial Day recess this Friday, May 24. And indications are that a compromise is in the works.

Previously, the legislation was held up by disagreement over aid for Puerto Rico, and, in particular, President Trump’s opposition to aid that would help the island rebuild its battered infrastructure. More recently, however, the disagreement appears to have shifted to concern over $4.5 billion the Trump Administration has requested for border funding.

Now, both sides of the aisle appear to have resolved the Puerto Rican issue, after Republicans agreed to more money, although no details have been announced and no deal has been finalized. On the issue of border funding, Democrats appear to support $2.9 billion of Trump’s $4.5 billion request – this is money that would go to the Department of Health and Human Services for humanitarian assistance, for housing, food, medical care and other services for unaccompanied children. But Democrats are expected to oppose other parts of the request, including money that would expand the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement detention beds and other logistical support for the Border Patrol, including support from the Pentagon. (On May 17, the Trump Office of Management and Budget sent a letter to Congressional leaders seeking an additional $1.4 billion for the unaccompanied migrant children beyond their previously sought $2.9 billion, saying that the numbers entering the country have exceeded their earlier estimates.)

The disaster aid would include $600 million in desperately needed Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) funding for Puerto Rico. Some 1.35 million low-income residents of Puerto Rico – more than one-third of the island’s residents – saw their NAP benefits cut dramatically in March as disaster food aid ran out. That number includes 300,000 children.

The aid also would include Medicaid funds for the Pacific Island territories – the Northern Marianas, Guam and American Samoa. Those islands receive an inadequate Medicaid block grant, and the Northern Marianas have exhausted their Affordable Care Act funds this year while Guam and American Samoa cannot afford to provide the matching funds needed to draw down their Medicaid funds.

Earlier this month, the House passed a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill (H.R. 2157). The Senate is expected to take up that bill and attach a substitute that would result from ongoing negotiations between Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) and Senate Appropriations Ranking Member Patrick Leahy (D-VT).

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CHN: Proposed HUD Rule Could Harm More than 100,000 https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-proposed-hud-rule-could-harm-more-than-100000/ Mon, 20 May 2019 14:49:41 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4452 More than 100,000 people could be affected if a proposed rule dictating who may and may not live in public housing is enacted. The proposed Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulation would prohibit “mixed status families” from living in public and other subsidized housing. Mixed status families are households that...

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More than 100,000 people could be affected if a proposed rule dictating who may and may not live in public housing is enacted. The proposed Housing and Urban Development (HUD) regulation would prohibit “mixed status families” from living in public and other subsidized housing. Mixed status families are households that include members who are eligible and others who are ineligible for housing assistance based on their immigrant status.

Currently, HUD allows families to live together in subsidized housing even if one family member is ineligible so long as the housing subsidy is prorated to exclude the ineligible person from the assistance.

The rule has been submitted for public comment; comments will be accepted until July 9.

An impact analysis prepared by career staff at HUD shows how devastating the proposal would be. It found that 108,000 people would be affected. About 70 percent of those people are citizens or legal residents and three-quarters of those – 55,000 – are children.

According to the analysis, HUD assumes that some of the affected families would split up because the ineligible family member would be asked to leave so that the rest of the family could still receive aid. But it says most of the families would likely move out of their proposed homes. “HUD expects that fear of the family being separated would lead to prompt evacuation by most mixed households, whether that fear is justified,” the agency says.

Diane Yentel, President and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, said in an interview with NPR’s Pam Fessler that the proposal is cruel. “The cruelty of it is really breathtaking and it would do real harm to kids and to families.”

HUD Secretary Ben Carson said the rule is needed to help low-income Americans who are in need of housing assistance and may face lengthy waits. “Our nation faces affordable housing challenges and hundreds of thousands of citizens are waiting for many years on waitlists to get housing assistance,” he said.

But Carson’s own words are undermined by the HUD analysis, which predicts that the rule would lead to a decrease in those receiving housing assistance as well as a decrease in the amount of funding available to those in need. This is in part because mixed status families tend to receive smaller subsidies than other families, and in part because other families’ incomes tend to be lower and thus qualify for higher subsidies, which would put added stress on available benefits.

“Another, and perhaps the likeliest scenario, would be that HUD would have to reduce the quantity and quality of assisted housing in response to higher costs,” the agency says. For public housing, that would likely “have an impact on the quality of service, e.g., maintenance of the units and possibly deterioration of the units that could lead to vacancy.”

Housing advocates are viewing the proposal with alarm.

“The administration has made clear its intention to make life more difficult for immigrant families by restricting their ability to access basic needs programs,” said Olivia Golden, Executive Director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “The proposed rule by HUD continues this pattern of attacks – this time by threatening the roof over their heads and directly undermining the wellbeing of citizen children.”

Melissa Boteach, Vice President for Income Security and Child Care/Early Learning at the National Women’s Law Center, called the proposal “a blatant attempt by the Trump Administration to pit struggling families against one another in the wake of a $1.9 billion tax cut for millionaires and corporations.”

“Forcing thousands of immigrant families to make the unconscionable decision to either break up to receive housing assistance or forgo housing assistance altogether will not fix the nation’s housing crisis – raising wages and making significant new investments in affordable housing will.”

Late last week, Rep. Sylvia Garcia (D-TX) introduced H.R. 2716, which would prevent HUD from implementing the rule. She was joined by Reps. Lou Correa (D-CA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), and Chuy Garcia (D-IL). The measure immediately was backed by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Housing Law Project, and Texas Housers.

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CHN: Advocates Decry Trump Immigration Plan https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-decry-trump-immigration-plan/ Mon, 20 May 2019 14:46:18 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4451 Advocates were quick to decry an immigration plan released by President Trump on May 16 as one that would rig the nation’s immigration policies in favor of the wealthy at the expense of reuniting families. The proposal would make major damaging changes to family-based immigration, instead implementing a point system...

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Advocates were quick to decry an immigration plan released by President Trump on May 16 as one that would rig the nation’s immigration policies in favor of the wealthy at the expense of reuniting families. The proposal would make major damaging changes to family-based immigration, instead implementing a point system that would prioritize special skills and advanced education. The proposed plan would also require English language proficiency and passing a U.S. civics exam, among other things.

Marielena Hincapié, Executive Director of the National Immigration Law Center, said in a statement, “This sweeping proposed change to our country’s immigration system is based not in values, but in white nationalism and an elitist belief that this country is only for the wealthy. This is not a serious policy proposal, but rather another attack on immigrant families.” Trump ally Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said “the White House’s plan is not designed to become law. … The White House plan is trying to unite the Republican Party.”

Some conservatives opposed the plan because it would not lower the overall level of legal immigration into the U.S. Given the opposition of Democrats and some Republicans, the proposal is likely to be dead on arrival on Capitol Hill.

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CHN: Redefining Poverty: The Trump Administration’s Latest Attack on Struggling Americans https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-redefining-poverty-the-trump-administrations-latest-attack-on-struggling-americans/ Mon, 20 May 2019 14:42:53 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4450 The Trump Administration has put forth a proposal to change the way the federal poverty line is adjusted for inflation. Over time, this adjustment would reduce funding for essential human needs programs by billions of dollars. Millions of Americans would be affected, including children, seniors, people with disabilities, and others...

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The Trump Administration has put forth a proposal to change the way the federal poverty line is adjusted for inflation. Over time, this adjustment would reduce funding for essential human needs programs by billions of dollars. Millions of Americans would be affected, including children, seniors, people with disabilities, and others who are poor or near poor. The proposal is now in a public comment period, and members of the public with concerns have until June 21 to submit comments.

The Center for Budget and Policy Priorities states that the proposal “would over time cut or take away entirely food assistance, health, and other forms of basic assistance from millions of people who struggle to put food on the table, keep a roof over their heads, and see a doctor when they need to.”

“If the poverty line is altered in this fashion, fewer individuals and families will qualify over time for various forms of assistance, including many who work hard but are paid low wages,” CBPP states. “That’s because using a lower measure of inflation like the chained CPI to adjust the poverty line each year would make the eligibility thresholds for various programs that serve people in need lower and lower over time, compared with what the thresholds otherwise would be. This, in turn, would lower the income eligibility limits for programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps) and Medicaid, which are tied to the federal poverty line. It also would reduce the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) premium tax credits — and thereby increase the out-of-pocket premium charges faced by millions of people who purchase health insurance through the ACA marketplaces.”

According to the CBPP, the Trump Administration is considering using a lower inflation measure to adjust the poverty line while wholly ignoring other questions about the adequacy of the poverty line as a measure of whether households can meet basic needs.

The Trump Administration has floated its proposal through a “Request for Comment” – different from a proposed rule, but essentially a request for the public to provide information and views to the federal government on this potential change. But the CBPP notes that the Administration presented no research on how low-income families’ costs for basic necessities has changed over time, the adequacy of the poverty line itself as compared to the cost of basic necessities, or the implications of changing the poverty line for individuals’ and families’ access to needed assistance. Noting that public opinion research shows that most Americans think the current poverty measure is too low, the Center for American Progress’ Talk Poverty blog points out “It’s hard to reconcile a measurement that says only 12.3 percent of people in the U.S. are poor when more than 4 in 10 adults would struggle to come up with $400 in an emergency and 70 percent of voters have confronted a serious financial hardship in the last year.”

“Asking for public comment in apparent preparation for a policy change that could harm millions of struggling Americans over time, without providing the public with research and data on these basic questions, suggests this is not a serious effort to explore the important substantive issues that poverty measurement presents,” the CBPP said.

On Wednesday, May 22, CBPP and CHN will examine this issue in more depth in a webinar entitled, “The Latest Plan to Deny Assistance: Shrinking the Poverty Line.” The webinar will take place at 2 p.m. ET, and will last one hour. Closed captioning will be provided. You can register here. Even if you cannot make the webinar, by registering, you will automatically receive the webinar slides, a recording of the webinar, and a follow-up email with links to a CHN webpage with resources and easy ways to comment.

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CHN: House Passes Bills to Lower Drug Costs and Shore up ACA https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-passes-bills-to-lower-drug-costs-and-shore-up-aca/ Mon, 20 May 2019 14:38:20 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4449 A package of seven bills designed to strengthen the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance exchanges and lower prescription drug prices passed the House (234-183) on May 16. According to Roll Call, the bill consists of some measures that have bipartisan support, such as legislation to bring cheaper generic prescription...

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A package of seven bills designed to strengthen the Affordable Care Act’s individual health insurance exchanges and lower prescription drug prices passed the House (234-183) on May 16. According to Roll Call, the bill consists of some measures that have bipartisan support, such as legislation to bring cheaper generic prescription drugs to market more quickly, with some measures that many Republicans do not support (indeed, only five Republicans joined all Democrats in supporting the package). This includes legislation to block a Trump Administration rule issued last year to expand the duration of short-term insurance plans, which are exempt from the ACA’s consumer protections. The Strengthening Health Care and Lowering Prescription Drug Costs Act (H.R. 987) would also provide funding for states to establish state-based marketplaces under the ACA and restore funding cuts by the Trump Administration for the ACA’s marketing and outreach and for its navigator program, which helps people signing up for coverage. The bill is unlikely to pass the Senate as is; the White House has issued a veto threat.

On May 9, four House Republicans joined all Democrats in passing (230-183) the Protecting Americans with Preexisting Conditions Act (H.R. 986). The bill would require the Trump Administration to rescind its 2018 guidance that made it easier for states to receive waivers allowing them to change their state marketplaces and bypass some ACA protections, putting people with preexisting conditions in jeopardy of increased health care costs. The bill is not expected to pass the Senate; the White House said it would veto it.

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CHN: Labor Department Issues Proposals that Could Harm Workers https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-labor-department-issues-proposals-that-could-harm-workers/ Mon, 20 May 2019 14:34:33 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4448 The Department of Labor (DOL) this spring issued several proposed rules that advocates believe will have a negative impact on workers. One such rule focuses on which workers are entitled to overtime pay and protections. Under current law, both salary level and duties are taken into account to determine if...

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The Department of Labor (DOL) this spring issued several proposed rules that advocates believe will have a negative impact on workers.

One such rule focuses on which workers are entitled to overtime pay and protections. Under current law, both salary level and duties are taken into account to determine if a salaried (non-hourly) worker qualifies for overtime pay. In 2016, under the Obama Administration, the Department of Labor attempted to strengthen overtime regulations for working people by raising the annual salary threshold under which most workers are entitled to overtime pay from $23,660 to $47,476 and then indexing it to wage growth. The salary threshold has only been increased once since 1975 – in 2004, when it was set at a level that fell far short of fully adjusting it for inflation. Had the salary threshold increased at the inflation rate from 1975 to 2020, it would be projected to rise to $58,000, more than the Obama Administration’s proposal would have called for. The new rule, proposed by the Trump DOL, sets the threshold at $35,308 in 2020, nearly $23,000 less than the inflation-adjusted 1975 level, according to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI). EPI estimates that Obama rule would have benefited 13.5 million working people ― making 4.6 million newly eligible to receive the overtime pay they deserve, and strengthening the rights of 8.9 million more.

The Obama rule was challenged by business interests and blocked in the courts, however, and the Trump Administration refused to defend the updated rule. Research shows that this inaction has already cost working people more than $1.6 billion in lost overtime pay.

In opposing the Trump rule, advocates point to research from EPI that shows that this proposal would leave behind 8.2 million people who would have gotten new or strengthened overtime protections under the 2016 guidelines, and that the annual wage gains workers receive would be $1.2 billion less under the new proposal compared to the 2016 rule.

The Department of Labor is accepting comments through May 21. For more information, see these pieces from CHN members the Economic Policy Institute, the National Employment Law Project, and the National Women’s Law Center.

In addition, on April 1, DOL issued a proposed rule that would negatively affect workers in contracted jobs. Currently, when a company contracts out work to a staffing firm or other labor subcontractor, it may still share responsibility for the workers, which helps ensure the lead company provides better oversight of and compliance with minimum wage, child labor, and overtime protections. According to the National Employment Law Project (NELP), the new DOL guidance on the so-called “joint employer” standard “lets large corporations that outsource jobs off the hook, leaving typically smaller and poorly capitalized local businesses holding the bag for violations. The DOL proposal would make it harder for workers to enforce wage and hour laws and will encourage more outsourcing to labor contractors like temp and staffing firms, especially in low-wage sectors such as construction, agriculture, garment, janitorial, home care, delivery and logistics, warehousing, and manufacturing.” The Department of Labor is accepting comments through June 25.

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CHN: House Passes Bill to Strengthen LGBTQ Nondiscrimination Laws https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-passes-bill-to-strengthen-lgbtq-nondiscrimination-laws/ Mon, 20 May 2019 14:29:12 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4447 The House on May 17 passed H.R. 5, the Equality Act, by a vote of 236-173, to strengthen federal civil rights laws for LGBTQ Americans. Eight Republicans joined 228 Democrats for the historic vote. A priority of House Democrats, the bill would provide explicit nondiscrimination protection for LGBTQ people across...

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The House on May 17 passed H.R. 5, the Equality Act, by a vote of 236-173, to strengthen federal civil rights laws for LGBTQ Americans. Eight Republicans joined 228 Democrats for the historic vote. A priority of House Democrats, the bill would provide explicit nondiscrimination protection for LGBTQ people across key areas of life, including employment, housing, credit, education, public spaces and services, federally funded programs, and jury service. To this end, the bill would amend existing civil rights law – including the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Jury Selection and Services Act, and several laws regarding employment with the federal government – to explicitly prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexual orientation and gender identity. The Equality Act would also update the definitions of public spaces and services covered under law.

Today, a majority of states and the federal government still lack explicit nondiscrimination protections for LGBTQ people. According to the National Women’s Law Center, over one-third of transgender women report losing a job because of their gender identity or expression. Faith leaders joined in an interfaith prayer vigil on May 14; after the vigil, they delivered a letter supporting the Equality Act, containing more than 4,000 signatures of people of faith and clergy, to members of Congress.

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CHN: Bill Introduced to Remove SNAP Time Limits https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-bill-introduced-to-remove-snap-time-limits/ Mon, 20 May 2019 14:26:24 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4446 A bill recently introduced in the House would lift the harmful time limits on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to ensure all low-income adults have access to food. Under current law, childless adults aged 18-49 without a documented disability are subject to a harsh three-month time limit of SNAP...

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A bill recently introduced in the House would lift the harmful time limits on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to ensure all low-income adults have access to food. Under current law, childless adults aged 18-49 without a documented disability are subject to a harsh three-month time limit of SNAP benefits in a three-year period, unless they meet a strict work reporting requirement. The Improving Access to Nutrition Act (H.R. 2809), introduced on May 16 by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) with 23 co-sponsors, would lift the time limit from SNAP benefits to ensure that these unemployed and underemployed adults have access to nutrition assistance. The Coalition on Human Needs endorsed the legislation, as did several of CHN’s members, including Bread for the World, the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP), the Food Research & Action Center, Feeding America, and others. In a letter of support for the bill, CHN noted that “some workers lose vital assistance because they work hours provided by their employers are volatile; others find it difficult to document the work they have done.”

Earlier this year, the Trump Administration proposed making it harder for states with elevated unemployment rates to qualify for waivers of the time limit. By the Administration’s own calculations, the proposed rule would take food away from 755,000 low-income Americans. Late last year, Congress enacted and President Trump signed a new farm bill that rejected stricter time limits.

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CHN: House Begins Work on Spending Bills without Agreement on FY20 Spending Caps https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-begins-work-on-spending-bills-without-agreement-on-fy20-spending-caps/ Mon, 06 May 2019 15:13:29 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4338 Several House Appropriations subcommittees took up spending bills covering their areas of jurisdiction the week of April 29, even as an agreement between the House and Senate on FY20 top-line spending limits has yet to be reached. As reported in the April 9 Human Needs Report, the Senate Budget Committee...

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Several House Appropriations subcommittees took up spending bills covering their areas of jurisdiction the week of April 29, even as an agreement between the House and Senate on FY20 top-line spending limits has yet to be reached.

