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Funding

Capitolwire: New Year Dawns Without Budget in Place

By: John Finnerty, Capitolwire.com Bureau Chief

HARRISBURG (July 1) – The new fiscal year started this morning without a state budget in place to pay for it and no obvious signal that the Legislature will quickly get a budget to the governor.

Late Thursday, Senate officials announced that the chamber won’t even be in session on Friday, though the Senate has plans to be in session on Saturday and Sunday. The House is scheduled to be in session Friday and Saturday, though at the close of Thursday’s session, Speaker Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, reminded members to monitor their emails for updates on session days.

Despite the annoying aggravation of having to work through the holiday weekend, the broader immediate sting of failing to meet the state budget deadline doesn’t exist anymore due to a 2009 Supreme Court decision requiring that state employees must continue to receive their paychecks even if the budget hasn’t been passed.

Rep. Stan Saylor, R-York, the Majority chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, said that not having a budget in place has little, if any, immediate impact on state agencies.

Gov. Tom Wolf has been pushing for a dramatic increase in spending while Republicans have been trying to get the governor to agree to rollback controversial proposals including the bridge tolling plan (though a Commonwealth Court ruling Thursday ordered that the tolling plan be halted) and charter school regulations.

Alexis Campbell, a PennDOT spokeswoman, said that while the tolling plan has been met with objections, the administration is still waiting for lawmakers to explain how to pay for the needed bridge repairs and in the long-term replace the gas tax.

“To date, the legislature has failed to offer any solutions beyond their approval of this P3 initiative, that will assist the administration’s desire to phase out the gas tax. The Wolf Administration continues to welcome discussions with the General Assembly on alternative funding sources that can replace the gas tax, which is no longer a dependable source of funding to meet all bridge and highway needs in this commonwealth,” she said.

Republicans say they are interested in restraining Wolf’s spending proposals in order to position the state to better weather an economic slowdown.

“Senate Republicans continue to work towards a budget that invests in the people of Pennsylvania and ensures the financial stability of the Commonwealth as we face economic headwinds due to the Biden Administration’s inflationary policies,” Erica Clayton Wright, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward, R-Westmoreland, said in a statement released late Thursday night.

Amidst all of this, former President Donald Trump weighed in earlier this week, issuing a statement in support of a poll watcher bill sponsored by Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, and calling for Republicans to refuse to pass a budget unless it includes other election integrity changes.

Groups lobbying for election access have called for Wolf to veto Mastriano’s Senate Bill 573, and a Wolf spokeswoman strongly hinted that Wolf would veto the legislation, saying the administration “strongly opposes” the bill.

(Source: Capitolwire, July 1, 2022).

ODP Announcement 21-031: UPDATE highlights that the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (ARPA) provides a temporary 10% increase to the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP) for certain Medicaid expenditures for home and community-based services (HCBS). The funding is to be used to enhance, expand, or strengthen HCBS beyond what is available under the Medicaid program.

On June 3, CMS notified states that they have an additional year to use funding made available by ARPA, expanding eligible expenditures to March 31, 2025. To provide guidance about the process for providers to request one-time payments and address staff training, credentialing, and business associates programs for employment, the application deadline for this initiative has been extended to October 31, 2022.

Providers interested in applying will complete and submit the Staff Training, Credentialing, and Business Associates Programs for Employment Supplemental Payment Application and submit via email to Rick Smith. Applications will be accepted through October 31, 2022.

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The Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs (DDAP) today announced the availability of $3 million in funding for entities to provide pregnancy support services to address the needs of pregnant and postpartum women with substance use disorder (SUD).

Eligible applicants can find the project summary and budget on the Funding Opportunities page of the DDAP website. Approximately three to five grants, up to $600,000 each, will be awarded to help provide services, streamline care, and assure that this population is connected with the most appropriate resources to reach long-term recovery.

All applications must be submitted via email by 11:59 pm on Friday, July 29, 2022. Applications will be competitively reviewed and scored based upon the applicant’s adherence to the funding announcement guidelines and a timely submission to DDAP.

The grants are part of $59 million in federal funding awarded to Pennsylvania through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration’s (SAMHSA) Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant Program.

Questions regarding the grants and the application process can be emailed to DDAP.

As reported by the National Council for Mental Wellbeing, the Senate last night passed the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, critical legislation to dramatically increase funding for mental health programs and reduce the threat and incidence of violence in America.

Introduced by Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), the bill provides funding to increase access to mental health and substance use services, notably through expanding Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs) nationwide. This will connect considerably more people to lifesaving care, while helping support and grow the mental health and substance use treatment workforce.

The bill also includes aid to broaden access to telehealth services and mental health awareness programs, such as Mental Health First Aid (MHFA), and provides additional funding for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline ahead of next month’s 988 implementation, which will help save lives and provide needed support to strengthen the capacity of our crisis care system.

Given the speed the bill is moving, the National Council created an excellent initial analysis of the bill and its potential impact.

Key provisions include:

  • Expanding the CCBHC program to allow any state or territory the opportunity to apply to participate in the demonstration and allocating additional planning grant monies for states to develop proposals to participate;
    • Starting in July 2024, and every two years thereafter, 10 additional states will be selected to join the demonstration.
    • The eight original demonstration sites will be extended until September 2025, and the two newer demo states (Kentucky and Michigan) are extended to six years after their program launch.
  • $250 million for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant;
  • $120 million in additional funding for mental health awareness training programs;
  • $150 million in additional funding for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for FY 2022; and
  • New requirements for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to provide guidance to states on how they can increase access to care via telehealth under Medicaid and CHIP, including strategies related to training and providing resources for providers and patients.

If you have questions, please contact your RCPA Policy Director.