Tag Archive: federal advocacy

  1. Build Back Better: Improving Maternal & Infant Health Disparities 

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    President Joe Biden announced his Build Back Better Framework, a plan that introduces the most transformative investments in children and caregiving in generations. The Build Back Better Framework addresses climate change, expands affordable health care, and strengthens family economic security. December 7, 2021 marked the first-ever White House Maternal Day of Action.

    The United States of America has the highest maternal mortality rates in the developed world. Black women are more than three times as likely to die from pregnancy related complications than White women and Indigenous women are more than twice as likely, regardless of their income or education to die from pregnancy related complications. Pregnant women who reside in rural communities are approximately 60 percent more likely to die before, during, or following birth than women in urban communities.  

    According to data from the Virginia Office of Health Statistics, the rate of fetal death in Virginia in 2019 was 7.6 fetal deaths per every 1,000 live births, which is the lowest it has been since 2015. From 2016-2020, there were a total of 2,723 infant deaths in Virginia. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that the infant mortality rate in Virginia is 5.8 infant deaths per 1,000 live births. Despite lower numbers of fetal deaths, Virginia continues to struggle to decrease disparities for non-White women and infants.

    March of Dimes reported that from 2016-2018, the infant mortality rate for Black infants in Virginia was 9.5 per 1,000 live births as compared to White infants at 4.8 per 1,000 births. According to our Voices’ Racial Truth & Reconciliation Virginia equity impact statement, in 2018, Black women died two and a half times more often than White women. Additionally, non-White and non-Black women experience higher natural fetal death rates 1.5 times higher than their counterparts according to the Virginia Division of Health Statistics.

    Build Back Better (BBB) includes a historic investment of $3 billion dollars in maternal health. $175 million in funding is included in BBB to address social determinants of maternal health ranging from housing and nutrition to environmental conditions. Additionally, the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act includes innovative payment models for non-clinical perinatal support, data collection and quality measure processes, and the investment in digital tools to improve outcomes.

    Once passed, the BBB Act’s policy investments could include:   

    Expanding Postpartum Medicaid Coverage: Currently, states are only required to provide 60 days postpartum coverage through their Medicaid programs, despite research that shows many deaths occur past the 60 days postpartum period. Build Back Better encourages states to pursue a path presented through the American Rescue Plan to provide 12 months of continuous postpartum coverage. If every state adopted the postpartum extension in BBB, the number of Americans gaining access to a full year postpartum coverage would double, extending coverage to approximately 720,000 people.

    Create a new designation of Birthing Friendly Hospital: The Center for Medicaid and Medicare Services plans to propose the “Birthing-Friendly” hospital designation, which would be awarded to hospitals that participate in collaborative programs to improve maternal outcomes and patient safety practices. This designation would be reflected on the “Care Compare” website so that consumers are able to choose the hospital with the most implemented best practices.

    Diversifying Perinatal Workforce: $295 million of funding in BBB is targeted to investing in a diverse perinatal workforce and better coordinated care. The funding proposed in Build Back Better would:

    • Provide over 92,000 perinatal nursing students with loans, scholarships, and programmatic support over a ten-year period.  
    • Additionally, it would provide approximately 30,000 doulas in training with loans, scholarships, and programmatic support over a ten-year period.  
    • Provide over 42,000+ individuals training in maternal mental health or substance use treatment with loans, scholarships, and programmatic support over a ten-year-period.

    Resources for Community-Based Organizations: Allows states to establish maternal health home to better coordinate health care for individuals before, during, and after birth. This also includes training to decrease biases. Build Back Better provides $75 million for community-based organizations working to promote maternal health equity.


    Each year, thousands of women are susceptible to the maternal health crises, which has worsened across two decades, even as rates improve among peer nations. The bill would make investments in improving racial disparities in maternal health outcomes through the investments in the Black Maternal Health Momnibus. Children need healthy parents and caregivers to thrive.

    We urge the Congress to swiftly act on BBB. Take action here to contact your representative and encourage them to support BBB.



  2. Building Back Better for Kids and Families- Update 11.5.21

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    As Congress is poised to act on the social infrastructure agenda known as Build Back Better, we wanted to give a better sense of the transformational impact this legislation will have on kids and families. The goal of Build Back Better is to address the inequities that existed before the pandemic and have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The policies are intentionally designed to target economically disadvantaged children, children of color, and women to provide the resources that have previously been unavailable or unaffordable. These policies will also deliver immediate relief to families by continuing the monthly Child Tax Credit payment for the lowest income families and improves conditions in the long-term by providing more equitable access to child care and prenatal care.

