Federal Health Centers: An Overview

Federal Health Centers: An Overview. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Elayne J. Heisler. May 19, 2017

The federal Health Center Program is authorized in Section 330 of the Public Health Service Act (PHSA) (42 U.S.C. §254b) and administered by the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) within the Department of Health and Human Services. The program awards grants to support outpatient primary care facilities that provide care to primarily low-income individuals or individuals located in areas with few health care providers.

Federal health centers are required to provide health care to all individuals, regardless of their ability to pay, and to be located in geographic areas with few health care providers. These requirements make health centers part of the health safety net—providers that serve the uninsured, the underserved, or those enrolled in Medicaid. Data compiled by HRSA demonstrate that health centers serve the intended safety net population, as the majority of patients are uninsured or enrolled in Medicaid. Some research also suggests that health centers are cost-effective; researchers have found that patients seen at health centers have lower health care costs than those served in other settings. In general, research has found that health centers, among other outcomes, improve health, reduce costs, and provide access to health care for populations that may otherwise not obtain health care.

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The Federal Minimum Wage: In Brief

The Federal Minimum Wage: In Brief. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. David H. Bradley. June 2, 2017

The Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), enacted in 1938, is the federal legislation that establishes the minimum hourly wage that must be paid to all covered workers. The minimum wage provisions of the FLSA have been amended numerous times since 1938, typically for the purpose of expanding coverage or raising the wage rate. Since its establishment, the minimum wage rate has been raised 22 separate times. The most recent change was enacted in 2007 (P.L. 110-28), which increased the minimum wage to its current level of $7.25 per hour.

In addition to setting the federal minimum wage rate, the FLSA provides for several exemptions and subminimum wage categories for certain classes of workers and types of work. Even with these exemptions, the FLSA minimum wage provisions still cover the vast majority of the workforce. Despite this broad coverage, however, the minimum wage directly affects a relatively small portion of the workforce. Currently, there are approximately 2.2 million workers, or 2.7% of all hourly paid workers, whose wages are at or below the federal minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. Most minimum wage workers are female, are age 20 or older, work part time, and are in food service occupations.

Proponents of increasing the federal minimum wage argue that it may increase earnings for lower income workers, lead to reduced turnover, and increase aggregate demand by providing greater purchasing power for workers receiving a pay increase. Opponents of increasing the federal minimum wage argue that it may result in reduced employment or reduced hours, lead to a general price increase, and reduce profits of firms paying a higher minimum wage.

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The Financial Stability Oversight Council: An Essential Role for the Evolving US Financial System

The Financial Stability Oversight Council: An Essential Role for the Evolving US Financial System. Peterson Institute for International Economics. Policy Brief, 17-20. Simon Johnson and Antonio Weiss. May 2017

Among the most significant creations of the 2010 Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was a Financial Stability Oversight Council (FSOC), aimed at improving coordination among US regulators to ensure a more holistic view of dangers to the financial system. Seven years later and especially since the 2016 US election, FSOC faces political pressure from elements of the private sector and their advocates in Washington. One legislative proposal would retroactively repeal virtually all of FSOC’s substantive authorities. The authors warn that abandoning, undermining, or curtailing the powers of FSOC would increase the risks of another major financial crisis—on the scale of what happened in 2008 or worse. No one can predict the precise nature or timing of the next crisis, but FSOC is the United States’ best and likely only guardian against systemic collapse. It must be preserved, protected, and even strengthened. FSOC leadership must carry out with vigor the core mandate of identifying risks to the financial stability of the United States. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

[PDF format, 13 pages, 160.20 KB].

The Importance of High Quality General Education for Students in Special Education

The Importance of High Quality General Education for Students in Special Education. Brookings Institution. Elizabeth Setren and Nora Gordon. April 20, 2017

Last month’s Supreme Court decision in Endrew F. v. Douglas County School District sets a higher bar for the “free appropriate public education” (FAPE) guaranteed to students with disabilities by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). In the unanimous opinion, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote: “every child should have the chance to meet challenging objectives. This standard is more demanding than the ‘merely more than de minimis’ test applied by the Tenth Circuit.” While the new standard may be vague, it has rejuvenated public discussion around special education policy and practice.

As policymakers and practitioners think about what changes may be required to meet the new standard, they should not overlook the role of general education. New evidence suggests that it’s possible for special education students to make large achievement gains without their traditional services in schools with high quality general education programs. This points to the importance of the quality of general education for students schools might place in special education. [Note: contains copyrighted material].

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Workers’ Compensation: Overview and Issues

Workers’ Compensation: Overview and Issues. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Scott D. Szymendera. April 20, 2017

Workers’ compensation provides cash and medical benefits to workers who are injured or become ill in the course of their employment and provides benefits to the survivors of workers killed on the job. Benefits are provided without regard to fault and are the exclusive remedy for workplace injuries, illnesses, and deaths. Nearly all workers in the United States are covered by workers’ compensation. With the exception of federal employees and some small groups of private-sector employees covered by federal law, workers compensation is provided by a network of state programs. In general, employers purchase insurance to provide for workers’ compensation benefits.

[PDF format, 36 pages, 886.37 KB].

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting: Federal Funding And Issues

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting: Federal Funding And Issues. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Glenn J. McLoughlin, Lena A. Gomez. April 4, 2017

The Corporation for Public Broadcasting (CPB) receives its funding through federal appropriations; overall, about 15% of public television and 10% of radio broadcasting funding comes from the federal appropriations that CPB distributes. CPB’s appropriation is allocated through a distribution formula established in its authorizing legislation and has historically received two-year advanced appropriations. Congressional policymakers are increasingly interested in the federal role in supporting CPB due to concerns over the federal debt, the role of the federal government funding for public radio and television, and whether public broadcasting provides a balanced and nuanced approach to covering news of national interest.

It is also important to note that many congressional policymakers defend the federal role of funding public broadcasting. They contend that it provides news and information to large segments of the population that seek to understand complex policy issues in depth, and in particular for children’s television broadcasting, has a significant and positive impact on early learning and education for children.

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Independence of Federal Financial Regulators: Structure, Funding, and Other Issues

Independence of Federal Financial Regulators: Structure, Funding, and Other Issues. Congressional Research Service, Library of Congress. Henry B. Hogue, Marc Labonte, Baird Webel. February 28, 2017

Conventional wisdom regarding regulators is that the structure and design of the organization matters for policy outcomes. Financial regulators conduct rulemaking and enforcement to implement law and supervise financial institutions. These agencies have been given certain characteristics that enhance their day-to-day independence from the President and Congress, which may make policymaking more technical and less “political” or “partisan,” for better or worse. Independence may also make regulators less accountable to elected officials and can reduce congressional influence, at least in the short term.

[PDF format, 32 pages, 811.45 MB].