Reinvestment Act in Senate

— Heidi Sfiligoj, News Staff

Dorothy HeightThe Act was reintroduced Dorothy Height's 97th birthday.

The Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act (SWRA) was reintroduced in the Senate on March 24 by Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.). This date is significant because it was Dr. Dorothy Height's 97th birthday.

S. 686 is the companion bill to H.R. 795, which was introduced in the 111th Congress on Feb. 3 by Rep. Edolphus Towns (D-N.Y.). Mikulski and Towns are both social workers.

NASW worked to have the act reintroduced in both chambers in time for Height's birthday.

"We are pleased that the Dorothy I. Height and Whitney M. Young, Jr. Social Work Reinvestment Act is now in both chambers of Congress," said NASW Executive Director Elizabeth J. Clark. "This bill is so important to our profession and serves as a testament to Dr. Height's lifetime of work on behalf of others and the indelible mark that Whitney Young left on the profession."

Both bills seek to create a Social Work Reinvestment Commission to study workforce issues associated with recruitment, retention, research and reinvestment in the social work profession.

"The reintroduction of the bill at this time is one of the most exciting events in my 37 years of professional social work experience," said NASW President James Kelly, who hails from the same part of Pennsylvania as Height. "I am so happy that NASW is associated with this outstanding social work professional."

There are several changes to the bill. It now includes an enhanced social work reinvestment commission, with one labor economist, one social work consumer and one clinical social worker. The commission will also include four additional members appointed by the speaker of the House of Representatives, minority leader of the House of Representatives, majority leader of the Senate, and minority leader of the Senate. The legislation also updated its demonstration programs to be more inclusive of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), and has broadened its diversity component to require the demonstration of cultural competency and promotion of participation from diverse groups in the Social Work Reinvestment Commission, National Coordinating Center and all demonstration programs.

During the 110th Congress, social workers across the nation sent more than 53,000 pieces of grassroots communications, garnering 82 cosponsors in the House and 14 in the Senate. NASW is looking to rally more support during the 111th Congress for this legislation. As of early April, 2,563 letters had been sent to the House in support of the act with 46 cosponsors signing on as the News went to press. NASW members are currently being mobilized to contact their senators and encourage them to sign on as cosponsors and actively work to ensure passage of this bill.