As reported in the April 9 Human Needs Report, the Senate Budget Committee on March 28 adopted (11-9) a five-year budget resolution along party lines that adheres to the draconian 2011 Budget Control Act spending caps. Getting a budget resolution passed by both chambers of Congress is challenging – even more so in years when the two chambers of Congress are controlled by different parties. Understanding this, House Budget Committee Chair John Yarmuth (D-KY) decided to skip the budget process and instead, on April 3, his committee approved (19-17) legislation that would raise discretionary (annually-appropriated) spending caps for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. The bill would raise the FY20 nondefense spending cap to $631 billion, up $34 billion over FY19 levels, and the defense cap to $664 billion, $17 billion over FY19 levels. Both caps would increase further in FY21. Additional funds outside the caps would be provided for the 2020 Census, other defense operations, and other purposes.

However, disagreements among Democrats meant this bill was not brought to the floor. Instead, the House adopted (219-201) a “deeming resolution,” essentially an informal agreement which set the FY20 top-line limit on discretionary spending at $1.295 trillion. A deeming resolution allows appropriators to move forward with drafting spending bills absent a more-formal budget resolution in place. The full House Appropriations Committee is set to allocate the $1.295 trillion across all 12 appropriations subcommittees (known as 302(b) allocations) on May 8.

These levels are not binding in the Senate, however, and a new bipartisan deal to raise tight spending caps and automatic cuts (also known as sequestration) put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act still needs to be reached with the Senate. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, without a new caps deal, non-defense discretionary programs would be cut by $55 billion and defense by $71 billion in FY20, compared to FY19 levels.

Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) has said he will not agree to the House spending limits and he will wait to see if an agreement on spending limits can be reached before his committee takes up its own versions of FY20 spending bills. President Trump reportedly remains opposed to lifting the spending caps.

Analysis from CHN shows the importance of lifting the spending caps in order to prevent serious losses in human needs programs. CHN’s work showed that out of 184 programs tracked, 131 of the programs, or 71 percent, lost ground between FY 2010 and FY 2019. Without changing the law to lift next year’s low spending caps, the cuts in spending would mean that far fewer people would be served by the 184 human needs programs CHN looked at.

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CHN: Labor-HHS-Education Spending Bill Contains Important Gains for Human Needs Programs https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-labor-hhs-education-spending-bill-contains-important-gains-for-human-needs-programs/ Mon, 06 May 2019 15:02:08 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4337 The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education took up and passed (voice vote) its FY20 spending bill on April 30. The “Labor-H” bill provides $189.8 billion for the departments, up $11.7 billion or 6 percent over FY19 and up $47.8 billion over President Trump’s FY20...

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The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education took up and passed (voice vote) its FY20 spending bill on April 30. The “Labor-H” bill provides $189.8 billion for the departments, up $11.7 billion or 6 percent over FY19 and up $47.8 billion over President Trump’s FY20 budget request. Including unused funds in the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the bill would spend $204 billion in total. Advocates were pleased that the proposed increase for this spending bill is proportional to the total nondefense discretionary (annually-appropriated) spending increased proposed by House leaders, which has not always been the case in past years. The full House Appropriations Committee is expected to take up the bill on May 8. A summary of the Labor-H bill from House Democratic appropriators can be found here. The full text of the bill can be found here.

Advocates were also pleased that the proposal contains increases for numerous important human needs programs. For example, the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) is increased by $2.4 billion to a total of $7.7 billion, a 45 percent increase over FY19 levels without adjusting for inflation. This builds on a substantial increase in CCDBG funding provided in FY18, though child care resources would still remain short of what is needed to assist all eligible children. Head Start funding grows from $10.1 billion to $11.6 billion, an increase of 15 percent. Funding for Preschool Development Grants rises from $250 million to $350 million.

Job training programs, flat-funded for many years (and therefore cut roughly 16 percent by inflation since FY2010), see an increase in this bill as well. For example, Adult Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) job training funding rises from $845.6 million to $900 million, and Youth WIOA increases from $903.4 million to $964 million. YouthBuild funding rises from $89.5 million to $128 million.

The bill increases funding for many programs that President Trump’s FY20 budget proposal would have eliminated, including the Senior Community Service Employment for Older Americans program, which gets an increase from $400 million to $464 million, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which receives $3.8 billion, an increase of $150 million. Funding for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provide afterschool programs, rises from $1.2 billion to $1.3 billion.

In education, the bill provides an increase of $1 billion for Title I K-12 low-income schools, to $16.9 billion; and an increase of $1 billion for Special Education Part B Grants to States, to $13.4 billion. English Language Acquisition funding increases from $737.4 million to $980 million, a one-third increase. The maximum Pell Grant rises to $6,345 per student, an increase of $150 over maximum in FY 2019. Federal Work Study would be increased to $1.4 billion, a $304 million bump.

Funding for the National Institutes of Health is $41.1 billion in the proposal, an increase of $2 billion over FY19. The bill also includes $50 million for firearm injury and mortality prevention research at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the NIH.

Total funding for Refugee and Entrant Assistance programs is up from $1.9 billion to $2.4 billion, to cope with the increased number of families and children entering the country, many seeking asylum. The bill includes language prohibiting the use of funds for sharing of information between HHS and the Department of Homeland Security about the immigration status of family members with whom a migrant child is placed. The bill also prohibits the use of funds to go against existing laws and court agreements that protect migrant children from being incarcerated or from being deported without consideration of their safety.

Even with the increases, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that total funding for all programs covered in the Labor-H bill would be just 3 percent above what it was a decade ago in inflation-adjusted terms.

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CHN: Senate Reportedly Closer on Disaster Relief https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-senate-reportedly-closer-on-disaster-relief/ Mon, 06 May 2019 14:45:44 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4336 Senate negotiators reportedly are coming close to reaching agreement on disaster aid to victims of hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, flooding and other natural disasters that have devastated both states and U.S. territories over the past several years. Funding is likely to rise from the $13 billion provided in a Senate bill...

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Senate negotiators reportedly are coming close to reaching agreement on disaster aid to victims of hurricanes, wildfires, tornadoes, flooding and other natural disasters that have devastated both states and U.S. territories over the past several years. Funding is likely to rise from the $13 billion provided in a Senate bill introduced before the recess by Senator Perdue (R-GA) to more than $17 billion. Most of the increase is for Midwestern states with crop damage from flooding.

According to CQ, the latest GOP offer from Senate Appropriations Chair Richard Shelby (R-AL) would add $431 million in new Community Development Block Grant funds, of which $304 million would be earmarked for Puerto Rico. But Puerto Rico would not be able to access the money until at least 75 percent of its previously approved grant money had been spent. The proposal also incorporates an amendment by Senator Cornyn (R-TX) to require HUD to release previously appropriated funds to Puerto Rico within 90 days, a provision which may be complicated by delays by the Office of Management and Budget in approving rules for the release of these funds. The proposal also allows Northern Mariana Islands officials to access Medicaid funding, another provision sought by advocates.  Guam and American Samoa also need additional Medicaid funding, but it is not clear at this point whether the new proposal will include these funds.

A vote in the Senate could occur as early as this week. Advocates are concerned that the longer it takes to approve the disaster aid, the greater the chance that the funding could be linked to $4.5 billion the Trump Administration has requested to deal with the influx of migrants along the U.S. southern border (see the related article in this Human Needs Report for more on this).

Meanwhile, the House plans to take up its own $17.2 billion disaster aid package this week.

Since January, the Senate has debated but failed to pass a comprehensive supplemental appropriations bill that would provide aid for the millions of families in need. Advocates, who rallied at the U.S. Capitol last week and embarked on a series of visits to Senate offices, say $17 billion is needed to help at least 16 states and territories that have suffered from catastrophic natural disasters beginning with Hurricane Harvey in August 2017: Texas, Puerto Rico, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, California, Alaska, Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, Kentucky, U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Mariana Islands.

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CHN: Trump Administration Calls for Additional Border Funding along with Tougher Path for Asylum Seekers https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-trump-administration-calls-for-additional-border-funding-along-with-tougher-path-for-asylum-seekers/ Mon, 06 May 2019 14:40:22 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4335 The Trump Administration on May 1 requested an additional $4.5 billion to deal with the influx of migrants at the U.S. southern border. According to the White House, $3.3 billion of the money would be spent on humanitarian relief, including $2.8 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services...

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The Trump Administration on May 1 requested an additional $4.5 billion to deal with the influx of migrants at the U.S. southern border. According to the White House, $3.3 billion of the money would be spent on humanitarian relief, including $2.8 billion for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to increase the number of shelter beds and provide services to unaccompanied children. Without Congressional action, the Administration says HHS is likely to run out of money in June and may need to “divert significant resources from other programs that serve vulnerable populations – such as refugees and victims of trafficking and torture.”

While the supplemental request did not include money for a border wall, many Democrats oppose the request. House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) said in a statement, “[T]he Trump administration appears to want much of this $4.5 billion emergency supplemental request to double down on cruel and ill-conceived policies, including bailing out ICE for overspending on detention beds and expanding family detention. Locking up people who pose no threat to the community for ever-longer periods of time is not a solution to the problems at the border.” However, she agreed to review the request to see where areas of agreements could be found to improve conditions for immigrants at the border.

The border funding request may also further complicate a disaster aid package that has remain stalled for months. Some believe President Trump may hold disaster aid for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories hostage until Democrats agree to the additional border funding. For more on the disaster aid package, see the related article in this Human Needs Report.

The funding request came just days after the Trump Administration proposed major changes to U.S. asylum policies. A presidential memorandum released April 29 directs Attorney General William Barr and Acting Homeland Security Secretary Kevin McAleenan to, within 90 days, propose regulations to change numerous aspects of the way asylum cases are currently handled. The proposal calls for charging a fee to asylum seekers and barring anyone who crosses the border illegally from obtaining a work permit while their applications are pending. It also calls for asylum cases to be adjudicated within 180 days of filing. According to the Washington Post, this is already a requirement, but a lack of resources often means asylum seekers wait years for their hearings.

Politico reported that the Administration is also calling for “regulations that would place asylum seekers who pass a credible-fear interview or demonstrate a credible fear of torture into asylum-only proceedings. Such a change would keep them from seeking other forms of relief during the process.” Politico also notes that additional active-duty military personnel, military lawyers, and ICE officers are being sent to the border.

Many predict the President’s proposed asylum changes will face court challenges. A Washington Post-ABC News poll conducted before the memo was released shows that only 30 percent of Americans favor making it harder for those seeking asylum to obtain it.

Intensifying his attacks on immigrants, President Trump complained that Border Patrol agents who “get cute” and “get tough” with migrants in their custody would face arrest themselves, according to the Washington Post. Further, Reuters reported on May 3 that the U.S. Department of Justice was about to propose a new rule to expand its ability to deport lawful permanent residents who make use of benefits such as Medicaid, SNAP, or housing assistance, even when it is legal for them to use such aid. While it is not known what the Administration has in mind, there is little doubt that such a rule would be challenged in court. Nonetheless, there is already plenty of evidence that immigrants have dropped out of programs despite their eligibility because of fear. This new proposal will only intensify those fears and cause more people to reject help they or their children qualify for and need.

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CHN: Deadline Approaching for Payday Lending Comments https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-deadline-approaching-for-payday-lending-comments/ Mon, 06 May 2019 14:28:17 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4332 The May 15 deadline is fast approaching for submitting comments in opposition to the Trump Administration’s proposed rollback of a rule that would protect consumers from predatory payday lenders. In October 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a final rule requiring that lenders check a borrower’s ability to...

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The May 15 deadline is fast approaching for submitting comments in opposition to the Trump Administration’s proposed rollback of a rule that would protect consumers from predatory payday lenders.

In October 2017, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) issued a final rule requiring that lenders check a borrower’s ability to repay before lending money in the form of payday or car title loans. But Trump Administration appointees who now lead the CFPB have been working to gut this crucial protection, which is known alternately as the “ability to pay rule,” or the “underwriting provision.” Without this protection, greedy lenders can force borrowers to take out multiple loans, some averaging more than 350 percent interest, which they can’t fully pay back. This way, consumers are trapped in debt far more costly than the original loan.

The rule was years in the making. It was finalized after five years of research and input, including nearly half a million comments calling for protections against the payday lending industry. It would have required lenders to verify a borrower’s income, outstanding debts, and minimum basic needs in order to determine a borrower’s ability to repay a loan before one is made.

Compliance with the payday lending rule was to begin this August. But the CFPB has been working to delay enforcement, even as it seeks to overturn the rule altogether.

On May 2, CHN and Americans for Financial Reform hosted a webinar on the payday lending rule (see the slides from the webinar here; a full captioned recording of the webinar will be available soon). For more information, see CHN’s payday lending campaign page, as well as pieces on CHN’s Voices for Human Needs blog on efforts to dismantle the CFPB; who payday lending hurts; and payday lending stories shared with CHN.

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CHN: House and Senate Budget Committees Move Toward FY20, but with Different Tactics and in Different Directions https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-and-senate-budget-committees-move-toward-fy20-but-with-different-tactics-and-in-different-directions/ Tue, 09 Apr 2019 18:12:13 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4188 While the Senate Budget Committee recently passed a budget resolution for FY20, its House counterpart abandoned the idea in favor of pushing forward a deal to lift spending caps. The Senate Budget Committee on March 28 adopted (11-9) a five-year budget resolution along party lines. According to Senate Budget Committee...

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While the Senate Budget Committee recently passed a budget resolution for FY20, its House counterpart abandoned the idea in favor of pushing forward a deal to lift spending caps.

The Senate Budget Committee on March 28 adopted (11-9) a five-year budget resolution along party lines. According to Senate Budget Committee Ranking Member Bernie Sanders (I-VT), the Republican budget plan would cut Medicare, Medicaid, and other health care programs by $360 billion over the next five years, including by repealing the Affordable Care Act; cut $55 billion from Pell Grants and other financial aid programs affecting 7 million students; eliminate housing assistance for 700,000 families by cutting $36 billion from housing programs; and in total “cut more than $1.1 trillion from education, health care, affordable housing, child care, transportation, and other programs that working people desperately need over the next five years.” Committee Chairman Mike Enzi (R-WY), author of the budget, praised the blueprint saying it, “…starts the process to rein in deficits and debt and provide the foundation for a stronger future…” The budget adheres to the draconian 2011 Budget Control Act spending caps, but according to Enzi, it “creates the infrastructure to adjust these levels if an agreement on revised funding levels is reached to fully meet defense needs.” It is unclear if the Senate budget will get a vote by the full chamber. A resolution is a plan through which Congress sets certain spending and taxation rules for itself; it does not go to the President for his signature and does not become law. Getting a budget resolution passed by both chambers of Congress is challenging – even more so in years when the two chambers of Congress are controlled by different parties.

Reports are that divides even among Democrats on tax increases, spending levels, and big issues like climate change and health care led House Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) to make the decision to abandon efforts to move forward with a budget proposal in that chamber. Instead, the House Budget Committee on April 3 approved (19-17) legislation that would raise discretionary (annually-appropriated) spending caps for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. According to CQ, the plan would raise the FY20 nondefense spending cap to $631 billion, up $34 billion over FY19 levels, and the defense cap to $664 billion, $17 billion over FY19 levels. Both caps would increase further in FY21. The House Budget Committee’s Investing for the People Act also includes up to $69 billion in spending outside the caps for defense spending through the controversial Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, and up to $8 billion for OCO nondefense spending outside the caps during both years (both these figures are unchanged from current year OCO spending). In addition, $7.5 billion in funding for the 2020 decennial Census is placed outside the cap for nondefense discretionary spending. All of the plan’s supporters were Democrats; 14 Republicans and three Democrats opposed the measure.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, without a new deal to raise tight spending caps and automatic cuts (also known as sequestration) put in place by the 2011 Budget Control Act, non-defense discretionary programs would be cut by $55 billion and defense by $71 billion in FY20, compared to FY19 levels. Democrats have been firm in their position that the principle of parity must be maintained in spending; that is, any additional money given to defense programs should be matched by money for nondefense programs. The House proposal adheres to parity by increasing funding for defense and nondefense programs by $88 billion above the capped levels in FY20 and $90 billion above the caps in FY21.

New analysis from CHN shows the importance of lifting the spending caps in order to prevent serious losses in human needs programs. CHN’s work showed that out of 184 programs tracked, 131 of the programs, or 71 percent, lost ground since FY 2010. Fifty-four programs were cut by 25 percent or more. You can download CHN’s funding analysis and appropriations tables here. Without a spending deal in place, staying at the very low capped levels would mean that far fewer people would be served by the 184 human needs programs CHN looked at. President Trump reportedly remains opposed to lifting the spending caps.

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CHN: Disaster Aid Bill Remains Stalled in the Senate https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-disaster-aid-bill-remains-stalled-in-the-senate/ Tue, 09 Apr 2019 18:11:21 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4187 Efforts to get billions of dollars in disaster aid to Americans in Puerto Rico, other U.S. territories, and states across the mainland affected by natural disasters remained stalled after two proposals failed to advance past a procedural vote in the Senate on April 1. The Senate failed (46-48) to advance...

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Efforts to get billions of dollars in disaster aid to Americans in Puerto Rico, other U.S. territories, and states across the mainland affected by natural disasters remained stalled after two proposals failed to advance past a procedural vote in the Senate on April 1. The Senate failed (46-48) to advance the House-passed bill (H.R. 268) along party lines, and a Republican version also fell 44-49 (60 votes needed).

Funding for Puerto Rico was one of the main sticking points in the failure of both bills. While the Republican bill included $600 million in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico, Democrats and advocates say much more is needed to help the island. In March, all 1.35 million Puerto Ricans who receive benefits through the island’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP, the island’s version of SNAP) began to see their benefits cut as funding ran out. Unlike SNAP in the states and other territories besides Puerto Rico, NAP does not automatically expand in the event of a natural disaster or economic downturn. Rather, Puerto Rico’s NAP relies on a fixed block grant that can only increase to meet need if Congress appropriates additional funds.

