Key finding: “The House Republicans’ proposal would reduce 2011 real GDP growth by 0.5% and 2012 growth by 0.2 percentage points This would mean some 400,000 fewer jobs created by the end of 2011 and 700,000 fewer jobs by the end of 2012.”
Furthermore, the report claims “a government shutdown lasting longer than a couple of weeks would do much more damage to the economy.”
Not only do the cuts harm children, they will threaten the economic recovery and cost jobs. Why are we doing this again?Share on Facebook
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 16 states have proposed identifiable cuts in support for public schools. In many cases, these cuts undermine school finance systems that are intended to reduce disparities between high-wealth and low-wealth school districts, so the largest impacts may be felt in communities that are least able to compensate for the loss of funds from their own resources. (These cuts are in addition to education cuts already implemented in at least 34 states since the recession began.)
This has been a major week for the funding of children’s programs in the federal budget. We want to give you a breakdown of what is being debated and what you can do to fight some of the bad decisions many in Congress want to make.
On October 1st of last year, the fiscal year 2011 began. The Congress did not pass a budget funding government programs. Instead they passed what is known as a “continuing resolution” that funds programs at essentially the same level they were in 2010. This resolution will expire on March 4th. Congress needs to pass final legislation that will fund the government until September 30th of this year. The fiscal year for 2012 will begin on October 1st of this year.
What the Congress is Currently Considering
The House of Representatives recently proposed a series of cuts to the budget for this year. Last week we told you about how they proposed $32 billion in cuts – including to the Maternal and Child Health Block Grant, the Women Infants and Children’s (WIC) program, community health centers, poison control centers, and other children’s programs. This was not enough for some members of the House, particularly those who associate with the conservative “Tea Party” movement. On Friday night, a day and time known by government officials as the best to release information that they know will get the least amount of media coverage, the Appropriations Committee offered an addition $42 billion in cuts. These include:
Many other children programs will be eliminated entirely. Some examples include:
The House could include even more cuts as they debate this resolution.
These cuts are wrong on many levels. They harm children at a vulnerable time in their development. The economy remains in recession and an all-time record number of children (14,567,000) currently live in poverty. Cuts like this would mean that 368,000 low income 3 and 4 year olds would lose the education and nutrition program they receive at their Head Start center. The education cuts, along with others being made in states, would leave thousands of teachers out of jobs this year. Many in Washington say these cuts are needed to reduce the deficit. However, these cuts would take only 2% off this year’s projected deficit. So essentially, these cuts harm children and don’t solve America’s fiscal challenges.
What You Can Do
Contact your member of the House and Senators and tell them you oppose these cuts and why. They will listen to you. The original House proposal included a $210 million cut to the Maternal and Child Block Grant. When they heard from people opposed to this, the Republicans reduced their cut to $50 million. Many are not fully supportive of all these cuts. When they reduce these cuts, they are showing just how much discomfort they have. Click here to contact your representatives. Some suggestions when you get a hold of someone in their office:
What Happens Next
Even if the House of Representative passes all of these cuts to the budget for this year, the Senate has their say as well. Senator Daniel Inouye of Hawaii, the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, has slammed these cuts, saying “they would impede the federal government from completing even its most core functions.” President Obama has threatened to veto these cuts. This debate will continue throughout the year.
At some point, Congress will begin debating the budget for next year. This week, President Obama released his budget for 2012. Overall, it contains a small increase to children’s programs. Not all programs receive an increase. The President proposed cuts in juvenile justice, heating assistance for low-income families, and community service programs. He makes up for this with increases in Head Start, afterschool programs, child nutrition, child health, and education programs. We will let you know much more about this proposal for next year, but the main business in Washington is to fight the cuts the House want to make to children’s programs right now.Share on Facebook
According to a recent report by our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a number of Republican governors, citing state budget problems, have asked Congress to repeal these “maintenance of effort” provisions so that they can reduce Medicaid and State Child Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) expenditures by covering fewer people.
