Update from Capitol Hill – July 2016

The House and Senate have recessed and return after Labor Day to work on the fiscal year 2017 spending bills. A lame duck session of uncertain scope and duration is anticipated after the elections.

Earlier this summer, the House passed by voice vote a one-year extension (H.R. 5170) of the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Often the legislative vehicle for child support changes, TANF has not been reauthorized since 2010 and has operated on year-to-year extensions. The short term bill did not include the NCSEA-supported measure (H.R. 2990) creating a $100 million subsidized employment grant program for TANF recipients. Non-custodial parents related to the family are among a select number of groups eligible for the program. Similar to the Obama administration’s budget proposal, states would apply for demonstration grants to draw down a 50 percent federal wage match for one year for public or private employers hiring eligible individuals.

The Senate has yet to take up a TANF bill, but given the truncated congressional schedule this year, the House action signals that once again a comprehensive reauthorization awaits another Congress.

After months of bipartisan and bicameral negotiations, House and Senate leaders introduced the Family First Prevention Services Act (H.R. 5456/S. 3065). The bill would provide a first-time federal entitlement for services to help prevent children from being placed into foster care and provisions to reduce group home use.

While ultimately not included in the final measure, Senate Finance Committee staff reached out to NCSEA to vet some Office of Child Support Enforcement (OCSE) Fiscal Year 2017 budget proposals which would have lowered federal expenditures by assisting in program administration and increasing support payments. Those savings would have helped fund the Family First Act, but the House and Senate sponsors decided to shift funding within child welfare programs so that it would be ‘cost-neutral’.    

 The full House adopted the bill by voice vote shortly after introduction. The Senate is working to also clear it by unanimous consent.    

As September 30 and the end of the federal fiscal year approaches, it is very likely that Congress will not complete action on the FY 2017 Labor, Health and Human Services Appropriations bill. House and Senate action to date indicate that most discretionary programs will be frozen at FY 2016 levels. The final bill will not reach the president’s desk until very late in the year, given the usual policy riders on abortion, ending the Affordable Care Act and other controversial issues.

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