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Voices Speaking

May 24, 2017

Some Cuts Never Heal : The President’s Budget Proposals Threaten the Well-Being of Connecticut’s Children

Ellen Shemitz, J.D.

 

President Trump’s budget proposal represents a major threat to Connecticut’s economic prosperity, inflicts severe cuts to the programs that serve the most vulnerable children and families in our state, and could dramatically worsen the state’s current fiscal crisis.

The proposal slashes nutrition, health care, and other important assistance that helps hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents meet basic living standards – food on the table, a roof over their heads, and access to health care – while giving new tax breaks to the wealthy and powerful and undermining the long term economic growth and prosperity of the state. The proposal would shift massive costs to Connecticut at a time when our state is already struggling to meet needs for education, transportation and other services. Currently, the state relies of federal funding for one-fifth of its budget.

“Slashing these programs would be both unwise and unfair,” said Ellen Shemitz, Executive Director of Connecticut Voices for Children. “Connecticut cannot afford to undermine its long-term wellbeing with program cuts that threaten the very foundations of healthy child development. We need to understand that some cuts never heal.”   

The President’s proposal includes the following cuts to key programs.

  • The budget would make deep cuts in Medicaid funding, jeopardizing health insurance and access to regular medical care for the more than 318,000 children insured through Medicaid in Connecticut—almost three out of eight children. Medicaid cuts would also endanger health coverage for the 121,000 elderly individuals in the state that rely on the program. The budget assumes these cuts would be in addition to the $880 billion in cuts from Medicaid in the bill the House recently passed to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
  • The President’s proposal would cut funding for the SNAP program (formerly food stamps) by a quarter, putting children at risk of going hungry and becoming sick. In February 2016, more than 233,000 households in Connecticut received SNAP; 35 percent had children.
  • The President’s budget proposal includes cuts to Social Security Disability, affecting 81,000 individuals in Connecticut, and Supplemental Security Income, with more than 64,000 recipients in the state.
  • The President’s budget provides only level funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant. In Connecticut, unless funding for child care is increased, 1,600 children would lose their child care. 
Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
Tags:
budget, Federal, Trump
February 6, 2018

Guest Post: February Federal Update

Deborah Stein, the Network Director of the Partnership for America's Children

This article is a guest post by Deborah Stein, the Network Director of the Partnership for America's Children. It provides some much-needed context to the issues in front of Congress this month, and how they can impact children and families in Connecticut.

Things are happening at lightning speed in DC, so here is a brief update on where things stand.

February 8 Funding Deadline

The current continuing resolution (CR) expires Thursday, February 8. Congress is not expected to reach a spending deal for the rest of the year by that deadline. The open issue remains whether to raise domestic spending (that, is the overall sequestration cap) as much as defense; the bill cannot pass the Senate without Democratic votes since it needs 60 votes to raise the sequester caps, and the Democrats are fighting for increased domestic spending. There is no indication that Congress is close to reaching a deal on sequestration caps for non-defense spending.  Once they reach a deal, they can finish up FY 2018 appropriations, probably in one giant Omnibus bill. It's not clear how much time it will take to write the Omnibus once the caps are set.

The House is currently developing a fifth stopgap funding bill to keep the government open for six more weeks through March 23, which would take it past the expected date that Congress must raise the debt ceiling. Reports say that this will be a "clean" CR, with level funding on nearly all programs and nothing attached to it such as health extenders (community health centers and home visiting) or DACA.

The House stopgap funding bill may not come out until as late as Tuesday morning, February 6th. This late release is worrisome since the Democrats have their retreat Wednesday through Friday. Moreover, it's uncertain whether this CR will be passed by the House or Senate since Democrats want a deal on DACA and the House Freedom Caucus does not want to pass any more CRs. Though a number of members of Congress have expressed confidence that there will not be another shutdown, reaching a deal on another CR is not guaranteed at this point.

