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Earmarks: New, Improved, and Funding the Trauma Movement

By Jen Curt, CTIPP’s director of government affairs

Congress has reinstated the process of directing federal funds for local projects, and the Campaign for Trauma-Informed Policy and Practice (CTIPP) is helping organizations apply.

In 2011, Congress banned earmarks after particularly egregious and damning stories about pet projects and waste of taxpayer money came to light. Since then, Members of Congress have been unable to fund such projects in their districts, and communities have seen less capital.

Last year, Congress brought back earmarks under new names and strict requirements: Community Project Funding or Congressionally Directed Spending must have clear and robust community support with no financial benefit to the Member of Congress making the request.

Two months ago, President Joe Biden signed into law the $1.5 trillion Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2022 to fund federal government activities and programs for the fiscal year. Included in this bill was a portfolio of nearly 5,000 earmarks, totaling almost $9 billion, which included millions for local, community-level projects to address trauma, child welfare, poverty, and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs), as well as provide substance use disorder treatment and mental health support for children, individuals, and families. The new measures to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse guided federal funds toward projects that meet the moment — projects that support the trauma-informed movement.

When we heard the news that earmarks were back again for fiscal year 2023, CTIPP sprung into action to help our campaign’s coalitions, nonprofits, and municipalities develop and submit applications to their Representatives and Senators for trauma-related projects.

In March, CTIPP shared a master guide with rules, advice, and other guidance for prospective applicants. In April, we hosted a workshop presentation with detailed information about earmarked funds, available accounts, and insider tips from former Congressional staff. Throughout April, we worked one-on-one with organizations and coalitions to develop substantive and impactful trauma-informed projects, which were submitted by the end of April deadlines. Among these projects:

  • Connecticut State Task Force on ACEs and Resilience (CSTAR)’s project will increase organizational capacity so CSTAR can expand its work to build resilient communities and raise awareness of the impact of childhood adversity through educational events. CSTAR is a cross-sector collaboration of service providers, advocates, social workers, educators, health care workers, researchers, and community members.

  • HER Resiliency Center’s Healing Center for Survivors (Baltimore, MD) will provide safe, stable housing for survivors of sex trafficking where they can rest, heal, and rebuild with mental health, healing, and peer support resources.

  • Lakeside Global Institute’s Restoring Youth Mental Health Initiative (Pennsylvania) is a community outreach and engagement project which mobilizes and educates community members in trauma-informed care. This neighbor-to-neighbor mobilization and training effort will create more resilient communities and decrease youth suicide by equipping community members with the tools to protect youth from trauma and support their healing.

  • Handle With Care (Oklahoma) is a trauma-informed initiative that supports children who may have experienced a traumatic event. If a law enforcement officer encounters a child during a call, that child’s information is forwarded to the school before the school bell rings the next day. The school implements individual, class and whole school trauma-sensitive curricula so that traumatized children are “Handled With Care.” This funding would allow the coalition to continue this work along with continuing to provide on-site trauma-focused mental health care at school if a child needs more intervention.

The U.S. House of Representatives and U.S. Senate Appropriations Committees will release their draft legislation in the coming months, and we will closely monitor for the inclusion of Community Project funding that supports our critical movement.

It is time to finally get at the root of many of the challenges ailing America. With adequate funding, Congress can help build healing-centered and resilient communities through trauma-informed and prevention-focused practices and programming.


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