The day after the failed votes, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a package that would appropriate $16.7 billion to help Puerto Rico and a number of states that experienced natural disasters and flooding in 2018 and 2019. According to CQ, the proposal would add to the Republican measure an additional $431 million for Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to help states and territories cover matching funds for FEMA assistance; a provision that would require the Department of Housing and Urban Development to release billions of dollars in previously appropriated CDBG funds, much of which is for Puerto Rico; an additional $250 million to help affected states and territories fix damaged water systems; and Medicaid funding for the Northern Mariana Islands, Guam and American Samoa, which advocates say is desperately needed.

While the White House has agreed to support the $600 million in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico, President Trump remains opposed to any additional funding going to the island. Advocates are hopeful an agreement with adequate money for Puerto Rico and for the other U.S. territories and states can be reached before Congress recesses for two weeks beginning later this week.

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CHN: Court Strikes Down Medicaid Work Requirements; Appeals Expected https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-court-strikes-down-medicaid-work-requirements-appeals-expected/ Tue, 09 Apr 2019 18:10:18 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4186 In late March, a U.S. District Judge in Washington, D.C. blocked the Trump Administration from allowing two states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients, a policy that experts say would deny basic health coverage to millions of Medicaid enrollees if implemented nationwide. The rulings by U.S. District Judge James...

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In late March, a U.S. District Judge in Washington, D.C. blocked the Trump Administration from allowing two states to impose work requirements on Medicaid recipients, a policy that experts say would deny basic health coverage to millions of Medicaid enrollees if implemented nationwide.

The rulings by U.S. District Judge James Boasberg blocked the states of Arkansas and Kentucky from imposing the requirements. In Arkansas, more than 18,000 recipients already have been stripped of coverage; thousands more were expected to be similarly affected beginning April 1, when the first wave of 2019 disenrollments were to have taken effect. In Kentucky, where the rule had not yet taken effect, state officials estimated that 100,000 people would be affected.

But the ink on Judge Boasberg’s two rulings had barely dried when the Trump Administration, through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), gave Utah permission to impose similar (albeit slightly less harsh) work requirements. The move, experts say, is a clear indication of the Administration’s intent to fight and appeal the district judge’s decisions.

Putting aside the public policy impairments of work requirements, the legal issue involved in the Arkansas and Kentucky cases is Congress’ intent when it created Medicaid. CMS Administrator Seema Verma said in the federal government’s approval letter to Utah that requiring Medicaid enrollees to work is legal because it helps make them healthier.

“Therefore we believe an objective of the Medicaid program, in addition to paying for services, is to advance the health and wellness needs of its beneficiaries, and that it is appropriate for the state to structure its demonstration project in a manner that prioritizes meeting those needs,” she wrote.

But that language seems counter to Boasberg’s rulings. In his Kentucky ruling, he wrote that using health as an objective would be “arbitrary and capricious” and an overreach of executive branch power – an overreach that also did not take into account the number of people who would be harmed.

“The Court cannot concur that the Medicaid Act leaves the Secretary so unconstrained, nor that the states are so armed to refashion the program Congress designed in any way they choose….The Secretary, most significantly, did not weigh health gains against coverage losses in justifying the approval.”

Baosberg’s two rulings applied only to Arkansas and Kentucky, not to Utah and the other six states (Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, New Hampshire, Ohio, and Wisconsin) where CMS has approved waivers for work reporting requirements.

Legal experts warn that the Trump Administration could be on shaky legal grounds.

Allison Hoffman, a law professor at the University of Pennsylvania, told Kaiser Health News that getting a federal judge to accept the premise that the primary purpose of Medicaid is improving health, as opposed to “reimbursing certain costs of medical treatment for needy persons,” as Boasberg wrote, is vital to getting work requirements through the courts. Federal officials “need a judge to buy that,” Hoffman said. “They are going to fish for a different jurisdiction to push this opinion.”

And Sara Rosenbaum, professor of health law and policy at George Washington University, told Kaiser Health News that the Trump Administration is “doubling down” by allowing a state (Utah) to add work requirements. “This is such a remarkable example of sticking a finger in the eye of the court,” she said. “We will see what happens. Because when you disrespect a court, it can backfire.”

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CHN: Trump Intervention Renews Spotlight on ACA Lawsuit https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-trump-intervention-renews-spotlight-on-aca-lawsuit/ Tue, 09 Apr 2019 18:08:42 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4185 The cast of characters working either to overturn or defend the Affordable Care Act in federal court continues to evolve and expand. More states are intervening to join the legal effort in the ACA’s defense, two states are rethinking their effort to overturn the law, and a sweeping array of...

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The cast of characters working either to overturn or defend the Affordable Care Act in federal court continues to evolve and expand. More states are intervening to join the legal effort in the ACA’s defense, two states are rethinking their effort to overturn the law, and a sweeping array of state and national hospital associations, medical groups, consumers, and even the insurance industry are joining the fray.

Back in December, U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor declared the entire ACA invalid, as a Texas-led coalition of plaintiff states had requested. In late March, the Trump Administration stunned legal observers when it announced that, far from its previous position of wanting to overturn the part of the ACA that protects people with pre-existing conditions, it is now seeking to have the entire law overturned.

That announcement seemed to launch the litigation into overdrive. On Monday, April 1, the Republican attorneys general in Montana and Ohio filed briefs arguing that a U.S. district judge in Texas erred in concluding that the entire ACA must be struck down because the law’s individual mandate is unconstitutional and cannot be severed from the rest of the law.

The two state officials oppose the requirement to purchase coverage, but argue that the rest of the law should be allowed to stand. They warn of disastrous consequences to people in their states if it is overturned.

“The fact that a ruling has negative consequences does not mean it is wrong,” argue Attorneys General Dave Yost of Ohio and Timothy Fox of Montana. “Let justice be done, though the heavens may fall. But the District Court’s ruling is wrong, and its errors threaten harm to millions of people in the Buckeye and Treasure states.”

Meanwhile, one state that was part of the original lawsuit – Maine – has filed a motion asking for permission to withdraw, and another state — Wisconsin – is considering following suit. And four states – Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, and Nevada – have been granted permission to join the litigation in defense of the ACA. These developments, linked to changes in the political composition of many states’ executive branches after the November 2018 elections, mean that the states defending the ACA now outnumber the states who wish it overturned.

Finally, also on Monday, April 1, the nation’s largest hospital associations and 24 state hospital associations filed a joint amicus brief urging the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals to reject the Texas court’s “judicial repeal” of the ACA. “If upheld, it will unwind eight years of progress under the ACA’s broad set of reforms,” states the brief, submitted by the American Hospital Association, Federation of American Hospitals, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, and the Association of American Medical Colleges. “And if upheld, it will cause tens of millions of patients to lose their health insurance, returning them to the ranks of the long-term uninsured and putting their health at risk.”

The joint brief was quickly joined by a slew of other pro-ACA amicus briefs filed on the same day by groups representing doctors, insurers, hospitals, consumers, cities and counties, and including such groups as the American Medical Association, the American Cancer Society, AARP and the pro-industry American Health Insurance Plans.

So what’s next for the ACA litigation? The Trump Administration has until March 25 to file its intervening brief in the case. Plaintiffs’ response will be due on April 24, and reply briefs will then be due on May 15. All of this means that oral arguments before the 5th Circuit will not be held until the summer at the earliest. A ruling could come in the fall – or be pushed into 2020 – and only then would the litigation be ripe for U.S. Supreme Court consideration.

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CHN: 71,000 Weigh in on SNAP Rule; Comment Period Extended https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-71000-weigh-in-on-snap-rule-comment-period-extended/ Tue, 09 Apr 2019 18:07:18 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4184 The USDA has extended the comment period on a proposed rule that could result in 755,000 very poor Americans losing SNAP benefits. The original deadline for submitting comments was Tuesday, April 2. But due to a technical glitch, USDA on April 3 announced it will re-open the comment period for...

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The USDA has extended the comment period on a proposed rule that could result in 755,000 very poor Americans losing SNAP benefits. The original deadline for submitting comments was Tuesday, April 2. But due to a technical glitch, USDA on April 3 announced it will re-open the comment period for 72 hours, beginning Monday, April 8 and ending Wednesday, April 10.

The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) reported that USDA had received 71,000 comments by the original deadline.

Under the rule, food benefits would be time-limited for unemployed and underemployed people who cannot document sufficient weekly work hours. These recipients would only be able to receive three months of benefits every three years because states would have far less flexibility to waive the time limits for areas with limited employment opportunities. (For more about the rule, see our March 4 Human Needs Report.) CHN, FRAC, Feeding America, Center for American Progress, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and allies have engaged in a joint campaign urging members of the public to submit comments to USDA in opposition to the rule.

Meanwhile, in a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue sent on Tuesday, April 2, House Democrats demanded that the Trump administration withdraw its proposed rule change.

“SNAP recipients are our nation’s most vulnerable—nearly 20 million are children, almost 5 million are low-income seniors, and 1.5 million are military veterans,” reads the Democrats’ letter, which was signed by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), and more than a dozen others. “The proposed rule is a continued pursuit of the flawed political ideology that was resoundingly rejected by Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill.”

On April 8, FRAC will reactivate its comment platform so that members of the public can submit comments directly from FRAC’s website: www.frac.org/timelimitcomments.

Comment templates and other resources are available on the FRAC website as well as on the joint comment campaign page that FRAC cohosts with Feeding America, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and Center for American Progress  (accessible via http://bit.ly/SNAPRuleCampaign).

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CHN: Bills Introduced in Senate Would Provide Protections for Dreamers and TPS Recipients https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-bills-introduced-in-senate-would-provide-protections-for-dreamers-and-tps-recipients/ Tue, 09 Apr 2019 18:05:48 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4183 A bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate on March 26 that would create a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) beneficiaries, also known as Dreamers. Introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Dream Act would allow Dreamers to earn Lawful Permanent...

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A bipartisan bill was introduced in the Senate on March 26 that would create a path to citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) beneficiaries, also known as Dreamers. Introduced by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), the Dream Act would allow Dreamers to earn Lawful Permanent Resident status and eventually citizenship if they came to the country as children, graduated from high school or earned a GED, and pursued college, military service, or at least three years of employment, along with other requirements.

Also on March 26, Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Tim Kaine (D-VA) introduced the Safe Environment from Countries Under Repression and in Emergency (SECURE) Act. This legislation would allow qualified Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforced Departure (DED) recipients to apply for legal permanent residency.

As reported in the March 18 Human Needs Report, Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) on March 12 introduced the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6), which includes elements of both Senate bills. H.R. 6 would provide a pathway to lawful permanent residency and citizenship for Dreamers and provides a pathway to permanent legal protections for immigrants with TPS and DED status. All told, the bill would reportedly protect more than 2 million people from deportation. To date, 226 House members have signed on to H.R. 6, all Democrats. The National Immigration Law Center, UnidosUS, the Center for Law and Social Policy, and other organizations issued statements supporting the Dream and Promise Act and encouraging its swift passage in Congress.

The latest reports are that H.R. 6 will be taken up in committee the last week in April or early in May and will quickly move to the House floor. Neither of the Senate bills are expected to move before the House takes action on its bill. For more information on H.R. 6, see this piece from the National Immigration Law Center.

The TPS and DED programs have protected refugees who fled war, natural disasters, and other life-threatening events in their home countries from deportation. President Trump has tried to end the DACA program and terminate TPS for individuals from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Salvador, but federal courts have thus far blocked him from doing so. Complying with a court injunction, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Feb. 28 that it was extending TPS for more than 250,000 immigrants from those four countries through Jan.  2, 2020. Immigrant advocates also filed a federal lawsuit in February to block the Trump Administration from ending TPS for people from Nepal and Honduras. DED protections for individuals from Liberia, set to expire on March 31, were extended by President Trump for one year on March 28.

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CHN: House Moves Bills on Paycheck Fairness and Violence Against Women https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-moves-bills-on-paycheck-fairness-and-violence-against-women/ Tue, 09 Apr 2019 18:03:06 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4182 The House recently passed two measures to support and protect women. On March 27, the House passed (242-187) the Paycheck Fairness Act. Sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), H.R. 7 would help to close existing gender pay gaps by eliminating loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, helping to break harmful...

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The House recently passed two measures to support and protect women. On March 27, the House passed (242-187) the Paycheck Fairness Act. Sponsored by Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), H.R. 7 would help to close existing gender pay gaps by eliminating loopholes in the Equal Pay Act, helping to break harmful patterns of pay discrimination and strengthening workplace protections for women. Today, women working full time, year-round typically are paid only 80 cents for every dollar paid to their male counterparts – and compared to white, non-Hispanic men, women of color face even larger wage gaps. For more information on the Paycheck Fairness Act, see these resources from the National Partnership for Women and Families and the National Women’s Law Center.

Just over a week later on April 4, the House passed (263-158) a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Introduced by Reps. Karen Bass (D-CA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), the bill would reauthorize the 1994 law through FY 2024. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, the bill improves lifesaving services for all victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking with modest but important improvements to support survivors. The bill expands housing protections, gives more help to Native American women, and enhances law enforcement tools through grants. It also expands the category of persons who could lose the right to possess guns, including those convicted of dating violence or misdemeanor stalking, closing the so-called “boyfriend loophole.” Reports are this last provision makes it unlikely that the Senate will pass the House version of the bill, as the National Rifle Association opposed the measure. In the House, 33 Republicans broke party lines to vote for the bill; only one Democrat opposed it.

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CHN: President Trump’s FY20 Budget Slashes Critical Human Needs Programs https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-president-trumps-fy20-budget-slashes-critical-human-needs-programs/ Tue, 19 Mar 2019 17:09:27 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4128 The Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year 2020 topline budget message, priorities, and summary tables on March 11, with detailed line-item information released on March 18. From slashing housing assistance, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, education, and other basic needs programs, to proposing harsh work reporting requirements for several federal programs, to completely...

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The Trump Administration released its Fiscal Year 2020 topline budget message, priorities, and summary tables on March 11, with detailed line-item information released on March 18. From slashing housing assistance, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, education, and other basic needs programs, to proposing harsh work reporting requirements for several federal programs, to completely eliminating programs like home heating and cooling assistance for low-income people and food packages for low-income seniors, President Trump’s FY20 budget would leave millions of Americans without the assistance they need. At the same time, the budget permanently extends the GOP tax cuts passed in 2017, which the House Budget Committee says will add another $1 trillion to deficits over the last four years of the 10-year budget window.

Overall, the Trump budget proposes large cuts to funding for FY20 domestic and international annually-appropriated programs below FY19 levels. While the Administration says the cuts would amount to 5 percent, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities explains that these cuts would actually equate to 9 percent ($54 billion), and to 11 percent ($69 billion) after adjusting for inflation. By the end of the 10-year budget window, domestic and international funding would be 24 percent below the 2019 level, or 41 percent below in inflation-adjusted terms.

The cuts to mandatory programs include reductions over 10 years of $1.4 trillion to Medicaid, $220 billion to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), $70 billion to Supplemental Security Income (SSI), and $21 billion to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). According to Bread for the World, every religious congregation in the U.S. would need to raise an additional $400,000 each year for the next 10 years to make up for the proposed cuts to anti-hunger and poverty programs found in the Trump Administration’s FY20 budget proposal.

The defense side of the Trump budget gets a big boost, however. The President’s budget ignores statutory spending caps for defense spending by proposing $174 billion for the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund, in addition to the capped funding of $576 billion for defense spending for FY20, leading to a total defense-related budget allocation of $750 billion. This would be $34 billion more than Congress appropriated for FY19 in total; the OCO funding would be more than double the $69 billion provided for OCO this year, despite the fact that OCO war-related operations are scheduled to diminish. The President is also proposing an additional $8.6 billion in funding for building a border wall, and $2.7 billion to continue jailing immigrants—including families and children—at historic high levels.

While the President’s budget as a whole does not move through Congress or become law, it is a statement of priorities from the White House. As CHN’s March 11 statement notes, “President Trump’s budget for FY 2020 is consistent with his presidency so far. It is all about denying help to those who lack power or wealth and lavishing advantage to those who have both.” Even as some members of President Trump’s own party reject his budget, some proposals it contains are ones advocates have seen before from previous GOP budgets and legislation, and they may be a sign of proposals to come in future budgets and spending bills. Moreover, the Trump Administration is intent on implementing some of its restrictive policy proposals, such as work reporting requirements and caps on Medicaid funding, through rule changes they assert do not require Congressional action. Advocates have committed to fighting proposals like these that will harm low-income families and individuals.

A note on budget terminology: throughout these articles, you will see references to the two main categories of federal spending: “discretionary” and “mandatory.” Discretionary spending refers to those programs that require annual appropriations by Congress. Most defense, education, and housing fall into this category, plus many social service, environmental and community development programs. Mandatory spending includes programs like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP/food stamps, and other basic safety net programs that do not require annual appropriations. Instead, Congress authorizes the way they spend money by legislation. Congress can cut or expand these programs by amending the legislation that authorizes them.

CHN’s FY20 Budget and Appropriations resource page is constantly updated with helpful resources and analyses of the Trump budget from many expert organizations, including resources on health, nutrition, housing, fair revenues, and more. The Coalition on Human Needs also hosted a webinar on President Trump’s budget on March 14; a recording of the webinar will be added to the resource page as soon as it is available. Stay tuned to upcoming Human Needs Reports for additional analysis of Congressional budget proposals.

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CHN: Select Trump Administration FY20 Departmental Budget Requests https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-select-trump-administration-fy20-departmental-budget-requests/ Tue, 19 Mar 2019 17:00:41 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4126 The Coalition on Human Needs compiled information from the President’s FY20 budget request for select government departments that most directly impact low-income and other disadvantaged populations, including the Department of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor, as well as other areas of note. Department...

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The Coalition on Human Needs compiled information from the President’s FY20 budget request for select government departments that most directly impact low-income and other disadvantaged populations, including the Department of Agriculture, Education, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, and Labor, as well as other areas of note.

Department of Agriculture:

In addition to supporting rural and agricultural programs, the Department of Agriculture’s budget funds a variety of nutrition assistance programs for people with low incomes. The proposed budget would cut USDA’s discretionary budget by 13 percent from FY19 to FY20.

