Tag Archive: Congress

  1. An Update on the Census

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    The 2020 Census has come and passed, but the data and results from the surveys are still being tabulated.

    Last spring and summer, Census officials worked diligently to make sure we counted each and every person living in the United States. Since young children are the most missed demographic group in the Census, Research Director Lauren Snellings served as a trusted voice and advocate as a member of the Complete Count Commission, ensuring that each child in Virginia was counted. An accurate count makes sure that Virginia get its share in funding for government programs like SNAP and WIC, determines where we build new hospitals, schools, and roads, and even informs the boundaries for our legislative districts. 

    Now that collecting the survey data is complete, the Census Bureau is working on processing the data which involves data verification that results in final population numbers being sent to President Biden. After population totals are delivered to the president, the process continues on to demographic data at a smaller geography that is used to inform the redistricting process in the state. 

    If this were a typical decade, we would be on the verge of delivering the first round of redistricting data from the 2020 Census,” said James Whitehorne, Chief of the Redistricting and Voting Rights Data Office. “Our original plan was to deliver the data in state groupings starting February 18, 2021 and finishing by March 31, 2021.

    However this is not a normal decade and the pandemic has significantly delayed timelines. The deadline to get state population counts to the president is now April 30 and the data needed to inform the redistricting process in Virginia — including count of population by race, ethnicity, voting age, housing occupancy status, and group questions population at the census block level — won’t be available until at least September 30.

    Concerns of racial gerrymandering, following the congressional districts drawn from the previous census, has changed the way in which new boundaries will be drawn this time around. On November 3, 2020, Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment establishing a commission-driven congressional and state legislative redistricting process. This commission is comprised of 16 members, including eight legislators and eight non-legislator members. 

    Due to the delay in getting redistricting data to the commission, it appears that the upcoming General Election this fall will be run on existing boundaries; however, this has still yet to be determined. Groups like the VA Counts Coalition, led by the Virginia Civic Engagement Table, are working hard to hold the redistricting committee accountable and advocate for greater transparency into the process.

    Learn more about the KIDS COUNT Data Center and subscribe to receive data emails.

  2. FAMIS: A Success Story That’s in Jeopardy

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    ***UPDATE*** 1/6/15    Sign on letter for organizations supporting extension of funding for FAMIS

    FAMIS, the public health insurance program for low-income families, along with Medicaid, has helped reduce the number of uninsured children in Virginia by 24% from 2008 to 2013. Comprehensive, child-centered benefits and affordable cost-sharing with families make FAMIS an effective means of ensuring that children in low-income, working families grow up getting the preventive and primary health care they need to thrive. Both Republicans and Democrats have championed this public health success for kids in Virginia.

    Without action by Congress, however, funding for the entire Children’s Health Insurance Program (which we call FAMIS in Virginia), will expire at the end of September 2015. If this happens, it will be left up to each state to take over the entire cost of insuring these children (the federal government currently covers 67% of the cost) or discontinue the program, leaving an estimated 104,000 Virginia children without insurance. It is unlikely Virginia would take over full financing of the program, as the federal assistance is built into the FY15-FY16 state budget, and the Commonwealth already faces a deficit.

    Loss of the FAMIS program would essentially double the number of uninsured children in the Commonwealth. According to a new report released today by the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families, “Children’s Coverage at A Crossroads: Progress Slows,” 5.4% of the Commonwealth’s children, or more than 101,000 kids, remain uninsured.

    “Without a renewed commitment to children’s health coverage, we are concerned that the progress we’ve made for children will stall,” said Joan Alker, executive director of the Georgetown University Center for Children and Families. You can listen to a Virginia News Connection story about the report here.

    In Virginia, Gov. Terry McAuliffe has already taken action to increase outreach efforts to low-income families throughout the state. As part of his September 2014 Healthy Virginia report, Gov. McAuliffe announced additional funding to reach families who may be eligible for FAMIS but are not aware of the program, or who need help applying. According to the Department of Medical Assistance Services, this outreach has already begun in Southwest Virginia, an important area to target since 22% of the uninsured kids in Virginia live in rural areas.

    Child advocates must focus on educating Congress about the importance of refunding CHIP before the program expires. This will ensure that Virginia’s low-income working families do not lose the comprehensive health coverage they now have for their children. Voices is partnering with the Virginia Oral Health Coalition, the Virginia Poverty Law Center, The Commonwealth InstituteVirginia Organizing, and many others to advocate on this issue. Stay tuned for details on how you can take action!

    Would your organization like to join the coalition? Contact Ashley Everette at ashley@vakids.org.

  3. Federal Issues: What candidates should be talking about

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    If you’ve watched television, surfed the internet, or listened to the radio lately, you know we’re in the midst of campaign season. Ads from the presidential candidates as well as those for U.S. Congress are flooding the airwaves. How often do you hear the candidates talk about children’s issues? Or specifically about children’s mental health?

    At Voices for Virginia’s Children, we’re trying to make sure that candidates discuss the issues that are important to the children and families of Virginia. We are providing information about key children’s issues at the federal level to Virginia’s candidates for the Senate: Democrat Tim Kaine and Republican George Allen. The Campaign for Children’s Mental Health is a major initiative of Voices, so we want to make sure that these and other Virginia candidates for federal office understand children’s mental health issues. After all, 1 in 5 kids have mental health disorders, and only 20% of THOSE kids are getting the treatment they need. When you think about how many adults care about those kids, that’s a lot of voters!

    We’ve compiled a one page document on federal issues outlining three key issues to which candidates need to pay attention:

    Looming budget cuts: If Congress fails to take action by year’s end, sequestration will take effect, and Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies will take a minimum of a 7.8% cut. This affects children’s mental health because funding for the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) will be cut, affecting how much money states get for children’s mental health services both through the Mental Health Block Grant and the Children’s Mental Health Initiative. A current HHS budget proposal by the House would cut SAMHSA’s budget by $552 million of fiscal year 2012. Access to mental health services is already difficult in Virginia; these types of budget cuts will make it even less likely that children will get the treatment they need.

    Future of the Affordable Care Act: ACA has many provisions that make it easier for children with mental health disorders to receive treatment, including:

    • Providing access to insurance for children with pre-existing conditions
    • Providing free preventive care, including counseling for depression and well-child checkups where primary care doctors can help identify any mental health challenges
    • Eliminating lifetime limits on insurance coverage of essential benefits and regulating annual limits; this is important for children who have experienced multiple hospital stays in an effort to stabilize their mental health condition.

    Giving parents the choice of moving kids out of residential treatment facilities for treatment: Virginia is one of nine states that has had a Children’s Mental Health Demonstration Waiver since 2007. Without Congressional action, the waiver program will expire this September. The waiver program — part of Medicaid — needs to be continued because it allows children to be treated in their communities rather than in a psychiatric residential facility when they have intense treatment needs.

    Read more details in our one page document on federal issues. Then, when the candidates for federal office appear in your district, you’ll be prepared to ask them what they will do about the 1 in 5 kids in Virginia with a mental health disorder.

    Questions? Contact Margaret Nimmo Crowe, Campaign Coordinator



    Photo of the U.S. Capitol by Peter Griffin, available at http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=3319&picture=us-capitol.