The pandemic has made economic disparities between school districts and communities more visible than ever. Children in our most vulnerable communities continue to struggle as we all wait anxiously to hear what help will be available from the federal government. Late last week, Congress failed to reach a deal that would deliver much needed resources to families and communities.
Allies for Children joins our partners across the state and the country in urging the U.S. House and Senate to finalize a package that will deliver crucial funding to school districts, with no strings attached, and that will include provisions that strengthen, not erode health care coverage for children and families. Opportunities for you to join in this advocacy are below.
At a minimum, Allies for Children urges Congress to approve the following items in a timely manner:
- At least $200 billion in funding for K12 education stabilization, with no strings attached, including funding tied to schools reopening doors. The House-passed HEROES bill includes $58 billion, the Senate Democratic bill includes $175 billion, and the recently released Senate Republican Bill, the HEALS Act includes $70 billion which would instruct states to prioritize funding to districts that reopen to at least 50 percent of their students. If a school district does not reopen its doors – under the HEALS Act it would not be eligible for funding.
- At least $4 billion to help address connectivity issues, also known as the homework gap. The HEROES bill would distribute $1.5 billion through the FCC, not necessarily through E-rate, and the Senate Democratic bill would allocate $4 billion through E-rate. The Senate Republican HEALS Act does not include any funding to address the homework gap.
- An additional, substantial increase in the federal Medicaid matching rate (FMAP) to address the costs associated with an expected higher Medicaid enrollment and overall state budget deficits resulting from the health and economic crisis. The FMAP increase proposed in the HEROES relief package would increase the federal matching rates for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) by an additional $2.4 billion in federal support for state CHIP programs through June 30, 2021. The Senate Republican proposal does not include funding to address these needs.
- Significant fiscal aid to state and local governments, which, together with our recommended increase to the FMAP, will allow Pennsylvania to adequately fund Medicaid coverage for the hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians who lost their employer-based health care when they lost their jobs. While the HEROES Act provides $500 billion for states and $375 billion for local governments to help offset the fiscal impact of the public health crisis caused by the coronavirus, the HEALS Act provides no support for state and local budgets hit hard by the economic crisis.
- As approved in the HEROES Act, any final negotiated bill must include blocking the harmful Medicaid Fiscal Accountability Rule (MFAR) proposed by the administration, which would negatively impact how states finance their share of the cost of Medicaid programs and how states provide supplemental payments to hospitals, nursing homes, physicians and other health care providers. Prior to the COVID-19 crisis, Allies for Children submitted public comment on this damaging proposal.
- Ensure a strong Maintenance of Effort (MOE) to ensure states receiving increased federal funds are not able to take away people’s coverage or make it harder to enroll in Medicaid. Because states are required to balance their budgets, they often seek to cut Medicaid during recessions as a way to close budget gaps. Strong MOE protections are crucial to protecting health coverage from such cuts. It is critical to protect coverage both for those covered by Medicaid now and for those who will need Medicaid as they lose jobs or income in the future as the economic crisis continues.
- At least $100 million in emergency funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program to offset costs and provide needed flexibility, as many home visits have shifted to a virtual platform. While the HEROES Act includes this much-needed funding, the HEALS Act does not. Join Allies for Children and our partners in sharing and retweeting posts using the #HomeVisitingWorks hashtag, and by taking two minutes to send a prewritten note to Senators Casey and Toomey. You can also join us and national partners in today’s Day of Action by calling Senators Casey and Toomey and asking them to prioritize a one-time $100 million appropriation for MIECHV home visitors to reach families in need and allow virtual visits to count as home visits through the end of the calendar year. Call the Congressional switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to be connected directly to your senators.
For additional information on health and education provisions being negotiated please visit these sites: