LATEST NEWS from our Washington Representative
June 2023 Washington Update
On June 3, less than three weeks ago, President Biden signed the Fiscal Responsibility Act (FRA) which raised the debt ceiling, imposed spending caps on defense and non-defense discretionary spending, and made other legislative changes. The bi-partisan bill prevented a possible default on US debt for two years (in the House 149 Republicans voted in favor of the package and 71 opposed it, while 165 Democrats supported the bill and 46 opposed it). The good news that a crisis had been averted lasted about three days.
On June 6, about 12 members of the Republican Freedom Caucus effectively shut down the House of Representatives for about a week to protest the agreement that representatives of House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had negotiated with representatives of President Biden and that Biden had signed three days earlier. (The Freedom Caucus is generally considered to be the most conservative bloc in the Republican House and, according to its website, has 45 members).
To quell this uprising, McCarthy has apparently agreed to a number of demands, the most relevant of which for our purposes is allowing Republican members of the Appropriations Committee appropriators to write spending bills at FY2022 levels, which is perhaps as much as $130 billion far below the levels set out in the Fiscal Responsibility Act.
This virtually ensures that House appropriators will have to write bills with very deep cuts and program eliminations, including the Labor-HHS-Education bill which funds the Corporation for National Service (AmeriCorps).
It remains to be seen whether such bills can pass the House, but if they do pass, they will collide with bills produced by the Democratic majority in the Senate (and President Biden) who will presumably write bills that adhere to the budget caps laid out in the debt-limit deal.
It appears that Senate Appropriators will try to writer bi-partisan bills, but Speaker McCarthy’s decision will make it harder to produce bills and avoid a government shutdown or a continuing resolution.
As you know, the fiscal year ends on October 1, so that’s the date that Congress either needs to pass all the spending bills, or approve a Continuing Resolution, in order to avoid a shutdown. Full-committee markups are set to start in the House this week and in the Senate later this month. On top of everything else, the Fiscal Responsibility Act included a provision that says that a one percent budget cut will be imposed if Congress can’t pass all 12 Appropriations bills.
Obviously, funding the government will require the House and Senate to agree to a series of compromises which, if the recent events are a guide, could again trigger opposition from the Freedom Caucus.
There are other flashpoints that suggest that the next few months will be unsettled. Among them, is the threat by some Republicans to cut funding for the Department of Justice, including the FBI, in retaliation for the indictment of former President Trump. Also, a number of Senate Republicans, and many Democrats, want to exceed the defense spending cap of $886 billion.
We have predicted tough going in the House for funding for national service programs. The decision by Speaker McCarthy makes it extremely likely that there will be deep cuts, if not outright elimination of national service in the House bill.
The next few months will be rough, but we have been in this position before and not only survived but thrived.
Later this summer, NARSVPD will host a question and answer session with our Washington, DC representative, Gene Sofer. Look for more details in the next electronic mailing.
Have a safe Fourth of July Holiday. Enjoy Summer.
Washington Update - May 2023
By this time, you probably have read about the proposed House Republican plan to address the debt limit which must be raised to allow the government to continue to spend and to limit spending in the future by imposing caps on federal appropriations. Substantively, these are two separate issues that are being conflated by House Republicans and in most press accounts. They are separable but the House Republican plan is essentially using the threat of a default on the debt limit to force negotiations on the future direction of federal spending.
In its broad outlines the House Republican proposal would raise the debt limit, exempt Social Security and Medicare and Defense spending from cuts, roll back non-defense discretionary spending to FY 2022 levels, and cap future non-defense discretionary spending at 1 percent per year. Experts have estimated that the impact of these cuts on non-defense discretionary programs like National Service would result in a 22 percent cut if it was applied equally across all programs.
As long as these two issues are linked, there is urgency. The Treasury Department is now estimating that the government may be unable to pay all its bills as early as June 1, although that is an estimate rather than a deadline. The result would be a shutdown of most of the federal government.
Yesterday, May 10, President Biden met with House and Senate leaders from both parties to discuss both issues. No agreements were reached, but the parties will meet again this week and the principals have instructed staff to meet.
The House Republican bill is essentially a framework with details to be provided later. It sets an overall cap on spending, but it is up to the Appropriations Committees to actually allocate dollars within the cap. Appropriators are extremely unlikely to apply cuts across the board. Rather, their bills will include increases for some programs and deeper cuts and program eliminations for others. Given the hostility that many House Republicans have for All National Service programs, it is not an exaggeration to suggest that they are at risk of being eliminated by House Republican Appropriators as they try to construct bills that can pass.
House Appropriators are planning to start writing their FY24 bills this month, with consideration of the Labor-HHS bill that includes funding for AmeriCorps to take place in June.
The Senate Appropriations process will move more slowly. The Senate version of the Labor-HHS bill will probably be taken up in late June or July.
While the debt ceiling issue needs to be resolved soon to keep the government open, the Appropriations process will move more slowly and will not be resolved until much later this year.
December 6, 2022
The Congress has returned to Washington for a lame-duck (or post-election) session. Official Washington is still waiting for a final tally of votes, but it seems clear that come January, Republicans will control the House with about 222 seats (218 are needed for a majority) and Democrats will retain control of the Senate with either 50 or 51 seats depending on the results of the Georgia run-off election (with 51 votes needed for a majority and two of the seats held by Independents who typically vote with Democrats).
There is a lot to do in this session.
Appropriations and Other Legislation
Most importantly, the current continuing resolution keeping federal agencies open expires on Dec. 16. Increasingly, there is talk of a one-week extension to December 23. The appropriators are trying to complete work on an Omnibus bill to avoid a lengthier Continuing Resolution (CR) but there are challenges. As of yet, Republicans and Democrats have been unable to reach agreement on how much to spend (split between defense and nondefense spending) which prevents them from deciding funding levels for individual appropriations bills.
(An Omnibus bill would package individual bills with hundreds, if not thousands, of individual decisions about funding levels for each program across the government. A CR would essentially fund the government at current levels rather than address the needs of each program).
In addition, Congress will need to complete work on the Defense Authorization bill, codify marriage equality, determine funding for Ukraine-related activities, decide whether to continue to fund COVID-relief, and several other contentious issues.
Thus, the lame duck is likely to last longer than previously thought, with Congress leaving town just before Christmas a strong possibility. You may recall that last year, President Biden signed an Omnibus Appropriations Act in March, six months into the fiscal year.
AmeriCorps funding is a high priority for the national service community, but, as you can see, it is not at the top of Congress’ concerns.
As you may recall, neither House met the Biden request for AmeriCorps. The House bill recommended $1.3 billion for the AmeriCorps agency. The Senate bill has recommended $1.225 billion.
With regard to Senior Corps programs, both the Administration and the House propose to spend $245 million and the Senate $240 million. Biden and the House increase spending for RSVP by slightly more than $1 million or 2 percent, funding for FGP by about $9 million or 7 percent, and SCP by $4.2 million or 8 percent. The Senate bill does not indicate how its funds would be allocated among the three programs.
The Next Congress
We are back to a time of divided government. There is a lot of speculation about the oversight agenda of the new Republican majority in the House: How aggressively will it pursue the Biden family? Will it attempt to impeach Alejandro Mayorkas, the Secretary of Homeland Security? Will it investigate Dr. Anthony Fauci? Incoming House Oversight Committee Chair (R-KY) said there were as many as 50 or 60 hearings the Committee wanted to hold.
This does not bode well for the Corporation in the House. Anyone who watched the Education and Labor Full Committee hearing on December 1, 2021
(https://edlabor.house.gov/hearings/examining-the-policies-and-priorities-of-the-corporation-for-national-and-community-service) had to have been struck by the continued opposition of the (then) Republican minority to the Corporation’s very existence and purpose. While eliminating CNCS is not at the top of the House Republican agenda and is not possible given support for CNCS in the Senate and in the White House, hearings that examine CNCS governance issues are virtually inevitable.
The next two years will be challenging.
MARCH 31, 2022
For all AmeriCorps programming, the Administration proposes an increase of $189.3 million over the FY22 enacted level. The budget would fund 83,000 AmeriCorps members and 174,000 AmeriCorps Seniors.
This budget calls for investing in underserved communities and increasing diversity.
This budget would fund increases in the AmeriCorps living allowance and education award and would increase the stipend participating in the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Programs to $3.65 per hour.
RSVP funding would increase by roughly $1.2 million.
The Corporation also announced the release of its new Strategic Plan. It has five overarching goals:
help communities to alleviate poverty and advance racial equity,
enhance the experience for AmeriCorps members and AmeriCorps Seniors volunteers,
unite Americans by bringing them together in service,
effectively steward federal resources,
and make AmeriCorps one of the best and most equitable places to work in the Federal Government.
It is important to remember that this budget is only the first step in a long process. Now, Congress examines the budget, holds hearings, passes Congressional budget resolutions, and, ultimately to enact annual Appropriations bills.
The Strategic Plan and the agency’s Congressional Budget Justification, which explains its funding decisions, are on the Corporation’s website.
February 2022 Update
Latests Information from Washington, DC
There are 14 days until government funding expires. While everyone seems to agree that there will not be a government shutdown, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to see how Congress will meet its February 18 deadline for resolving FY 2022 spending. The more likely scenario is another short-term funding bill while party leaders and the White House continue to try to create a longer-term package.
There is no agreement on an overall spending ceiling which makes it impossible to allocate funds to the appropriations subcommittees. Republicans are demanding “parity” between any increases in defense and nondefense spending, which Democrats don’t support. As a result, none of the 12 appropriations subcommittees have begun to draft their own individual spending bills. In addition, there are the usual number of policy issues (called “riders”) to be dealt with. It is possible that the leaderships will agree on a topline number this week, but it will take a while to actually get agreements on the 12 bills.
If there is no agreement, Congress will extend the Continuing Resolution now in place. If the CR runs the entire year, we will be funded at the FY 2021 level and the increase that the Biden administration proposed will not be enacted.
Meanwhile, the Build Back Better Act remains stalled in the Senate.
There are other issues that are taking up time and attention: Ukraine and sanctions on Russia, the choice of a new Supreme Court justice, trade policy especially regarding China, regulation of “Big Tech,” and electoral reform among others.
There is not a lot of optimism that Congress can handle these issues in its current, polarized state.
Finally, Michael Smith has assumed the role of Chief Executive of the Corporation. He will have his hands full. The House Education and Labor Committee hearing (with the IG and Mal Coles, the Interim CEO, as witnesses) revealed that the Corporation’s administrative infrastructure was significantly deficient, that the regional structure put in place in the previous regime was not functioning well, as well as other issues.
Perhaps, most significantly, several Committee Republicans expressed their continued opposition to the Corporation and called for its elimination. It seems obvious that there will be rough sledding if Republicans take control of the House in 2022.
November 23, 2021
The National Association of RSVP Directors, Inc.
This is a short week as Washington prepares to celebrate Thanksgiving in an atmosphere of uncertainty. While the Congress has passed, and the President has signed, the American Rescue Plan legislation and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Administration’s Build Back Better bill has not yet cleared the Senate, there has been no progress on annual Appropriations bills, and the stalemate over the legislation to raise the debt limit continues.
Build Back Better Act (BBBA)
The House version of the Build Back Better Act includes more than $2 trillion for a variety of human services, education, and jobs programs, including $15.2 billion for the AmeriCorps Agency to be spent over 8-years. The bill invests in a Civilian Climate Corps, part of it funded through AmeriCorps to combat wildfires, support disaster response and preparedness, environmental conservation, and a transition to green energy infrastructure, among other initiatives. The BBBA would also raise the AmeriCorps member living allowance, increase the AmeriCorps Education Award and expand benefits for all AmeriCorps members, making national service a more equitable opportunity for all young people.
The bill is now in the Senate where it is expected to undergo significant revisions.
The Continuing Resolution now in place expires on December 3. Congress has been deadlocked over appropriations all year and a new CR is inevitable. The main issue will be the length of the new CR.
On behalf of NARSVPD we wish everyone a happy Thanksgiving! Stay safe.
The National Association of RSVP Directors, Inc.
