Last week, on September 19, the Strong Families Act of 2017, a bipartisan Senate bill, was introduced reauthorizing the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV).
The legislation, introduced by Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and joined by Sens. Roy Blunt (R-Mont.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Cory Gardner (R-Colo.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), extends MIECHV at its current level of $400 million per year for Fiscal Years 2018 - 2022, and includes similar provisions to the House bill passed last week (H.R. 2824).
The House bill, titled the Increasing Opportunity and Success for Children and Parents through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act, would also reauthorize MIECHV at its current level of $400 million per year for Fiscal Years 2018 - 2022. H.R. 2824 also contains new provisions beyond reauthorizing the program. These include language that would require state and local governments and private organizations to fulfill a dollar-for-dollar match of federal MIECHV funds by FY 2020, “self-sufficiency” benchmarks such as measures of employment and earnings, and language that would allow home visiting programs that show significant positive results to be eligible for MIECHV funding and be implemented at additional sites.
While the Senate bill does adopt several provisions from the House version, such as needs assessment and pay-for-success strategies, it does not include the provision that would require states to match the grant dollar for dollar to remain eligible for MIECHV funding. The matching funds requirement in the House bill could be risky for tribal communities and many other states that are already under tight budgetary restraints.
The two chambers must swiftly reach an agreement to pass the reauthorization bills by September 30, after which funding for the MIECHV program will expire.
Congress established the MIECHV Program in 2010 to facilitate federal, state and local collaboration to improve the health of at-risk children through evidence-based programs. These home visiting programs connect families to necessary services and monitor child developmental progress. MIECHV provides federal funds to support these programs implemented by states and localities. In FY 2017, Congress funded MIECHV at $400 million. Currently, the MIECHV program reaches families in 893 counties. In FY 2016, the MIECHV program funded services in 35 percent of all urban counties and 23 percent of all rural counties. Counties also serve as nearly one-quarter of MIECHV Local Implementing Agencies (LIAs) and play a central role in implementing home visiting programs and delivering vital services to our residents.
NACo policy supports funding for home visitation programs that allow infants, toddlers, parents and caregivers connect to a continuum of services. In addition, early childhood development programs are shown to reduce the need for child welfare programs, juvenile justice measures and chronic healthcare services as children grow older.
NACo will continue to monitor legislative developments on reauthorization of the MIECHV Program.
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