Public Policy News – November 2020
Implications of the 2020 Elections on Education
Health-Care Implications of the 2020 Elections
Proposed Limitations for International Students Causes Alarm
NIH Hosts Virtual Seminar on Program Funding and Grants Administration
As the 116th Congress enters its final few months, the CSWE Government Relations team has been engaging with several of its congressional champions. These meetings serve as opportunities to further CSWE priorities as Congress wraps up the legislative agenda, which includes finalizing funding for fiscal year 2021. The meetings are also allow us to advocate for new support for CSWE priorities as members of Congress begin to think about their legislative priorities for the 117th Congress, which will begin in January 2021. Some of the congressional offices the CSWE Government Relations team continues to engage with include Representatives Barbara Lee (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), and G. K. Butterfield (D-NC).
It is likely that the 2020 election will result in a new Biden Administration, a Republican-controlled Senate, and a Democratic-controlled House, despite predictions of a congressional "blue wave." This would usher in at least 2 years of divided government. In some cases, divided government would cause gridlock and prevent President-elect Joe Biden from advancing his more ambitious campaign promises.
For a video presentation on these topics and other Biden Administration predictions, visit CSWE’s 2020 Annual Program Meeting. Access educational sessions and recordings of live presentations any time through November 2021.
The U.S. Department of Education (ED) probably will experience a 180-degree shift in its approach to education. A Biden ED will seek to increase funding for education, emphasize public education, expand support for Minority Serving Institutions, and address student loan debt and college affordability. Higher education regulations will also change significantly, especially Title IX compliance rules. With Democrats retaining control of the House and Republicans favored to control the Senate, education priorities in the 117th Congress probably will focus on school and higher education recovery from COVID-19, educational delivery challenges, STEM education, and workforce restart efforts. Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act (HEA) is not likely to reach a “first 100 days” agenda, and passage of an HEA reauthorization through a split Congress would be difficult.
President-elect Biden has revealed his plans for a new federal approach to address the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly through stronger investments in the nation’s public health infrastructure. The Biden-Harris transition team announced the formation of a Transition COVID-19 Advisory Board led by top public health and scientific experts that is charged with advising on pandemic response activities. Although additional COVID-19 relief is certain, if a pandemic stimulus package does not advance during the lame-duck session, a future relief package will rely heavily on President-elect Biden’s ability to work across the aisle with Senate Republicans. Bipartisan agreement on the bill’s scope and structure is expected to be the main sticking point.
President-elect Biden is also likely to strengthen or pursue an expansion of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), possibly through the creation of a “public option” or increased tax credits to lower premiums. However, any action on the ACA will be significantly more difficult under a divided government and pending a Supreme Court decision on the health-care law. While there are some indications that the Supreme Court may be wary of overturning the law entirely, but if the Supreme Court strikes down the ACA, President-elect Biden will have to work with Congress on a replacement plan to restore health insurance for millions of Americans.
With a congressional makeup similar to that of the 116th Congress, the new Congress will face as much—if not more—partisan gridlock regarding health care. Senate Republicans are highly unlikely to support any expansion of the ACA; if they maintain control, Democrats will have to shelve many of their priorities related to a new public insurance option. If not completed in the lame-duck session of Congress, a COVID-19 stimulus package will remain the first item of business and a bipartisan priority. House Democrats would have to scale down their original sweeping proposal to something smaller and more palatable to a Republican-controlled Senate for speedy passage of COVID-19 relief legislation.
Democrats are also expected to introduce legislation addressing health disparities and social determinants of health, whereas Republican Senators will want to focus more on rural health issues. Additionally, there is the potential for bipartisan legislation focused on expanding telehealth use, something Republicans favor for rural areas and Democrats want to apply in urban ones.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced a proposed rule in late September that would replace the current duration of status policies for F, J, and I visa holders with fixed time periods of admission, as a way to increase oversight of these categories of nonimmigrants. The proposed fixed length of time would not exceed 4 years. For some visa holders, admissions would be limited to up to 2 years for those from countries on the State Sponsor of Terrorism List, countries with higher overstay rates, or students enrolled in specific courses of study of national security concern. Additionally, nonimmigrants enrolled in unaccredited schools or at programs not participating in E-Verify would face shorter stay limits. The rule would allow for a transition period from the Duration of Status framework for current visa holders to the fixed date model, not to exceed 4 years from the rule’s effective date.
F, J, and I nonimmigrants seeking additional time for admission must apply for an extension of stay directly with DHS or leave the country and apply for admission at a port of entry. DHS also proposes new procedures and standards to request extensions. For F-1 visa holders, the rule proposes new limitations on the number of times a student could change educational programs and would limit language training to 24 months of study in aggregate. DHS notes that these changes have the potential to reduce the nonimmigrant student enrollment and exchange visitor participation. This and other immigration rules proposed by the Trump Administration could be repealed under a Biden Administration.
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) biennial Regional Seminar, held virtually from October 27–October 30 due to COVID-19, covered a range of topics geared toward research administrators, faculty and staff members, graduate students, and anyone curious about NIH grant topics. The seminar featured three topic tracks focused on the details of the NIH Grants Process, NIH Policies and Programs, and other important topics at the NIH. During the opening session Dr. Mike Lauer, deputy director of the Office of Extramural Research, outlined the current priorities and concerns of the NIH, which include increasing support for early stage investigators, improving diversity in the biomedical research workforce, and eliminating harassment to create safe work environments. Dr. Lauer also stressed NIH’s concerns about impacts of COVID-19 on extramural researchers due to laboratory closures. Specifically, NIH is concerned about the effects on younger scientists and women who may choose to leave the biomedical workforce.
Registration for the event will remain open through November 19 for those who were unable to attend. Registrants can watch recorded sessions and download meeting materials such as session PowerPoints. After November 19 the recorded sessions will be available on the NIH YouTube Channel.
CSWE and other social work education groups prepared guidance for the next presidential administration and Congress to advance social, racial, and economic justice. The guidance seeks to propose policy principles integral in ensuring individual, family, and community well-being. Some major priorities include the following:
- Ensuring quality and accessibility in higher education
- Protecting underserved and marginalized populations in health-care policy
- Positioning social workers as champions to address behavioral and mental health and substance use disorders
- Supporting aging and older adult populations
- Ensuring social workers have a voice in policy based on their research and that they continue to be part of the discussions and eligibility regarding research, services, and programs.
The full guidance can be found here.