The Social Work Reinvestment Act is Waiting on Social Workers

I would venture to say most social workers have little or no knowledge about the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young Social Work Reinvestment Act (H.R. 1466) that has been sitting dormant in the House Committee on Education and the Workforce since it was reintroduced April 10 this year by Congresswoman Barbara Lee, the chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus. A companion bill, S.997, was introduced in the Senate by Sen. Barbara Mikulski of Maryland. Both Lee and Mikulski are social workers.

This is an important bill for our profession. At a time when social workers are in such great demand, this bill—should it become law—will create a Congressional Commission on Social Work that will take a comprehensive look at our profession and make recommendations for policies that would enhance the workplace and make social work a more attractive and rewarding occupation. The Commission would report back to Congress and to the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services on issues such as low salaries, student loan debt, personal safety issues on the job, and the shortage of professional social workers.

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Its stated goals are: “To establish the Social Work Reinvestment Commission to provide independent counsel to Congress and the Secretary of Health and Human Services on policy issues associated with recruitment, retention, research, and reinvestment in the profession of social work, and for other purposes.”

The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the social work workforce is expected to grow by 25 percent between the years of 2010 and 2020, faster than any other occupation. The Department Education reported that the average debt for 72 percent of students graduating from M.S.W. programs is $35,000. Social workers know the challenges we face dealing with the most vulnerable populations in our society, often working in economically-depressed neighborhoods. Much needs to be done to ensure the safety of social workers.

Social workers are in great demand but the profession needs an overhaul to attract the best and brightest people. So why has this legislation been stuck in committee? One obvious reason is Republicans are in control of the House and legislation introduced by Democrats goes nowhere without a Republican sponsor. Yet the Social Work Reinvestment Act has had Republican co-sponsors. Getting a bill introduced in Congress is the easy part. Getting legislation passed requires heavy lifting. In the previous Congress—the 112th (2011-2012)—6,722 bills were introduced, 283 were passed—slightly more than 4 percent.

Getting the Social Work Reinvestment Act passed will require the concerted effort of as many social workers as possible—lobbying our Congressional representatives, building support outside of the profession, and working on a strategy to get the bill out of committee and to the floor for a vote. I believe it can be done. Won’t be easy, but it can be done.

The bill was originally introduced in 2007 during the 110th Congress by then Congressman and social worker Edolphus “Ed” Towns with indispensable support from the National Association of Social Workers (NASW). That bill contained grant money for demonstration projects. When Republicans took control of the House in 2011, the grant money was stripped from the bill to make it more politically feasible.

We all know this is an unusual Congress where very little gets done. Since 1999, Congress has passed about 5 percent of bills introduced. To date, 3047 bills have been introduced in the House during the 113th Congress, 31 have passed—slightly more than one percent. It will take a lot of work to get our bill passed but I believe it can be done even if it doesn’t happen during the current Congress. If we want this bill to pass eventually, we need to get started now and work at it with fervor.

We must ask ourselves: have we really made passing the Social Work Reinvestment Act a priority? Or, are we waiting to see if Congress will get around to considering it? Won’t happen without us giving our best effort.

Sign the Social Work Reinvestment Act Petition Below

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Social Work Reinvestment Act


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Latest Signatures
23,604Carolyn ChangNYOct 09, 2023
23,603Zoe SpottiswoodHISocial workers are important and they deserve more resources to make the workers and progrmas better. It is a big part of society.Jun 06, 2023
23,602Ashlynn WigenIDMar 20, 2023
23,601Sarah MurtonOhioMar 04, 2023
23,600Orie BolinOhioNov 23, 2022
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23,596Lyeza WickerTXMar 03, 2022
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Written by Dr. Charles E. Lewis Jr.
President of The Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy

The post The Social Work Reinvestment Act is Waiting on Us appeared first on Congressional Research Institute for Social Work and Policy and has been syndicated with permission of the author.


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