    UPDATE 11.5.21- House of Representatives Vote

    Today the House of Representatives will vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure package and the Build Back Better Act. The Senate has already approved the Infrastructure bill so it will head to the President. The Senate has been given a deadline to approve Build Back Better before Thanksgiving and the contents could change to reach an agreement between the House and Senate. Particularly at risk in the Senate are the paid family leave provisions.    

    Our hope for Build Back Better was that it would provide the three things we heard from families throughout the pandemic that they needed most—child care assistance, flexible cash assistance through the Child Tax Credit, and paid family medical leave. House negotiations and incredible advocates have made it possible to put four weeks of paid family leave back into the bill. It will be critical to continue to speak up to ensure it stays in the Senate version.

    There are many provisions of the Build Back Better plan. Here are some key highlights for children and families:

    Extension of the enhanced Child Tax Credit for one year:

    The new framework keeps the higher payment amounts and fully refundable payments in place for another year. This will allow for the families who previously earned too little to qualify for the benefit to receive assistance and for “little DREAMers” to qualify.  This expansion will impact Black and Latinx children significantly as more than half of the children who were previously excluded for earning too little were children of color. The flexible cash assistance provided through the Child Tax Credit will continue to help families cover basic necessities like food and child care.

    Transformational investments to make child care and preschool more affordable and accessible:

    Congress’s $400 billion investment in child care and preschool will dramatically impact a system that is struggling to recover from the impact of the pandemic and help get mothers back into the workforce. The comprehensive proposal addresses the child care supply and affordability angle from all sides—it reduces parent costs to no more than 7% of income, provides resources to increase early educators compensation, and builds on a mixed-delivery system of public, private, and Head Start programs. With funding specifically for 3’s & 4’s in preschool, this significant investment provides an opportunity to improve the child care assistance policies around the needs of infants and toddlers.

    Child and maternal health improvements to address racial disparities:

    While Virginia lawmakers have already approved the extension of Medicaid eligibility for 12 months postpartum, Build Back Better makes this extension a requirement for states. It also includes all of the provision of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus package, which would support training and diversification of the perinatal workforce, maternal health quality improvements, better data systems to track and identify causes of maternal mortality, investments in historically Black colleges and universities to conduct research into maternal health disparities, and grants to support implicit bias training for frontline health care professionals.

    For children, the legislation would require Virginia to provide 12 months of continuous eligibility for Medicaid and FAMIS. Currently about 5% of children enrolled in Medicaid/FAMIS lose their coverage during the year. It also makes the federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (known as FAMIS in VA) permanent.

    Improvements to nutrition access will keep children from going hungry:

    Build Back better would provide better nutrition access to students by expanding the Summer EBT program allowing eligible families to receive additional assistance to purchase meals during the summer months or while schools are closed. The proposal also strengthens the Community Eligibility Provision that allows schools to opt in to provide free meals to the entire school enrollment.

    House version provides four weeks of paid family medical leave:

    Parents need paid family medical leave after the birth of their children, when kids are sick, to care for other families and to provide for their own health. The U.S. is alone among wealthy nations for not providing a paid family leave program. The House proposal would create a program to offer every worker access to a national paid family medical leave program. Creating a universal program will impact more parents of color working in jobs who currently do not offer paid leave. And importantly, it will give more new parents time off to care for their newborns and for mothers to recover from giving birth.

    More to come…

    While more details are forthcoming, the bill also includes investments in trauma-informed care peer support specialists. here are also provisions on immigration reform and affordable higher education that we are monitoring. It’s now up to Congress to act on or improve on this bill. Watch this space for more detailed information on the proposals. Stay tuned on our blog and sign up for emails to get the latest updates.

  3. Child Tax Credit Awareness

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    The stagnation and lack of change in the childhood poverty rate calls for policy makers to do something dramatic and innovative about it. We are excited that the American Rescue Plan included enhancement to the Child Tax Credit to specifically to address childhood poverty with the goal in mind that the increase in cash assistance to families may be able to cut childhood poverty in half.

