public-policy article

Bill Highlight: People CARE Act (H.R. 841)

April 25, 2019

In January, Rep. Warren Davidson (R-OH) introduced the People CARE Act to establish a People-Centered Assistance Reform Effort Commission with the goal to restructure means-tested programs in a way that would transition program recipients off of their benefits. This vast piece of legislation would impact “any federal program that is designed to specifically provide assistance or benefits exclusively to low income Americans.” The programs affected would include: the earned income tax credit, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the Public Housing Program, Federal Pell Grants, Job Corps, the Social Services Block Grant Program (SSBG), Head Start, and the Community Development Block Grant Program, among many others. A full list of affected programs, as well as exempt programs is provided in the bill text.

The People-Centered Assistance Reform Effort Commission would be a bipartisan, bicameral group comprised of eight members appointed by the majority and minority leaders of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, and the House Minority Leader. Their role would be to review each program to determine if it could be consolidated with another program, identify ways in which programs could be “streamlined,” and to assess the value of repurposing any programs that have not “proven beneficial” in transitioning people off of assistance. Additionally, the commission would identify cost-reducing opportunities in each program (including contracting with private entities and delegating authority to states), reform the role of caseworkers, design on/off ramps (such as gradual reduction in benefits as income increases), and establish a system for evaluating the effectiveness of means-tested programs.

Notably, the commission’s duties would include assessing which programs could no longer receive funding from entitlement spending, but would instead be subject to the availability of discretionary appropriations.

To complete these tasks, the commission would consult experts in “company restructuring, reorganizing, and cost-cutting,” as well as establish working groups to provide recommendations for members of the committee.

Impact on Human Services

The bill text states that the explicit goal of the commission is to “identify changes in law that will result in the consolidation and realignment in programs.” The consolidation of such a vast array of human services programs for the purpose of cost-cutting, paired with placing them under discretionary appropriations would almost certainly reduce funding for essential human service programs. The organizations that comprise the human services sector share a common mission: to help everyone reach their full potential and contribute to their communities in meaningful ways, which requires adequate funding to all human services programs to ensure that they can effectively increase well-being for everyone. The National Assembly opposes the bill for these reasons.

What Happens Next?

Rep. Davidson Introduced the People CARE Act with no co-sponsors on January 29th, 2019. Since, it has been referred to nine committees and five subcommittees. The legislation is ambitious and looks unlikely to move further. However, the National Assembly is closely following the issue. To track the progress  of H.R. 841, watch out for PolicySource, the National Assembly’s comprehensive database of legislation and regulations that would impact the human services sector, due to launch in May, 2019.