President Trump’s budget calls for massive cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/food stamps of more than $220 billion over 10 years. These cuts are achieved in part by reviving the widely ridiculed proposal from his FY19 budget to replace some of the debit card assistance SNAP recipients currently receive with boxes of non-perishable food items that would be administratively costly, inefficient, stigmatizing, and would not allow families to choose the foods they need. The budget would also tighten restrictions on unemployed and underemployed SNAP recipients who can’t document sufficient weekly work hours, which would take food away from an estimated 755,000 people. In addition, the budget eliminates SNAP nutrition education funding and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program, which distributes food boxes to low-income home-bound seniors.

According to the Food Research & Action Center, the President’s fiscal year 2020 budget cuts child nutrition programs by $1.7 billion over the next 10 years. It reduces the number of schools eligible to implement the Community Eligibility Program, an option that reduces the administrative work of operating the school nutrition programs for high-poverty schools.

The budget includes $5.8 billion in funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which constitutes a 4.5 percent ($275 million) reduction in WIC funding from the FY 2019 appropriated level. The National WIC Association is advocating for a small increase to $6.15 billion in total WIC funding.

For more information, see pieces from the Food Research & Action Center, the National WIC Association, and the budget summary from the Department of Agriculture.


 

Department of Education:

President Trump’s proposed budget would make college more costly for low- and moderate-income students and their families, would flat-fund or cut various K-12 programs, and diverts billions of dollars into support for private K-12 schools. The proposed budget would cut the Department of Education’s budget by $8.5 billion, or 12 percent below the FY19 level, to $62 billion. All told, 29 discretionary programs throughout the Department of Education would be eliminated.

The President’s proposal would slash student aid for higher education by $207 billion over 10 years, eliminate Subsidized Stafford loans, and eliminate Public Service Loan Forgiveness. The budget would also eliminate the GEAR UP program, which supports low-income students from high school into their first year of college, and Federal Supplemental Education Opportunity Grants that augment Pell Grants for more than a million of the neediest college students. The TRIO program would be turned into a State formula grant.

The annually-appropriated funding for Pell Grants would support a maximum annual grant of $6,195. The budget would expand Pell eligibility to certain short-term certification programs. The Federal Work Study program would be cut by more than half, from $1.1 billion to $500 million. Funding for adult education state grants that help foundation skills and English literacy instruction to over 1.5 million individuals is cut by $156.1 million, or more than 24 percent. Perkins career and technical education state grants, which support post-secondary education for more than 12 million students, are flat-funded from FY19.

In K-12 education programs, the budget provides level funding from FY19 for Title I low-income schools. It eliminates $190 million in literacy instruction grants to states. The Trump budget level funds K-12 special education (IDEA programs). It zeroes out the modest $17.6 million appropriation for the Special Olympics. Funding would be eliminated for 21st Century Community Learning Centers, which provide before-school, after-school, and summer school programs for nearly 2 million children. The budget includes a proposal to implement a private school scholarship tax credit of up to $50 billion over 10 years, an increased effort to subsidize private school attendance that critics say would divert resources from improving education for low-income students.

The Center for American Progress has state-by-state impacts of some of the K-12 cuts in the Trump budget. For more information, see the National Skills Coalition and the budget summary from the Department of Education.


 

Department of Health and Human Services:

While the vast majority of the budget for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) provides funds for Medicare and Medicaid, the agency covers a wide variety of programs, from the Affordable Care Act and medical research to child care and vital community services for low-income people. The President’s proposal cuts the HHS FY20 budget by 12 percent.

Several important programs and services are eliminated in the Trump budget, including the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which provides operating expenses for roughly 1,100 poverty-fighting community action agencies, the Social Services Block Grant, which funds services for low-income children, families, and seniors, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides heating and cooling assistance to about 6 million low-income households.

The Trump proposal would cut Medicaid by $1.5 trillion and Affordable Care Act (ACA) marketplace subsidies by $478 billion over 10 years. It would create a $1.2 trillion block grant to replace the ACA, leaving a net cut to Medicaid and ACA of $777 billion over ten years, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. It would do this primarily by repealing the ACA and replacing it with a bill similar to the former Graham-Cassidy proposal, under which millions of Americans would lose health coverage. The budget would repeal the ACA’s Medicaid expansion; to date, 37 states have expanded Medicaid, which has resulted in coverage for 17 million newly eligible adults. The budget would give states the option of accepting federal Medicaid dollars in the form of inadequate block grants or per capita caps in exchange for more authority to restrict eligibility or benefits or to increase payments by low-income beneficiaries. These proposals would end the ACA’s nationwide protections for people with pre-existing conditions, cause millions more people to become uninsured, and increase costs and otherwise impede access to health care for millions more.

The budget proposes various ways of achieving Medicaid cuts, such as increased documentation requirements to prove immigration/citizenship status, re-imposing asset tests, and making it harder for some seniors and people with disabilities to qualify for Medicaid without selling their homes. Medicaid would also be taken away from adults who can’t document sufficient weekly work hours, which could cause 1.7 million people to lose coverage. The budget estimates the work reporting rules will result in a $130 billion cut in Medicaid costs over 10 years.

The budget also proposes nearly $600 billion in net Medicare spending reductions over 10 years. Most of the proposals would reduce payments to health care providers, but prescription drug costs for seniors in the “doughnut hole” in Medicare prescription drug coverage would increase, costing $75 billion over 10 years. The Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is estimated to spend $1.752 billion less in FY 2020 than in the current year because an enhanced federal match rate to states is scheduled to drop from a maximum of 23 percentage points to 11.5 percentage points.

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is cut by more than $21 billion, or 10 percent, over 10 years. The basic block grant, which had been flat-funded since TANF’s inception in 1996, is cut by $1.4 billion in FY 2020. In addition, the TANF Contingency Fund is almost eliminated (dropping from $597 million to $63 million in FY 2020). Originally designed for states to tap if economic conditions cause an increase in eligible families, the Contingency Fund has not proved usable for most states.

The budget includes a one-time, $1 billion mandatory investment for states to encourage private sector investment in child care, but the proposal would require states to roll back basic protections that keep children safe to get the funding. Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant are level funded at FY19 levels. However, as noted elsewhere in this Human Needs Report, the $1.2 billion afterschool program 21st Century Community Learning Centers, as well as the Social Services Block Grant, which provides child care, senior care and other family services, are slated for elimination.

The Child Support Enforcement Program would be cut by $1.7 billion over 10 years. It would incorporate a work requirement for noncustodial parents overdue in their child support payments, and would allow limited federal funding to support employment and training services for these parents.

For more information, see this piece from Families USA, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and the budget summary from the Department of Health and Human Services.


 

Department of Housing and Urban Development:

According to the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the Administration proposes to cut HUD’s budget by $9.6 billion, or 18 percent below 2019 enacted levels.

President Trump’s budget would slash or eliminate many critical low-income housing programs and increase rents and impose harmful work reporting requirement on struggling families. The proposal would eliminate essential housing and community development programs like the National Housing Trust Fund, which supports rental housing for low-income renters such as seniors, veterans, people with disabilities, and households that have experienced homelessness, and the Public Housing Capital Fund, which is needed to maintain units. The budget would move towards dismantling public housing developments, seeking to sell them off to landlords who would get voucher subsidies (but without enough funds for vouchers to sustain such a shift). Also slated for elimination in the proposal are the Choice Neighborhoods program, the Community Development Block Grant, and the HOME Investment Partnership Program, which together aid low-income communities in improving basic infrastructure, providing services to youth and seniors, rehabilitating housing, and promoting economic development. It proposes to eliminate the Indian Community Development Block Grant and cut the Native American Housing Block Grant by 20 percent.

In addition, the proposed HUD budget would cut funding for Rental Assistance Programs, including Housing Choice Vouchers, Public Housing, Project-Based Rental Assistance, and Housing for the Elderly and Persons with Disabilities, by 11 percent. The budget would also impose harmful rent increases and harsh work reporting requirements. It would increase the amount of rent paid by non-elderly, non-disabled tenants from 30 percent of adjusted income to 35 percent of gross income, triple minimum rents paid by some, and eliminate deductions that help seniors and people with disabilities. According to the National Alliance of HUD Tenants, rents would jump an average of 20 percent for 4.6 million households. The proposal also allows housing providers to impose harsh work reporting requirements, without providing resources to help people gain needed skills or employment.

For more information, see the National Low Income Housing Coalition, the National Alliance of HUD Tenants, and the budget summary from the Department of Housing and Urban Development.


 

Department of Labor:

The proposed budget would cut the Labor Department’s discretionary budget by 9.7 percent, or nearly $1.2 billion, from FY19 to FY20.

As the National Skills Coalition reports, the President’s budget requests level funding for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) Title I state formula grants, which help people with barriers to work gain new skills and find employment. The budget would cut $86 million – or nearly 40 percent – from National Dislocated Worker national grants, $15 million (15.9 percent) from Reentry Employment Opportunities and $5 million (5.5 percent) from YouthBuild. It would eliminate funding for Indian and Native American Programs and Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers Programs (also known as the National Farmworker Jobs Program), which provides workforce and development and employment assistance for migrant and seasonal farmworkers to help them prepare for stable, year-round employment. The Senior Community Service Employment Program, which helps low-income senior citizens find work, would also be eliminated.

The Office of Disability Employment Policy is cut by more than $11 million, or more than 29 percent, from FY19 to FY20. The budget requests $160 million for Apprenticeship programs, the same amount appropriated in FY19. Funding for the Women’s Bureau is slashed by 74 percent.

For more information, see an analysis from the National Skills Coalition and the budget summary from the Department of Labor. 


 

Other Areas of Note

The budget also contains other moves that advocates oppose for departments not listed above.

The Trump blueprint calls for $7.2 billion in FY20 for the entire Census Bureau, even though Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross has said that the Bureau would need $7.4 billion in FY20 for the 2020 Decennial Census alone, not to mention the 100+ other economic and household surveys the Census Bureau oversees. Census experts have estimated that approximately $8 billion in FY20 is needed to carry out the 2020 Census, plus additional funds for the rest of the Census Bureau’s surveys. The amount proposed in the budget is shockingly inadequate, and would be expected to result in an inaccurate count (made far worse if the citizenship question sought by the Trump Administration is ruled allowable by the Supreme Court).

The Trump budget would slash $84 billion over the coming decade from federal disability programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI).

The Trump Administration’s efforts to gut the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau continue with this budget proposal. Funding for the CFPB would be made subject to the appropriations process (rather than receiving money from the Federal Reserve, as it currently does) in 2021 and then be almost completely zeroed out. Funding for FY20 would be cut back to FY15 levels.

The Legal Services Corporation would be eliminated, ending federal support for civil legal assistance for low-income people with housing, domestic violence, employment, consumer, or other legal trouble. Also eliminated would be the Corporation for National and Community Service, which runs programs including AmeriCorps, VISTA, and Senior Corps.

The Environmental Protection Agency would see its budget slashed by 31 percent under the Trump blueprint.

The budget requests $8.6 billion for the construction of a border wall. It also requests funding for 60,000 immigrant detention beds, including 10,000 family detention beds, and 15,000 new DHS law enforcement officers.

The budget also eliminates the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation, and D.C. Tuition Assistance Grants.

The budget would require a Social Security number that is valid for employment to claim the Child Tax Credit. This would deny this assistance to certain immigrant families, most of whose children are U.S. citizens.

The Department of Transportation would see a 19 percent budget cut.

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CHN: Nutrition Assistance Cuts Begin for 1.35 million Puerto Ricans https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-nutrition-assistance-cuts-begin-for-1-35-million-puerto-ricans/ Tue, 19 Mar 2019 16:29:55 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4125 Wednesday, March 20 marks the 18-month anniversary of Hurricane Maria making landfall in Puerto Rico, and the island is still trying to recover. The latest impediment has to do with food aid. After Maria hit (and Irma before that), Congress temporarily increased funds for Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP)....

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Wednesday, March 20 marks the 18-month anniversary of Hurricane Maria making landfall in Puerto Rico, and the island is still trying to recover. The latest impediment has to do with food aid. After Maria hit (and Irma before that), Congress temporarily increased funds for Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP). NAP is the island’s more limited version of SNAP/food stamps.

Unfortunately, the emergency increase has run out. In early March, half of the 1.35 million Puerto Ricans who receive benefits under NAP began to see their benefits cut. The other half of the 1.35 million NAP recipients will see cuts beginning this Friday, March 22.

Puerto Rico’s NAP troubles are, in part, due to the way Congress decided to fund the program. Unlike SNAP in the states and other territories besides Puerto Rico, NAP does not automatically expand in the event of a natural disaster or economic downturn. Rather, Puerto Rico’s NAP relies on a fixed block grant that can only increase to meet need if Congress appropriates additional funds.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a Puerto Rican family of four with no or very low cash income, for example, would have received the maximum NAP benefit of $649 last month – the same amount that a similar household in the states would receive from SNAP. Now, however, this household’s monthly benefit will drop by 37 percent to $410, which is the pre-disaster benefit level. An older adult who lives alone and received $194 last month will see his or her benefits drop by 42 percent to $112.

In order to restore the benefits under the emergency increase, advocates say $600 million is needed – and that will only take the extra benefits to Sept. 30, the end of the current fiscal year. As reported in the Feb. 14 Human Needs Report, a disaster aid package was included in the FY19 spending bill (H.R. 268) passed by the House. However, it was not included in the final FY19 spending bill passed by Congress in February because President Trump opposed the food aid and other assistance for Puerto Rico.

At the end of February, Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced a disaster aid package (S. 572) that would provide $610 million for Puerto Rico’s NAP benefits, along with other aid for victims of other natural disasters across several states and territories. The measure reportedly has bipartisan support, now including the support of the White House. However, in early March, Senate Appropriations Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) announced that a separate disaster aid package was in the works, negotiating additional needs such as crop losses in various states and tornado damage in Alabama, as well as efforts to include modest relief beyond the NAP aid in Puerto Rico. According to Roll Call, an initial vote on a disaster aid package could happen in the Senate on March 26. The exact contents of the measure the chamber will take up is unknown, but funding for Puerto Rico reportedly remains a sticking point in the negotiations.

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CHN: Trump Issues First Veto, but Fight over Emergency Declaration Continues https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-trump-issues-first-veto-but-fight-over-emergency-declaration-continues/ Tue, 19 Mar 2019 16:26:38 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4124 President Trump issued the first veto of his presidential term on Friday, March 15, the day after 12 Senate Republicans crossed the aisle and joined all Democrats in approving a resolution that would terminate the President’s declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. The veto and the vote...

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President Trump issued the first veto of his presidential term on Friday, March 15, the day after 12 Senate Republicans crossed the aisle and joined all Democrats in approving a resolution that would terminate the President’s declaration of a national emergency on the southern border.

The veto and the vote in the Senate came after the House approved an identical resolution in late February by a vote of 245-182. House leaders now say they will attempt to override Trump’s veto on Tuesday, March 26, after they return from the current Congressional recess. A veto override is not expected to be successful, given that a two-thirds majority is needed and only 13 House Republicans crossed over to join Democrats in approving the resolution. However, Trump’s veto will not be the last word on the matter.

First, a number of lawsuits are expected to be filed arguing that Trump has exceeded his authority as President. The first lawsuit was filed last month by 16 state attorneys general, led by California’s Xavier Becerra. (Since then, more states have signed on.)

Second, under the National Emergencies Act, both chambers of Congress are authorized – if not compelled – to hold votes on the emergency declaration every six months, as long as it remains in force. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has indicated that these votes will take place. (The National Emergencies Act states, “Not later than six months after a national emergency is declared, and not later than the end of each six-month period thereafter that such emergency continues, each House of Congress shall meet to consider a vote on a joint resolution to determine whether that emergency shall be terminated.”)

Third, Senate Republicans, worried that Congress could be abdicating its constitutional power-of-the-purse responsibilities to the executive branch, are contemplating amending the National Emergencies Act to require that both chambers of Congress affirmatively vote to support a president’s declaration of an emergency within 30 days of the emergency being declared, in order for it to continue in effect.

Democrats (and some Republicans) argue that Trump’s emergency declaration amounts to an unconstitutional effort to spend tax dollars on his proposed wall along the southern border – money that Congress has not appropriated for that purpose. Democrats further argue that there is no southern border crisis. Some Republicans counter that a national emergency does, in fact, exist, and it is within the President’s authority to transfer funds.

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CHN: Dream and Promise Act Introduced to Provide Protections for Dreamers and TPS Recipients https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-dream-and-promise-act-introduced-to-provide-protections-for-dreamers-and-tps-recipients/ Tue, 19 Mar 2019 16:21:26 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4123 On March 12, Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) introduced of the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6). The bill would provide a pathway to lawful permanent residency and citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) beneficiaries, also known as Dreamers. In addition, and...

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On March 12, Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), and Yvette Clarke (D-NY) introduced of the Dream and Promise Act (H.R. 6). The bill would provide a pathway to lawful permanent residency and citizenship for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) beneficiaries, also known as Dreamers. In addition, and unlike previous Dream Act legislation, this bill also provides a pathway to permanent legal protections for immigrants with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Deferred Enforcement Departure (DED). All told, the bill would reportedly protect more than 2 million people from deportation. To date, 210 House members have signed on to H.R. 6, all Democrats.

The bill would grant Dreamers conditional permanent resident status for 10 years and cancel removal proceedings if they meet a number of requirements, including if they obtain a high school diploma or its equivalent or are in an apprenticeship program. In order to gain full lawful permanent resident (LPR) status, Dreamers must meet additional requirements. TPS and DED beneficiaries could obtain LPR status by meeting a different set of requirements, including having been in the U.S. for 3 years before the bill’s enactment and having been granted TPS or DED status by certain dates.

The TPS and DED programs have protected undocumented refugees who fled war, natural disasters, and other life-threatening events in their home countries from deportation. President Trump has tried to end the DACA program and terminate TPS for individuals from Sudan, Nicaragua, Haiti, and El Savlador, but federal courts have thus far blocked him from doing so. Complying with a court injunction, the Department of Homeland Security announced on Feb. 28 that it was extending TPS for more than 250,000 immigrants from those four countries through Jan.  2, 2020. Immigrant advocates also filed a federal lawsuit in February to block the Trump Administration from ending TPS for people from Nepal and Honduras. DED protections for individuals from Liberia are scheduled to expire on March 31.

