Continuing Resolution #5: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly for Children
The fifth Continuing Resolution (CR), released by the House of Representatives with a vote expected today, would temporarily extend funding for virtually all federal programs serving children for the current fiscal year that began 129 days ago until March 23.
At that point, the federal government will be through nearly half the entire fiscal year and still not have set a budget for the vast majority of children’s programs.
“Government by short-term patches and brinksmanship shows just how dysfunctional our nation’s federal government has become. This is unacceptable for the millions of children and families across this country that are being harmed by Congress’s failure to act,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children. “President Trump and Congress must sit down and resolve this stalemate once and for all and get this country back on track toward solving the problems that face our nation’s next generation.”
The following are the good, bad, and ugly provisions for children that are either included or left out of this fifth CR.
- Families First: The CR includes language that strengthens families by providing upfront evidence-based prevention services to children at risk of coming into foster care, including mental health, substance abuse, and in-home parenting programs to keep families together and prevent foster care placements. The language also ensures more foster children are placed with families, ending federal reimbursement when states inappropriately place children in non-family settings.
- Child Welfare Program Extensions: The CR reauthorizes (at current levels) an additional four years for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families and Child Welfare Services programs (including the Court Improvement Program), the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments, and the Regional Partnership Grant program.
- Community Health Centers (CHCs): After expiring 129 days ago, CHC funding is extended for two years in this CR to end the CHC current and immediate financial crisis. However, another expiration of funding would come again in less than 20 months from now. Although two years is an important step, five years of funding is necessary to allow CHCs to preserve their staff, clinics, and health services and establish long-term stability for their work in serving low-income children and families.
- Family to Family (F2F) Information Centers: The CR provides a two-year extension of funding to F2F Centers that serve as a central source for families of children and young adults with disabilities and special health care needs to obtain support, advocacy, and information about health care. The extension also provides for the establishment of F2F Centers in the territories and the tribal communities, although five years of funding would provide much greater stability for these programs.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Although the last CR provided for a six-year extension of CHIP, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that a 10-year extension would save the federal government an additional $5-6 billion. This CR fails to take advantage of this unique opportunity to stabilize and protect CHIP for the long term, eliminate the unnecessary CHIP funding shortfall that was included in the last CR beginning in FY 2024, and billions of dollars in savings that could be used to extend funding for all the other programs with short-term extensions mentioned in this release.
- The Debt Ceiling: The CR fails to address the looming deadline for a vote to increase the debt limit—which will determine if the U.S. government can pay its bills. Gambling with the debt limit reduces business confidence, stresses financial markets, and delays critical payments for programs on which many Americans depend – including food assistance to children, Social Security, Medicare benefits and payments to the military and our veterans. Crisis management of the debt limit is dangerous and irresponsible. Congress should increase the debt ceiling as part of the 5th Continuing Resolution for FY’18 and improve the process in a thoughtful manner eliminating the need to guess when “extraordinary measures” to pay our bills may be exhausted and the government would default on our nation’s debt.
- Funding for Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) Children’s Programs: The CR harms children by offering sequestration relief for defense spending for the current fiscal year (FY 2018), without doing the same for NDD spending. NDD spending funds a majority of the programs serving children and families, and as a result of unsustainable budget caps, NDD spending on children has seen a real percent cut of 0.78 percent since 2014. Meanwhile, the share of the federal budget going to children is at an all-time low of 7.75 percent. Without sequestration relief for domestic spending, the federal government cannot prioritize the programs that educate, strengthen, and protect children—which are just as imperative for ensuring the future security of our nation as investments in defense spending.
- Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program: The CR does not include funding for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, which expired more than four months ago. MIECHV supports effective home visiting services that help children and families improve their health, educational attainment and ability to work to support themselves. Congress needs to renew this important program for five years at no less than its current funding of $400 million annually. In fact, an extension of CHIP for 10 years would more than pay for a simultaneous long-term extension of MIECHV – a win-win for low-income children and families.
- Disaster Relief: This CR omits much-needed disaster relief for emergency supplemental funding to enable Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and California to continue their recovery from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the California wildfires. Congress has yet to deliver on funding that it promised nearly two months ago, and as a result, families and children in these regions continue to lack desperately needed resources.
- Medicaid Shortfalls in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands: This CR fails to address an enormous crisis whereby Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are rapidly running out of Medicaid funding to provide health coverage to hundreds of thousands of American citizens. Due to the fact that Medicaid provides an inadequate level of block grant funding to the territories, limiting their access to Medicaid funding, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands face a crisis demanding immediate action from Congress for these citizens.
- DREAM/Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): The CR continues to woefully ignore a much-needed DACA fix for over 800,000 immigrants. Congress has had more than four months to come up with a solution to a problem created by President Trump’s decision to repeal DACA protections for nearly 1 million young people who know only the United States as their home. The President has indicated that he will not change the current March 5 expiration date for DACA recipients. These recipients and their families, including 200,000 U.S. citizen children, are facing a great deal of uncertainty and fear, heightened by each passing day that a deal is not made. Congress must address DACA as soon as possible to end the needless trauma that has been inflicted on these hardworking immigrants and their families.