News from the Hill – May 2011

Thanks to our Advocates, NASW Advocacy Days Were a Success

NASW is pleased to announce that our virtual advocacy days were a great success! Hundreds of social workers from across the country contacted their Senators and Representatives in support of the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (S. 584/H.R. 1106). At the same time, NASW Board members, Chapter Executive Directors, and Presidents made over 160 visits to the hill asking their Members of Congress to cosponsor the legislation and join the Congressional Social Work Caucus.

Did you miss our virtual advocacy days? It’s not too late. Contact your Representative and Senators today and tell them that we need their support for our profession.

Congress Struggles over Major Policy Differences

Members of Congress returned to Washington on May 2 after a two-week recess, where many constituents voiced concerns over the House budget priorities.  Many GOP freshmen heard considerable constituent resistance to large Medicare spending and tax cuts for high income individuals that are key features of a House adopted budget resolution. Just before Congress recessed, the House passed Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s (R-WI) budget resolution that would greatly impact programs of concern to social workers. The House budget resolution would dramatically restructure and reduce Medicare and Medicaid, repeal and defund most features of healthcare reform, and significantly lower tax rates for higher-income tax payers.

While deficit reduction is cited by GOP leaders as the primary justification for the huge ten-year spending cuts in health programs, a Congressional Budget Office (CBO) analysis and other independent analysis of the resolution’s fiscal impact found very little deficit reduction in it. Most of the health care cuts are redirected into long-term tax rate cuts for higher income tax payers. Congress now begins consideration of two new major spending items, the annual appropriations bills that fund all federal agencies at the start of the fiscal year on Oct 1, and a debt ceiling measure that will carry major budget process changes in federal spending and tax policies. The next several months are expected to be contentious as Congress will remain deeply divided on tax and spending priorities.

Among NASW’s major concerns with the recently adopted House budget plan is that it would spend $2.53 trillion less on health care from 2012 to 2022 than President Obama has proposed. This amount includes a $1.4 trillion cut that Obama assumed to implement the health care law, $735 billion less for Medicaid, and $389 billion less for Medicare through 2022. Advocates including NASW have spoken out repeatedly against the House budget resolution. The Senate will not consider the House approved budget resolution, leaving Congress deadlocked on a budget plan for now. NASW remains committed to speaking up for health care and human needs in the budget battle, which is expected to continue for months.

Republicans Propose TANF Reauthorization

Staking out an early position on the upcoming reauthorization of the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program, Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), chair of the House Republican Study Committee, has introduced the Welfare Reform Act of 2011, H.R.1167, which would reduce annual TANF funding by $1 billion, from $16.566 billion to $15.566 billion, eliminate a TANF caseload reduction credit, and impose work requirements for food stamp recipients.  Eligible recipients on strike because of a labor dispute would be barred from participating in the food stamp program. NASW opposes this legislation because it decreases funding for TANF and imposes work requirements for food stamp recipients while eliminating a TANF caseload reduction credit.

House Continues Drive for Health Care Reform Repeal

House Republicans remain firmly committed to repealing the health care reform law and are advancing small and large measures to achieve their objective. Early in April, the House Energy and Commerce Committee approved several bills to repeal important elements of the law including funding for state insurance exchanges (HR 1213), elimination of school-based health center construction funds (HR 1214) and repeal of the Prevention and Public Health Fund (HR 1217).  Each bill was approved along party lines in the Committee and they passed in the House. Democratic leaders in the Senate promptly announced they will not consider the repeal measures in that body. House proponents will likely attempt to attach the bills to other must pass legislation later in the year.

New Resources Available Online

The Urban Institute has released an analysis entitled, “Who Will Be Uninsured after Health Insurance Reform?” The brief (link here) finds that national health reform will substantially change both the number and the composition of the uninsured. The Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, in partnership with the Bazelon Center for Mental Health Law, has released a report entitled, “Medicaid Policy Options for Meeting the Needs of Adults with Mental Illness under the Affordable Care Act.” The report describes a roundtable discussion on Medicaid policy options available under health reform to help meet the needs of adults with mental illness. The report is intended to help advocates and states facing decisions about designing benefits, structuring service delivery and conducting outreach and enrollment for adults with mental illness. The report is part of an ongoing series of Health Reform Roundtables exploring key issues related to implementing Medicaid expansion under health reform.

NASW Attends National Urban League Legislative Conference

NASW attended the National Urban League Legislative Conference held in Washington, D.C.   The “State of Black America” Town Hall meeting focused on the employment crisis in urban America.  NASW staff also participated in their advocacy day to discuss comprehensive solutions for economic recovery and high unemployment rates, particularly in the urban communities.

NASW’s position is that inequality and unemployment must be eradicated in communities of color, and policymakers should strongly promote initiatives that help rebuild the lives of individuals, families, and communities.  NASW will continue to advance legislation that promotes policies to help the unemployed.

During the National Urban League’s Policy Conference, Representative Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.) was honored with its Congressional Leadership Award.  Rep. Towns is a social work Member of Congress and the lead House sponsor for the Dr. Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act and Chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus.  We applaud the tireless efforts of Representative Towns and look forward to his consistent advocacy on behalf of the social work profession.

The President Proclaims April as Child Abuse Prevention Month

On March 31, President Obama signed a proclamation designating April as National Child Abuse Prevention Month. In it, he called on all Americans to renew our commitment to preventing child abuse and neglect by promoting healthy families and protecting children: “From schools to local social service agencies, we can work together to protect the well‑being of our children by recognizing the signs of violence and creating safe, stable, and nurturing environments that safeguard the promise of their futures.”

NASW Attends Briefing on Birthright Citizenship

On March 31, 2011, NASW staff attended a briefing called, “The Historical and Constitutional Underpinnings of Birthright Citizenship”, at the Center for American Progress.  The Fourteenth Amendment guarantees that “all persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”  Some in Congress are considering taking away citizenship from individuals born in the United States if their parents are not U.S. citizens.

NASW Co-hosts Congressional Briefing on Child Abuse Deaths in America

As part of The National Coalition to End Child Abuse Deaths, NASW co-hosted a Congressional briefing on Child Abuse Deaths in America on April 5, 2011. Law and Order SVU actor, Tamara Tunie presented a petition to Chairman David Camp asking Congress to hold hearings on child abuse deaths. Chairman Camp was the honorary host and announced that he will hold hearings after the Government Accountability Office study on Child Abuse Deaths is released in June.

NASW Executive Director, Dr. Elizabeth Clark was an expert witness on the panel and responded to questions from the audience of allied organizations, press, and Congressional staff. She said lawmakers also need to know the importance of supporting a sustainable child welfare workforce. “We need the frontline workers out there,” she said.

Advocacy Blog Roundup

Partnership for Patients Teleconference April 21, 2011

NASW’s First Virtual Lobby Day – April 28, 2011

HHS Announces Plan to Reduce Health Disparities

Take One Step to Stop Child Abuse Deaths

Advocacy Listserv Activity

In the months of March and April, 4,161 activists sent 6,399 advocacy messages to Congress through Capwiz. The most active alert was about the Dr. Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act.  Thanks to all of you who took the time to take action!  To see all alerts, go here.

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