RSVP Washington Update
October 25, 2021
Last Monday, the Democrats on the Senate Appropriations Committee published a number of FY22 appropriations bills, including the FY 2022 Labor-HHS-Education bill that funds the Corporation for National Service. (Note: the Congress continues to refer to the Corporation as the Corporation and not as the AmeriCorps agency). Little progress has been made until now in the annual Appropriations process because of deep divisions between Republicans and Democrats on overall spending levels, as well as the content and spending of individual bills.
With regard to the Corporation for National Service, Senate Democrats are recommending $1.185B, which is $64M more than last year. This is $25M less than President Biden's request and $130M less than the House approved. Both Houses have the same level of funding for the three senior volunteer programs.
No immediate action is expected on the Senate bills released last week. Remember that Congress must pass a new CR or act on individual bills to keep the government open after December 3.
Meanwhile, Congress and the Administration continue to work on the Build Back Better package of social program initiatives now estimated to cost between $1.5 and 2 trillion dollars over the next decade. That is happening through the so-called Reconciliation process. Also, the House must take up the Senate passed infrastructure bill. Finally, at some point within the next several months Congress must also agree to raise the debt limit.
Getting these packages written and enacted has been difficult and protracted and has revealed differences of opinion and approach among Democrats as well as between Democrats and Republicans. Nevertheless, most observers expect that eventually the House will vote on the infrastructure bill, some version of the Build Back Better Act will pass, the government will remain open, and the debt ceiling will be raised. It just won’t be smooth sailing.
Michael Smith for CEO
This week, on Tuesday October 26, the Senate HELP Committee will likely consider and approve Smith's nomination to serve as CEO of the Corporation. At that point the full Senate will be able to vote on his selection.
Visit www.narsvpd.net for additional information.
The National Association of RSVP Directors, Inc.
Congress is on recess for several more weeks. September promises to be extremely busy with further consideration of the mammoth budget reconciliation package ($3.5 trillion), annual; appropriations needed to keep the government running, votes on the infrastructure bill which passed the Senate but is still pending in the House, and the need to raise the debt ceiling so the US government does not default on its obligations. In addition, Congress will be focusing on the events of January 6th and the fallout from the situation in Afghanistan.
As you may recall, the Biden budget asked for $1.21 billion for CNCS an increase of $89.2 million over the FY21 enacted level. These are very modest increases, although it should be noted that Congress recently passed the American Rescue Plan which included almost $1 billion for AmeriCorps, including $30 million for senior programs.
The President's budget request for CNCS (separate from the American Rescue Plan) would support an estimated 175,000 AmeriCorps Seniors and increase the stipend for low-income seniors participating in the Foster Grandparent and Senior Companion Programs from $3.00 to $3.50 per hour.
With regard to RSVP, the Budget proposal level will support an estimated 5 new programs and 1000 volunteers.
Presidential budgets indicate Administration’s priorities. The House voted to increase funding for the Corporation by almost $200 million above the level proposed by the Administration. This includes significant increases for Foster Grandparents and Senior Companions, presumably to fund a stipend increase, as well as $1.8 million for RSVP.
The Senate has not begun to consider the Labor-HHS bill and virtually all observers assume that there will be a Continuing Resolution of some duration enacted before September 30 to keep the government running.
Last week, House Democrats adopted the budget resolution which provides the framework for a $3.5 trillion package of domestic spending and tax breaks. The Budget Resolution includes so-called Reconciliation instructions telling individual committees what each must do to fulfill the terms of the Budget Resolution. (The House also agreed to hold a separate vote on the bipartisan infrastructure bill no later than September 27). Democratic leadership in both Houses and the White House agreed to the package which they hope to complete by the middle of September. It will be a tight squeeze.
The Administration has nominated a CEO for the Corporation and several Board Members. None have been confirmed by the Senate.
The National Association of RSVP Directors, Inc.
May 13, 2021
The attention of official Washington is focused on infrastructure. The Biden Administration is seeking Congressional approval for two legislative initiatives called The American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan. If enacted these will cost the trillions of dollars and would address the nation’s aging infrastructure and invest in human capital.
