Washington D.C. – Today, First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization, called on Congress to take immediate action in order to provide relief to the millions of children and families impacted as a result of the recession by extending provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

First Focus president Bruce Lesley issued the following statement:

“Recently, the House of Representatives passed a measure reversing a deep cut in Medicare payments to physicians, known as the “doc fix,” by a 417-1 vote. While at the same time, millions of vulnerable and low-income American children continue to wait for a “fix” of their own.

“In addition to the doc-fix, Congress has taken up several bills to extend provisions of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). However, Congress has failed to act on extending an essential funding stream for countless American children and families impacted by the recession. The good news is that it is not too late for “kid-fix” legislation.

“As Congress continues to act on the so-called “extenders” legislation, First Focus urges members to immediately extend the ARRA Federal Medical Assistance Percentages (FMAP) provision. This provision is essential to ensure the continuation of much needed health care and child welfare services for vulnerable children.

“State budgets are severely pressed and Medicaid services are on the chopping block across the nation. The FMAP extension is critical with so many kids relying on Medicaid for their health coverage.

“Also at stake is additional funding for foster care services provided through an ARRA increase to Title IV-E, a federal program administered by state and local public child welfare agencies that provides assistance to vulnerable children and youth. Title IV-E provides foster care maintenance payments to states on behalf of each child who has been removed from the home, as well as adoption assistance and incentives payments, and reimbursement for administrative and training expenses. As states struggle to balance budgets, programs for vulnerable children and families are facing significant cuts.

“We were disappointed that the latest House extenders package failed to include the FMAP extension. In the Senate, the most recent extenders bill, while addressing critical unemployment benefit extensions, also failed to address the impending Medicaid and Title IV-E funding crisis. By failing to act, health coverage and foster care-related services for low-income children are on the line.

“First Focus also strongly supports an additional $23 billion in education jobs funding critical to preventing massive teacher layoffs and deep cuts to education services for children.

“In this time of economic recession, it is shameful that Congress is willing to bail-out “too-big-to fail” financial institutions, but has either given up on or continues to filibuster modest relief for American families. As we celebrate all that our nation stands for on the Fourth of July, we urge Congress to ensure the availability of vital health, education, and child welfare services for poor and vulnerable children. Congress cannot wait any longer to address the needs of our families in crisis.”