LSA Washington – November 15, 2011
A regular publication from the LSA Public Policy Office
Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction Faces Crucial Week
From Congressional Quarterly: The joint deficit reduction committee almost certainly will need to have the outlines of a deal in place by the end of this week if the panel is to meet its November 23 deadline for presenting a proposal to cut the deficit by at least $1.2 trillion over the next decade.
President Obama, who has largely avoided the debt talks, waded in late last week warning that he would reject any legislation from the panel that seeks to block cuts set to occur in 2013 unless Congress enacts deficit-reduction steps proposed by the committee. His remarks seemed aimed at encouraging lawmakers to reach an agreement and countering talk that the committee could block automatic cuts, particularly for defense. Obama also reiterated that “any approach must be balanced, and will require tough choices by both sides, including looking at revenues and entitlements.”
Members of the bipartisan panel have signaled a willingness in recent days to compromise on issues important to each party. Republicans for the first time have opened the door to an increase in new tax revenue, while Democrats have proposed deeper spending cuts, which could include both Medicare and Medicaid. Despite that progress, both parties rejected proposals last week that contained those concessions, each side saying that the other’s plan had not offered enough. Still, closed-door talks among at least some panel members continued over the weekend and its leaders hope for an agreement. “We are not giving up hope of reaching an agreement with Democrats until the stroke of midnight on the 23rd,” said Texas Republican Jeb Hensarling, a panel co-chairman, while the panel’s Democratic leader, Patty Murray of Washington, said negotiators were “working hard” to bridge their differences.
Although the panel officially has until November 23 to reach an agreement, it would take time to write legislative language and have it officially analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office by that deadline, as is required by the August debt limit law (PL 112-25) that created the committee. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other observers have suggested a detailed framework will need to be in place by the end of this week for the scoring to be completed and the committee to vote before Thanksgiving. Almost no one has talked seriously of giving the panel more time, a move that would require Congress to amend the deadline set in the Budget Control Act.
Congress Likely to Approve the First Three FY2012 Appropriations Bills This Week
Congress is set to approve a conference report for the “mini-omnibus” bill with appropriations for Agriculture, Commerce-Justice-Science and Transportation-HUD. The Conference Report (HR 2112) will also include a third continuing resolution that will extend funding for the remaining nine appropriations bills until sometime in December.
Conferees are reportedly working with an additional $300 million to allocate to T-HUD, though it is not clear how much of that funding would be applied to HUD’s programs and how much would be applied to transportation. House T-HUD Subcommittee Chair Tom Latham (R-IA) said in a statement he expected the conference committee to increase funding for Tenant Based Rental Assistance and Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing (VASH) vouchers.
The House T-HUD Subcommittee bill and Senate bill would underfund housing programs that serve extremely low income (ELI) households, including Tenant Based Rental Assistance (TBRA) contract renewals, which could result in the loss of up to 40,000 vouchers. Both bills would also underfund Project Based Rental Assistance contract renewals, forcing HUD to either discontinue some contracts or issue partial year renewals for all contracts. Both bills would include severe cuts to the Public Housing Capital Fund, potentially leading to the loss of tens of thousands of public housing units. Numerous additional HUD programs would be cut by both the House and Senate bills.
For rural housing, the House Agriculture bill would significantly cut the Rural Rental Assistance Section 521 program, which could cause tens of thousands of households to lose their rental assistance. The Senate bill would cut the program slightly. The House and Senate bills both significantly cut the Rural Rental Housing Section 515 program.
Next up, the Senate will begin debate on a second bundled appropriations, this one for Energy and Water (HR 2354), Financial Services (S 1573) and State and Foreign Operations (S 1601). It is unclear when appropriations for the Labor, Health and Human Services (HHS) and Education departments would move, but Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chair of the Subcommittee for Labor-HHS-Education, indicated that he expected the bill would be last. There is also increased talk that eventually the remaining nine bills could end up being in one large omnibus, something appropriators have been trying to avoid. The delay in completing action could delay the release in any new grants or awards for FY 2012 as agencies generally wait to determine what new funds may be awarded.
