House passes bill to reauthorize home visiting program

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Funding for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, a federal-state partnership used by counties to enhance early childhood development, expired last week on Sept. 30. Although funding has expired, Congress has not given up on passing legislation to reauthorize the program.

Last week, the House passed two pieces of legislation that would reauthorize MIECHV if enacted.

The first bill, the Increasing Opportunity and Success for Children and Parents through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act (H.R. 2824), would reauthorize MIECHV at its current level of $400 million per year for Fiscal Years (FY) 2018-2022. H.R. 2824 also contains several provisions beyond reauthorizing the program. These include language that would require state and local governments 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.

The second piece of legislation passed by the House, the Control Unlawful Fugitive Felons Act (H.R. 2792), offsets the costs of reauthorizing MIECHV by withholding Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments for individuals with old arrest warrants or other citations that have not been cleared, and uses those payments to pay for MIECHV. NACo has concerns about this pay-for, which would prevent individuals who were not convicted of a crime from receiving disability or retirement payments to which they would otherwise be entitled.

While NACo applauds the House for approving legislation that would reauthorize MIECHV, we are concerned with the state match provision included in H.R. 2824. This provision could create additional financial burdens for county governments that already operate under tight budgetary constraints, and who may be unable to provide a dollar-for-dollar match.

On Sept. 19, the Senate Finance Committee introduced its own bipartisan bill that would reauthorize MIECHV if enacted. S. 1829, the Strong Families Act of 2017, would fund MIECHV at its current level of $400 million per year for FY 2018-2022. Although the Senate bill does contain several provisions included in the House version, such as a needs assessment and pay-for-success strategies, it would not require states to provide matching funds to remain eligible for MIECHV funding.

Now cleared by the House, the combined package of H.R. 2824 and H.R. 2792 will be sent to the Senate for a vote.

NACo will continue to monitor legislative developments on reauthorization of the MIECHV Program.

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