By Mark Greenberg, Acting Assistant Secretary of Children and Families
Today, the Obama Administration released its fiscal year 2017 Budget. The Administration for Children and Families’ budget includes a number of proposals that would provide crucial help to needy children, families and communities, and advance the President’s goals of promoting mobility and opportunity.
- As we did last year, we’re proposing to guarantee child care assistance to all low-income families with children under age 4. Over 10 years, this proposal would extend high quality child care to over a million additional infants, toddlers, and 3-year-olds. At the same time, we’re requesting that Congress provide an additional $161 million to help States implement the important improvements enacted in the 2014 reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), building on the $326 million provided in FY 2016. And, we are proposing that CCDBG health and safety standards should also apply to child care funded through TANF or the Social Services Block Grant.
- We’re asking that Congress provide an additional $292 million so that more Head Start programs across the nation can offer full-day programs throughout the school year. For 2015, Congress provided $294 million to help make progress toward this goal, and this year’s funding would allow us to make additional gains. We’re also proposing an additional $142 million for a Head Start cost of living adjustment.
- We’re proposing to add $100 million to funding for Preschool Development Grants, for a total of $350 million, to continue and expand grants to States to develop, enhance, or expand high-quality preschool programs for children from families at or below 200 percent of the Federal poverty line.
Children and Families
- We’re proposing the first increase in basic Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant funding since the program was enacted in 1996 --- $8 billion over the next five years. At the same time, we’re proposing a number of safeguards to ensure that TANF funds actually go to benefitting low income families, including a requirement that 55-60 percent of TANF and associated state funding be used for the core benefits and services of assistance, work-related activities for needy families, and child care. We’re continuing to propose dedicated funding for subsidized employment, and this year, we’re also proposing $100 million for competitive grants for two-generation efforts that work simultaneously with parents and children to improve both parental employment and family well-being. And, we’re proposing a new Economic Recovery Fund to replace the current Contingency Fund and be more responsive to needs during economic downturns.
- Our budget recognizes the troubling increase in the number of families with children living in extreme poverty, and includes a $2 billion initiative for Emergency Aid and Service Connection Grants. These grants would fund pilot projects to test new approaches to providing emergency aid for families facing significant economic hardship and distress, including both short-term financial assistance and connection to longer term supports for those who need them.
- 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, for improving program efficiency, and for dedicated research funding. We’re adding new proposals to further strengthen enforcement. And, this year, we’re proposing a Child Support Technology Fund to promote the replacement of aging child support systems to increase system security, efficiency, and integrity. Building on our Office of Child Support Enforcement’s extensive experience with systems development, our Office of Child Support Enforcement would develop specific child support model systems and applications development projects that would be available to States, with a 90 percent federal match rate.
- For the child welfare system, we’re reproposing that Congress 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’re continuing to propose new efforts to support family-based care as an alternative to congregate care. In addition, we’ve got new proposals to increase federal support for state efforts to raise the educational levels of child welfare staff; a proposal to expand Regional Partnership Grants by $40 million to help states communities and tribes address rising levels of substance abuse; a proposal for enhanced matching funds to support improvements in child welfare information systems; and expanded support for tribal child welfare efforts.
- We’re reproposing that up to 30 percent of funding under the Assets for Independence Program be used 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.
- We’re proposing that $10 million in Social Service Block Grant funds be used to for a pilot project to test if an adequate supply of diapers can improve maternal mental health and infant and child health among families that face significant difficulty in affording diapers.
- We are asking Congress to fund the Community Services Block Grant at $674 million, the same level that we requested last year. We recognize the substantial progress that has been made in CSBG in accountability and performance management, and we continue to urge that Congress take additional steps toward these goals.
- We continue last year’s proposal for an 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.
- We are asking Congress to build on last year’s appropriations increases for addressing domestic violence by adding an additional $4 million to expand the work of the national domestic violence hotline and an additional $1 million for efforts to address domestic violence in Alaska.
- For runaway and homeless youth, we are requesting $2.3 million for demonstration funding to work with families and youth to prevent youth homelessness; $2 million for increased funding for Transitional Living Programs; and an additional $2 million to expand research efforts relating to youth homelessness.
- The number of unaccompanied children arriving in the United States continues to fluctuate significantly, and so 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 an estimated 213,000 new humanitarian arrivals expected in 2017, including 100,00 refugees, consistent with the Administration’s commitment to admit at least this number of refugees in FY 2017. We’re seeking increases of $91 million in transitional and medical services; $22 million for additional funding for social services; and $8 million in for additional funding for targeted assistance grants. And, we’re proposing to raise the budget for services to Survivors of Torture from $11 million to $23 million, recognizing the number of torture victims among recent arrivals and the extent of their needs. In addition, the budget sustains our current funding level for emergency preparedness efforts.
- To prevent and combat human trafficking, we are proposing to maintain $13 million in funding for foreign victims of trafficking, seeking an additional $3 million to raise funding for domestic victims to $9 million, and seeking $11 million to support child welfare agencies to implement anti-trafficking responsibilities.
- Recognizing difficult budget choices, we are proposing that Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program receive $3 billion in discretionary funds, $390 million below the FY 16 level. At the same time, we continue to urge Congress to establish a mandatory contingency fund for LIHEAP to address increases in energy prices, extreme weather, and changes in numbers of eligible households. And, we are proposing that Congress allow states to spend up to 40 percent of LIHEAP funds for weatherization without needing federal approval.
- This year’s budget proposes $53 million for ACF’s Native American Programs, the highest level in ANA’s history, with proposals for $2 million in grants for $1.1 million in technical assistance funding to address needs of Native American youth.
- Tribes would also benefit from expanded 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, a proposal to increase the funding of Tribal Court Improvement programs from$1 million to $3.75 million, and a proposal to establish a $1 million Alaska Native Tribal Resource Center on Domestic Violence.
Interoperability and Support for Systems-Building
- This year’s budget reflects a strong commitment to addressing systems and interoperability issues. In addition to our proposals for enhanced funding for child support and child welfare systems, we’re proposing temporary adjustments to administrative caps in the Community Services Block Grant and LIHEAP to support systems investments. And, we are requesting:
- $10 million to establish a Systems Innovation Center, which would design and build IT elements to be shared with states and tribes, in support of integrated health and human services eligibility and enrollment systems; and
- $50 million per year for five years to establish a Statewide Human Services Data System (SHSDS) Grant Program which would provide grants and related technical assistance to states in support of the design, development, and implementation of statewide integrated data systems and related analytical tools.
Our full budget request can be found at /programs/olab. We are encouraged by the important steps that Congress took in acting on a number of our 2016 proposals, and we hope Congress will take further action this year to address key needs for children, families, and communities.