The National Immigration Law Center, UnidosUS, the Center for Law and Social Policy, and other organizations issued statements supporting the Dream and Promise Act and encouraging its swift passage in Congress.

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CHN: Supreme Court Expands Focus of Census Citizenship Question Arguments https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-supreme-court-expands-focus-of-census-citizenship-question-arguments/ Tue, 19 Mar 2019 16:14:09 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4122 On Tuesday, April 23, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether the Trump Administration may include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census – and the case just got a little more complicated. Originally, the Court’s focus was fairly narrow: Had Administration officials violated administrative procedures (and thus,...

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On Tuesday, April 23, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments over whether the Trump Administration may include a citizenship question in the 2020 Census – and the case just got a little more complicated.

Originally, the Court’s focus was fairly narrow: Had Administration officials violated administrative procedures (and thus, federal law) in the way they sought to include the citizenship question? As reported in the January 22 Human Needs Report, a U.S. District Judge in New York ruled that, indeed they had. The ruling by U.S. District Judge Jesse Furman stated that the decision by Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to add the citizenship question to the 2020 Census was “unlawful” because of “a veritable smorgasbord of classic, clear-cut” violations of the Administrative Procedure Act, including cherry-picking evidence to support his choice.

On March 15, however, the Supreme Court expanded its focus. In an order, the Court announced that it will also examine whether the citizenship question violates the enumeration clause of the U.S. Constitution. That clause states, in part, “”Representatives….shall be apportioned among the several States . . . according to their respective Numbers….” In other words, Census counts and the resulting apportionment are expected to be based on real numbers. Critics of the citizenship question maintain that it will result in a lower (and thus, more inaccurate) count, because many people, particularly in immigrant communities, will not want to fill out the form.

The expanded focus by the U.S. Supreme Court is a direct result of a second federal court ruling, this one from earlier this month in California. In that case, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg wrote, “In short, the inclusion of the citizenship question on the 2020 Census threatens the very foundation of our democratic system – and does so based on a self-defeating rationale.” Seeborg agreed with the New York judge that the addition of the citizenship question violated the Administrative Procedure Act, but he went farther, finding that the question actually violates the U.S. Constitution.

And that is why the Supreme Court issued its new order and expanded the focus of its April 23 argument. As Scotusblog.com explains, U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco wrote to the Supreme Court and asked that it examine both issues: “The only way to finally resolve whether the federal government can bring back the citizenship question, the government stressed, is to have the justices take up the constitutional issue too: Otherwise, even if the Supreme Court were to agree with the federal government that the citizenship question does not violate federal administrative laws, lower courts could still rely on the enumeration clause to block the government from including it.” Francisco further noted that the deadline for finalizing the Census form is this June, and for that reason, the best course of action would be for the Court to consider both of the questions at issue.

For more information on the importance of a fair and accurate 2020 Census, see CHN’s Census page, and watch a recording of the webinar held in January by CHN and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

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CHN: House Passes For the People Act to Reform Elections and Curtail Corruption https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-passes-for-the-people-act-to-reform-elections-and-curtail-corruption/ Tue, 19 Mar 2019 16:10:01 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4121 The House on March 8 passed (234-193, along party lines) H.R. 1, the For the People Act. According to the House Democracy Reform Task Force, chaired by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), H.R. 1 will “make it easier, not harder, to vote; end the dominance of big money in our politics,...

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The House on March 8 passed (234-193, along party lines) H.R. 1, the For the People Act. According to the House Democracy Reform Task Force, chaired by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), H.R. 1 will “make it easier, not harder, to vote; end the dominance of big money in our politics, and ensure public officials work for the public interest.” Specifically, the bill would create automatic voter registration across the country, ensure that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored, end partisan gerrymandering, and make Election Day a federal holiday. The legislation also requires all organizations involved in political activity to disclose their large donors, requires presidents to disclose their tax returns, and creates a code of ethics for the Supreme Court. Advocates from across the human needs community, including many members of CHN, endorsed the bill and applauded its passage.

Vox called the bill “sweeping anti-corruption measures aimed at stamping out the influence of money in politics and expanding voting rights.” However, in an op-ed opposing the legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the bill is Democrats’ attempt to “grow the federal government’s power over Americans’ political speech and elections.” Despite House passage, McConnell has reportedly already stated, “That’s not going to go anywhere.” Even if the bill did pass the Senate – an unlikely outcome – the White House has said President Trump would veto it.

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CHN: Talks and Speculation Kick off FY20 Budget Season https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-talks-and-speculation-kick-off-fy20-budget-season/ Mon, 04 Mar 2019 16:59:48 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4010 Fiscal Year 2020 budget talks and speculation have kicked off on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. President Trump’s FY20 topline budget message, priorities, and summary tables are expected to be released the week of March 11. Detailed line-item information, including details on any proposed cuts to mandatory and discretionary (annually-appropriated)...

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Fiscal Year 2020 budget talks and speculation have kicked off on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. President Trump’s FY20 topline budget message, priorities, and summary tables are expected to be released the week of March 11. Detailed line-item information, including details on any proposed cuts to mandatory and discretionary (annually-appropriated) programs, will be released the week of March 18. Office of Management and Budget Acting Director Russ Vought confirmed that the President’s budget will ignore statutory spending caps for defense spending by using the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) fund. According to CQ, the President’s budget is expected to propose $174 billion in OCO funding allowed outside the caps, in addition to the cap of $576 billion for defense spending for FY20, leading to a total defense-related budget allocation of $750 billion. This would be $34 billion more than Congress appropriated for FY19 in total; the OCO funding would be more than double the $69 billion provided for OCO this year, despite the fact that OCO war-related operations are scheduled to diminish. If adopted, this would be an explicit effort to shatter budget caps in favor of Pentagon spending. Vought also confirmed that Trump will propose a 5 percent cut to nondfense programs, though it is unclear what baseline the Administration is using. The Coalition on Human Needs is hosting a webinar on President Trump’s budget on March 14 at 2pm ET. Register here and stay tuned to upcoming Human Needs Reports for additional analysis of the President’s and Congressional budget proposals.

Congressional leaders, meanwhile, are expected to try to negotiate a new budget deal to raise both defense and nondefense discretionary spending caps for FY20 and FY21. Without a new deal, deep sequestration cuts put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 will return, cutting discretionary spending by $126 billion, or 10 percent, in FY20. Domestic and international appropriations would be cut by $55 billion below this year’s level of $597 billion; military spending would drop $71 billion from this year’s level of $647 billion, not counting the uncapped OCO funds. According to CQ, House Budget Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) will propose a two-year budget deal that will lift discretionary spending caps only in line with inflation or slightly higher, a much more modest increase than the FY18-FY19 spending caps boost. Complicating matters are programs that will require at least $15 billion in additional funding over current year, including $4 billion for the 2020 Census, $6-8 billion for increased costs for veterans health services, and $1 billion in affordable housing aid. According to some reports, Congress could be months away from reaching an agreement on a deal. Meanwhile, some House committees have begun preparing their “views and estimates” letters. Sent to the House Budget Committee, these letters outline each committee’s budget and policy priorities for the year ahead, make their spending needs known for programs under their jurisdiction for the coming fiscal year, and react to the president’s request.

In related budget news, the debt limit, which had been suspended for a year, was reinstated on March 2. The Treasury Department issued a report on Feb. 26 saying that it can use “extraordinary measures” to extend its borrowing authority to near the end of the fiscal year or early into the next one, at which time it will run out of cash unless the debt limit is raised or extended again. The raising of the debt ceiling could be combined at that time with a bipartisan deal to continue funding government and avoid another government shutdown. It could also be combined with a deal to raise spending caps.

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CHN: Puerto Rico to Lose Food Aid without Quick Congressional Action https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-puerto-rico-to-lose-food-aid-without-quick-congressional-action/ Mon, 04 Mar 2019 16:58:06 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4011 Advocates’ concerns are rising about the impending need for food aid in Puerto Rico. Funding for Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), the island’s version of SNAP/food stamps, was temporarily increased following hurricanes Irma and Maria, but without action by Congress, some 1.4 million Puerto Rican people (who are U.S....

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Advocates’ concerns are rising about the impending need for food aid in Puerto Rico. Funding for Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), the island’s version of SNAP/food stamps, was temporarily increased following hurricanes Irma and Maria, but without action by Congress, some 1.4 million Puerto Rican people (who are U.S. citizens) will lose some or all food assistance beginning in March when the additional funding runs out. An additional $600 million is needed to sustain the additional assistance for the rest of the fiscal year. Unlike the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the more responsive nutrition program for states and other territories such as Guam, Puerto Rico’s NAP is a fixed block grant that can only increase to meet need if Congress appropriates additional funds.

On Feb. 26, Sens. David Perdue (R-GA) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) introduced a disaster aid package (S. 572) that would provide $610 million for Puerto Rico’s NAP benefits, along with other aid for victims of other natural disasters across several states and territories in 2018. While advocates believe this is a positive step, they are concerned that senators will not act on the measure before they leave for their March recess, therefore not in time to prevent the loss of aid for people living on the island. Puerto Rico has not fully recovered from hurricane Maria, and 44 percent of its people live below the poverty line. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has not yet scheduled floor time for the bill.

As reported in the Feb. 14 Human Needs Report, a disaster aid package was included in the FY19 spending bill (H.R. 268) passed by the House. However, it was not included in the final FY19 spending bill passed by Congress earlier in February because President Trump opposed the food aid and other assistance for Puerto Rico. It has been reported that President Trump supports the new Senate bill.

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CHN: SNAP Rule Could Force 755,000 Off Benefits https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-snap-rule-could-force-755000-off-benefits/ Mon, 04 Mar 2019 16:57:54 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4012 The Trump Administration has proposed a rule that would time-limit food benefits for unemployed and underemployed people who can’t document sufficient weekly work hours. Under the rule, these recipients would only be able to receive three months of benefits every three years because states would have far less flexibility to...

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The Trump Administration has proposed a rule that would time-limit food benefits for unemployed and underemployed people who can’t document sufficient weekly work hours. Under the rule, these recipients would only be able to receive three months of benefits every three years because states would have far less flexibility to waive the time limits for areas with limited employment opportunities. Anti-hunger advocates estimate the rule would cause 755,000 to lose benefits. The Food Research & Action Center and other advocacy groups are urging members of the public to submit comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture in opposition to the rule before the deadline of April 2.

Late last year, Congress passed and President Trump signed a new farm bill that rejected stricter time limits. Anti-hunger advocates protest that the Trump Administration’s proposed rule is an end-run around congressional intent that would cause serious harm to individuals and communities while doing nothing to improve the health and employment status of SNAP recipients.

In 1996, when Congress enacted time limits on SNAP (then called food stamps) for certain adults who were unable to document sufficient hours of work each month, Congress provided that states could request from USDA waivers from the time limits for areas with 10 percent or higher unemployment and for areas with too few jobs. Anti-hunger advocates say the area waivers are important, albeit insufficient, safety valves for protecting food assistance for persons who are seeking but unable to find sufficient hours of work. In the decades since, USDA has abided by the decision of Congress and processed waiver requests from governors of both political parties based on accepted economic factors and metrics.

Senators from both political parties, including Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), are protesting the Administration’s proposal.

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CHN: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Proposes Repealing Payday Lending Rule https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-consumer-financial-protection-bureau-proposes-repealing-payday-lending-rule/ Mon, 04 Mar 2019 16:45:21 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4013 In a blow to consumers and especially low-income consumers of color, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger has proposed repealing the bureau’s payday and car title lending rule before it goes into effect. The rule requires lenders to verify a borrower’s income, outstanding debts, and minimum basic needs in...

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In a blow to consumers and especially low-income consumers of color, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Director Kathy Kraninger has proposed repealing the bureau’s payday and car title lending rule before it goes into effect. The rule requires lenders to verify a borrower’s income, outstanding debts, and minimum basic needs in order to determine a borrower’s ability to repay a loan before one is made. The rule was finalized by the CFPB in 2017 after five years of research and input, including nearly half a million comments calling for protections that stop payday and car title lenders from trapping consumers in a cycle of debt.

Compliance with the payday lending rule was to begin in August 2019. While its repeal proposal is pending, the CFPB is also proposing to delay the compliance date for the rule from August 2019 to November 2020. Advocacy groups are urging the submission of comments to the CFPB by March 18, 2019 for the proposed compliance date delay and by May 15, 2019 for the proposed repeal of the rule.

The payday lending rule has been under attack by some since its inception. In January 2018, the CFPB’s former Acting Director Mick Mulvaney announced that the Bureau would reconsider the rule, and that payday lenders might obtain a waiver from the rule while the rulemaking process was reconsidered. In March 2018, some members of the House introduced legislation to repeal the payday rule under the Congressional Review Act (CRA); however, Congress failed to act on this legislation before the deadline for doing so expired.

In seeking to overturn the rule, the Trump appointees disputed CFPB’s extensive research showing typical interest rates of close to 400 percent and with four out of five borrowers needing to take out multiple loans because they could not afford to repay the original one. A February 25 Washington Post story showed that some research used by the Trump appointees to justify overturning the rule was paid for by the payday loan industry.

For more information, see the Center for Responsible Lending and the Stop the Debt Trap coalition.

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CHN: House Panels Hold Hearings on Family Separation Policy https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-panels-hold-hearings-on-family-separation-policy/ Mon, 04 Mar 2019 16:43:45 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4016 Several House panels recently held hearings on families separated at the southern U.S. border. On Feb. 7, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing titled, “Examining the Failures of the Trump Administration’s Inhumane Family Separation Policy.” Witnesses included representatives from the U.S. Government Accountability Office,...

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Several House panels recently held hearings on families separated at the southern U.S. border. On Feb. 7, the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations held a hearing titled, “Examining the Failures of the Trump Administration’s Inhumane Family Separation Policy.” Witnesses included representatives from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, Department of Health and Human Services, Kids in Need of Defense, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Psychological Association. In addition, the House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the Trump Administration’s family separation policy on Feb. 26. While similar in some ways to the Feb. 7 hearing, this hearing focused less on mental health and more on learning more about the implementation of the Trump Administration’s zero tolerance policy. Witnesses included representatives from Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Customs and Border Protections, and the Department of Justice. Commander Jonathan White of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps at the Department of Health and Human Services testified at both hearings. On Feb. 27, the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education held a hearing on “Reviewing the Administration’s Unaccompanied Children Program.” Witnesses included representatives from the Center for Immigration Studies, Kids in Need of Defense, and the Women’s Refugee Commission’s Migrant Rights and Justice Program.

At the Feb. 26th hearing, the committee voted (25-11) to issue subpoenas to Attorney General William Barr, Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen, and Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar. According to CQ, the committee agreed to subpoena documents from all three agencies that would identify the children and parents of any families separated under the policy, the locations and facilities where they were held, and whether reunification has since occurred, among other information. Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) said the subpoenas were issued because the committee never received information in requested last July.

The hearings were partially in response to a government watchdog report released on Jan. 17, which found that the Trump Administration likely separated thousands more migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border than has previously been made public, but federal efforts to track those children have been so poor that the precise number is unknown. The revelations by the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services drew concern and outrage from immigrant advocates, and members of the U.S. House promised to step up oversight efforts.

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CHN: House Votes to Nullify Trump’s National Emergency Declaration https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-votes-to-nullify-trumps-national-emergency-declaration/ Mon, 04 Mar 2019 16:41:04 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=4015 The House on Feb. 26 approved a resolution to overturn President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. The 245-182 vote was mostly along party lines, with 13 Republicans crossing over to join all Democrats in approving the resolution. Under the National Emergencies Act, the Senate is...

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The House on Feb. 26 approved a resolution to overturn President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency on the southern border. The 245-182 vote was mostly along party lines, with 13 Republicans crossing over to join all Democrats in approving the resolution. Under the National Emergencies Act, the Senate is required to take up the measure within approximately 18 days of the House vote. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has indicated the Senate will vote on the resolution before its March 18 recess. This means the Senate should act on or before Friday, March 15.

A simple majority of senators is needed to approve the resolution. If every Democrat votes in favor, then four Republicans would be needed to achieve a majority. Thus far, four Republicans – Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME), Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Sen. Thom Tillis (R-NC), and Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) – have indicated they would vote for the measure, enough to pass it. However, a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate would be needed to override an expected veto by President Trump. It would be Trump’s first veto while in office.

Shortly before the House vote, CHN delivered a letter to every member of the House urging a yes vote on the resolution.

Democrats argue that Trump’s emergency declaration amounts to an unconstitutional effort to spend tax dollars on his proposed wall along the southern border – money that Congress has not appropriated for that purpose. They further argue that there is no southern border crisis. Some Republicans counter that a national emergency does, in fact, exist, and it is within the President’s authority to transfer funds.

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CHN: Deal to Finalize FY19 Funding Released https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-deal-to-finalize-fy19-funding-released/ Thu, 14 Feb 2019 17:30:16 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=3949 A deal to finalize FY19 spending and avoid another government shutdown took concrete form with the release of bill text late on February 13. The outcome of negotiations among the 17-member conference committee who were tasked with writing a compromise version of the Homeland Security spending bill, it is expected...

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A deal to finalize FY19 spending and avoid another government shutdown took concrete form with the release of bill text late on February 13. The outcome of negotiations among the 17-member conference committee who were tasked with writing a compromise version of the Homeland Security spending bill, it is expected to see floor votes on Thursday, February 14, first in the Senate and then in the House. The compromise legislation provides $49.4 billion for that department. The Homeland Security spending bill will be combined with the other six funding bills that haven’t yet been enacted for Fiscal Year 2019, including those covering the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Agriculture, Justice, Commerce, and others, to create a $333 billion omnibus spending package. Of that total, $312.8 billion is for expenditures falling within the Non-Defense Discretionary cap, plus $8.2 billion in funds not subject to the cap for the Department of State, and another $12 billion in uncapped funding for FEMA for future disaster relief.

