Issues / Legislation

Week Ending June 21, 2019

House Extends Important Medicaid Programs   

House Extends Medicaid Programs, Funds Mental Health

The House passed the “Empowering Beneficiaries, Ensuring Access, and Strengthening Accountability Act of 2019” (H.R. 3253) by a vote of 371 to 46.  The bill would extend federal support for two important Medicaid programs and protections for families that rely upon Medicaid’s in-home support and services.

What You Need to Know – The key thing is that the Senate must act quickly on this legislation to ensure that these important Medicaid programs and protections continue without interruption. Please contact your senators as soon as possible to encourage them to support this bill. You can reach the United States Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121.

House Passes Labor-Health, Human Services-Education Funding Bill

This week, the House Appropriations Committee approved the Labor-Health and Human Services-Education (Labor-HHS-Education) funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2020, which starts on Oct. 1. The Labor-HHS-Education funding bill is the most important of the 12 annual appropriations bills for AFSCME members, because it pays for job training, health care, child welfare, services for the elderly, education and other important public services. The House passed three other appropriations bills providing funding for the Defense Department, the State Department, energy and water programs, and other programs.

What You Need to Know: There are still several steps remaining before this legislation is enacted into law. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet released its version of the Labor-HHS-Education bill, which will need to be considered by the Senate Appropriations Committee and the full Senate. Any differences between the House and Senate versions of the legislation will need to be ironed out before the legislation can be sent to the president and enacted into law. Furthermore, Congress will not be able to provide adequate funding unless it reaches a deal to increase spending limits (often referred to as “budget caps”) established by previously passed legislation. Without a new agreement, FY 2020 spending on Labor-HHS-Education programs will be cut by $55 billion. AFSCME continues to support an agreement to increase spending limits and to ensure that the critical programs supporting the work of AFSCME members are adequately funded.

The Universal Child Care Act Introduced

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) and Rep. Deb Haaland (D-New Mexico) introduced the “Universal Child Care and Early Learning Act” (S. 1878 and H.R. 3315) to establish a network of federally funded and locally administered child care through child care centers and homes. After the bill was introduced, AFSCME President Lee Saunders said, “It’s already hard enough for working families to make ends meet, let alone afford the extraordinary cost of quality child care. This plan provides much-needed relief to millions of hardworking families who are falling behind in an economy that overwhelmingly favors the wealthy. It’s time to ensure that all families have access to affordable child care and that providers of that care are paid a fair wage for the important work they do.”

What You Need to Know: AFSCME helped develop the legislation, which would make child care affordable for all families and give child care providers and early learning professionals important roles in developing universal child care system. It also ensures that these workers would receive fair pay.