Public Policy News – May 2020
Urging Congress for Funds
CSWE PPI Participates in Social Work HEALS Webinar
CSWE and SSWR Suggest Scientific Priorities for OBSSR
Federal Agencies Continue to Respond to COVID-19
Looming Challenges for International and DACA Students
House Democrats Introduce Frontline Worker Student Loan Forgiveness Bill
In joint written testimony, CSWE and the National Association of Social Workers urged the Senate Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies for strong federal funding to support social workers and social work education in the fiscal year (FY) 2021 budget. “Our organizations strongly support efforts to boost critical funding at the Department of Health and Human Services for behavioral health initiatives, including the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant, the National Child Traumatic Stress Network, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, and Health Resources and Services Administration programs,” wrote CSWE President and CEO Darla Spence Coffey, MSW, PhD, and NASW CEO Angelo McClain, LICW, PhD.
On April 29 the CSWE Public Policy Initiative (PPI) participated in a Social Work Healthcare Education and Leadership Scholars (Social Work HEALS) webinar titled “Advocacy During COVID-19.” The webinar also included a presentation by the National Association of Social Workers’ advocacy team. The presentations provided guidance on how to engage in advocacy virtually given changing dynamics attributable to COVID-19 and an overview of social work’s efforts in response to the pandemic. A second webinar in the HEALS series, “Social Workers in Healthcare Policy,” was held May 6. Social Work HEALS helps develop the next generation of health-care social work leaders, who will guide efforts to address system-level changes, heighten awareness of prevention and wellness, and address the issues of structural racism that are embedded in social institutions.
CSWE and the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR) submitted a joint response to a request for input from the Office of Behavior and Social Science Research (OBSSR) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) on the scientific priorities for health-related behavior and social sciences research (BSSR) for fiscal years 2021–2025. OBSSR sought input on the most important or cutting-edge trans-disease research directions that would accelerate BSSR progress. Suggestions for priorities were sorted into three categories: synergy in basic and applied BSSR; BSSR resources, methods, and measures; and adoption of effective BSSR in practice. For each category, CSWE and SSWR encouraged scientific priorities that emphasized incorporating social work research and social workers into BSSR.
CSWE and SSWR suggested that OBSSR use social workers and social work researchers to improve the translation of basic BSSR findings into innovative intervention approaches, because social work research prioritizes studies that have an action-research component and are translational. CSWE and SSWR also encouraged OBSSR to provide more mentored research scientist awards and training grants for social workers in the biomedical research workforce. Specifically, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for more social work researchers because they are trained to work with the most vulnerable, marginalized, and at-risk communities. The CSWE and SSWR recommendations will be considered by OBSSR to advance and transform the broader health impact of BSSR at NIH.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) posted guidance extending distance learning and accreditation flexibilities through December 31, 2020. In addition, the Office of Civil Rights posted a question and answer document outlining an institution of higher education’s obligations under federal civil rights laws during the COVID-19 emergency, including details on obligations to continue meeting federal disability laws and investigating sexual harassment complaints during periods of virtual or distance learning. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) continues to release supplemental funding opportunities for COVID-19 related research. Although only some institutes have been provided with supplemental funds through congressional legislation, many institutes have listed research opportunities through administrative supplements or competitive revisions. The Office of Behavioral Social Science Research, National Institute of Mental Health, and National Institute on Aging have released COVID-19 related research opportunities. Additional guidance and opportunities from NIH are constantly updated on their website for applicants and recipients of NIH funding.
Other agencies within the Department of Health and Human Services have issued guidance on flexibilities and instructions to grantees affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA), which announced that it is waiving interest and extending the opportunity for administrative forbearance on health professions student loans through September 30, 2020. Additional updates and information can be found here. HRSA also announced new guidance for health-care providers and facilities on filing reimbursement claims for COVID-19 care provided to uninsured patients. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration released an FAQ for current grantees on award management flexibilities during the COVID-19 pandemic, including reporting flexibilities, no-cost extensions, and budget modifications.
The U.S. Supreme Court recently accepted a brief filed in a case dealing with the Trump Administration’s termination of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. The brief notes that many DACA recipients are making contributions during the coronavirus pandemic. The Court heard oral arguments in November and is expected to issue a ruling before the end of June.
After proposing an "immigration ban" via Twitter, President Trump issued a proclamation on April 22 suspending entry for 60 days for certain new immigrants who do not already have an approved immigrant visa. The proclamation does not affect applicants for adjustment of status to permanent residence or nonimmigrants, such as students, exchange visitors, and H-1B workers. Unfortunately for foreign students and scholars, routine visa and consular services at U.S. embassies and consulates remain suspended, as per the Department of State announcement on March 20, 2020. A copy of the presidential proclamation is available here.
On May 5 Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) introduced The Student Loan Forgiveness for Frontline Health Workers Act of 2020 (H.R. 6720). The bill would establish a program within the Departments of Education and Treasury to forgive all public and private graduate student loans for health-care workers who have made significant contributions to patient care, medical research, and testing during the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible frontline health-care workers include mental health professionals or other health-care professionals who are responding to the public health emergency.
The National Social Work Voter Mobilization Campaign has shared information on how the 2020 census has been affected by COVID-19, census resources and articles, and information on organizations coordinating to provide information about the census.