The infrastructure initiative would address highways, bridges, ports, airports, and transit systems, as well as improve water quality, upgrade the electric grid, and expand access to high-speed broadband. The proposal would also build, preserve, and retrofit millions of homes, commercial buildings, schools, childcare facilities, Veterans’ hospitals, and federal buildings.
The American Families Plan would also provide two free years of community college for millions of Americans and universal access to high-quality, free Pre-K for 3- and 4- year-olds. It would lower college costs for low-and middle- income students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs), increase in Pell Grants and allow DREAMers to access the funding, provide support to students to increase retention and completion; and a $9 billion investment to strengthen teacher pipelines and address shortages, increase the number of teachers of color, and support the growth of teachers.
The proposal aims to cap the amount of money a family would pay for comprehensive paid family and medical leave, expand nutrition assistance, including school meal programs and the summer nutrition benefit program, for children and families, and invest $3 billion in maternal health.
Finally, the package includes a series of tax provisions intended to lift low-income Americans out of poverty.
While there is a bipartisan consensus that we need to invest in “traditional infrastructure” there is much less agreement on how to pay for it (the Administration proposes to raise taxes on the very wealthy and Republicans in the Senate preferring other mechanisms). There seems to be no possibility of a bipartisan agreement on the investment in human capital.
When written, these will be very complicated pieces of legislation and will probably take several months to wend their way through Congress.
National Service Legislation
There has been activity on the national service front. Senator Chris Coons (D-DE) and Senator Roger Wicker (R-MS), and 15 of the colleagues from both parties, have announced their intention to reintroduce the CORPS Act (Cultivating Opportunity and Recovery from the Pandemic Through Service). While several of the cosponsors referenced senior corps programs in their published remarks, the bill appears to focus on expanding AmeriCorps state and national programs. The Bill’s seventh finding is the following: “(7) The signature programs of the Corporation or National and Community Service, which are the AmeriCorps State and National, AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps, AmeriCorps Volunteers in Service to America (referred to in this Act as ‘‘VISTA’’), and National Senior Service Corps programs, can and should be expanded to meet current needs.”
The only provisions of law affecting Senior Corps programs are that individuals age 45 or older [to] be enrolled as volunteers to redefine the terms ‘‘low-income person’’ and ‘‘person of low income’’ to mean a person whose income is not more than 400 percent of the poverty line.
According to Sen. Coons’ office, key features of the bill include:
· Authorizing $8 billion to fund national service positions during a recovery period through fiscal year 2024 to grow programs to meet the scale of critical challenges. These resources could also enable more robust recruitment and awareness campaigns and enable an expansion of the Volunteer Generation Fund.
· Envisioning corps members providing a broad range of social services to support our recovery efforts consistent with the programs’ existing activities and expertise, such as: assisting educators in helping students overcome learning loss; expanding services at food banks and delivery services that combat nutrition insecurity; supporting outreach efforts to those experiencing homelessness; and promoting conservation, environmental resiliency, and natural resource preservation.
· Ensuring that service provides meaningful opportunity during the organizations that have not previously hosted AmeriCorps participants;
permitting short-term or seasonal terms of service throughout the year;
waiving the match requirement for AmeriCorps State & National programs, and temporarily broadening eligibility criteria for some Senior Corps programs.
• Prioritizing funding for: entities serving communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and using culturally competent and multilingual strategies; and community-based organizations in rural or high-poverty areas or Tribal communities, especially where they propose to recruit participants to serve in their own communities.
We will continue to track this bill when Congress considers it.
The Corporation Board
The Administration announced its intention to nominate three people to serve on the Corporation’s board. They are:
Cynthia Hogan who in 1991, joined the staff of United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary, serving as counsel, staff director, and then chief counsel until 1996. From 2009 to 2013, Cynthia served as Deputy Assistant to the President and Counsel to the Vice President of the United States of America. In 2014, Hogan joined the National Football League as Senior Vice President of Public Policy. In 2016, she joined Apple as Vice President for Public Policy and Government Affairs for the Americas. She resigned from Apple in 2020. In April 2020, then candidate Joe Biden asked Hogan to serve on a committee he formed to assist in the selection of a Vice Presidential candidate.
