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NHSA advances its first-ever comprehensive human services policy agenda

Investing in Our FuturesIn a Capitol Hill briefing on February 19, the National Human Services Assembly unveiled an overarching agenda for providing opportunities for all Americans to achieve their full potential at every stage of life, whatever their challenges and abilities.

Investing in Our Future: An Essential Agenda for America’s Communities lays out for the 113th Congress a set of interconnected recommendations on how federal investments in human services can maximize outcomes for youth, seniors, families, and individuals with disabilities.

The briefing spotlighted key policy priorities and identified critical linkages as explained by leading Assembly members from across the nonprofit human services sector:

NHSA members are an integral part of the $250 billion human service sector. NHSA members represent over one million employees, with programs working in virtually every community in the country.

Kelley Gilbert Mark Richert Jatrice Martel Gaiter Tony Sarmiento
NHSA member representatives who delivered the Investing in Our Future briefing are (l-r) Kelley Gilbert, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; Mark Richert, American Foundation for the Blind; Jatrice Martel Gaiter, Volunteers of America; and Tony Sarmiento, Senior Service America.

From the ground up

The following priorities and recommendations are from Investing in Our Future, which was the outgrowth of the Assembly’s Washington Group.  Washington Group members develop public policy recommendations grounded in their organizations’ and networks’ front-line experiences in answering the needs of diverse populations across the country.

Past and present co-chairs of the Washington Group whose leadership guided the public policy agenda are Bob Francis, Lutheran Services in America; Kelley Gilbert, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America; Bob Seidel, National Summer Learning Association; and Lindsay Torrico, United Way Worldwide. See NHSA’s web site or contact Hayling Price (hprice@nassembly.org), policy director, for more information.

Priority policies and recommendations

NHSA is committed to policies that render:

  • Children and youth ready for college, work and life;
  • Older adults valued and fulfilled;
  • People with disabilities living at their potential; and
  • Families strong and stable.

The Assembly urges the 113th Congress to:

  • Reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act to provide for adequate and flexible funding that follows youth across systems, even those out of school
  • Reauthorize the Older Americans Act to promote innovative home- and community-based services
  • Preserve federal funding for Developmental Disabilities Act Programs
  • Reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to preserve dedicated education, employment and training funding for low-income and disconnected youth

A responsible path to prosperity

Long-term deficit reduction must be achieved while keeping the needs of our citizens paramount – a balanced approach that faces the country’s economic challenges while strengthening human capital for the 21st century.

Non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs have already taken significant funding cuts in recent years and with fiscal uncertainty looming, further, deeper and crippling cuts are a real possibility.  State level funding shortfalls have also cut into human development programs.

Another funding stream – donations from individual taxpayers – is critical to the nation’s nonprofits.  The charitable income tax deduction in the IRS code encourages Americans to give back to their communities and generates $3 of public benefit for every $1 subject to the deduction, suggests data.

NHSA urges Congress to:

  • Take a balanced approach to deficit reduction that does not include further cuts to NDD programs.
  • Reject proposals limiting the value of deductions for charitable donations

Combined, the proposed spending cuts and changes to the charitable deduction would present a dual threat to communities already struggling to make ends meet.  Instead, Congress should avoid devastating budget cuts and harmful modifications to charitable deductions by focusing on critical public services and leveraging private resources that lift up children, parents, grandparents who are struggling and which help strengthen America’s middle class.

Recommendations by issue area

Children & Youth

  • Reauthorize the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to support robust school-community partnership models
  • Support successful federal programs for opportunity youth, the 6.7 million Americans ages 16 to 24 disengaged from employment and education.
  • Develop and support integrated systems of care that link separate services needed to ensure the safety and well-being of children served at home and in foster care.
  • Respond to abuse and related trauma to promote safety, stability and recovery whether the children are with family or in a placement or custody status.

Older Adults

  • Reauthorize the Older Americans Act to empower a generation of Americans.
  • Protect and improve Medicaid, Medicare, and other health infrastructure to promote greater access to home- and community-based services.
  • Support expansion of the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP), the largest federally funded program specifically targeting older adults seeking employment and training assistance.
  • Support funding for federal programs that allow people to remain in their communities or place that they call home – including supportive housing, adult day care, transportation and other supports that allow older adults to live in the community.

People with Disabilities

  • Protect federal funding for Developmental Disabilities Act Programs which provide a range of support for Americans living with disabilities.
  • Maintain funding for key programs authorized by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
  • Support federal funding for the Administrative Budget of the Social Security Administration (“Limitation on Administrative Expenses”).
  • Protect the Section 811 Supportive Housing for Persons with Disabilities program.

Families

  • Reauthorize the Workforce Investment Act (WIA) to preserve dedicated education, employment and training funding for low-income and disconnected youth.
  • Increase access and enrollment of homeless families in mainstream federal programs ranging from Medicaid to WIC.
  • Promote increased support and services for grandfamilies and other relative caregivers operating outside of the formal foster care system.
  • Pass the Behavioral Health Information Technology Act to extend eligibility for Medicaid and Medicare incentive funds for the “meaningful use” of electronic health records for behavioral health, mental health, and substance abuse treatment professionals and facilities not previously included as eligible.

NHSA Policy Director Hayling Price moderates

(l-r) NHSA Policy Director Hayling Price moderates the briefing by Assembly representatives Jatrice Martel Gaiter, Volunteers of America; Mark Richert, American Foundation for the Blind; Irv Katz, NHSA (President & CEO); Tony Sarmiento, Senior Service America; Kelley Gilbert, Big Brothers Big Sisters of America.
02/25/2013