Week Ending June 21, 2019

House Extends Important Medicaid Programs   

  • House Extends Medicaid Programs, Funds Mental Health
  • House Passes Labor-Health, Human Services-Education Funding Bill
  • The Universal Child Care Act is Introduced

House Extends Medicaid Programs, Funds Mental Health

The House passed the “Empowering Beneficiaries, Ensuring Access, and Strengthening Accountability Act of 2019” (H.R. 3253) by a vote of 371 to 46.  The bill would extend federal support for two important Medicaid programs and protections for families that rely upon Medicaid’s in-home support and services.

  • Extends CCBHCsExtends the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) program through December 2021 in eight states. AFSCME members in New Jersey, Minnesota and Oregon provide behavioral health services in these clinics. Without congressional action, the needed federal support for these clinics would end on June 30. AFSCME has advocated for the continuation of this innovative program and for Congress to allow more states to participate in it.
  • Extends the “Money Follows the Person (MFP) Rebalancing Demonstration Grant” – MFP is extended for five years, which helps Medicaid enrollees with chronic conditions and disabilities transition from institutions to their communities with in-home support and services.
  • Impoverishment Protections – Continues protections against impoverishment for spouses of individuals receiving Medicaid home- and community-based services through March 31, 2024.
  • Drug Provision Pay-For – Pays for these extensions and protections by blocking drug manufacturers from gaming the system on required rebates in Medicaid in a way that has increased costs for state Medicaid programs and the federal government.

What You Need to Know – The key thing is that the Senate must act quickly on this legislation to ensure that these important Medicaid programs and protections continue without interruption. Please contact your senators as soon as possible to encourage them to support this bill. You can reach the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

House Passes Labor-Health, Human Services-Education Funding Bill

This week, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (Labor-HHS-Education) funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2020, which starts on Oct. 1. The Labor-HHS-Education funding bill is the most important of the 12 annual appropriations bills for AFSCME members, because it pays for job training, health care, child welfare, services for the elderly, education and other important public services. The House passed three other appropriations bills providing funding for the Defense Department, the State Department, energy and water programs, and other programs.

  • Underfunding Has Weakened Communities and Families – Adjusted for inflation, funding for Labor-HHS-Education programs declined by $16 billion from 2010 to 2019. As a consequence of this underfunding, are that there are fewer parents with access to affordable health care; fewer early-learning opportunities for their children; fewer unemployed adults with access to job training programs they need to gain skills and re-enter the workforce; fewer public health officials with the resources they need to address the opioid epidemic and other critical public health issues; and so on.
  • Greater Resources Needed – AFSCME is fighting for significant increases in funding for Labor-HHS-Education programs. While we believe that more resources are needed to break the cycle of disinvestment that is harming our communities, the legislation approved by the House is a step in the right direction. The bill provides $189.9 billion– $11.8 billion over the amount Congress set aside for FY 2019 and $47.9 billion more than the president requested in his 2020 budget. The legislation includes:
  • Department of Labor: Significant increases in funding for critical job training and employment programs that ensure people have the skills and the opportunities to succeed in the workplace. It includes funding increases for the worker protection agencies that prevent  wage theft, dangerous working conditions and resolve other critical issues for working people.
  • Department of Health and Human Services: Increases in funding for critical public health programs, including those that address mental health, substance abuse, suicide prevention, and other critical concerns. It also includes significant funding increases for children and family programs, including Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grant. There is also funding for a new program to provide loan forgiveness for behavioral health professionals.
  • Department of Education: There are sizable increases for foundational resources to states, including special education (IDEA), and Title I, Title II and Title IV-A programs. There are also additional funds for the 21st Century Community Learning (afterschool) program. The maximum Pell Grant was also increased.
  • Attack on Home Care Thwarted – The legislation also includes language supported by AFSCME that will prevent the Trump administration from implementing yet another anti-union attack, this time on home care workers. As part of their efforts to prevent workers from banding together in strong unions for higher wages and better working conditions, the Trump administration is attempting to implement a federal rule that would take away the right of home care workers to choose to have dues payments deducted from their paychecks. The legislation passed by the House includes language that would prohibit the Trump administration from moving forward with this rule.

What You Need to Know: There are still several steps remaining before this legislation is enacted into law. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet released its version of the Labor-HHS-Education bill, which will need to be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee and the full Senate. Any differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation will need to be ironed out before the legislation can be sent to the president and enacted into law. Furthermore, Congress will not be able to provide adequate funding unless it reaches a deal to increase spending limits (often referred to as “budget caps”) established by previously passed legislation. Without a new agreement, FY 2020 spending on Labor-HHS-Education programs will be cut by $55 billion. AFSCME continues to support an agreement to increase spending limits and to ensure that the critical programs supporting the work of AFSCME members are adequately funded.

The Universal Child Care Act Introduced

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) introduced the “Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act” (S. 1878 and H.R. 3315) to establish a network of federally funded and locally administered child care through child care centers and homes. After the bill was introduced, AFSCME President Lee Saunders said, “It’s already hard enough for working families to make ends meet, let alone afford the extraordinary cost of quality child care. This plan provides much-needed relief to millions of hardworking families who are falling behind in an economy that overwhelmingly favors the wealthy. It’s time to ensure that all families have access to affordable child care and that providers of that care are paid a fair wage for the important work they do.”

  • Provides Free, High-Quality Child CareThe legislation would provide millions of low-income families with free, high-quality child care and early learning options, and guarantee affordability so that families would spend no more than 7% of their income on these essential services.
  • Makes Child Care Providers a PriorityThe bill makes important investments in child care providers, ensuring parity so that wages and benefits are comparable to those of similarly-credentialed local public school teachers. It also invests in worker training and professional development and offers a full range of comprehensive mental and physical health, dental and other services to children.

What You Need to Know: AFSCME helped develop the legislation, which would make child care affordable for all families and give child care providers and early learning professionals important roles in developing universal child care system. It also ensures that these workers would receive fair pay.

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