News from the Hill – February 2012

Feb 13, 2012

NASW Submits Recommendations on EHB

On January 31, NASW sent the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services recommendations to strengthen the Essential Health Benefits (EHB). NASW made a strong appeal for a comprehensive, uniform set of national health benefits, and suggested that weak, state-based EHB packages will harm low-income and vulnerable individuals.  NASW also appealed to DHHS for development of a national medical necessity standard and for inclusion of hospice and palliative care services in the final EHB package.

Aging Organizations Urge Lawmakers not to Repeal CLASS Act

On February 1, 2012, the House of Representatives passed H.R. 1173, the Fiscal Responsibility and Retirement Security Act of 2011. H.R. 1173 is legislation repealing the Community Living and Assistance Services and Support Act (CLASS Act), a provision of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).  According to the National Council on Aging, the CLASS Act is a voluntary program that would provide a cash benefit to
people needing care at home, regardless of income or pre-existing conditions.  Many aging and disability
organizations such as the Leadership Council of Aging Organizations (LCAO) and Consortium for Citizens with Disabilities (CCD) were against the passage of the repeal CLASS Act legislation.   NASW is a member of both coalitions.

The LCAO letter stated, “CLASS was developed to provide a coordinated, national public-private system for delivering long-term services and supports. We support the CLASS program as the most promising means of effectively financing the long-term services and supports that thousands of Americans come to need as they age or develop a disability. Every family faces these potential costs. CLASS gives families a framework for responsibly planning for their own long-term services and supports needs.”

Even though the CLASS Act repeal legislation passed in the House, there will be no further action on the legislation.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) will not vote on the bill and is against efforts to repeal any portion of the ACA.

Congress Votes to Restrict Use of TANF EBT Cards

On February 1, the U.S. House passed the Welfare Integrity Now for Children and Families Act (H.R. 3567). The bill would not allow Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) recipients to use their TANF electronic benefit cards at ATMs in liquor stores, strip clubs and casinos.  Congresswoman Gwen Moore (D-WI) spoke in opposition to the bill stating, “While many argue that people should have no
reason to use their EBT cards in places like this, I would argue that this is an issue of access. In some neighborhoods, the only access people have to an ATM is at a liquor store. So what are people supposed to do when they can’t even access their benefits to feed their families in their own neighborhoods?”  Another issue with this is the cost to states for monitoring the use of ATMs. NASW opposes this bill for these same reasons. There is a companion bill in the Senate, S. 943, which is currently in the Finance Committee.

Congress Considers Change to Child Tax Credit

Congress is considering new tax-related legislation that would target the most vulnerable, working families who pay taxes.  A policy being proposed would eliminate the Child Tax Credit for households who pay taxes with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) rather than with a social security number.  Frequently, those who use the ITIN are families with differing immigration status.  According to Ali Noorani of the National Immigration Forum, over 5 million children in immigrant families will be affected when their families lose $1,800 in critical tax credits.

While the large majority of the children who will be affected are U.S. citizens with immigrant parents, in these challenging economic times it is in the best interest of the U.S. to provide this critical support to any child in need, regardless of citizenship status.  NASW stands against discrimination in any form, and  believes that taxpayers with similar income levels should have the same types of credits available to them,
regardless of the type of number they use to file their taxes.  “Congress is on the brink of denying this tax credit to immigrant and differing status families, regardless of the fact that they paid their fair share in taxes,” Noorani said. “If we take action now we can stop Congress from succumbing to divisive and hateful politics, and protect tax-paying families and their children.”

Political Climate

Although Mitt Romney had decisive wins in the Florida primary and Nevada Caucus, and Newt Gingrich won in South Carolina, the Republican primary season is far from over.  Rick Santorum won all three contests on February 7 and Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul have declared they will stay in the race.  Although Romney claimed a narrow victory in Maine, several Southern states will hold their primaries on Super
Tuesday (March 6).  Such states could potentially support Newt Gingrich, if he’s able to keep his campaign financially afloat until that date. Meanwhile, President Obama has continued fundraising in support of what will surely be a challenging general election.

Looking at Congress and candidates running for the House and Senate, most states have completed their post-Census redistricting process.  This has enabled both incumbents and challengers to determine which seats they are running for, and against whom.  As a result, many Congressional races will solidify over the coming months.  Please note that Congressional primaries are separate from the Presidential process, and
that the first Congressional primaries not until March and the last few are in September.

Throughout the spring and summer, NASW members should expect to see PACE roll out endorsements in a wide range of federal races.  As always, we will be seeking viable incumbents, challengers, and candidates for open seats who stand up for the values of social workers and their clients.

Congressional Social Work Caucus

The Congressional Social Work Caucus (CSWC) is approaching the first anniversary. Support the CSWC and contact your Representative and Senators and ask them to be a member of this important caucus that creates a platform on Capitol Hill to represent the interests of social workers throughout the United States. The CSWC consists of social worker Members of Congress and those who support the social work profession and society’s social safety net. http://socialworkcaucus-towns.house.gov/

Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act

Don’t forget to contact your Representative and Senators and ask them to support the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (HR1106/S584).

Advocacy Blog Roundup

NASW Supports HHS Decision on Women’s Rights

Violence Against Women Act up for Reauthorization

Social Work and the Anniversary of Roe V. Wade
Health Action 2012

Advocacy Alert Roundup

Halt the 27.4 % Medicare fee Cuts for SGR

Help Fight Inequality: Ask Your Representative to Co-sponsor ENDA

Half in Ten Act: Ask Your Representative to Co-sponsor

Urge Your Representative to Cosponsor H.R. 3506, the Hospice Evaluation and
Legitimate Payment (HELP) Act

RISE Out of Poverty Act: Ask Your Representative to Co-sponsor

Advocacy Listserv Activity

In January, 2,169 activists sent 3,775 advocacy messages to
Congress through Capwiz. The most active alerts were about the Hospice
Evaluation and Legitimate Payment Act, RISE Out of Poverty Act, Half in Ten Act
and Employment Non-Discrimination Act. Thanks to all of you who took the time
to take action.

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Salute Your Graduate with an NASW Press Book Gift

Salute Your Graduate with an NASW Press Book Gift

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