Action Alerts


 

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Action Alert: Sustaining Critical Human Services through
COVID-19 Public Health Emergency

May 5, 2020   

BACKGROUND: On May 5, 2020, the WAFCA Board of Directors sent a letter to Governor Evers requesting investment of federal CARES Act resources in the human services sector.

ACTION REQUESTED: We encourage members to reach out to the Governor’s office through their “Voice an Opinion” page to share your support for our WAFCA message.  Key talking points include: 

  • Grateful for the administration’s leadership. We are grateful for the rapid response of our federal and state leaders to keep our communities safe and healthy. The funding initiatives and regulatory waivers provided through the diligent and responsive efforts of the state administration have been critical for the continuation of behavioral health access and sustaining child welfare services. 
  • We are out there serving our communities. Our agencies have been nimble and resilient throughout this challenging time. We have rapidly shifted from community-based behavioral health to telehealth. We have found new, creative ways to support our foster families, parents and children in care. Our dedicated workforce in our 24/7 youth residential care and group care settings have continued to leave the safety of their own homes each day to provide care and compassion to hundreds of children who need them.

  • Our sector is facing unique risks. Despite our efforts to adapt, in the absence of further targeted funding supports, many of our organizations may not survive this pandemic at a time when our services are needed more than ever. 

We are asking for:

  • Workforce Supports for Group Home and Residential Care Staff (supplemental pay). We request continuation of the EPR COVID funding enhancement established by DCF through the end of December 2020. The enhanced rate calculation tool developed by DCF will enable providers and the state to set reasonable reimbursement of COVID-related costs that may vary in coming months as risks and service expectations return to pre-COVID levels. In addition, this funding tool relieves counties of bearing the burden of increased costs driven by the pandemic. Based on the costs funded through March and April, we project that an allocation of approximately $6 million is needed to support these ongoing expenses. 
  • Emergency Foster Care and Kinship Care Rate Increases.We request continuation of emergency foster care and kinship care payments of at least $300/home per month for as long as social distancing policies are in place and children are unable to attend school or engage in summer camps and other activities. 
  • Emergency extension for youth in care.We recommend executive action to permit youth to remain in care throughout the duration of the public health emergency and for a minimum of sixty days following the termination of the public health emergency. With the current “safer at home” order in place, agencies are unable to properly prepare youth for transition to independence. This extension of care would be a permissive option made available to youth. In addition, we request state funding to support counties who have youth extending in care due to the public health emergency. 
  • Medicaid rate increases for behavioral health.Some community-based organizations have received increased financial support from MCOs and counties in recognition of the importance of sustaining a robust network of service providers. In addition, some organizations have leveraged the federal Paycheck Protection Program, which is a valuable though flawed funding resource. Despite these various investments, the losses in the behavioral health sector persist and the sector will continue to be strained as service needs increase. We request a 30% increase in behavioral health Medicaid rates, applied retroactively to the beginning of the public health emergency. This rate increase will move behavioral health services closer to recovering the true cost of care and facilitate the critical pivot to the “new normal” for delivering behavioral health services. 
  • Child Care Supports for Critical Workforce.We support the funding changes proposed by the Department of Children and Families to grant additional flexibility to use federal CARES Act funds and, specifically, CCDBG dollars to provide childcare subsidies and supports for essential workers. 

We are also in support of: 

  • Liability protections for our agencies. We were particularly disappointed that we were not included in the COVID-19 liability protections extended to the health care and long-term care sectors in 2019 WI Act 185 and we would ask your consideration for any action that you may take to extend those civil liability protections to our operations. 
  • Funding for county government to support critical services. We support the request for a state commitment of 30% of the CARES Act relief dollars targeted to county government. The human services system in Wisconsin is heavily reliant on county financial resources and we trust that this infusion of resources to our county partners will be invested to sustain critical services that keep Wisconsin’s children and families safe.

 QUESTIONS? Contact Kathy Markeland, 608.257.5939

Wisconsin Association of Family & Children's Agencies
16 N Carroll St, #750
Madison, WI 53703 
608.257.5939
www.wafca.org