CHN: Many Programs Benefiting Poor Face Reauthorization in 2003
Welfare Reauthorization, Child Nutrition Among Programs Addressed by 108th Congress
A number of federal programs important to the poor and disadvantaged are up for reauthorization next year. What follows is a list of some of these programs, with a preview of issues that will likely be addressed during their respective reauthorization debates.
Personal Responsibility and Work Reconciliation Act (PRWORA): First enacted in 1996, PRWORA dramatically overhauled the nation’s welfare system, ending 60 years of guaranteed federal assistance to the poor. The 1996 law transferred much of the responsibility for designing and implementing welfare to the states, which now receive federal block grant money to help run their Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) programs. Although PRWORA officially expired on September 31, 2002, Congress’ attempts to reauthorize the law this year faltered. Next year, Republican leaders are expected to revive something like the reauthorization measure (HR 4737) that passed the House last spring. Senate Democrats and their moderate Republican colleagues oppose the stringent work mandates included in House bill, and instead favor a measure approved by the Finance Committee that – in the view of anti-poverty activists – is less punitive than its House counterpart. In addition to work requirements, childcare funding, marriage promotion, immigrants’ benefits, and access to Medicaid will be among the many issues to resurface during the 2003 welfare reauthorization debate.
Workforce Investment Act (WIA): A federal job training program passed in 1998, WIA replaced the Job Training Partnership Act (JTPA) and amended the Wagner-Peyser Act to form a more comprehensive workforce investment system. WIA is intended to provide a wide array of workforce-related resources to both employers and job seekers. Because the WIA system is still relatively new, many key House and Senate staffers suspect that reauthorization will happen early in the 108th Congress with only minor programmatic changes. Nevertheless, advocates are pushing for several key changes to be considered in the WIA reauthorization debate. Some of these improvements include: preserving and increasing federal funding, specifically for job training programs and one-stop infrastructure needs; broadening the range and eligibility requirements for job training; providing greater state and local flexibility regarding WIA implementation, funding mechanisms, and performance measures; improving data collection, both through outcome assessment and through state/local reporting requirements; and improving linkages with the TANF Program.
Job Access and Reverse Commute Grant Program (JARC): Established as part of the 1998 Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century (TEA-21), the JARC program provides competitive grants to local governments and non-profit organizations to develop transportation services that link welfare recipients and other low-income people to jobs and work support services. The law was funded at $125 million in 2002, and will be renewed as part of the overall TEA-21 reauthorization. Advocates will press to increase funding for the program and work to amend the law to ensure that JARC funds are directed to projects benefiting low-income people.
Child Nutrition and WIC: There are several important nutritional programs up for reauthorization in 2003. Falling under the rubric of Child Nutrition, these programs provide vital nutritional support to children of low-income families. In addition to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), programs under Child Nutrition include the School Lunch Program, Special Milk Program, School Breakfast Program, Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), and the Summer Food Service Program. Of primary concern to advocates during the 2003 reauthorization is the issue of funding. Nutrition advocates are not only working to maintain current funding for most of the programs, but to identify resources to broaden eligibility for several of the programs, including School Lunch and CACFP. Another priority for advocates is to create a targeted universal breakfast program that will provide a school breakfast to all children at no charge.
Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act: Also known as Perkins III, the Perkins Act was last reauthorized in 1998, and provides funds for secondary and post-secondary vocational and technical education. Perkins III is administered by the Department of Education and provides funding through two major grants: the Tech-Prep Grant and State-Basic Grants. Most of the money allocated through the Tech-Prep Grant goes toward youth programs, while State-Basic Grants provide funding to post-secondary institutions – where many adults go for job training. Reauthorization goals include: de-linking secondary and postsecondary education, specifically for assessment purposes; enhanced coordination with WIA; and restoration of special population funding, including the gender-equity provisions that were eliminated from the law in the last 1998.
Higher Education Act (HEA): The Higher Education Act of 1965 – which impacts education programs spanning kindergarten through graduate school – funds most federal student assistance programs. HEA programs include student financial aid, services to help students finish high school and enter and succeed in postsecondary education, financial assistance to institutions, and aid to improve K-12 teacher training at postsecondary institutions. In 2002, more than 70 percent of HEA discretionary funds went to students in the form of Pell Grants (excluding mandatory federal expenditures for the Federal Family Education Loan and Direct Loan programs). Pell Grants are needs-based grants that do not have to be repaid and that are given to economically disadvantaged undergraduate students. Unlike other federal grants programs, all students who meet eligibility criteria can access the Pell Grant. In reauthorization, Congress may opt to specifically direct Pell Grants toward the first two years of college enrollment, so that students are less dependent on loans in those years. Other reauthorization issues may include postsecondary education access, federal tax breaks, college costs and prices, standards and accountability, and teacher quality.
Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA): IDEA is the federal education program that assists states in developing and implementing services for all eligible individuals with disabilities, birth through 21 years of age. IDEA was passed in 1975 and now serves approximately six million youth with disabling conditions. The most contentious issues to arise during the 2003 reauthorization debate will likely be whether to make IDEA an entitlement, and thus, change the program’s funding status from discretionary to mandatory. Most Republicans agree with the President’s Commission on Excellence in Special Education that federal funding levels for IDEA should be determined on an annual basis. By contrast, Democrats tend to support mandatory IDEA funding, arguing that despite the law’s promise to reimburse states for 40 percent of the average per pupil cost of educating disabled students, the federal government has so far picked up only 16.7 percent of the tab ($7.5 billion last year). Other issues to watch in IDEA reauthorization include school vouchers for disabled students, reducing state regulatory burdens, eliminating IQ tests in special education determination, and efforts to reduce the number of minority children in special education.
Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA): CAPTA, originally enacted in 1974, is the primary federal legislation addressing child abuse and neglect in this country. CAPTA provides federal funding to states in support of child abuse and neglect prevention, assessment, investigation, prosecution, and treatment activities, and also provides grants to public agencies and nonprofit organizations for demonstration programs and projects. In fiscal year 2002, CAPTA state grants were funded at $22 million, and the Act’s Community-Based Family Resource and Support (CBFRS) grants received $33.417 million. CAPTA was most recently amended and reauthorized on October 3, 1996, by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act Amendments of 1996.
HUD McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Programs: The Stewart B. McKinney Homeless Assistance Act was originally passed in 1987, and renamed the McKinney-Vento Act in 2000 in honor of the late Congressman, Bruce Vento (D-MN). The Act authorizes funds for homeless assistance programs, including Emergency Shelter Grants (ESG) for emergency shelter or transitional housing; Section 8 Moderate Rehabilitation for Single Room Occupancy Dwellings for Homeless Individuals (SRO); Shelter Plus Care (S+C) to provide rental assistance together with supportive services to the homeless; and the Supportive Housing Program (SHP). In FY 02, Congress appropriated $1.123 billion for HUD McKinney-Vento programs, which currently fund over 5,000 projects and serve more than 614,000 people experiencing homelessness across the nation. Efforts to reauthorize the Act have stalled since 1994, in part because of disagreements over whether to block grant the program. In 2003, advocates are hoping Congress will craft a five-year reauthorization that maintains the program’s competitive grant structure.
Runaway and Homeless Youth Act: First enacted in 1974 and currently authorized through the Missing, Exploited and Runaway Children’s Assistance Act, this Act established three national programs: the Basic Center Program which provides temporary shelter for young people in crisis and counseling for those youths and their families; the Transitional Living Program which assists older homeless youth in their efforts to move successfully toward independence; and the Street Outreach Program which connects youth on the streets to services and prevents sexual abuse and exploitation of these young people. Advocates will be looking to boost funding for these programs.
Head Start: The Head Start program was established in 1965 to increase the school readiness of young children in low-income families by providing health, education, social, and parent-community services. The program serves children from birth to age five, pregnant women, and their families. It is administered locally by community-based non-profit organizations and school systems. In fiscal year 2002 Head Start served nearly 900,000 children with a budget of more than $6.5 billion. One of the main priorities for education activists during the 2003 reauthorization of Head Start will be to prevent Congress from moving the program from the Department of Health and Human Services to the Department of Education. Advocates fear that such a move would undermine the health and social services aspects of the program. Advocates will also pressure appropriators to fully fund Head Start so that the program can meet its established goal of serving all eligible children.
Rehabilitation Act: A critical program affecting the quality of life and employment opportunities for millions of people with disabilities, the Rehabilitation Act covers a wide range of services administered by the Department of Education. Last amended in 1998, the Act provides grants to states to provide vocational assistance, supportive employment programs, client advocacy, and the development of Individual Plans for Employment. The key issues for disability community advocates next year will be addressing the tremendous unmet needs; linkages and transition services for clients to other federal programs, including those under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act and the Workforce Investment Act; and ensuring the integrity of the various state grants under the Act.