Catherine McLaughlin who serves as the founding Executive Director of the Biden Institute at the University of Delaware. Prior to joining the Biden Institute, McLaughlin served as the Executive Director of Harvard University’s Institute of Politics for 22 years, where she oversaw all programming including the JFK Jr Forum, the resident and visiting fellows program, and national conferences for new-elected mayors and members of Congress. She previously served as Tour Manager for the Boston-based band New Kids on the Block and as director of the Office of Alumni Affairs and coordinator in the Press and Public Liaison Offices at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. McLaughlin has her B.A. from Saint Anselm College, where she currently serves as a member of the board of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.
Shirley Sagawa, an architect of AmeriCorps. Over the last three decades, she has developed innovative social and education policy, authored groundbreaking reports, and advised national organizations and foundations on strategy. She has served as a presidential appointee in both democratic and republican administrations. She served as First Lady Hillary Clinton’s policy assistant and deputy chief of staff and helped lead the start up of the Corporation for National and Community Service for President Bill Clinton. Sagawa is author of three books, including The American Way to Change and The Charismatic Organization. She holds degrees from Harvard Law School, London School of Economics, and Smith College.
The nominations require Senate confirmation.
New Strategic Plan
The Corporation has begun work on a new Strategic Plan and is seeking comment from the field. NARSVPD will submit comments on the plan.
NARSVPD is preparing testimony to submit to the House and Senate Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittees in support of its FY 2022 funding request of $63 million.
The National Association of RSVP Directors, Inc.
March 18, 2021
New Resources, new possibilities.
We encourage RSVP programs to be on alert to new resources that you might be able to utilize and take advantage of in order to help your volunteers, your RSVP program and your community.
First a summary of the American Rescue Plan:
On March 11, 2021, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan (ARP). The law includes $1.9 TRILLION for COVID-relief. We thought you might get questions about the bill and how it affects your volunteers and your communities. This summarizes major provisions of the law.
First, and foremost, the ARP includes an additional $1 billion for National Service programs, including $30 million for Senior Corps programs. The Corporation’s leadership is working to determine how these funds will be allocated.
In addition, the law has $360 billion in aid to states, localities, tribes, and US territories, many of which will improve access to health care and increase economic security for older adults, especially lower-income older adults. These include:
Tax Relief and other payments. Individuals with adjusted gross incomes up to $75,000 ($112,500 for Head-of-Household and $150,000 married filing jointly) are eligible for the full stimulus payment of $1,400 each and $1,400 for each dependent, including adult dependents. The amount of the stimulus payment phases out to zero for individuals making $80,000 or more ($120,000 for Head-of-Household filers, $160,000 for married couples).
Individuals with Social Security numbers are eligible to receive the payment.
Individuals who live in skilled nursing facilities, assisted living facilities, prisons, and other institutional settings are also eligible to receive the payments. Individuals who file taxes using an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) or are undocumented immigrants remain ineligible.
Recipients of Social Security, SSI, railroad retirees, and those receiving Veterans benefits will receive their payments automatically. Those with no taxable income who do not file tax returns, or who are not in one of the categories listed above, will need to submit a form to the IRS to receive this payment.
Stimulus payments will not affect eligibility for federal means-tested programs like Medicaid, SSI, and SNAP. Those who did not receive the first or second stimulus payment, but are eligible, can still claim the payment on their 2020 tax return.
Unemployment Insurance. The law extends the $300/week federal increase to unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021. It also makes the first $10,200 of unemployment insurance received in 2020 non-taxable for households with an adjusted gross income under $150,000.
Paid Leave. ARP extends the period of time in which employers who voluntarily provide paid leave can receive a payroll tax credit through September 30, 2021. It increases the total amount of wages an employer can claim for credit to $12,000 per employee. This tax credit applies to paid leave that employers offer for employees affected by COVID-19 including getting the COVID-19 vaccine.
Earned Income Tax Credit. Beginning in tax year 2021, the law increases the maximum earned income tax credit (EITC) from $530 to $1,500 for childless workers up to age 64 and raises the income limit for the credit from $16,000 to approximately $21,000.
