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Congressman Joaquin Castro

Representing the 20th District of Texas

Castro, Doggett Request Explanation for Truncation of Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program Grants

Jul 17, 2017
Press Release
Washington, D.C. – Congressmen Joaquin Castro (TX-20) and Lloyd Doggett (TX-35) sent a letter to Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Thomas Price requesting an explanation for the agency’s decision to cut short the grant awards for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP). HHS recently notified the grantees that their year three funding (supported by fiscal year 2017 appropriated funds) would be the final year of their projects, despite originally being granted five-year project periods, and despite the fact that Congress has yet to complete its work for fiscal year 2018 appropriations. The TPPP is a national, evidence-based program that funds both the implementation of evidence-based programs and the development and evaluation of new, innovative approaches to prevent teen pregnancy.
 
“When teens become pregnant, they suddenly face a slew of emotional, financial, and physical challenges that strain families and distract from schoolwork. Helping young people avoid those hardships needs to be a priority, especially in states like Texas with particularly high rates of teen pregnancy,” said Rep. Castro. “Cutting TPPP grants stunts the work of organizations that use proven strategies to help teenagers make informed decisions and keep their lives on track. Secretary Price needs to explain why his agency abruptly ended funding for programs that effectively reduce the incidence of teen pregnancy.”
 
The members requested Secretary Price answer the following questions: 
  • Who made the decision to shorten TPPP’s grant awards by two years? What was the justification behind this decision?
  • Congress has yet to act on the fiscal year 2018 budget. What will happen if Congress appropriates TPPP funding for fiscal year 2018?  Will current TPPP grantees be allowed to continue their projects? 
  • If not, what does HHS plan to do with fiscal year 2018 funding?
“Terminating an effective program is another short-sighted decision, done by fiat behind closed doors,” said Rep. Doggett. “These programs bring life-changing education to our youth, helping those in our community avoid unplanned pregnancies and make healthy decisions. The Trump Administration must provide an explanation for its forsaking Texas teens by dismantling this valued initiative."
 
Texas has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the nation, resulting in significant costs to the state: in 2010, the public cost of teen childbearing in Texas was $1.1 billion. Texas Democrats Beto O’Rourke (TX-16), Filemon Vela (TX-34), Gene Green (TX-29), Eddie Bernice Johnson (TX-30), Marc Veasey (TX-33), Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18), Henry Cuellar (TX-28), and Al Green (TX-09) also signed the letter.     
 
“Time and time again studies have shown that abstinence-only education simply does not work,” said Congressman Veasey. “The Trump Administration’s decision to eliminate comprehensive safe-sex education and instead funnel $277 million dollars to ineffective abstinence-only programs will prevent our youth from having all the readily available information they need to make healthy decisions regarding their future. We must ensure that we save this vital program for Texas women to continue to decide their own futures and that of their families.”
 
“Cutting the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program with no explanation will force organizations and communities that have been working diligently on this issue up against a wall,” said Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson. “The grantees’ innovative and strategic approach to reaching Texas communities with the highest rates of teen pregnancy has shown progress and that will screech to a halt. We must understand why these grants were cut short with no notice and no explanation.”
 
Text of the letter is included below. 
 
 
[BEGIN LETTER TEXT]
 
July 14, 2017
 
The Honorable Thomas E. Price, M.D. 
Secretary of Health and Human Services
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
200 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20201
 
Dear Secretary Price:
 
We write in response to concerning reports that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has cut short the grant awards for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program (TPPP) and notified the grantees that their year three funding (supported by fiscal year 2017 appropriated funds) would be the final year of their projects, despite originally being granted five-year project periods, and despite the fact that Congress has yet to complete its work for fiscal year 2018 appropriations.
 
The TPPP is a pioneering example of evidence-based policymaking and represents an important contribution to building a body of evidence of effective strategies to prevent teen pregnancy.  This includes high-quality implementation, evaluation, innovation, and learning from results.  Since the TPPP was established in 2010, teen childbearing has fallen by 41 percent nationwide, a decline more than double any other six-year period since teen births peaked in 1991.  It is clear that the pace of progress has accelerated dramatically since the federal commitment to evidence-based teen pregnancy prevention began.
 
As members of the Texas delegation, we have a special nexus to the TPPP as it is critical for our state’s population.  Data indicates that Texas has one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the nation, resulting in significant costs to the state: in 2010, the public cost of teen childbearing in Texas was $1.1 billion.  Therefore, it is imperative that this program continue in order to be sure that our children receive the instruction they need to reduce teen births.  
 
We would appreciate a written response to the following questions in order to advise Texas TPPP grantees going forward: 
 
1. Who made the decision to shorten the TPPP grant awards by two years?  What was the justification behind this decision?
2. Congress has yet to act on the fiscal year 2018 budget.  What will happen if Congress appropriates TPPP funding for fiscal year 2018?  Will current TPPP grantees be allowed to continue their projects? 
3. If not, what does HHS plan to do with fiscal year 2018 funding?
 
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter.  The health and well-being of our youth depends on the evidenced-based work TPPP grantees are doing across Texas and the nation. 
 
Sincerely,
 
Joaquin Castro                                                           
Member of Congress
 
Lloyd Doggett
Member of Congress                                                   
                                                
Beto O’Rourke                                                           
Member of Congress
 
Filemon Vela
Member of Congress                                                   
                                                
Gene Green                                                                 
Member of Congress
 
Eddie Bernice Johnson 
Member of Congress                                                   
            
Marc Veasey                                                              
Member of Congress              
 
Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of Congress                                                   
                                                 
Henry Cuellar                                                  
Member of Congress     
 
Al Green
Member of Congress           
  
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