The House will waive the 72-hour period between release of legislation and a floor vote, since passage of this spending bill is deemed an emergency. If the votes occur as expected on Thursday and President Trump signs the legislation, they will have averted a new government shutdown. The current spending legislation expires at midnight on Friday, Feb. 15.  

The Coalition on Human Needs joined more than 1,000 organizations in signing onto a letter to Congress and President Trump emphasizing the tens of thousands of low-income households put at risk during the recent shutdown and urging passage of FY19 spending bills with robust funding for affordable housing and community development programs. CHN and its members also pressed for the inclusion in the package of increased food aid for Puerto Ricans as part of a disaster relief package initially expected to be included with the full-year spending bill. Despite the urgent need to prevent Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program from running out of funds, the spending bill did not include any disaster relief (see related article in this Human Needs Report for more on this).

Homeland Security Provisions: The bill will provide $1.375 billion for 55 miles of border fencing, far less than the President’s request of $5.7 billion. However, President Trump has claimed that he can shift funding away from other accounts to get the amount of construction he wants, providing a source of ongoing controversy. The other major point of contention is the number of detention beds for arrested immigrants. The average daily population of immigrants in detention in FY 2018 was set by Congress at 40,500, scheduled in the agreement to rise to 45,057 in FY 2019, a 12 percent increase. However, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has ignored Congress’ restrictions and currently is detaining more than 49,000 immigrants. If ICE starts to abide by the limits set in the anticipated bill, there will be a reduction in jailed immigrants by the end of FY 2019. Since ICE has been flouting Congress’ dictates for a number of years, it is not at all certain that the reduction in detention beds will actually occur. More than half of the members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus sent a letter to the Homeland Security conference committee on Feb. 6 urging them not to provide any more money for immigrant detention or a border wall.

There are a number of provisions in the DHS text that offer protections for immigrants and/or require more public disclosure of DHS actions. The negotiators included $192.7 million in increased funding to improve the treatment of migrants in short-term Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) custody, of which $128 million is for increased funding for contracted medical professionals, $40.2 million is for increased food, infant formula, diapers or related items for detainees, and $24.5 million is for increased transportation between CBP facilities.

In language providing additional protections, the agreement prohibits the use of restraints on migrant pregnant women in custody and specifies that no funds shall be used to block Members of Congress from inspecting DHS facilities, including those detaining families, or to destroy any records related to sexual assault or abuse of anyone in DHS custody. In order to encourage family members to come forward to sponsor unaccompanied children so that they can be released into the community, there is language prohibiting funding to detain or remove any sponsor or potential sponsor or household member based on information provided by HHS. HHS investigates potential sponsors before releasing children to their custody. In the past, HHS did not share any of its information with DHS, but that changed with the Trump Administration. In addition, there are new reporting requirements, such as monthly public reports on family separations, both new and ongoing, and a required report by the DHS Office of the Inspector General within 90 days on previous family separation policies. Unannounced inspections of DHS sites are newly required to pay “particular attention” to the health needs of detainees. In the past, inspections of detention facilities have been criticized as ineffective in uncovering abuses.

Other key components/omissions in the omnibus package for the human needs community:

  • The final bill failed to prevent automatic cuts of about $1 billion to Medicare and other benefits programs that could be triggered by spending levels that exceed caps under the statutory pay-as-you-go rule. Congress has regularly waived these automatic cuts, and it will be surprising if it does not do so through separate legislation.
  • The bill did not reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, but did provide full-year funding for its programs at $497.5 million. Democrats are seeking to make certain improvements in the legislation authorizing VAWA, and did not wish to reauthorize using current language.
  • While TANF was previously reauthorized through June 30, 2019, no further extension was provided, requiring further action before the September 30 end of the fiscal year.
  • Federal employees received a 1.9 percent pay raise, superseding a Trump decision to have no general pay increase.
  • There was no provision to cover pay for workers in companies with federal contracts who could not work during the 35-day government shutdown.  
  • A 4 percent increase in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development over FY18 levels, to $44.2 billion. The Tenant-Based Rental Assistance program is funded at $20.3 billion, adequate to renew all existing vouchers. Housing Programs (public housing developments) are funded at $12.7 billion, an increase of $173 million above the FY18 enacted level and $726 million above the President’s budget request. The National Low Income Housing Coalition has more details. The Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes is funded at $279 million, an increase of $49 million above the FY18 enacted level and $134 million above the President’s budget request.
  • $6.1 billion in FY19 funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a decrease of $100 million from FY18 levels and $325 million above President Trump’s request. Full FY19 funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) and Child Nutrition Programs is also included.
  • A small increase of $25 million for the Environmental Protection Agency over FY18 levels, to $8.8 billion. The package contains some contentious policy changes, known as riders, that advocates oppose, while eliminating others that were contained in the version of the bill that previously passed the House.
  • A total of $3.8 billion, an increase of more than $1 billion above FY18 and $20.9 million above the President’s budget request, to enable the Census Bureau to prepare for the 2020 Decennial Census.
  • $415 million for the Legal Services Corporation, which is $5 million above the FY18 enacted level. The President had proposed completely eliminating this program, which helps provide legal assistance to underserved communities.

A summary of the omnibus by division from the House Appropriations Committee Majority Staff is available here. For more information on the effects of the government shutdown, see CHN’s Trump Shutdown Resources page as well as our blog, Voices for Human Needs.

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CHN: Disaster Food Aid for Puerto Rico Left Out of Deal https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-disaster-food-aid-for-puerto-rico-left-out-of-deal/ Thu, 14 Feb 2019 17:22:29 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=3948 Advocates were deeply concerned that the deal to avoid another government shutdown did not include $600 million in additional funding for Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), the island’s version of SNAP/food stamps. The money was supposed to be included as part of a package to provide more than $14...

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Advocates were deeply concerned that the deal to avoid another government shutdown did not include $600 million in additional funding for Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), the island’s version of SNAP/food stamps. The money was supposed to be included as part of a package to provide more than $14 billion in disaster aid to victims of hurricanes, wildfires, typhoons, and volcanoes across the U.S. and its territories in 2018. Funding for Puerto Rico’s NAP benefits was temporarily increased following hurricanes Irma and Maria, but without action by Congress, some 1.4 million Puerto Rican people will lose some or all food assistance by the end of March when the additional funding runs out. The $600 million would sustain the additional assistance for the rest of the year. It was included in the spending bill (H.R. 268) passed by the House, but not in the Senate. Advocates have been pressing the Senate to agree to the House version and feared that leaving it out of the spending bill would seriously reduce the chances of averting the precipitous drop in Puerto Rico’s NAP benefits.

As previously reported in the Jan. 22 Human Needs Report, the Trump Administration called the $600 million for Puerto “excessive and unnecessary” in its official Statement of Administration Policy. President Trump previously tried to illegally withhold disaster relief money from Puerto Rico by directing funds away from Puerto Rico disaster relief to Texas and Florida, and reportedly told Administration officials last fall that he “did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico, because he thought the island was misusing the money…” Congress had appropriated. Newly elected Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), responding to the large Puerto Rican population in Florida, announced his support for including the $600 million in nutrition funding, saying he would play the role of Senator for Puerto Rico. His colleague Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) also supported including the funds, but apparently neither was successful in persuading Senate leadership to go against President Trump’s wishes. This controversy led to separating the entire disaster package from the spending legislation. While the senior Democratic appropriator Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) predicted that a disaster package might pass the Senate separately this week, its adoption remained in doubt.  

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CHN: President’s Budget Expected in March https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-presidents-budget-expected-in-march/ Thu, 14 Feb 2019 17:20:18 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=3947 Looking past FY19, President Trump’s FY2020 topline budget message, priorities, and summary tables are now expected to be released the week of March 11. Detailed line-item information, including details on any proposed cuts to mandatory and discretionary (annually-appropriated) programs, will be released the week of March 18. The statutory deadline...

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Looking past FY19, President Trump’s FY2020 topline budget message, priorities, and summary tables are now expected to be released the week of March 11. Detailed line-item information, including details on any proposed cuts to mandatory and discretionary (annually-appropriated) programs, will be released the week of March 18. The statutory deadline for a president to release his or her budget this year would have been Feb. 4, but there is no penalty for not meeting this deadline, and it has been frequently missed by presidents of both parties. The White House Office of Management and Budget has said this year’s delay is due to the long partial government shutdown. Timelines have not yet been announced for the release of congressional budget proposals, but House Democrats have expressed an interest in adopting a budget resolution early enough to allow joint agreement with the Senate by mid-April, the deadline called for in law but often ignored. It is not at all clear that the Senate will be interested in adopting a budget resolution for FY 2020. CHN will provide analysis of the President’s budget and of congressional budget proposals when they are released.    

Congressional leaders are expected to try to negotiate a new budget deal to raise both defense and nondefense discretionary spending caps for FY20 and FY21. Without a new deal, deep sequestration cuts put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011 will return, cutting discretionary spending by $126 billion, or 10 percent, in FY20. CQ reported that President Trump’s budget may adhere to the harsh sequester-level cap for nondefense spending but would propose spending above the cap for defense programs. Senate Armed Services Committee Chair James Inhofe (R-OK) recently called for $750 billion in total defense spending, a major increase that he said could be achieved by more than doubling the amount provided in the uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account. Instead of the $69 billion in OCO funds this year, Inhofe suggests spending $174 billion in FY 2020, despite the fact that OCO war-related operations are scheduled to diminish. If adopted, this would be an explicit effort to shatter budget caps in favor of Pentagon spending.    

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CHN: House Passes Budgetary Rules Changes https://www.chn.org/articles/house-passes-budgetary-rules-changes/ Thu, 14 Feb 2019 17:18:11 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=3946 Now in the majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats passed a package of reforms that change how the chamber operates, including some changes the relate to the budget process. One change includes the automatic raising of the debt ceiling, or the nation’s borrowing limit, through the fiscal year once...

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Now in the majority in the House of Representatives, Democrats passed a package of reforms that change how the chamber operates, including some changes the relate to the budget process. One change includes the automatic raising of the debt ceiling, or the nation’s borrowing limit, through the fiscal year once the House passes a budget. This removes the need for the House to have a separate vote to raise the debt ceiling. The package (H.Res. 6) also replaces the Republicans “Cut-As-You-Go” (CUTGO) rule, which required spending increases to be offset with an equal or greater cut in spending (but not offset by revenue increases), with a “Pay-As-You-Go” (PAYGO) rule, where spending increases and tax cuts must be offset with either an equal decrease in spending or an increase in revenue (such as raising taxes). A third change would curtail the use of “dynamic scoring,” a highly uncertain and controversial way of estimating the budgetary effects of proposed legislation. Republicans previously used dynamic scoring to say their tax cuts package would cause enough economic growth to pay for themselves by resulting in some revenue increases down the road.

Aside from the budget process, the rules changes also include the creation of a committee to address climate change, the requirement of annual ethics training for all lawmakers, and a mandated 72 hour minimum between when major legislation is released and when it can be voted on by the full House to allow representatives time to read it.

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CHN: Bills Introduced to Help Workers and Working Families https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-bills-introduced-to-help-workers-and-working-families/ Thu, 14 Feb 2019 17:13:00 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=3942 Several bills that would help workers and working families have recently been introduced, including pay equity, paid leave, and minimum wage proposals. The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), which strengthens and closes loopholes in the 1963 Equal Pay Act and provides effective remedies to women who are not being paid...

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Several bills that would help workers and working families have recently been introduced, including pay equity, paid leave, and minimum wage proposals. The Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 7), which strengthens and closes loopholes in the 1963 Equal Pay Act and provides effective remedies to women who are not being paid equal pay for equal work, was introduced on Jan. 30. The bill would also prohibit retaliation against workers for discussing their salaries; train women in negotiation skills; strengthen federal agencies’ investigative and enforcement abilities; and help small businesses adopt good pay practices. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) has introduced the Paycheck Fairness Act in every Congress since 1997.

The Family and Medical Insurance Leave (FAMILY) Act would create a national paid family and medical leave insurance program to help ensure that people who work can take the time they need to address serious health and caregiving needs. The legislation, which would provide workers with a portion of their wages for up to 60 workdays or 12 weeks in a year, would cut by nearly 75 percent the share of families who fall into poverty after taking the unpaid leave provided by the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Currently, only 17 percent of workers in the United States have access to paid family leave through their employers, and fewer than 40 percent have access to personal medical leave through employer programs. Low-income workers are less likely to have access to paid leave. CHN joined hundreds of national, state and local organizations in signing a letter of support to members of Congress for the FAMILY Act. The bill was introduced on Feb. 12.

On Feb. 7, the House Committee on Education and Labor held a hearing on the Raise the Wage Act of 2019, which was introduced in January. The bill would gradually increase the federal minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour by 2024; phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers and sunset the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities and workers under the age of 20; and require the minimum wage to rise automatically to keep pace with inflation. According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), the legislation (H.R. 582) would lift pay for 41 million workers – nearly 30 percent of the U.S. workforce. Witnesses invited to testify at the hearing included experts from EPI, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, and the AFL-CIO, as well as minimum wage workers. The Coalition on Human Needs joined more than 350 organizations in signing a letter of support for the Raise the Wage Act. For more information on this bill, see CHN’s January 22 Human Needs Report.

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CHN: House Repeatedly Attempts to End Government Shutdown; Omnibus Package Proposed https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-house-repeatedly-attempts-to-end-government-shutdown-omnibus-package-proposed/ Tue, 22 Jan 2019 16:40:33 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=3717 The partial government shutdown has entered its second month with no clear end in sight, as the fight over billions of dollars for President Trump’s border wall continues. President Trump has said that he would veto a bill that did not provide $5.7 billion for a border wall and other...

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The partial government shutdown has entered its second month with no clear end in sight, as the fight over billions of dollars for President Trump’s border wall continues. President Trump has said that he would veto a bill that did not provide $5.7 billion for a border wall and other border security measures, while Democrats in Congress oppose that amount. Some 800,000 federal workers remained either furloughed or working without pay, and the effects of the shutdown are being felt by millions more.

President Trump’s Jan. 19th televised statement reiterated his $5.7 billion demand, and added that he would agree to 3-year extensions of legal protections for those currently in the DACA program (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) and for immigrants from Haiti, Central American countries, and elsewhere facing deportation because the Administration has terminated their Temporary Protected Status (TPS). The President’s offer has been rejected by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) at least in part because the extensions of legal status for DACA and TPS are too narrow (not going substantially beyond the protections now being provided by court rulings) and too much continues to be demanded for the wall.

The House of Representatives has passed several packages that would reopen the government, including passing Senate versions of four of the seven spending bills that have not yet been signed into law. But Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has so far refused to bring up any of the House bills in the Senate. Although he initially said he wouldn’t bring up any measures that don’t have President Trump’s and the Democratic leaders’ approval, he has now pivoted to say he’ll take the President’s proposal to the floor even though it has been opposed by the Democratic leaders. The Senate is expected to take up this week a measure that would combine the President’s proposal with a six-bill package similar to a House-backed package (described below) that would reopen and fund the rest of the government through the rest of the fiscal year.

Also this week, the House is expected to pass a stopgap measure, also known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to reopen and fund all government operations through Feb. 28, without additional money for President Trump’s border wall. The bill is expected to pass along party lines and die in the Senate.

In addition, the House is expected to pass a six-bill “omnibus” spending package (H.R. 648) that combines compromise bills drafted last year by House and Senate Democratic and Republican negotiators. This package would reopen all government agencies currently affected by the shutdown (the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and others), except the Department of Homeland Security, which would control funding for a border wall.

While the President’s offer is expected to come up in the Senate this week (and fail for lack of 60 votes), the omnibus package in the House is considered to be close to what may eventually become law once the shutdown ends. Key components of the package for the human needs community include:

  • An extension through Sept. 30, 2020 of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides cash assistance and help in moving from welfare to work for low-income families with children. The House on Jan. 15 passed by voice vote separate legislation to extend the authorization for TANF through June 30. State TANF programs are now using unspent federal dollars and the funds states must put up, but some are starting to run out of funds. The next installment of federal funds cannot go out until the program is extended. The National Governors Association sent a letter to Congress on January 19 calling for reauthorization of TANF.
  • An avoidance of any automatic cuts to Medicare and other benefits programs that could be triggered after the shutdown ends by the statutory pay-as-you-go rule.
  • A 4 percent increase in funding for the Department of Housing and Urban Development over FY18 levels, to $44.2 billion. The Tenant-Based Rental Assistance program is funded at $20.3 billion, adequate to renew all existing vouchers. Housing Programs are funded at $12.7 billion, an increase of $173 million above the FY18 enacted level and $726 million above the President’s budget request. The Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes is funded at $279 million, an increase of $49 million above the FY18 enacted level and $134 million above the President’s budget request.
  • $6.1 billion in FY19 funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), a decrease of $100 million from FY18 levels and $325 million above President Trump’s request. Full FY19 funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP/food stamps) and Child Nutrition Programs is also included.
  • A small increase of $17 million for the Environmental Protection Agency over FY18 levels, to $8.8 billion. The package contains some contentious policy changes, known as riders, that advocates oppose, while eliminating others that were contained in the version of the bill that previously passed the House.
  • A total of $3.82 billion, an increase of more than $1 billion above FY18 and $20.9 million above the President’s budget request, to enable the Census Bureau to prepare for the 2020 Decennial Census.
  • $497.5 million for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs. VAWA expired on Dec. 21 with the start of the shutdown.
  • $415 million for the Legal Services Corporation, which is $5 million above the FY18 enacted level. The President had proposed completely eliminating this program, which helps provide legal assistance to underserved communities.

A summary of the omnibus by division from the House Appropriations Committee Majority Staff is available here. Congress and the President have already enacted legislation guaranteeing that furloughed federal workers and those working without pay will receive back pay once the shutdown ends. For more information on the effects of the government shutdown, see CHN’s Trump Shutdown Resources page as well as our blog, Voices for Human Needs.