Housing Assistance. The law includes increased funding for housing assistance including emergency rental assistance; funding for housing vouchers; tribal and rural assistance; homelessness assistance; and homeowner assistance to prevent foreclosure.
Utility Assistance. The law includes $4.5 billion to provide energy assistance through the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and $500 million for water assistance through the Low- Income Household Drinking Water & Wastewater Emergency Assistance Program.
Food Assistance. The law extends the 15% increase in SNAP benefits through September 30, 2021, funds grants to Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and America Samoa. and provides additional SNAP administrative funds to states. It also includes funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program that acts to improve the health and nutrition of low-income individuals over 60 years old and for nutrition programs under the Older Americans Act.
Child Tax Credit. The law expands the child tax credit so that qualifying families will receive up to $3,000 per child aged 6-17 or $3,600 per child under 6.
Medicaid HCBS. The law increases federal Medicaid funding to states to $12.7 billion specifically for home and community-based services (HCBS).
Nursing Homes. The law includes funding for states to create strike teams for resident and employee safety in nursing facilities and funding to develop and disseminate protocols to prevent or mitigate COVID-19 in skilled nursing facilities.
Increased Vaccination Funding. ARP enhances funding for vaccination efforts, including targeted funding to reach communities of color, tribes, rural areas, and other underserved communities to establish vaccine sites and deploy mobile vaccination units. The law also requires states to cover COVID-19 testing, treatment, vaccines, and vaccine administration for uninsured individuals, including immigrants eligible for emergency Medicaid.
Marketplace Premium Assistance. The law expands and increases premium assistance for individuals purchasing health insurance on the marketplace for the next two years. Under the law, no one will have to pay more than 8.5% of their income on the marketplace. This change particularly helps older adults under age 65 with moderate incomes who pay increased premiums based on age. Additionally, individuals with incomes below 150% of the federal poverty level will pay no premiums and anyone who receives unemployment benefits in 2021 will be able to purchase a silver plan on the marketplace with no premium.
COBRA Premium Assistance. The law provides a new 60-day enrollment period and 100% coverage of premiums for COBRA insurance for individuals who lost or lose employment through September 30, 2021.
Aging and Disability Services. The law provides increased funding for programs under the Older Americans Act including supportive services, including COVID-19 vaccine outreach and coordination and efforts to address social isolation; services for Native American communities; evidence-based health promotion and disease prevention programs; and, the National Family Caregiver Support Program, The law also includes funding for the Elder Justice Act and grants to public transit systems to improve transportation access for older adults and people with disabilities.
National Center for Grandfamilies. The law provides funding to create a new technical assistance center for grandfamilies and kinship families to provide training, technical assistance, and resources to government programs, community-based organizations, and Tribes and Tribal organizations that serve grandfamilies and kinship families in which the primary caregiver is an adult age 55 or older or the child has one or more disabilities.
Native American Language Preservation. The law includes $20 million for Native American elders to preserve Native American languages that have diminished due to COVID-19.
Community Health Centers & Indian Health Service. ARP includes $7.6 billion in funding for Community Health Centers to respond to COVID-19 and $.3.5 billion for the Indian Health Service.
Farmworker Equity. The law includes assistance to support disadvantaged farmers with financial training, property issues, training the next generation of farmers, and with land access. It is estimated that one quarter of disadvantaged farmers are Black.
For additional information see:
Justice in Aging: justiceinaging.org
National Low-Income Housing Coalition: nlihc.org
National Council on Aging: ncoa.org
Rural Transportation Grant Opportunity
The FTA-funded TA Center, the National Rural Transit Assistance Program (NRTAP) www.nationalrtap.org, just announced their Community Rides Grant Program RFP. Current recipients and subrecipients of FTA’s Formula Grants for Rural Areas (Section 5311) program have the opportunity to apply for these grants of up to $100,000 for projects that develop or strengthen transportation partnerships that improve social determinants of health in rural and tribal communities. The project duration is fifteen (15) months. FTA’s Tribal Transit Program (TTP) grantees are also eligible, as TTP is a set-aside from the Section 5311 Rural program.