The Affordable Care Act requires states to maintain their current Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program eligibility standards until 2014, when new, nationwide Medicaid eligibility standards take effect and state-based health insurance exchanges will begin operating.
Repealing the maintenance-of-effort provision would almost certainly result in a sharp increase in the number of Americans who are uninsured, as states scale back eligibility for low-income children, parents, seniors, and/or people with serious disabilities — the principal groups of people whom Medicaid covers. During the recession of the early 2000s, some 34 states cut back Medicaid and CHIP eligibility — causing 1.2 million to 1.6 million low-income adults and children to lose coverage — before Congress acted to prevent states from making further eligibility cuts as a condition of receipt of federal fiscal assistance enacted in 2003.
State budget shortfalls are substantially larger today than in those years; states face estimated shortfalls of about $125 billion for state fiscal year 2012, which begins on July 1 in most states. In addition, many governors have said they oppose any revenue increases to help close these shortfalls, despite the magnitude of the budget gaps. If the maintenance-of-effort provision is repealed now, the number of low-income Americans cut off Medicaid and cast into the ranks of the uninsured will likely far outstrip the number who lost insurance in the early 2000s. Arizona alone is seeking to end Medicaid coverage for 280,000 people.
Large numbers of children could lose coverage. Most states do not cover large numbers of parents and childless adults. Should the maintenance-of-effort provisions be repealed, these states likely would curtail eligibility for children (and seniors and people with disabilities) since that is the only way they could generate substantial savings by curtailing Medicaid eligibility. All states cover children with incomes above Medicaid’s minimum eligibility levels, either through Medicaid or CHIP. Almost every state covers children with incomes up to 200 percent of the poverty line. Most cover children with incomes up to at least 250 percent of poverty.
These eligibility standards have produced strong results. They kept the number and percentage of children who were uninsured from rising in 2009 despite the severe recession. The proportion of children covered by Medicaid and CHIP increased by 3.5 percentage points in 2009, offsetting a comparable percentage decline in employer coverage for children.
This is going to be a dangerous year for children and families who receive government services. They face attack on many fronts – the budget cuts proposed by House Republicans at the federal level, and budget cuts proposed by Governors to K-12 education, higher education, and other children’s and youth programs.Share on Facebook
Democracy Corps, a project of political consultants James Carville and Stan Greenberg, released a poll this week that shows voters strongly opposed to budget cuts being proposed by House Republicans. The chart below shows opposition to these cuts when voters learn about the impact on children, youth, women, and families.
How much more simple can this be? Voters do support the idea of cutting $32 billion from the federal budget in the abstract (50% favor-33% oppose). However, when they learn about specific cuts being proposed, support collapses. 50% are opposed (a gain of 17 points) with only 43% in favor. Voters need to know what the House Republican leadership wants to do. It is the only way to stop these stupid and short-sighted cuts.Share on Facebook
The health care reform last year was designed to benefit children and families immediately by banning insurance companies from denying coverage to children with pre-existing conditions and requiring insurance companies to allow parents to keep their children on their plan until they turn 26. However, insurance companies are finding ways to get around the intention of the law.
The requirement that children under 19 be granted insurance regardless of preexisting conditions has caused Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida and many other insurers to stop offering child-only coverage.
Insurers fear they will lose money because parents might sign up for coverage only when their children become sick. That is scheduled to change in 2014, when the law requires that virtually everyone have health insurance.
On the other hand, there is little challenge to requiring employers to insure employees’ children up until the age of 26. They believe cost increases will be minimal.
Insurance companies believe that families have an incentive to not have their children covered until they become sick. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida still covers all children when families sign up for policies, but has stopped offering the individual child policies. Their Vice President of Regulatory Affairs said she has heard that insurers in 29 states have stopped offering kids-only policies.
“Some people believe that insurers make money by avoiding sick people,” said Alan Sager, a healthcare policy expert at Boston University. But he said he also understands insurers’ fear of accepting all children before the 2014 mandate requires almost everyone to get insurance. Tackling a single piece of reform “in isolation” can be difficult, he acknowledged.
