Tag Archives: Social Services Block Grant

The Ryan Budget is a Plan for Future Cuts

Last week House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) unveiled his budget resolution for this year and the future. Although a budget resolution is not necessary to enacting appropriations this year (due to the budget deal from earlier this year, P.L. 113-67), Ryan unveiled the proposal to outline just how he would cut programs to balance the budget in the future. The proposal block grants the Medicaid and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP/food stamp) programs, changes Medicare to a ”premium support” program (what some refer to as turning Medicare into a voucher program), eliminates the Affordable Care Act, and once again totally eliminates the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG).

On Wednesday the Budget Committee adopted the plan in a party-line vote and the House leadership hopes to adopt the resolution by the full House. There are some Republicans balking at a vote since it cannot become law this year with the Senate certain to not even consider it. Some are concerned that it puts members on record regarding such changes to Medicare, Medicaid and other programs. If it is to pass the House, leadership will not be able to lose too many Republicans. The budget is significant, because it is a road map for the House leadership next year. Next year Congressman Ryan may shift his role from Budget Committee chair to become chair of the Ways and Means Committee, which holds direct oversight of many of the programs subject to cuts.

SSBG continues to be a target for elimination and its future is in doubt if control of the Senate changes after next year’s election. A proposal by Senator Orin Hatch (R-UT), the potential chair of the Senate Finance Committee, would funnel all of SSBG into child welfare while his House counterparts would use all of it for deficit reduction. It is increasingly likely that this significant source of human service funding could be drastically changed or even eliminated. Such an outcome would cut human services and harm vulnerable children, families, seniors and people with disabilities. At this point silence or the status quo will not help. SSBG needs the attention of advocates NOW before it goes!

CW Funding Continues to Erode in 2014

Before leaving for the Martin Luther King holiday, Congress completed action on an omnibus bill, HR 3547, which provides funding for each of the 12 appropriations bills. The two chairs of the appropriations committees, Senator Barbara Mikulski (D-MD) and Congressman Hal Rodgers (R-KY) worked over the previous weekend to complete writing the most controversial parts of the bills (including Labor-HHS-Education) to make sure all bills had specific funding directed by the appropriators. This is the first time they have not resorted to an across-the-board continuing resolution since FY 2010.

While there were some relative “winners” such as Head Start and pre-kindergarten, even those increases are far from what would have been envisioned last year (pre-K) or several years ago (Head Start and Child Care). Most of the child welfare programs continued to experience erosion in funding both through discretionary cuts and mandatory spending cuts. The budget agreement had replaced the sequestration with a series of other cuts but there were a few mandatory programs (programs that have their funding level written into law) that were not removed from those sequestration cuts. In regard to child welfare this includes block grants such as the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), Promoting Safe and Stable Families (PSSF) and the home visiting program. As a result they will continue to be reduced from their base totals by 5.1 percent per year for the two years of this budget agreement.

Although there were no clear winners on the domestic side it would have been $20 billion worse if the budget deal had not been struck last December. The appropriations bill actually received overwhelming bipartisan support, a rarity in the past few years but no one was entirely happy. The $1.1 billion measure was adopted by the House on a margin of 359 to 67 and later in the week passed the Senate by a vote of 72 to 26. In regard to the funding for the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education bill, the $156 billion is higher than the total of $144 billion that was provided in FY 2008 but when that 2008 figure is adjusted by inflation it is actually $162 billion in today’s dollars and means that the three departments are getting less funding than they were 6 years ago.

The budget agreement also set spending levels for the upcoming debate on FY 2015 appropriations. The overall funding will be only slightly higher. On the other hand, since the appropriations committees will begin the appropriations debate with a common spending level between the two houses it should allow a more planned and regular deliberation as each of the twelve committees should be allowed to have their own debates, votes and debate on the House and Senate Floors. The President’s budget which normally comes out after the state of the Union in the first week of February is expected to be late in light of the fact that the final budget numbers were not finalized until this past week.

John Sciamanna, Consultant, National Policy, Children’s Issues, 410-956-6490

SSBG Briefing on Capitol Hill

Earlier today, CWLA and other national organizations held a briefing on Capitol Hill to highlight the important work that is funded by the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and the very real damage that would be caused if it were eliminated as called for in a plan approved by the House of Representatives earlier this year. John Sciamanna from the National Foster Care Coalition opened the briefing with a plea to Congress to support SSBG and to reject efforts to eliminate it.

Other speakers included Delegate Samuel Rosenberg, vice-chair of the Maryland House of Delegates Ways and Means Committee, Bob Suver, Director of Clark County Ohio Department of Job and Family Services, Jerry Davis, Vice-President for National Advocacy and Public Policy at Boys Town, and Cecile Noel, Executive Deputy Commissioner at the New York City Human Resources Administration.  The speakers described the critical needs SSBG meets in their communities and how this resource is not available anywhere else. The flexible funding structure of SSBG was also touted as an effective feature of the block grant. It was noted that approximately 12% of SSBG funds support child welfare services. Additionally, child protective services (CPS) receives many hundreds of millions more in funding from SSBG each year than from the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act that sets CPS mandates for protecting children.

On May 10, the House passed H.R. 5652, which would eliminate SSBG and make drastic cuts to Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program among others. President Obama has threatened to veto the bill and the Senate has shown no interest in taking it up.  Still, the bill’s passage is important because as the looming 2013 sequestration deadline approaches, pressure to replace or eliminate these cuts will increase.  This bill demonstrates just how the House seeks to do so and may come into play during post-election negotiations.

Budget Committee Plan Replaces Sequester of Defense Funding with Human Service Cuts

Late last week Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), Chair of the House Budget Committee, introduced the Sequester Replacement Act , H.R. 4966, which replaces the cuts to defense programs through sequestration which is called for in the Budget Control Act , P.L. 112-25, with more drastic cuts to human service programs. These cuts include eliminating the Social Services Block Grant, saving $17 billion over ten years, and cuts of $33 billion in SNAP over ten years. Also included in the bill are Medicaid changes including the elimination of the maintenance of effort (MOE) requirements on states and the repeal of the bonus payments to states for increasing their Medicaid enrollment.

Eliminating SSBG would cause severe harm to child welfare. SSBG represents 12% of federal funds states spend to provide child abuse prevention, adoption, foster care, child protection, independent and transitional living and residential services for children and youth. The cuts to SNAP (formerly the food stamp program) would result in millions of low-income people being forced out of the program. As previously reported, repealing the maintenance of effort requirements in Medicaid opens the door for states to institute caps on enrollment and even decrease enrollment by creating more strenuous eligibility standards. Furthermore, repealing bonus payments to states only works as a disincentive to states that want to increase enrollment for eligible children and families.

These and other cuts were recommended by a number of House committees including Ways and Means, Energy and Commerce, and Agriculture. The Budget Committee has scheduled a markup of the legislation for Monday, May 7th, at 2pm EST.