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CHN: Disaster Aid for Puerto Rico Passed in House; Administration Deems “Unnecessary” https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-disaster-aid-for-puerto-rico-passed-in-house-administration-deems-unnecessary/ Tue, 22 Jan 2019 16:33:16 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=3715 In an earlier attempt to reopen the government and provide much-needed disaster relief, the House on Jan. 16 passed (237-187) a bill that that included stopgap funding for closed federal agencies through Feb. 8 and  more than $14 billion in aid to victims of hurricanes, wildfires, typhoons, and volcanoes across...

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In an earlier attempt to reopen the government and provide much-needed disaster relief, the House on Jan. 16 passed (237-187) a bill that that included stopgap funding for closed federal agencies through Feb. 8 and  more than $14 billion in aid to victims of hurricanes, wildfires, typhoons, and volcanoes across the U.S. and its territories in 2018. Included was $600 million in disaster aid for Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP), which the Trump Administration called “excessive and unnecessary” in its official Statement of Administration Policy. In addition, President Trump reportedly told Administration officials last fall that he “did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico, because he thought the island was misusing the money…” Congress had appropriated.

In response, Enrique Fernández-Toledo, director of the Puerto Rico Relief and Economic Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress, said in a statement, “NAP disaster supplemental funding is set to run out of money in March, leaving more than 1.3 million Puerto Rican families to face benefit cuts and 100,000 more families without NAP benefits for the remaining six months of fiscal year 2019. We cannot let Puerto Rican families who continue to suffer from unemployment and food insecurity following hurricanes Irma and Maria fall through the cracks.”

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CHN: Many More Migrant Children Separated from Families than Originally Thought https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-many-more-migrant-children-separated-from-families-than-originally-thought/ Tue, 22 Jan 2019 16:23:47 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=3714 While the battle over funding for a border wall continues in Washington, a government watchdog report released on Jan. 17 found that the Trump Administration likely separated thousands more migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border than has previously been made public, but federal efforts to track those...

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While the battle over funding for a border wall continues in Washington, a government watchdog report released on Jan. 17 found that the Trump Administration likely separated thousands more migrant children from their parents at the U.S. border than has previously been made public, but federal efforts to track those children have been so poor that the precise number is unknown. The revelations by the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services drew concern and outrage from immigrant advocates, and members of the U.S. House immediately promised to step up oversight efforts.

“Today’s report sheds horrifying new light on the Trump Administration’s massive effort to tear apart migrant families,” said U.S. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), incoming chairwoman of the House Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee. “It reveals heartlessness and carelessness on a level even beyond what we had known. Not only did this Administration take thousands more children away from their parents – it failed to keep information about the total number and current status of children separated from their parents or guardians. That’s unconscionable and inexcusable.”

“It is clear the Department of Health and Human Services did not have a clue as to how to reunite the children they were cruelly separating at President Trump’s insistence,” added U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), incoming chair of the House Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee. “They cannot even tell us how many children they separated. This is government-sanctioned child abuse, and the whole ordeal is a stain on our nation and our values. I refuse to let the Trump Administration get away with this without conducting vigorous Congressional oversight.”

The Inspector General’s report found that no one systematically kept count of children separated from their parents until a lawsuit last spring triggered by the Trump Administration’s “zero tolerance” policy, under which the government tried to criminally prosecute all parents who crossed the border illegally, taking their children from them in the process. As a result of the lawsuit, the government identified about 2,700 separated children in federal custody as of June 2018, some of them infants and toddlers. But HHS officials say there was a sharp spike in separated children starting a year earlier, shortly after Trump took office, according to the Inspector General’s report. Investigators now say thousands more children were taken from their parents or other guardians by border or immigration agents during that time and later released.

The ACLU, which sued the government over the separations, said the report “reaffirms that the government never had a clear picture of how many children it ripped from their parents. We will be back in court over this latest revelation.”

Meanwhile, officials have announced that the government has “effectively closed” a tent city in Tornillo, Texas, that has housed some 2,800 migrant teenagers. However, plans are now underway in Homestead, Florida to nearly double the capacity of a similar, unregulated center for migrant teens. The “temporary shelter” this month will increase its capacity from 1,350 to 2,350 beds, according to HHS officials.

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CHN: Advocates Applaud Ruling Blocking Citizenship Question on 2020 Census https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-advocates-applaud-ruling-blocking-citizenship-question-on-2020-census/ Tue, 22 Jan 2019 16:18:21 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=3713 Civil rights and census advocates applauded a Jan. 15 decision by a federal judge that blocked the Trump Administration from including a question about citizenship status on the 2020 Census. The judge ruled that by adding the question to the decennial count, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had violated the Administrative...

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Civil rights and census advocates applauded a Jan. 15 decision by a federal judge that blocked the Trump Administration from including a question about citizenship status on the 2020 Census. The judge ruled that by adding the question to the decennial count, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross had violated the Administrative Procedures Act in ignoring harmful implications for Hispanic and noncitizen households. The ruling is expected to be appealed.

In a statement, Vanita Gupta, President and CEO of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, said, “Today’s decision vindicates what we know: the addition of the citizenship question was based, in Judge Furman’s own words, on ‘acts and statements of officials with something to hide’ and should be removed…. Congress must now step in to remove the question and lift any cloud of uncertainty that will hang over final census preparations if the issue remains tied up in the courts.”

In addition to the case ruled on last week, the Administration is fighting five more lawsuits across the country filed by dozens of states, cities and other groups that want the question removed. A second trial over the question began earlier this month in California, and another is scheduled to begin in Maryland on Jan. 22.

For more information on the importance of a fair and accurate 2020 Census, see CHN’s Census page, and register for a webinar on Jan. 23 at 3pm ET held by CHN and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights.

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CHN: For the People Act Introduced to Reform Elections and Curtail Corruption https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-for-the-people-act-introduced-to-reform-elections-and-curtail-corruption/ Tue, 22 Jan 2019 16:10:06 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=3712 Advocates from across the human needs community, including many members of CHN, endorsed the introduction of H.R. 1, the For the People Act, earlier in January. According to the House Democracy Reform Task Force, chaired by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), H.R. 1 will “make it easier, not harder, to vote;...

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Advocates from across the human needs community, including many members of CHN, endorsed the introduction of H.R. 1, the For the People Act, earlier in January. According to the House Democracy Reform Task Force, chaired by Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), H.R. 1 will “make it easier, not harder, to vote; end the dominance of big money in our politics, and ensure public officials work for the public interest.” Specifically, the bill would create automatic voter registration across the country, ensure that individuals who have completed felony sentences have their full rights restored, end partisan gerrymandering, and make Election Day a federal holiday. The legislation also requires all organizations involved in political activity to disclose their large donors, requires presidents to disclose their tax returns, and creates a code of ethics for the Supreme Court.

Vox called the bill “sweeping anti-corruption measures aimed at stamping out the influence of money in politics and expanding voting rights.” However, in an op-ed opposing the legislation, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said the bill is Democrats’ attempt to “grow the federal government’s power over Americans’ political speech and elections.” The bill is expected to pass the House sometime in the next few months, but McConnell has reportedly already stated, “That’s not going to go anywhere.”

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CHN: $15 Minimum Wage Bill Would Lift Pay for 41 Million Workers https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-15-minimum-wage-bill-would-lift-pay-for-41-million-workers/ Tue, 22 Jan 2019 16:06:28 +0000 https://www.chn.org/?post_type=articles&p=3711 On Jan. 16, members of Congress introduced legislation that would more than double the federal minimum wage, raising it gradually from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour by 2024. The Raise the Wage Act of 2019 would also phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers and sunset the...

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On Jan. 16, members of Congress introduced legislation that would more than double the federal minimum wage, raising it gradually from $7.25 per hour to $15 per hour by 2024. The Raise the Wage Act of 2019 would also phase out the subminimum wage for tipped workers and sunset the subminimum wage for workers with disabilities and workers under the age of 20.  After 2024, the bill would require the minimum wage to rise automatically to keep pace with inflation.

According to the Economic Policy Institute, the legislation would lift pay for 41 million workers – nearly 30 percent of the U.S. workforce. It would generate $144 billion in higher wages for workers, which would begin to reverse decades of growing pay inequality and help stimulate the economy.

Christine Owens, Executive Director of the National Employment Law Project, said in a statement, “The federal minimum wage is supposed to provide a meaningful standard to ensure that workers everywhere in the country are paid at least an adequate wage to meet their basic needs. But with the federal minimum wage stuck for 10 years at a poverty-level $7.25 an hour, it’s falling far short in that regard. Instead, it’s being used to suppress workers’ wages.”

The last time Congress raised the federal hourly minimum wage was in 2007. Twenty-one states currently follow the federal minimum wage, and in 17 of those states, lawmakers have enacted preemption laws prohibiting cities and counties from adopting higher minimum wages. Polls show nearly three-quarters of voters support an increase, though there’s disagreement over the exact amount. Young voters have indicated the minimum wage is a driving issue for them in voting.

The Coalition on Human Needs joined more than 350 organizations in signing a letter of support for the Raise the Wage Act.

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CHN: Stopgap Spending Bill Pushes Potential FY19 Partial Government Shutdown off for Two Weeks https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-stopgap-spending-bill-pushes-potential-fy19-partial-government-shutdown-off-two-weeks/ Tue, 11 Dec 2018 03:12:33 +0000 http://coalitiononhn.wpengine.com/articles/chn-stopgap-spending-bill-pushes-potential-fy19-partial-government-shutdown-off-two-weeks/ A partial government shutdown was avoided when President Trump on Dec. 7 signed a stopgap measure, also known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to fund several federal departments through Dec. 21. The possibility of a government shutdown after Dec. 21 isn’t totally out of the question, however.

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A partial government shutdown was avoided when President Trump on Dec. 7 signed a stopgap measure, also known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to fund several federal departments through Dec. 21. Both the House and Senate passed the measure on Dec. 6 to send it the President’s desk. Five of the 12 Fiscal Year 2019 appropriations bills that are required to keep the government running have already been signed into law, including the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water Development, and Legislative Branch spending bills and those funding the Department of Defense and the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-H). The remaining seven appropriations bills that have not yet been enacted, including those that cover the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and others, were covered in the CR, with funding provided at FY18 levels.

Authorization for the Violence Against Women Act and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program were also extended through Dec. 21 in the CR. See the related article in this Human Needs Report for more on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.

The possibility of a government shutdown after Dec. 21 isn’t totally out of the question, however. President Trump is seeking $5 billion for his border wall, and the House-passed spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security bill includes that amount. The Senate-passed bill, however, provides $1.6 billion for fencing and border security, which is the amount the President originally requested in his FY19 budget request. Democrats in Congress are standing firm that no more than $1.6 billion should be appropriated, while President Trump has said that he would veto a bill that did not provide $5 billion. The FY18 spending bill passed in March already provided nearly $1.6 billion toward new and existing fencing and related technologies on the southern border; according to Congressional staff, only 6 percent of those funds have been spent to date, leading Democrats and advocates to argue that additional funding is unnecessary, wasteful, and would divert urgently needed resources from human needs priorities.

The Trump Administration is also seeking several so-called ‘anomalies,’ or adjustments to funding levels, in a year-end spending package. For example, the White House is seeking an additional $190 million for housing detained unaccompanied migrant children at the southern border. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), who in January will become the head of the House Appropriations subcommittee with jurisdiction over the Department of Health and Human Services, and who is a staunch opponent of the Administration’s policy of detaining migrant children and separating them from their parents, told reporters, “Over my dead body will we provide another nickel for these folks to do what they’re doing.” The White House is also asking for $1 billion more than its original FY19 budget request for the 2020 Decennial Census and $58 billion more for immigration judge teams. In these last two cases, the Senate versions of the relevant spending bills provided these funding levels. While the House bills provided higher totals, some of the House decennial Census funds would be held until the first quarter of 2020, leaving less available than the Senate bill for critical Census preparation needs in 2019.

It is expected that the President will meet with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY) on Dec. 11 to try to reach a deal to avoid a shutdown. In addition to border wall funding, some other issues may remain unsettled, including funding for the decennial Census, language preventing the inclusion of a citizenship question, and the exclusion of the harmful partisan policy changes, known as riders, that were included in House versions of the bills but not Senate versions. A December shutdown could be avoided in several ways: with the passage of the remaining FY19 spending bills; with another short-term CR; with another CR that would go for the rest of FY19 for all remaining bills; or with a CR for the Department of Homeland Security that would last the rest of the fiscal year paired with the passage of the other six remaining FY19 spending bills.

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CHN: More than 189,000 Comments Submitted on Proposed Anti-Immigrant Public Charge Rule Changes https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-189000-comments-submitted-proposed-anti-immigrant-public-charge-rule-changes/ Tue, 11 Dec 2018 03:09:41 +0000 http://coalitiononhn.wpengine.com/articles/chn-189000-comments-submitted-proposed-anti-immigrant-public-charge-rule-changes/ More than 189,000 comments have been received to date on the Trump Administration’s proposed “public charge” rule, which would make it harder for immigrants to come to or stay in the U.S. if they use any number of public benefits they are legally entitled to, such as SNAP/food stamps or housing assistance. The deadline for submitting comments is 11:59pm ET on December 10.

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More than 189,000 comments have been received to date on the Trump Administration’s proposed “public charge” rule; the deadline for submitting comments is 11:59pm ET on December 10. The proposed rule would make it harder for immigrants to come to or stay in the U.S. if they use any number of public benefits they are legally entitled to, such as SNAP/food stamps or housing assistance. The public charge provisions of U.S. immigration law state that noncitizens can be considered a “public charge” if they are deemed likely to become primarily dependent on the government to meet their basic needs. The current, long-standing public charge determination, made when a person is applying for admission to the U.S. or for Lawful Permanent Resident (green card) status, is limited to the receipt of public cash assistance, like SSI or TANF, or long-term care in an institution.

The proposed changes would greatly alter this policy and expand the forms of public assistance considered. If implemented, the public charge determination process would consider whether an individual has received or is likely to receive in the future one or more of a much broader array of non-cash benefits as well, including SNAP, housing vouchers or public housing, Medicaid, and Medicare Part D (prescription drug) low-income subsidies. Under the proposed rule, immigrants who do not receive benefits but have incomes below 125 percent of the federal poverty line could also be denied entry.

Advocates believe that this is a back door way for the Trump administration to restrict family immigration and to take away health care, housing, and food assistance from immigrant families. If implemented, advocates fear these changes would force immigrant families to make impossible choices between meeting basic needs and keeping their families together in the U.S. Some service agencies have already reported panic in the immigrant community and have seen cases of families pulling out of programs like school meals because of fear that it may negatively impact them in the future, despite the fact that the proposal would not count services used before the rule would be finalized.

Over the 60-day comment period that ran from Oct. 10 through Dec. 10, many organizations urged advocates to submit public comments in opposition to the rule, with the goal of 100,000 comments submitted. For more information, visit the Protecting Immigrant Families website, read the comments CHN submitted, and watch this webinar hosted by CHN.

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CHN: Farm Bill Negotiations Near Conclusion https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-farm-bill-negotiations-near-conclusion/ Tue, 11 Dec 2018 03:05:31 +0000 http://coalitiononhn.wpengine.com/articles/chn-farm-bill-negotiations-near-conclusion/ Advocates are cautiously optimistic that the compromise version of the Farm Bill, which could be released as early as Dec. 11 and voted on in the House and Senate as early as this week, will not include expanded work requirements and tightened eligibility requirements. While final details of the compromise version of the bill aren’t yet fully known, reports are that the bill closely follows the Senate-passed version of the bill, which did not have the deep cuts and harmful changes to SNAP that were included in the version that narrowly passed the House in June.

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UPDATE: The Senate passed (87-3) the Farm Bill on Dec. 11, and the House followed suit (369-47) on Dec. 12. President Trump is expected to sign the legislation the week of Dec. 17. Advocates are pleased that the bill protects SNAP and rejects several harmful provisions included in the original House bill. For more information on the final bill, see these statements from CHN, the Food Research and Action Center, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.


Advocates are cautiously optimistic that the compromise version of the Farm Bill, which could be released as early as Dec. 11 and voted on in the House and Senate as early as this week, will not include expanded work requirements and tightened eligibility requirements. While final details of the compromise version of the bill aren’t yet fully known, reports are that the bill closely follows the Senate-passed version of the bill, which did not have the deep cuts and harmful changes to SNAP that were included in the version that narrowly passed the House in June. The 2014 farm bill, which includes the reauthorization of SNAP/food stamps, expired on September 30, though SNAP and nearly all nutrition programs have continued to operate and distribute benefits since then.

The Senate bill maintains current basic work rules and eligibility requirements, while modestly expanding existing employment and training pilot programs, unlike the House bill’s onerous work and eligibility requirements. Advocates strongly oppose the House farm bill, which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates would cause more than 1 million low-income households with more than 2 million people – particularly low-income working families with children – to lose their benefits altogether or have them reduced. Roughly 265,000 children in low-income families would also lose access to free meals at school under the House bill.

If the reports are correct and the compromise farm bill avoids the drastic cuts of the House bill, it will be a big win for anti-poverty advocates. For more information, see the July 23 Human Needs Report, CHN’s Protecting Basic Needs resource page, and the recording of a webinar CHN cosponsored with CBPP, Feeding America, and FRAC.

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CHN: Two Proposals for Reauthorizing TANF Introduced https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-two-proposals-reauthorizing-tanf-introduced/ Tue, 11 Dec 2018 02:59:36 +0000 http://coalitiononhn.wpengine.com/articles/chn-two-proposals-reauthorizing-tanf-introduced/ Two bills recently introduced in the Senate take very different approaches to reauthorizing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides cash assistance and help in moving from welfare to work for low-income families with children. If a bipartisan reauthorization bill does not pass both chambers of Congress as a stand-alone bill or is not added to year-end FY19 spending bills, another temporary extension into 2019 will be needed.