Debt Ceiling

The Congressional Budget Office said this week that the U.S. will hit the debt ceiling in early March and be forced to default on its obligations unless the debt ceiling is raised and it can borrow more funds. The Treasury Department separately urged Congress to raise the limit by the end of February.

Congressional leaders have said they prefer to pair the debt-ceiling vote with other must-pass measures like the government spending bill. However, if the proposed CR passes, the government risks default if Congress waits until after the March 23 deadline of the next CR to raise the debt ceiling.

In past debt ceiling fights, conservatives have tried to tie raising the debt ceiling to changes to budget rules such as Balanced Budget proposals. It is not clear whether they will try to do that this time.

Congress Likely to Avoid Reconciliation Process in FY 2019

Reports from the Republican Retreat indicate that congressional Republicans might forgo including reconciliation instructions in their FY2019 Budget Resolution (remember, the Budget Resolution, which is not a law, sets for the rules for all budget legislation for the fiscal year, and reconciliation is the fast track process that only requires 51 votes in the Senate). They were expected to use the expedited budget reconciliation procedure to pass cuts to entitlement programs benefiting children and families, much as they used reconciliation to pass the tax bill in December 2017. There was also a possibility they would consider using reconciliation to take another shot at repealing the ACA. At this point, it looks like neither of these will happen.  This is very good news, if it proves true, and is a strong testament to the success of the fight to save the ACA and Medicaid last year.
 

Issue Area:
Budget and Tax
Tags:
Congress, Federal, taxes, Trump
June 29, 2018

Children’s needs at risk: An update on federal attempts to cut programs for children

 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly “food stamps”) update:

On June 29, the Senate passed a bipartisan Farm Bill that preserves SNAP (formerly food stamps) without imposing new burdens on families. However, the House Farm Bill, which passed on June 13, dramatically cuts SNAP and imposes an enormous administrative burden on states and enrollees. SNAP remains at risk until Congress comes to a final agreement. Children and families rely on SNAP to ensure they have adequate nutrition when finances are tight. Without healthy and consistent meals, children have trouble concentrating in school, can experience developmental delays, and are more prone to illness. Creating new administrative hurdles will add to the state’s expenses and likely cause many eligible families to lose their benefits. See our fact sheet on SNAP in CT.

What can you do?  The farm bill is expected to move to conference negotiations between the House and Senate, and our work to ensure that the final bill protects SNAP begins in earnest. Thank your senator (both CT senators voted against harmful amendments and for the Senate bill) and urge them to call for a final conference agreement that includes the Senate’s strong bipartisan SNAP provisions and rejects the addition of harmful work requirements.

ACA Repeal: The zombie returns 

On June 19, Senator Rick Santorum and others released a new plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The plan would cause tens of millions to lose health coverage, increase costs for others, and do away with consumer protections—like allowing insurers to charge some people more. Meanwhile, the Department of Justice is refusing to defend the Affordable Care Act in court, including the protections for pre-existing conditions. Both steps put vital progress and the financial and physical health of millions of Americans at risk. Learn more here and here.

What can you do? Ask your state and federal candidates how they plan to keep Connecticut’s HUSKY (Medicaid and CHIP) programs strong. Call your federal representatives to urge them to work together to improve our nation’s health systems.

 

Issue Areas:
Family Economic Security, Health
Tags:
ACA, Federal, Food Security, health, insurance, SNAP
July 23, 2018

Aderholt amendment would pose threats to same-sex couples and a child's best interest

Stephanie Luczak, LMSW and Jessica Nelson

Recently, the House Appropriations Committee undermined states’ ability to protect their residents from discrimination. On July 11th, the House Appropriations Committee voted in favor of an amendment that would allow private adoption agencies receiving federal funds to refuse to provide services to families seeking to adopt or foster solely on the basis of the agency’s purported religious belief that an individual or family is unworthy based on their religion, history of divorce, or sexual orientation. The amendment, attached to the funding bill for the Department of Health and Human Services, was introduced by Representative Aderholt (R-AL) who was recently appointed as a Co-Chairman of the House Coalition on Adoption.

