Saturday, October 11, 2008

Not All Has Stopped During Financial Crisis

Catholic Charities informed through its weekly emailing list of important actions taken by Congress and the President.

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Special Edition

October 10, 2008
Volume 3 Number 29

Inside this issue:

  • Congress Approves Financial System Rescue Package
  • President Signs Child Welfare Bill
  • Congress Reauthorizes Runaway and Homeless Youth Act
  • House Approves McKinney Vento Legislation
  • Legislative Accomplishments of the 110th Congress

President Signs Financial System Rescue Package

On October 3, the President signed into law (P.L. 110-343) a rescue package (H.R 1424) for the nation's ailing financial and banking sectors. The legislation authorizes the Treasury Department to buy $700 billion in troubled assets. It also raises the FDIC deposit insurance limit for bank accounts from $100,000 to $250,000.

The financial rescue package includes a number of provisions originally included in senate-passed tax-extender bill (H.R. 6049) including:

  • Mental health parity legislation that would require insurers to cover mental health benefits equal to traditional medical benefits;
  • A reduction in the income eligibility threshold for the Child Tax Credit from $12,050 to $8,500
  • Tax relief to victims of natural disasters; and
  • Tax breaks for renewable energy.

The changes raised the total price of H.R. 1424 to almost $850 billion from $700 billion. However, these provisions were already being considered by Congress and were included because of limited time on the legislative calendar.

Catholic Charities USA sent a letter to the Senate Banking Committee and the House Financial Services Committee on September 24. For more background on the issue, please read a letter from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops to the Congressional leadership on the nation's financial crisis.

For more information, please contact Kellyann McClain, Policy Analyst,

President Signs Child Welfare Bill

On October 7, the President signed into law (P.L. 110-351) the "Fostering Connections to Success and Increasing Adoptions Act" (H.R.6893). The bipartisan legislation was widely supported by both the House and Senate. It provides a number of important improvements to the child welfare system including:

  • Supporting children aging out of foster care by providing an extension of federal foster care payment beyond age 18;
  • Extending federal foster care funds to tribal governments;
  • Increasing financial incentives for families who adopt children and providing additional support for adoption of children with special needs;
  • Providing grants to improve access to services for relative caregivers; and
  • Allowing access to federal training funds for private child welfare providers.

Catholic Charities USA applauds the leadership in the Senate and House for their hard work in crafting these important changes to the nation's child welfare system.

For more information, please contact Desmond Brown, Senior Director of Government Affairs, at

Congress Reauthorizes Runaway and Homeless Youth Act

On October 8, President Bush signed into law (P.L. 110-378) the "Runaway and Homeless Youth Act of 2008" (S. 2982). The measure reauthorizes the 1974 Runaway and Homeless Youth Act that was set to expire on September 30. The legislation reauthorizes programs that support state and local efforts to help homeless youth through street outreach, transitional care, and crisis intervention.

Several changes were made to S. 2982 to get Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) to remove a legislative hold on the bill including: removing funding for a public awareness campaign, limiting extensions for how long participants could stay in transitional housing programs, and reducing the fiscal year 2009 funding level by $15 million. After those changes were made, the bill easily passed both the House and Senate.

For more information, please contact Joseph Devine, Policy Analyst,

House Approves McKinney Vento Legislation

On October 3, the U.S. House of Representatives approved legislation to reauthorize the "McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Act" (H.R.7221) by a vote of 355-61. The measure authorizes $2.2 billion for FY 2009 to support programs that serve homeless individuals and families. This is a significant increase above FY 2008 funding of $1.6 billion. The measure also made a number of changes to the McKinney Vento program including:

  • An expansion in the definition of the homeless;
  • Additional flexibility for communities to address identified need;
  • Additional flexibility to provide supportive services; and
  • An expansion in protection for victims of domestic violence.

The changes to the definition of homeless in the final bill are not as broad as an earlier version of the legislation. While the earlier bill, the "Homeless Emergency Assistance and Rapid Transition to Housing (HEARTH) Act of 2008" (H.R. 840), outlined broader definition for the homeless, the changes in the final bill represent an attempt to compromise with a similar measure in the Senate. The Senate did not pass its version of the bill (S.1518) due to procedural maneuvers.

For more information, please contact Desmond Brown, Senior Director of Government Affairs, at

Legislative Accomplishments of the 110th Congress

At the start of the 110th Congress, Catholic Charities USA outlined a comprehensive legislative agenda as part of our Campaign to Reduce Poverty in America. While a number of these legislative proposals did not become law, it is important to note that we are making progress in some important areas. Both Congress and the Administration took important steps to target relief and strengthen programs that assist some of the most vulnerable among us. Some of the changes passed by Congress and signed into law include:

  • Legislation that increases the minimum wage to $7.25 over two years, signed into law by President Bush on May 25, 2007;
  • "The Second Chance Act" of 2007 (H.R. 1593) which addresses barriers to housing, employment, education, and health care that ex-offenders face when exiting the prison system;
  • The 2007 Farm Bill which provides $10 billion over ten years for the Nutrition Title: $7.8 billion for the Food Stamp Program, $1.26 billion for The Emergency Food Assistance program, and $1 billion for the Fresh Fruits and Vegetable program;
  • A supplemental spending bill (H.R. 2642) that expands veteran education benefits, extends unemployment insurance, places a moratorium on six harmful Medicaid regulations, provides disaster relief for the Midwest, and provides permanent supportive housing vouchers for the Gulf Coast region;
  • The "Medicare Improvements for Patients and Providers Act of 2008" (H.R. 6331) that blocks a 10.6 percent cut to Medicare payments;
  • The "Housing and Economic Recovery Act of 2008" (H.R. 3221) that includes an Administration-backed plan to help troubled mortgage financiers Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, an expansion of the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) home loan program to help homeowners avoid foreclosure, the creation of a National Affordable Housing Trust Fund to address the lack of housing options for extremely low-income families, and four billion in Community Development Block Grants for communities to rehabilitate foreclosed properties;
  • The "SSI Extension for Elderly and Disable Refugees Act" (H.R. 2608) which provides a two-year extension of eligibility for the elderly and disabled refugees who have lost or will lose their SSI benefits due to the seven-year time limit set by the mid-1990's changes in the welfare law;
  • The "ADA Amendments Act of 2008" (S. 3406), a proposal that clarifies the "Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990" (ADA) to broaden the number of physical ailments covered under the ADA;
  • "Michelle's Law" (H.R. 2851), legislation that allows full-time college students over the age of 18 to maintain their parents' health insurance plans for up to one year if they take a certified medical leave of absence from school;
  • A continuing resolution that includes $5.1 billion in funding for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), doubling the FY2008 level, as well as $22.9 billion in disaster relief, and $200 million for Emergency Food and Shelter Fund, a $49 million increase over FY 2008; and
  • The "QI Program Supplemental Funding Act of 2008" (S. 3560) that authorizes $45 million in additional funds to assists certain low-income seniors in paying Medicare premiums.

Catholic Charities USA will continue to advocate in the 111th Congress for legislation that provides quality health care, affordable housing, adequate nutrition, and economic security to the more than 37 million people living in poverty in this country.

For more information, please contact Kellyann McClain, Policy Analyst,

There will be no Washington Weekly until Congress resumes.

Washington Weekly is a publication of the Social Policy Department of Catholic Charities USA and is published regularly when Congress is in session.
Catholic Charities USA
Sixty-Six Canal Center Plaza, Suite 600, Alexandria, VA 22314
For information about advocacy, please contact Lucreda Cobbs at (703) 236-6243 or

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