Congress passed and President Trump signed a continuing resolution earlier today that will keep the government open through March 23, as well as raise the debt ceiling, increase domestic and defense spending over the next two years, extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (from six years to 10 years), renew funding for community health centers and the National Institutes of Health, provide disaster relief and increased Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico, and funnel $6 billion to address the opioid crisis over the next two years. The bill cuts the Prevention and Public Health Fund by $1.35 billion over the next 10 years – but this cut is less severe than feared, and in fact restores some of the money that was cut from the Fund in the continuing resolution passed in December.
Vox reported that the Trump administration is developing new rules that could deny immigrants the ability to stay in the US if their families use certain social services – services which immigrants and/or their US-born children are legally entitled to access. Social service programs under consideration include Head Start; the Children’s Health Insurance Program; the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program; Women, Infants, and Children food assistance program; housing support; Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program; and more.
New research conducted by the Boston University School of Public Health finds that states with greater racial disparities in segregation, economic status, employment status, and incarceration are states that experience greater disparities in police killings of unarmed African Americans. “For every 10-point increase in the state racism index, researchers say they saw a 24 percent increase in the ratio of police shootings of unarmed victims.” One of the researchers, Michael Siegel, said, “I think a lot of people are looking at this issue as an individual issue. That this is about individual police officers, that there are some really bad apples out there and some police officers who are intentionally racist and that's what is creating the problem… This research shows that this is a broader problem involving all of society and the way it has treated black people for centuries. It has all built up into a structural environment where people who are black are much more racially segregated and because of that face greater levels of disadvantage."
The Department of Health and Human Services and the Treasury Department are expected to release new guidance on how states can restructure their health insurance marketplaces. Under the Affordable Care Act, states needed to show that their proposals would not sacrifice comprehensive coverage. The new guidance is expected to expedite the review process and loosen requirements that state waivers must meet. According to Politico, “the new guidance contains fewer references to protecting vulnerable populations like low-income individuals, elderly individuals and those with pre-existing conditions, according to those who've read the draft. The Obama administration's guidance on state waivers emphasizes the ACA's protections for these groups.”
On the Thursday episode of the New York Times Daily podcast, Caitlin Dickerson reported on the continuing fallout from Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, with a focus on mental health crises and despair that Puerto Ricans experience.
The American Beverage Association’s lawsuit against Philadelphia’s soda tax will be heard by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. Quartz outlines the stakes: “If the court’s justices wind up deciding the tax is illegal, it may embolden the soda industry to use the court system to challenge similar levies in other states and cities. That, in turn, would likely send a chilling effect to any place thinking of adopting a soda tax. Legal battles can be expensive to tax payers and time consuming for city and state legal departments. Philadelphia has been at loggerheads with the industry for almost two years, racking up legal fees north of $1.4 million.”
Domestic violence allegations against Trump administration staff secretary Rob Porter by two ex-wives drew attention to the Trump administration’s overall stance on violence against women, including the fact that the administration has yet to fill key positions that address domestic violence (White House advisor on violence against women and head of the Justice Department Office of Violence Against Women). Porter is not the first Trump campaign or administration official to face charges of domestic and sexual violence, and recent reports reveal that the administration knew about the allegations for more than a year without taking any action. A staff editorial in the New York Times calls on the administration to do more to prevent domestic violence by closing loopholes that enable domestic abusers to acquire and keep firearms, fund research into how domestic violence can be prevented, and advocate for full funding for the Violence Against Women Act.