The proposed amendment protects the funding of faith-based adoption and foster care agencies that choose to discriminate against same-sex couples and others that violate their beliefs, including single or non-Christian parents or parents with a history of divorce.  The legislative amendment would allow private adoption agencies to refuse to serve LGBTQ couples and other potential parents while receiving public funding for their services. Not only would this infringe on the rights of certain prospective adoptive parents, but it would obstruct efforts to maximize the number of children being adopted.

Any state or local government receiving federal funding would be punished for enforcing its non-discrimination laws and requires that state and local governments fund such agencies even though they have “declined or will decline” to provide services to certain individuals or families. The amendment would allow the Department of Health and Human Services to withhold 15 percent of a state’s federal child welfare funding if that state refused to enter into contracts with private adoption agencies that discriminate against families or individuals who offend the agency’s “religious beliefs or moral convictions.”

If passed, this amendment would limit a state’s ability to ensure same-sex couples, LGBTQ individuals, single parents, and divorced individuals, non-Christians, among others, an equal right to adopt or foster children. The amendment would reduce the number of potential foster parents, limiting options for children in the foster care system who are waiting to be adopted. This would hinder the state’s ability to recruit diverse foster parents, as well as send harmful messages to LGBTQ youth about equality, identity, and acceptance. 

Research has consistently confirmed that LGBTQ youth are overrepresented in the foster care system. It is imperative that all youth, regardless of their chosen identity, can feel safe and supported in their environment. It is the duty of the state to improve the well-being of youth in foster care and place them into a stable and permanent home with loving caregivers. Recruiting more LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents not only increases the number of total possible homes for all foster youth, but if matched together, LGBTQ parents may provide an affirming and shared understanding of issues that LGBTQ youth may face.  

In fiscal year 2017, there were 5,878 children in Connecticut’s foster care system. Despite the high need for non-residential foster and adoptive placements, there is a consistent shortage of adoptive and foster parents, both in Connecticut and nationwide. To meet this need, the Connecticut Department of Children and Families (DCF) has recently started an active campaign to recruit LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents, recognizing the fact that same-sex couples are both just as good as at parenting as, and more likely to adopt than heterosexual couples. 

Currently, while DCF recognizes the importance of LGBTQ foster and adoptive parents through this initiative, it does maintain contracts with private adoption agencies such as Catholic Charities, which has a history of discriminating against same-sex couples in other states. If the amendment proposed by Rep. Aderholt became law, the State of Connecticut would not be able to legally prohibit Connecticut branches of Catholic Charities from discriminating against same-sex couples in their adoption services. Catholic Charities provides a variety of services to families in Connecticut, including six adoption services sites throughout the state. It is important to note that Connecticut’s current anti-discrimination laws do not apply to religious entities.

The issue of same-sex adoption has also propelled amongst different states nationwide. States like Oklahoma and Kansas recently passed legislation that would allow child welfare agencies to prevent LGBTQ foster homes and adoptions based on religious beliefs. The ACLU reported that Massachusetts and Illinois both require child welfare agencies to accept all qualified families. Most recently, a federal judge ruled in a landmark case that all foster and adoption agencies must abide by the city of Philadelphia's nondiscrimination policies. 

What you can do.

Connecticut and all of the United States must continue to fight for equality for LGBTQ individuals and make sure that youth are protected and supported in the foster care system.

  • Thank Representative Rosa DeLauro for voting no to the Aderholt amendment, particularly if you live in the 3rd Congressional District.
  • Contact your U.S. representatives to vote against the amended FY19 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations spending bill when it moves to the House of Representatives.
  • If you live in Connecticut, contact your state legislator  about further strengthening protections for LGBTQ families in our state. 
Issue Area:
Child Welfare
Tags:
adoption, Federal, Foster care, LGBTQ

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