Emotions High in Washington

What a week it was to be in Washington DC during the announcement of the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Affordable Care Act. Emotions were high, the TV cameras were rolling, and many who felt passionate about the ruling – either in support or opposition – were out in full force in front of the Supreme Court building. Some folks were elated and others were frustrated…or even angry.

Four KYA staff were in DC last week, and we made visits to every member of Kentucky’s Congressional delegation. It was a once in a lifetime experience to meet with the members literally minutes after the announcement. As child advocates, we were happy about the momentous decision upholding the Affordable Care Act because of its many strong provisions for children’s health. Although many of Kentucky’s delegation members are opposed to the law, we found some common ground and had many meaningful discussions with our delegation on issues including:

Preserving the American Community Survey (ACS): many organizations, rural communities, businesses, and policymakers rely on the ACS for good data on trends in Kentucky communities. The data allow us to make good decisions and wise investments, and we encouraged House and Senate members to find ways to reinstate funding for the ACS that was taken out in the House. We heard from Representative Rogers’ office that funding could be restored as that budget bill moves forward.

Maintaining the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): KYA relayed the value of the EITC in moving children and families out of poverty and encouraged our members of Congress to continue supporting the EITC. Congressman Davis held a hearing that week on whether benefits and tax credit programs discourage work. His staff explained the Congressman’s concern that since benefits and tax credits decrease as families start to earn more, then families might be discouraged from working more. KYA pointed out that the EITC has a history of encouraging more parents to work, particularly single mothers. One way to maintain incentives to work while providing families enough support to make ends meet is to find a way to slowly phase out benefits as families work more while continuing to meet the needs of children.

Increasing federal funding for children’s programs: We shared that spending on children’s programs made up less than 8% of the budget in 2012, according to First Focus’ recent Children’s Budget 2012 analysis. We encouraged Kentucky’s delegation to maintain proven investments in children’s programs that pay large dividends in the future, such as funding for home visiting programs.

Juvenile justice: KYA found common ground with Sen. Paul’s staff on not incarcerating youth for minor things like skipping school or running away from home as well as ending the criminalization of youth for other minor offenses. We relayed our interest in seeing the (long overdue) reauthorization of the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act and more support for communities to offer treatment and support services instead of incarceration so youth can get back on track to becoming productive adults.

Wins for kids in the Affordable Care Act: KYA highlighted some of the critical pieces of the Affordable Care Act for keeping children healthy. Some provisions included the extension of the Children’s Health Insurance Program that has been so successful in Kentucky at providing insurance to children so they can access health care and the piece allowing youth to stay on their parent’s insurance until age 26. Even with members who do not support the ACA, we found common ground on the piece expanding Medicaid coverage until 26 for youth aging out of foster care and the provision allowing children with pre-existing conditions to access health insurance.

In all, we had many productive conversations with staffers on how to support Kentucky’s children so they grow up strong and ready to contribute to Kentucky’s economic future. Stay tuned for ways to find out how you can continue moving policies in these areas forward in the coming months! Follow-up emails and phone calls will be important as Congress makes critical decisions in the upcoming months about programs that impact children.

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