By Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary, ACF
Today, the Obama Administration released its fiscal year 2016 Budget. At the Administration for Children and Families, we are proud that this year’s budget includes a number of significant proposals that, if enacted, would provide crucial help to needy children, families and communities, and advance the President’s goals of promoting mobility and opportunity.
- Our budget contains a historic proposal to guarantee child care assistance to all low-income families with children under age 4. To make this possible, we are proposing to expand federal matching funds through the Child Care and Development Fund to both broaden access and improve the quality of care. Over 10 years, this proposal would extend high quality child care to over a million additional infants, toddlers, and 3-year-olds.
- The budget provides sufficient funding so that Head Start programs across the nation can offer full-day programs throughout the school year. While some Head Start programs operate at this level now, most do not, and research tells us that full-day, full-school-year programs are an important way to promote better outcomes for children.
- For the child welfare system, this budget proposes a new initiative to provide federal matching funds to states to prevent removals and foster care placements by using evidence-based and evidence-informed pre- and post-placement services for children at risk of entering foster care. And we are proposing new efforts to support family-based care as an alternative to congregate care. We will do this by expanding funding for services while requiring that congregate care placements be judicially reviewed every six months to ensure they are in the best interest of the child.
- We are very happy that this budget maintains funding for the Community Services Block Grant at $674 million. This change from recent Administration’s budgets that proposed reductions reflects the dramatic progress in accountability and performance management, and we continue to urge that Congress take additional steps toward these goals. Under the budget, the Upward Mobility Project would allow up to 10 communities, states, or consortia of states and communities to combine funds from up to four existing block grants -- CSBG, Social Services Block Grant, and funding from HUD through the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Programs--for efforts to promote opportunity and reduce poverty.
- This year’s budget strengthens our efforts to address domestic violence, proposing an additional $10 million for services to domestic violence victims; $8 million to expand the work of the national domestic violence hotline; and $5 million to provide services to the children of domestic violence victims.
- For runaway and homeless youth, we are renewing our request for funding a national prevalence study to better understand the numbers and characteristics of homeless youth. We are also seeking $5 million for expanded transitional living program services, including $1 million to address the needs of LGBTQ youth, and we’re seeking funding to expand our efforts to monitor and ensure program quality.
- While the number of unaccompanied children arriving in the United States has fallen considerably since last summer, our budget seeks funding to address the current estimated needs and proposes a contingency fund that will provide additional funding if the numbers increase beyond what is anticipated. The budget also includes funding to address the needs of the estimated number of refugees and other eligible populations who will arrive in 2016. In addition, the budget sustains our current funding level for emergency preparedness efforts.
- The budget proposes significantly expanded efforts to address human trafficking. We propose to maintain $13 million in funding for foreign victims of trafficking, and increase the funding for domestic victims from $2.8 million to $9 million. We are also seeking $15 million for funding to help child welfare agencies implement their new responsibilities to address trafficking under last year’s legislation.
- We propose to maintain Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program funding at its current level, while establishing a floor (10 percent) and a higher ceiling (40 percent) for the amount of funding used for weatherization in order to reduce the long-term need for assistance. And we’re proposing a Utility Innovation Fund to test strategies to help low-income families reduce their energy burdens.
- This year’s budget proposes $50 million for ACF’s Native American Programs, a $3.5 million increase and that includes a new initiative to improve Native American language instruction across the educational continuum. The budget also proposes new start-up funding for tribal IV-E programs, and an additional $20 million for Tribal child welfare efforts under the Promoting Safe and Stable Families Program.
- For the Child Support Program, we are renewing a number of prior proposals for efforts to ensure that children benefit when support is paid, for promoting access and visitation, and for improving program efficiency. In addition, we are proposing a $100 million per year Research Fund designed to support research on family-centered strategies and support state efforts to implement these evidence-based strategies.
- The budget proposes an important step forward for federal assets policy, by seeking to use up to 30 percent of funding under the Assets for Independence Program to create the Asset Innovation Fund to explore and test a wide variety of innovative strategies for asset building, such as children and youth savings accounts. Also key to this proposal is the request to use up to $3 million of AFI program funds for research and evaluation, so that these innovative projects can be properly evaluated.
- For the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, we are renewing our request to restructure the Contingency Fund to focus on subsidized employment opportunities. This proposal builds on states’ and communities’ significant successes in helping families attain employment when TANF agencies have implemented subsidized employment strategies.
- Finally, we are very pleased that this budget contains a historic expansion of efforts relating to research and evaluation, including expanded research relating to early childhood, new research efforts for LIHEAP, CSBG, the Social Services Block Grant, and the Assets for Independence Program, the Child Support Program and more. At ACF, it is fundamental to our work that our efforts, and the efforts of our grantees, be evidence-based and evidence-informed, and we are seeking to ensure that we are building the evidence base across all of our work.
This is not a complete list of our proposals – our full budget request can be found at /programs/olab/budget. As the President has emphasized, at a time when our economy is stronger, and with needed tax reforms, we can implement these efforts, and more, to expand opportunity, promote mobility and address crucial needs.