Source: American Humane Association, National Low Income Housing Coalition
HUD Issues Olmstead Guidance and Offers Preview of New HOME Rule
Olmstead. The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity issued guidance to its regional and field offices regarding enforcement of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act, specifically focused on the Olmstead Supreme Court decision. According to the memo, “the Department has prioritized efforts to support the transition of people with disabilities out of institutions and into community-based settings.” The memo outlines guidance on upholding the ADA and the Olmstead decision and monitoring and conducting compliance reviews and can be found HERE.
HOME. In a November 4 press release, HUD announced it will propose a new set of regulations for the HOME Investment Partnerships Program. HUD describes the HOME program as “a success story for housing low-income Americans” that has created over one million homes since 1992. HUD has been working on a revised rule for the HOME program for several years.
HUD’s press release follows a hearing of the House Committee on Financial Services in which committee members questioned witnesses about the ability for grantees to defraud the government of HOME funds.
In the press release, HUD describes how the rule would improve “oversight of projects,” “more closely monitor” funded sub-grantees, increase reporting frequency to allow for closer tracking of projects, and increase the performance standards for participating jurisdictions. Many of these improvements were highlighted at the hearing as ways for HUD to improve oversight in the HOME program.
HUD also indicated that it is improving the Integrated Disbursement and Information System (IDIS), the data collection and reporting system it uses to track and monitor expenditures of projects. The IDIS system was brought up by witnesses in the House hearing as an administrative function of the program that needs improvement.
The Washington Post ran an article criticizing HUD’s oversight of the HOME program on November 7 after HUD had announced the proposed rule. This follows an earlier series of negative articles on HOME that prompted Congressional hearings.
View HUD’s news release HERE.
Support Still Needed to Save the CLASS Program
The fight to save the Community Living Assistance Services and Supports (CLASS) Program is not over yet! Last month, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced it does not see an immediate path forward for the CLASS Program, which was created by the Affordable Care Act to help pay for services and supports for working adults to maintain independence in the community.
The CLASS program was also intended to take the pressure off Medicaid, so that Medicaid can better serve the needs of low income communities. Without a program like CLASS, the Medicaid program will continue to take on the load of long term service needs for many Americans, who will be forced into a lifetime of poverty to qualify for this assistance.
Unfortunately, some Members of Congress believe that CLASS should be repealed. On November 2, Senator John Thune tried to repeal CLASS via unanimous consent on the Senate floor. Senator Rockefeller prevented the repeal. However, this emphasizes the need to reach out to your elected officials and let them know that CLASS is important to you!
LSA expects another effort soon in the Senate to repeal CLASS. Please call your Senators now to urge them to oppose repeal of the CLASS program. If changes are needed to make CLASS work better, Congress should "Mend It, Not End It."
We must let members of the Senate know how important CLASS is. The need for long term supports remains a major issue facing millions of American families, and it will take real leadership in Washington to solve this problem so that families face a more certain economic future.
You can use the following sample script:
"I urge Senator __________ to oppose repeal of the CLASS Program. Our country can no longer ignore our broken system of paying for long-term services and supports. We must meet the needs of workers who become disabled and their families.”
Nominations Open for RWJ Foundation Community Health Leaders Award
Do you know someone doing exceptional work to improve health or access to health care in his or her community? If so, nominate your local health hero for a 2012 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders award. Nominations are due November 28. Please visit www.communityhealthleaders.org to learn more.
The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation selects ten individuals each year to receive the Community Health Leaders award, which includes national recognition, opportunities to network and collaborate with fellow health leaders around the country, and $125,000 to support the leader’s work. The winners receive tools and knowledge to help them continue their efforts to improve health and health care where they live. Selected leaders come from diverse professional backgrounds and regions of the country. They’re working to solve the health challenges that confront their own communities throughout the United States.
Don’t miss your chance to recognize an outstanding local health leader. Please send your nominations in by November 28.
Webinar To Discuss Supporting Infants and Toddlers in Child Welfare
On Thursday, November 17, Zero to Three will host a webinar on supporting infants and toddlers in the child welfare system. The 2:00 ET call will focus on the need to adapt child welfare policies and practices for infants and toddlers with the science of early childhood development. The webinar is a follow up to the report, A Call to Action on Behalf of Maltreated Infants and Toddlers, which was led by Zero to Three along with several other child welfare organizations. Register HERE.
Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act (PL 112-34) requires states to report strategies for addressing the developmental needs of infants and toddlers in their care. Infants and toddlers are the largest single group entering foster care.