    The enhancements to Child Tax Credit include:

    • Increasing the credit amount to $3,600 for kids under 6 and $3,000 for kids over 6;
    • Making the credit refundable and paid directly to families;
    • Offering the credit as an advance payment to families July-December, or a monthly allowance, that will be deposited directly into families’ linked bank accounts;

    The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 86% of children, 1.6 million, will benefit from the enhanced child tax credit in Virginia. And 249,000 kids will be lifted above or closer to the poverty line by the expansion.

    For more info and to access the online tools to update status or file to receive the credit if your family did not have a tax liability, visit ChildTaxCredit.gov.

    Access and download the PDFs below for more information (courtesy of the White House and Annie E. Casey Foundation) by clicking on the thumbnails.

    How policymakers can act to help families experiencing financial hardship and maximize the Child Tax Credit.

    1. During the August Special Session, state lawmakers can dedicate American Rescue Plan resources to improve tax filing outreach and preparation services to ensure non-filers and families with infants receive the credit.
    2. Virginia lawmakers can also provide state level enhancements to the federal tax credits including a refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and a state-level child tax credit.
    3. Congress can act to make the Child Tax Credit permanent adopting the proposal included in President Biden’s American Families Plan.

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  4. Federal Action Needed for Virginia Foster Care Reforms

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    As a nation we have all felt slightly out of control of our lives for the past few months, a lot like children and families involved in the child welfare system. Families unsure of when their children will be returned to them and children adjusting to their new normal in foster care. For to long the foster care system has remained underfunded while also lacking the necessary investments in prevention services to help families before they reach a point where their children need to be removed. COVID-19 made these system failures even greater and with many of the advancements on hold from the 2020 legislative session, we need the Federal government to step in to provide relief to the Virginia Department of Social Services.

    U.S. Senator Tim Kaine hosted a round table discussion to hear directly from advocates.  Sen. Kaine proposed the Emergency Funding for Child Protection Act  which would strengthen systems put in place by the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA). The act would provide $500 million in emergency funds for local child protective services and $1 million for community-based child abuse prevention programs. We need more Federal action to respond to the growing needs in our foster care system.

    Voices Policy Analyst and other advocates join Senator Tim Kaine for a virtual policy roundtable

    The CARES Act provided around $2 million for Virginia’s child welfare system, not nearly enough needed to respond to growing needs. Voices supports the recommendations proposed by Child Welfare League of America listed below for the inclusion of the next stimulus package.

    Federal Priorities for Child Welfare

    1. Increase Chafee Funding by 500 Million.     

    Funds from the John H. Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood can pay for the vital resources and services that young people need immediately and urgently, but have remained at $140 million since its enactment in 1999 and only increased to $143 million this year.  Providing a well overdue increase in funding for Chafee will allow states to meaningfully meet the immediate needs of youth and young adults during this crisis and help support them as they plan for their future past the COVID-19 crisis.

    2. Extend the Age of Eligibility for Chafee Aftercare Services to Age 23 for All Youth. 

    Flexible Chafee funds can be used to meet many of the immediate needs of young people who are still making the transition to adulthood.  These funds can help with immediate needs for housing, food, and other service supports that are so vital at this time.  Congress has acknowledged the wisdom of providing these services to youth until age 23.  Youth in all states should have the benefit of this opportunity for support.   

    3. Suspend Participation Requirements for Young People in Extended Foster Care.

    Suspending the work, school, and program participation requirements for youth in extended foster care will allow youth to remain safe, healthy, and housed.  This action will allow them to continue to receive placement and support services through the COVID-19 crisis so they can stay on track to meet their goals.  Without this action, many youth may be pushed out of the system to homelessness and unsafe situations where their health will be at great risk.  

    4. Place a Moratorium on Discharges from the Foster Care System for Youth Ages 18-21.

    By providing young people the safety and security of maintaining their current living arrangements and services, they will be in the best position to stay healthy and continue working towards their goals for their future.  This additional time and support will help young people and child welfare agencies be able to appropriately plan for a successful transition out of care and into adulthood. 

    5. Allow States to Draw Down Title IV-E funds until a Young Person Reaches Age 22. 

    By allowing states to draw down Title IV-E funds after a young person reaches age 21, states will be encouraged to provide continued services for youth in this time of great need.  This will help ensure that young people are not cut off from housing and services when they need it the most.  It will also ensure that states have the capacity and funds to meet their needs.