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Washington DC Update 9/8/21
Welcome to the Fall of 2021 where much of the focus in Washington will be on reconciliation. If you recall, Democratic senators agreed to a $3.5 trillion reconciliation bill prior to the August Recess. Now begins the real work: what will be included. It is a massive bill--not just in terms of funding, but in what it hopes to accomplish. Based on Biden’s Build Back Better agenda, Democrats will try to include every major domestic priority on which they can agree. This bill will have a little of everything (for example, climate, jobs, immigration, medical leave, universal pre-k and childcare, etc.). Many are describing it as covering from the “cradle to the grave.” The deadline to put it all together: 9/15/2021!
Better Care Better Jobs Act (the home & community-based services (HCBS) proposal) and Paid Family Medical Leave have been outlined in past Washington Updates as proposals on the agenda for reconciliation. Below are just a few other components of the reconciliation bill that directly impact CYSHCN and their families:
Mental Health

Born of the Children’s Hospital Association Strengthening Kids Mental Health Now proposals, 2 bills have been introduced in the House by Representative Lisa Blunt Rochester (D-DE-AL) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA-1) and are working to expand bipartisan support and inclusion in reconciliation. H.R. 4943 Children’s Mental Health Infrastructure Act establishes a HRSA grant to strengthen behavioral health infrastructure and expand capacity for pediatric behavioral health service delivery. H.R. 4944 Helping Kid’s Cope Act creates a HRSA grant to support better coordination and integration of community-based mental health services while expanding care options to improve access. Funding is flexible to allow communities to address their most urgent needs and includes training funds for the pediatric behavioral health workforce across disciplines.
Immigrant Access

The LIFT the BAR Act, to be introduced by Representative Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and other co-sponsors, restores access to federal assistance programs like Medicaid, CHIP, and SNAP, by removing the five-year bar and other barriers that deny critical care and aid to people who are lawfully present. This includes people with “green cards,” Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, crime victims, COFA migrants, child maltreatment victims and orphans who hold Special Immigrant Juvenile Status (SIJS), and other non-citizens residing lawfully in the United States. 

For additional materials, visit this link. The Partner Materials and Resources section includes fact sheets and blogs explaining the history of the bar and how listing it affects specific populations such as families, farmworkers, essential workers, and survivors of domestic and sexual violence.
ICYMI while the Washington Update or you and your family were on “August Recess”:
Pediatric Hospital Capacity

The Children’s Hospital Association has launched a national campaign highlighting the “perfect storm” of the impact of the COVID variant, rising cases of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV), ongoing mental health demand, and staffing challenges that children’s hospitals are facing now. Follow this link for more information and to get engaged with your local children’s hospital.
Materials from the CDC, in English and Spanish, for people with ID/DD: COVID-19 Materials for People with Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and Care Providers | CDC
ACL Policy Roundup newsletter with several items of interest: public charge; new CMS vaccination guidance for Intermediate Care Facilities for Individuals with Intellectual Disabilities (ICF/IIDs); exclusion of COVID benefits from income for determining SSI eligibility; and input on proposed Home & Community-Based Services (HCBS) quality measures.
State Medicaid Home & Community-Based Services (HCBS) Programs Respond to COVID-19: Early Findings from a 50-State Survey 

This issue brief gives early findings from the most recent Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) 50-state survey of Medicaid HCBS programs. Focused on changes and challenges brought by COVID-19, states were surveyed about HCBS provided through state plan authorities and waivers. Key findings include the following:

  • Just under half of responding states are tracking COVID-19 vaccination rates among Medicaid HCBS enrollees. At the same time, HCBS programs are helping facilitate vaccine access for HCBS enrollees.
  • Two-thirds of responding states reported a permanent closure of at least one Medicaid HCBS provider.
  • States cited workforce shortages as the pandemic’s primary impact on in-home and group home services, while closures due to social distancing measures were the most frequently reported primary impact on adult day health and supported employment programs.
  • Over half of responding states reported early plans for the American Rescue Plan Act's (ARPA) temporary enhanced federal funds for Medicaid HCBS, with provider payment rate increases and workforce recruitment as the most frequently reported action.

Thank you for subscribing to the Washington DC Update newsletter. Please feel free to contact the Family Voices Director of Public Policy and Advocacy, Cara Coleman, with any questions. Past issues of the Update appear on the Family Voices website. If you wish to unsubscribe, you can do so via the "Unsubscribe" link below.

Family Voices is a national organization and grassroots network of families and friends of children and youth with special health care needs and disabilities that promotes partnership with families--including those of cultural, linguistic and geographic diversity--in order to improve healthcare services and policies for children.