For detailed information, download the Community Rides Grant Program Request for Proposals (RFP) here. Two webinars will be held to answer questions and provide an overview of the request for proposals (RFP) and the online grant application portal, which will open by April 7, 2021. The webinars will also feature speakers who will share examples of transportation partnerships and lessons learned.
FCC Launches Emergency Broadband Benefit Program
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has launched an Emergency Broadband Benefit Program to help households struggling to pay for internet service during the pandemic. This new benefit will connect eligible households to jobs, critical healthcare services, and virtual classrooms.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit will provide a discount of up to $50 per month towards broadband service for eligible households and up to $75 per month for households on Tribal lands. Eligible households can also receive a one-time discount of up to $100 to purchase a laptop, desktop computer, or tablet from participating providers if they contribute $10-$50 toward the purchase price.
The Emergency Broadband Benefit is limited to one monthly service discount and one device discount per household.
A household is eligible if one member of the household:
Qualifies for the Lifeline program;
Receives benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision, or did so in the 2019-2020 school year;
Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year;
Experienced a substantial loss of income since February 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers; or
Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating providers' existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
The program has been authorized by the FCC, but the start date has not yet been established. The FCC is working to make the benefit available as quickly as possible. Please continue to check the program webpage for updates.
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The National Association of RSVP Directors, Inc.
February 10, 2021
RSVP Washington Update
Washington is beginning to tackle the Biden agenda and at the top of the Administration’s list of priorities is a $1.9 trillion multi-faceted approach to COVID relief that will be considered in the Congress through a process called Budget Reconciliation.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), “this process allows for expedited consideration of certain tax, spending, and debt limit legislation. In the Senate, reconciliation bills aren’t subject to filibuster and the scope of amendments is limited, giving this process real advantages for enacting controversial budget and tax measures.”
Each Committee of the House and Senate is called upon to meet certain targets determined by their respective Budget Committees. The products of each Committee’s work is then packaged and presented to the Congress for a vote. Importantly, Reconciliation requires only a majority vote (51 votes) to pass the Senate, instead of the 60 votes it usually takes to pass important bills.
Yesterday, the House Education and Labor Committee, which has jurisdiction over Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) programs, met to consider its portion of the Reconciliation bill. Its package includes the following provision:
“Section 2210. Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Service Trust. Provides $1,000,000,000 to the Corporation for National and Community Service and the National Service trust to support an increase in AmeriCorps volunteers to respond to communities impacted by COVID-19 such as helping schools safely reopen and tackling the growing hunger crisis. Grants will be prioritized based on grantees located in and recruiting from communities disproportionately impacted by COVID-19 and taking into account the diversity of communities and participants served by such entities, including racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, linguistic, or geographic diversity.”
The breakdown includes:
· $620M for AmeriCorps State and National
· $80M for VISTA,
· $148M for the National Service Trust Fund,
· $30M for Senior Corps,
· $20M for State Service Commissions,
· $20M for the Volunteer Generation Fund, and,
· $83 million for CNCS Salaries and Expenses and an increase in funding for the Inspector General.
The bill does not indicate how this $30 million would be allocated among the three programs.
This funding is to remain in effect through Fiscal Year 2024.
The House schedule calls for a vote on the entire $1.9 trillion package by February 22.
There is a long way to go before enactment, including policy and procedural hurdles, but it is important that Congress recognizes that National Service, including Senior programs, has a role to play in combatting the pandemic.
The Senate will soon consider its own version of Budget Reconciliation.
PLEASE RESPOND TO OUR SURVEY
We have asked programs to let us know if they have volunteers who are serving in COVID-related activities (see below). We’ve heard from about 20 of you. If you have not already done so, please take a few minutes to answer these questions and send your responses to Gene Sofer, our Washington Representative, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Are any volunteers engaged in COVID-related activities like working at a COVID vaccine center or clinic? Doing COVID-related education?
2. If so, how many?
3. Have any of them been vaccinated?
4. Please specify the nature of their service?
Again send your response to our Washington Representative, Gene Sofer at email@example.com