|Sponsor||Rep. McDermott, Jim|
|Committee||Ways and Means|
|Date||May 31, 2011 (112th Congress, 1st Session)|
|Staff Contact||Andy Koenig|
On Tuesday, May 31, 2011, the House is scheduled to consider H.R. 1194, a bill to renew the authority of the Secretary of Health and Human Services to approve demonstration projects designed to test innovative strategies in state child welfare programs, under a suspension of the rules requiring a two-thirds majority for passage. H.R. 1194 was introduced by Rep. Jim McDermott (D-WA) on March 17, 2011, and was referred to the House Committee on Ways and Means, which took no official action as the text of the bill passed unanimously in the last Congress, and child welfare waivers were the subject of a hearing last Congress.
H.R. 1194 would allow the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to waive certain requirements connected to the use of federal funds for child welfare programs in order for states to carry out demonstration projects designed to allow states more flexibility in administering child welfare programs. Specifically, the bill would reauthorize Section 1130 of the Social Security Act, which expired in 2006, through 2016. Under the legislation, the Secretary of the HHS would be authorized to establish a state demonstration project designed to address child welfare using “innovative strategies.” If a state submitted an application, the Secretary would be authorized to waive certain federal requirements associated with child welfare program funding in order to carry out the demonstration project.
H.R. 1194 would renew authority previously given to the Secretary of HHS to waive provisions of child welfare programs authorized under Title IV-B and IV-E of the Social Security Act. Under the legislation, the Secretary could waive any provisions of those programs except requirements to 1) maintain prevention services to keep children from entering foster care, 2) continue reunification and permanency efforts, and 3) maintain data and case review systems. In addition, states must ensure that anyone entitled to adoption or foster care services is still eligible under the waiver.
In 1994, Congress established child welfare demonstration projects to allow HHS to waive certain program requirements so states could test alternate ways to achieve federal child welfare policy goals. However, the authority to approve new child welfare waivers expired in 2006, and Congressional action is necessary for HHS to approve new waivers. Under the waivers, states can provide services that may not comply with all federal requirements if the state shows that the services could be more effectively distributed. For example, under the waivers states have given the equivalent of block grants to counties to test new services with fixed funding versus open-ended funding as the program is currently structured. In addition, states can test alternative ways of financing services to reduce child welfare costs, such as targeting special populations and providing different types of services instead being limited by current reimbursement rules.
On September 23, 2010, the House approved identical legislation (H.R. 6156) by voice vote, but the measure was never considered in the Senate.
According to the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the bill allows for demonstration projects related to child welfare to be operated by the states. In addition, “Those projects are required to be cost-neutral, and the Department of Health and Human Services has mechanisms in place to ensure that this requirement is met.” Thus there would be no costs associated with the bill.