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Two bills recently introduced in the Senate take very different approaches to reauthorizing the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides cash assistance and help in moving from welfare to work for low-income families with children. The first, introduced by Senate Finance Committee Chair Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Ranking Member Ron Wyden (D-OR) on Dec. 4, would extend TANF for three years. The bipartisan bill would eliminate the ability of states to waive existing work requirements altogether, as 22 states have done. It would also make it easier for individuals receiving TANF benefits to participate in drug abuse, mental health, or rehabilitation treatments, and broadens access to subsidized jobs or certain training programs. In addition, the bill would authorize a limited number of state and tribal TANF programs to operate 5-year demonstration projects to evaluate differing approaches to increase employment, earnings, family stability or other desired outcomes.

A more conservative bill, introduced on Nov. 29 by Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), would reauthorize TANF for 5 years but would limit assistance to families with income no greater than 200 percent of the poverty level and would require all work-eligible individuals to meet monthly work hour requirements in order to receive benefits. This bill is similar to one that previously passed out of a House committee along party lines in May. There is little chance that Daines’ bill could pass in the Senate, where Democrats are unlikely to support it.

TANF has only been fully reauthorized once since its enactment in 1996, but it has been extended for short periods 25 times since 2010, including in the recent stopgap spending bill that will keep the government running through Dec. 21. The TANF block grant hasn’t received an increase in funding since 1996 and has lost almost 40 percent of its value due to inflation. A new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found that, for every 100 families in poverty in 2017, only 23 received direct financial assistance from TANF — down from 68 families in 1996. If a bipartisan reauthorization bill does not pass both chambers of Congress as a stand-alone bill or is not added to year-end FY19 spending bills, another temporary extension into 2019 will be needed.

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CHN: Criminal Justice Bill Remains in Limbo https://www.chn.org/articles/chn-criminal-justice-bill-remains-limbo/ Tue, 11 Dec 2018 02:56:10 +0000 http://coalitiononhn.wpengine.com/articles/chn-criminal-justice-bill-remains-limbo/ With time running out for the 115th Congress, the fate of bipartisan criminal justice reform is unclear. The First Step Act would correct some of the inequities in the federal criminal justice system that were caused, in part, by anti-crime legislation passed by Congress in the 1990s and signed by President Clinton.

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With time running out for the 115th Congress, the fate of bipartisan criminal justice reform is unclear. The First Step Act, sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL), among others, would correct some of the inequities in the federal criminal justice system that were caused, in part, by anti-crime legislation passed by Congress in the 1990s and signed by President Clinton.

An updated version of the First Step Act, introduced in the Senate on Nov. 15, would reduce mandatory sentences for some drug-related felonies, make more offenders eligible for early release and provide more funding for anti-recidivism programs. Perhaps most notably, it would end the sentencing disparity between crack and powder cocaine charges – which disproportionately affect African Americans – for some 2,600 federal inmates convicted years ago.

The revised bill has the support of some groups on both the right and left, and although supporters say it would garner as many as 70 votes in the Senate, Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has not allowed it to come to the floor for a vote. He argues that the Senate needs to focus its time on judicial nominations and appropriations bills. McConnell could also be responding to some of the more conservative members of his caucus – perhaps most notably Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), who has inaccurately stated that the legislation would result in the early release of violent felons and sex offenders from prison. The House approved an earlier, more conservative version of the legislation in May, but House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has assured Senate sponsors that if the Senate acts, the House could quickly pass the Senate version of the legislation, thus negating the need for a conference committee.

Members of the human needs community are somewhat divided on the measure. Some support it as a modest and incremental improvement to the federal criminal justice system. Others note that it simply does not go far enough – for example, it does not retroactively apply its sentencing reform provisions to people convicted of anything other than crack convictions and it prevents some individuals from benefiting from some provisions based on citizenship and immigration status. If the legislation does not pass before Congress adjourns, it would have to be refiled next year, with the legislative process starting anew. Supporters fear bipartisan compromise could then be elusive; the new Democratic-led House may demand a more far-reaching version, which in turn could peel Senate Republicans away from the bill. For more information about the revised First Step Act, click here.

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CHN: Senate Confirms New CFPB Director Opposed by Advocates https://www.chn.org/articles/senate-confirms-new-cfpb-director-opposed-advocates/ Tue, 11 Dec 2018 02:53:12 +0000 http://coalitiononhn.wpengine.com/articles/senate-confirms-new-cfpb-director-opposed-advocates/ On Dec. 6, the Senate narrowly confirmed (50-49 along party lines) Kathy Kraninger to a five-year term as the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Kraninger stated that she will continue the line of leadership Mick Mulvaney, who advocates contend during his time as Acting Director of the CFPB repeatedly put the desires of the financial industry above the needs of consumers.

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On Dec. 6, the Senate narrowly confirmed (50-49 along party lines, with one senator absent) Kathy Kraninger to a five-year term as the new director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Kraninger stated that she will continue the line of leadership Mick Mulvaney, who advocates contend during his time as Acting Director of the CFPB repeatedly put the desires of the financial industry above the needs of consumers. Mulvaney, although stepping down from this position, will continue in his role as director of the Office of Management and Budget for the Trump Administration. Kraninger is expected to work closely with Mulvaney and President Trump to ease federal regulation of the financial industry.

Congress created the CFPB in 2010 as an independent advocate and regulator to protect and benefit consumers. CHN joined Americans for Financial Reform (AFR) and others in opposing Kraninger’s nomination. According to AFR, the CFPB may in January propose changes that would gut payday lending protections.

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CHN: Fiscal Year 2019 Begins Without a Shutdown and With a Labor-H Bill https://www.chn.org/articles/fiscal-year-2019-begins-without-shutdown-labor-h-bill/ Mon, 08 Oct 2018 19:12:21 +0000 http://coalitiononhn.wpengine.com/articles/fiscal-year-2019-begins-without-shutdown-labor-h-bill/ October 1 marked the start of Fiscal Year 2019 for the federal government. While all 12 appropriations bills that are required to keep the government running had not been passed by the September 30 deadline, five of them were passed by then. A partial government shutdown was avoided when President Trump on September 28 signed a stopgap measure, also known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to fund the remaining departments through December 7. Read on for a summary of some of the highlights of the increases in the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education.

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October 1 marked the start of Fiscal Year 2019 for the federal government. While all 12 appropriations bills that are required to keep the government running had not been passed by the September 30 deadline, five of them were passed by then. A partial government shutdown was avoided when President Trump on September 28 signed a stopgap measure, also known as a Continuing Resolution (CR), to fund the remaining departments through December 7. This was signed as part of a minibus package that also included the bills to fund the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-H) and the Department of Defense for the full fiscal year, as well as an extension of the Violence Against Women Act through the duration of the CR. The minibus passage had previously been overwhelmingly passed by the Senate (93-7) and the House (361-61). The president had also previously signed another minibus passed by Congress that included the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs, Energy and Water Development, and Legislative Branch spending bills.

Advocates were pleased that the Labor-H and Defense minibus package contained no poison pill riders and that several programs of importance to the human needs community received modest increases. However, they maintain that the overall spending level for the Labor, HHS, and Education departments should be higher given the size and importance of the departments; the three departments combined received $178.1 billion in discretionary (annually-appropriated) funding, a $1 billion increase over FY18. According to CQ, the bill also includes an extra $2.6 billion for programs outside of the agreed-upon spending caps for areas such as biomedical research and anti-fraud initiatives in Medicare and Social Security. However, Democrats had argued that as nondefense discretionary spending is set to increase by $18 billion for FY19 under a budget deal Congress passed earlier this year, the Labor-H bill should get at least $5 billion of that increase. For comparison, the Department of Defense received $674.4 billion.

See below for a summary of some of the highlights of the increases in the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. For more information, see the summary of the package from the House Appropriations Committee Republicans and Democrats.

The Department of Education received nearly $71.5 billion, an increase of $581 million over FY18.  21st Century Learning Centers received a $10 million increase; the entire program would have been eliminated in President Trump’s budget. IDEA special education grants to states are funded at $12.4 billion, up nearly $87 million from FY18. The maximum Pell grant would be boosted by $100. TRIO programs that provide services to students from disadvantaged backgrounds and first generation college students to help them enter and complete college and postgraduate education received a $50 million increase.

The Department of Labor is funded at $12.1 billion, a $94.3 million decrease compared to FY18. The Migrant and Seasonal Farmworkers program received a $1 million increase; this program would have been eliminated in President Trump’s budget. Community Service Employment for Older Americans, which was also eliminated in Trump’s budget, was flat-funded from FY18. Apprenticeship programs received a $15 million increase, Job Corps was level funded, and the Veterans Employment Training (VETS) Program got a $5 million boost above FY18 levels.

The Department of Health and Human Services received a $2.3 billion increase over FY18 levels to $90.5 billion. The National Institutes of Health received a $2 billion increase to $39.1 billion. Head Start will get a $200 million increase. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) will get a modest $50 million increase; this program would have been eliminated in President Trump’s budget. The Child Care and Development Block Grant will also receive a $50 million increase over the large $2.37 billion increase that occurred this year. The Community Services Block Grant received a $10 million increase. Unlike the House’s original bill, the final compromise bill does not include new language restricting HHS’s authority to administer or enforce the Affordable Care Act, nor does it include language overriding a long-standing court consent decree, known as the Flores decision, that requires a limit of 20 days’ detention for migrant children and their families separated at the border (The Trump Administration announced on September 6 a proposed rule that would weaken Flores and allow for families to be detained indefinitely; click here for more information).

The Department of Defense received $606.5 billion for the Pentagon’s base budget, a $17 billion increase over FY18. It also received $67.9 billion in its uncapped Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, a $2.6 billion boost over FY18. Included in the bill is funding for 93 F-35 fighter jets, 16 more than the Pentagon requested; these jets have been plagued with problems. The bill will also fund three Littoral Combat Ships, two more than the Pentagon requested.

Funding battles for the remaining seven spending bills, including those that cover the Departments of Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, Homeland Security, Agriculture, and others, will resume in the lame duck session after the November 6 elections. Funding for President Trump’s border wall is expected to be controversial in these battles. Other fights may also arise over issues like a raise for civilian federal workers (included in a Senate bill but not in a House version; President Trump has called for a pay freeze for these workers), environmental regulations, and some of the harmful partisan policy changes, known as riders, that were included in House versions of the bills but not Senate versions.

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CHN: House Passes More Tax Cuts https://www.chn.org/articles/house-passes-tax-cuts/ Mon, 08 Oct 2018 19:05:22 +0000 http://coalitiononhn.wpengine.com/articles/house-passes-tax-cuts/ On September 30, the House passed (220-191) a bill that would make permanent the tax cuts for individuals enacted as part of the GOP tax cut bill passed in December 2017. Only three Democrats voted in favor of the bill; 10 Republicans opposed it. According to the Tax Policy Center, the provisions of the package would cost as much as $3 trillion over a ten-year period, 50 percent more than the almost $2 trillion cost of the first round of tax cuts passed last year.

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On September 30, the House passed (220-191) a bill that would make permanent the tax cuts for individuals enacted as part of the GOP tax cut bill passed in December 2017. Only three Democrats voted in favor of the bill; 10 Republicans opposed it.

According to the Tax Policy Center, the provisions of the package would cost as much as $3 trillion over a ten-year period, 50 percent more than the almost $2 trillion cost of the first round of tax cuts passed last year. In a statement, CHN’s Executive Director Deborah Weinstein said, “The tax scam 2.0 passed today by the House is another measure that benefits the wealthy, campaign donors, and high-income business owners, all at the expense of working families.” The Senate is not expected to take up the package this year.

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CHN: Anti-Immigrant Public Charge Rule Changes Proposed https://www.chn.org/articles/anti-immigrant-public-charge-rule-changes-proposed/ Mon, 08 Oct 2018 19:00:29 +0000 http://coalitiononhn.wpengine.com/articles/anti-immigrant-public-charge-rule-changes-proposed/ On September 22, the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule on its website that would make it harder for immigrants to come to or stay in the U.S. if they use any number of public benefits they are legally entitled to, such as SNAP/food stamps or housing assistance. The proposed rule would make changes to what’s known as the “public charge” provisions of immigration law. Advocates believe that this is a back door way for the Trump administration to restrict family immigration and deter families from securing critical services.

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Update: The proposed Public Charge rule was officially published on October 10. In a statement, CHN called the rule, “the latest in a series of unconscionable attacks on immigrants and immigrant communities.” Organization are urging advocates to submit comments in opposition to the rule during the 60-day comment period, which runs through Monday, Dec. 10.


On September 22, the Department of Homeland Security published a proposed rule on its website that would make it harder for immigrants to come to or stay in the U.S. if they use any number of public benefits they are legally entitled to, such as SNAP/food stamps or housing assistance. The proposed rule would make changes to what’s known as the “public charge” provisions of immigration law; noncitizens can be considered a “public charge” if they are deemed likely to become primarily dependent on the government to meet their basic needs. The current, long-standing public charge determination, made when a person is applying for admission to the U.S. or for Lawful Permanent Resident (green card) status, is limited to the receipt of public cash assistance, like SSI or TANF, or long-term care in an institution.

The proposed changes would greatly alter this policy and expand the forms of public assistance considered. If implemented, the public charge determination process would consider whether an individual has received or is likely to receive in the future one or more of a much broader array of non-cash benefits as well, including SNAP, housing vouchers or public housing, Medicaid, and Medicare Part D low-income subsidies. Under the proposed rule, immigrants who do not receive benefits but have incomes below 125 percent of the federal poverty line could also be denied entry. The proposed rule would not apply to refugees, asylees, or certain other humanitarian immigrants. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, one in three U.S.-born citizens would struggle to meet the standards this rule would set for immigrants.

Advocates believe that this is a back door way for the Trump administration to restrict family immigration and deter families from securing critical services. If implemented, advocates fear these changes would force immigrant families to make impossible choices between meeting basic needs and keeping their families together in the U.S. A statement from CHN noted, “If immigrants are too afraid to seek benefits they qualify for, the result will be a sicker, hungrier, poorer nation.” Some service agencies have already reported panic in the immigrant community and have seen cases of families pulling out of programs like school meals because of fear that it may negatively impact them in the future, despite the fact that the proposal would not count services used before the rule would be finalized.

However, advocates also stress that the proposed public charge rule is not finalized yet. Organizations are urging advocates to submit public comments in opposition to the rule beginning as soon as it is officially published in the Federal Register, which is expected to happen on October 10. Public comments will be accepted for 60 days after it is published (through December 10 assuming it is published October 10). For more information, visit the Protecting Immigrant Families website, and watch this webinar hosted by CHN. Resources are also available from the Center on Law and Social Policy, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the Food Research & Action Center, the National Housing Law Project, and MomsRising.

News of the proposed changes to the public charge rule came just weeks after the New York Times reported that the number of migrant children detained at federal facilities had skyrocketed to the highest levels ever, reaching 12,800 in September. This number is up fivefold since May 2017, when there were 2,400 migrant children being held in federal shelters. Later in September, the Times reported that the number of detained migrant children grew to over 13,000, and that hundreds of children were being moved in the middle of the night to a tent city in Texas with limited access to legal services and no schooling.

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CHN: Farm Bill Expires as Negotiations Continue https://www.chn.org/articles/farm-bill-expires-negotiations-continue/ Mon, 08 Oct 2018 18:50:44 +0000 http://coalitiononhn.wpengine.com/articles/farm-bill-expires-negotiations-continue/ Lawmakers were unable to come to an agreement on the Farm Bill, which includes the reauthorization of SNAP/food stamps, before the 2014 law expired on September 30. While many programs are affected by this, SNAP and nearly all nutrition programs will continue to operate and distribute benefits. The heads of the Agriculture Committees in the House and Senate have said they hope to have a conference report, which works out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills, ready for a vote in the lame duck session after the November elections.

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Lawmakers were unable to come to an agreement on the Farm Bill, which includes the reauthorization of SNAP/food stamps, before the 2014 law expired on September 30. While many programs are affected by this, SNAP and nearly all nutrition programs will continue to operate and distribute benefits. The heads of the Agriculture Committees in the House and Senate have said they hope to have a conference report, which works out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bills, ready for a vote in the lame duck session after the November elections. The Senate passed (86-11) its bipartisan version of the Farm Bill on June 28 without the deep cuts and harmful changes to SNAP that were included in the bill the House narrowly passed (213-211) on June 21.

The Senate bill maintains current work requirements and eligibility requirements, unlike the House bill that expanded work requirements and tightened eligibility requirements. Advocates strongly oppose the House farm bill, which the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) estimates would cause more than 1 million low-income households with more than 2 million people – particularly low-income working families with children – to lose their benefits altogether or have them reduced. Roughly 265,000 children in low-income families would also lose access to free meals at school under the House bill.

Advocates like those at FRAC will “continue to urge policymakers to protect and strengthen SNAP and reject the House Farm Bill.” If a new bill is not enacted by late December, an extension will be needed to continue additional programs that would expire then. For more information, see the July 23 Human Needs Report, CHN’s Protecting Basic Needs resource page, and the recording of a webinar CHN cosponsored with CBPP, Feeding America, and FRAC.

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CHN: House and Senate Pass Conference Bill to Fight Opioid Crisis https://www.chn.org/articles/house-senate-pass-conference-bill-fight-opioid-crisis/ Mon, 08 Oct 2018 18:46:39 +0000 http://coalitiononhn.wpengine.com/articles/house-senate-pass-conference-bill-fight-opioid-crisis/ On September 28, the House overwhelmingly passed (393-8) the conferenced version of H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, and the Senate followed suit (98-1) on October 3. This bipartisan bill, which combines 58 bills legislators have passed over the previous months, is intended to help fight our nation’s growing opioid epidemic. Advocates across the spectrum support the bill and applaud Congress for taking action on such a serious epidemic.

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On September 28, the House overwhelmingly passed (393-8) the conferenced version of H.R. 6, the SUPPORT for Patients and Communities Act, and the Senate followed suit (98-1) on October 3. This bipartisan bill, which combines 58 bills legislators have passed over the previous months, is intended to help fight our nation’s growing opioid epidemic. The House first passed (396-14) its version of the bill on June 22; the Senate followed (99-1) on September 17, after making amendments to the bill. Later in September, the conference committee, composed of members of the two chambers, resolved differences between the two bills and came to an agreement on final legislation.

Advocates across the spectrum support the bill and applaud Congress for taking action on such a serious epidemic.