This all shows that the road towards universal coverage for children will be a long one. Even regulations requiring insurance companies to cover children with pre-existing conditions does not mean they will until the federal government closes all loopholes that would allow them to do this. On the positive side, we are happy to see that extending coverage to those between 18 and 26 on their parents’ plan is noncontroversial and being implemented across the country.Share on Facebook
A program that helps low-income Americans afford energy, particular during the type of harsh winters many are experiencing in different parts of the country, is poised to be used as a political football. On Wednesday, the National Journal reported that President Obama’s proposed 2012 budget will cut several billion dollars from the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. The program would see funding drop by about $2.5 billion from an authorized 2009 total of $5.1 billion.
In 2010, Obama’s omnibus budget resolution assigned roughly $5 billion in LIHEAP grants for 2011. According to the National Journal, the rationale was that at a time of acute economic crisis and rising commodity prices, a little federal assistance to those in need was politically defensible.
On Wednesday, the House Appropriations Committee proposed a $400 million cut to the program. Both sides are playing silly political games with this program. Last year, when President Obama proposed a $1.8 billion cut to the program (from $5.1 billion in 2010 to a proposed $3.3 billion level) before agreeing to $5 billion in the omnibus spending bill that currently funds the government for this year. While the President is presenting this as a “tough cut” needed to show his intent to “control spending”, he is not offering anything different than he offered last year. And the House Republicans are offering $32 billion in budget cuts to “reduce the deficit”, cuts including the LIHEAP program, their plans reduces the deficit by less than 2% this year (a deficit slated to be $1.5 billion).
It is reasonable for America’s children and families to expect an honest debate about their needs and the government’s responsibility to provide services. Instead, they are getting spin and intellectual dishonesty from Washington DC where proposals have nothing to do with what they actually need and should expect to receive from their government. The proposals also do not accomplish what those proposing them say they will do. Expect this to continue throughout the year.Share on Facebook
As part of their effort to cut $32 billion dollars from this year’s budget, the House Appropriations Committee previewed a series of cuts they plan to make. Programs for children and pregnant women feature prominently in these cuts along with cuts to local law enforcement, clean water, poison control, and many other programs that protect the safety of American’s food, water, and property. While House GOP’s are stepping up efforts to roll back reproductive rights, one has to assume they really believe that government’s obligation to children ends at conception. Some lowlights:
These cuts are simply idiotic. They will not make children smarter, healthier, or safer. They represent the failure of adults in Washington to make smart choices about the future. Congress and the Obama Administration reached a deal to add $400+ billion to the deficit by extending the Bush tax cuts. It’s irresponsible to cut these programs to pay for these tax cuts.
* These cuts are measured from President Obama’s 2011 budget proposal. In some cases the amount requested for the program is higher than the funding level for 2010 and what is currently being funded through through the continuing resolution process currently in place. The President’s budget does not represent anything other than the desires of the President since any spending authorization must be introduced in the House. So not only are the Republicans cutting vital programs for children, they are also lying to their supporters by implying the total amount of their cuts represent their campaign promises. They don’t.Share on Facebook
We have noted the states cuts being proposed by Governors across the country. Today, we are going to look at some of the health care, mental health, and child care cuts Governors are offering. Both at the federal level and the state level, children are being asked to pay for the mistakes made by adults. Education, health care, and safety programs have been cut consistently for years now in states and various members of Congress are proposing federal cuts that will dramatically reduce these programs as well. State cuts being proposed include:
On Friday, we noted the cuts Governors are making to K-12 education as a result of budget shortfalls in their states. These are continuation of cuts states have made for several years now since the economic slowdown began in 2007. Today we are going to look at cuts being proposed in higher education. While not impacting children directly, these cuts will make it harder for today’s children to get affordable higher education and will harm our economy in the future. Higher education cuts being proposed include: