On June 8, the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee’s Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) introduced the Increasing Opportunity through Evidence-Based Home Visiting Act (H.R. 2824), a bill that would reauthorize the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program at the current level of $400 million per year for Fiscal Years (FYs) 2018 through 2022. MIECHV is currently set to expire at the end of September 2017.
The MIECHV program, which has bipartisan support, was established in 2010 through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and is administered jointly by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF). MIECHV facilitates collaboration and partnership at the federal, state and local levels to improve the health of at-risk children through evidence-based home visiting programs. Specifically, the home visiting programs reach pregnant women, expectant fathers, and parents and caregivers of children under the age of five.
MIECHV has provided more than 2.3 million visits to families living in poverty across all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. The program uses evidence-based benchmarks including improving maternal and newborn health; reducing child injuries, abuse and neglect; improving school readiness and achievement; reducing crime and domestic violence; improving family economic self-sufficiency; and improving coordination of and referral to other community resources.
Below are several notable provisions included in H.R. 2824:
- New 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;
- New requirements for improvement in the “self-efficiency” benchmark to include measures of employment, earnings and receipt of means-tested benefits to gauge the impact of home visiting programs on these outcomes. Some requirements, including work, earnings and receipt of welfare, were originally eliminated in guidance issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS); and
- New language that would allow home visiting programs, which have shown significant positive results, to be eligible for MIECHV funding and be implemented at additional sites.
NACo policy supports funding for home visitation programs that ensure infants, toddlers and their caregivers can take advantage of the program’s continuum of services at an earlier age. Early childhood development programs may reduce the need for chronic health care services, utilization of child welfare programs, juvenile justice measures and public assistance. NACo supports federal initiatives to help counties develop and expand voluntary early childhood and parent education programs.