According to the Child Welfare League of America, once Congress gets beyond appropriations this month they have a number of other areas that either must be addressed or could receive action. The following areas impact the child welfare and foster care field nationally:
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). TANF must be reauthorized or at least extended beyond September 30. Earlier this summer there were some positive bipartisan developments regarding a five year extension. That positive momentum was expected to carry over into the Senate if it had passed the House. The momentum on this may have stalled or even died. That would mean it will continue to survive on temporary extensions that last only through the CR or fiscal year.
Tax extenders or a package of growing tax credits and business breaks that are extended by Congress a few years or a year at a time. These actually expired after calendar year 2015 but Congress frequently plays with the fact that taxes do not have to be filed until April 15 and so they could retroactively extend them early next year. That will create havoc for a number of supporters of the package and for IRS instruction. This package could also offer an opportunity for passage of The Refundable Adoption Tax Credit (H.R. 2434/S.950), which would restore the refundability to the exiting tax credit for families that adopt. The refundability would provide a boost to the typical family that adopts from foster care.
Highway funding. The current transportation law has had a series of extensions since the last decade. Gas taxes do not provide enough to keep the transportation trust fund full so Congress has been taking funding from general funds. The current authorization runs out at the end of October with enough funding into December. Congress doesn’t want to raise the gasoline tax (last time increased in 1993) so they looked at options such as selling oil from the emergency fuel reserve.
ESEA. The Elementary and Secondary Education Act or No Child Left Behind, is as close to a reauthorization as it has been in at least ten years but there is still a big difference between the bipartisan Senate bill, the partisan House bill and what the White House wants. This could go into next year, or even lame duck.
SSDI, the Supplemental Security Disability Insurance fund covers the disabled, including some children, the aged and survivors. It is a separate trust fund from the much larger OASI, traditional Social Security. Like Social Security, Congress has known the trust fund would run short since a 1994 trustees report. It is nearing that point and could result in cuts to beneficiaries of up to 20 percent for 11 million people. A quick fix is to move some funding from the bigger trust fund to this one.
JJDPA, the Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevent Act passed the Senate Judiciary Committee in July. S. 1169 was approved by voice vote with no objections to what has been a bipartisan effort. Its sponsorship is also bipartisan with Senator Charles Grassley (R-IA) and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) jointly introducing the bill earlier this year. The last time the JJDPA was reauthorized was in 2002 with the current programs operating without an authorization since 2007. If the Senate acts, its counterpart committee in the House is the Education and Workforce Committee.
The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is due for reauthorization this year and it will be on the agenda for the fall session of this Congress. The CACFP is crucial to many child care programs which tend to be on very tight budgets. The program helps to subsidize the cost of meals in a child care setting. Senator Robert Casey (D-PA) introduced the Access to Healthy Food for Young Children Act to expand and strengthen CACFP so even more children have access to nutritious meals. Through CACFP, more than 3.3 million children and 120,000 adults receive nutritious meals and snacks each day as part of the day care they receive.