Last night the House passed a debt ceiling bill that will stave off disaster for the country as a whole, but will hurt millions of our children.
The package that now heads to the Senate takes its biggest cuts from discretionary spending, the discreet pot of money that funds most children’s programs. The deal limits federal discretionary spending to 1% growth over the next two years, which in reality results in a cut because the increase does not keep pace with inflation.
The cuts come as children face ever-increasing hardship. Child mortality rates are rising. The improved Child Tax Credit, which lifted millions of kids out of poverty, has expired. Millions more children may lose health care coverage through the Medicaid unwinding process, and will continue to face crises in our education, early childhood, and child care systems created by decades of disinvestment.
In addition to these burdens, the debt ceiling bill will:
1. Take food out of their mouths:
Under the agreement, spending for the Supplemental Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) will fall $615 million short of what USDA estimates their expanding caseload of new mothers, pregnant women, and their children will need in fiscal year 2024.
Lawmakers, in fact, should be removing barriers to food assistance, for instance by maintaining the increase in SNAP benefits created by updating the Thrifty Food Plan to better reflect modern food costs, making it easier for families to gain SNAP eligibility by limiting burdensome administrative requirements, investing in nutrition education for SNAP participants, and ensuring vulnerable youth and young adults have access to food assistance. Find more solutions in our 2023 Agenda for America’s Children.
2. Exacerbate the child care crisis, especially for low-income families:
The debt ceiling bill aggravates this struggle by rescinding funds for the Child Care & Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the primary source of child care assistance for low-income families. The deal also imposes severe caps on funding for child care in the next two years — a departure from a trend of increases that previously were bipartisan.
To build an early learning system that meets the needs of children, families, and employees, Congress must instead significantly increase federal investments in child care and treat the sector like the public good it is. Find more solutions in our 2023 Agenda for America’s Children.
Extensive research shows that tax credits and cash transfers influence
positive parent-child interactions, improve child development outcomes, and
have a bigger impact than any other policy in reducing child poverty. A 2019
landmark study from the nonpartisan National Academy of Sciences, A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty, found that cash
assistance improves children’s long-term health and educational and economic
outcomes both by increasing access to resources that support children’s healthy
development and by reducing household stress, giving parents and caregivers
more mental and emotional bandwidth for their children. For families in crisis,
timely cash assistance can provide the support that parents need to reunify
with their children — or keep them from entering the child welfare system to
Since the expiration of the 2021 improvements to the Child Tax Credit
(CTC), the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program has been the
only federal program providing monthly cash assistance to families with very
low incomes. TANF is a children’s program — more than 70% of
TANF recipients are children. TANF provides critical
assistance to millions of children and families, through cash assistance as
well as funding for child care, state tax credits, food banks and other aid.
While TANF cash assistance is a lifeline for those households with
children that receive it — helping parents and caretakers afford food, rent,
diapers and other staples — it fails to reach many kids in need. In 2020, for every 100 families in poverty, just 21 received TANF
assistance. TANF’s rules allow state officials to set
narrow parameters for program eligibility and impose strict work requirements
and arduous administrative burdens on program participation. State officials
can spend TANF dollars on a wide variety of items outside of cash assistance or
work supports, and many do. As a fixed block grant, TANF funding does not
automatically increase to meet greater need during times of economic crisis. Finally,
because it is not indexed to inflation, TANF’s value has decreased over time
and the program has not received an increase in federal funding since its
creation in 1996. As a result of these restrictions, very few low-income
families with children receive TANF cash assistance, and those that do often receive
very low levels of assistance.
studies have shown that
rather than fostering economic mobility, work requirements prevent parents and
caretakers from accessing assistance, piling burdens on struggling families and
increasing disparities for those in marginalized communities. A Roadmap to
Reducing Child Poverty also found that “work requirements are at least as
likely to increase as to decrease poverty.” The racist roots of work requirements for benefit
programs extend far back into our nation’s history, starting with the slave
trade and continuing today, as racist stereotypes persist about Black and other
people of color’s willingness to work. Documenting work is especially onerous
for low-wage workers, disproportionately workers of color, who often have no
control over their schedules and whose hours may vary from week to week.
Work requirements also do not account for uncompensated childrearing and
caretaking of family members, work that produces large benefits to the
collective whole. Grandparents caring for grandchildren, or parents caring for
children with disabilities or special health care needs face particular
barriers to economic security.
Protect TANF, along with Medicaid, SNAP, and Other Spending on Children
The U.S. House of Representatives’ recent passage of H.R. 2811 uses the full faith and credit of the United States as a bargaining chip for extremely harmful changes to TANF, along with Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). To add insult to injury, the bill includes deep spending cuts to non-defense discretionary spending. The United States already underinvests in our children — as First Focus on Children’s annual Children’s Budget shows, children do not receive their fair share of government funds. Lawmakers must protect funding for children’s programs along with those programs that benefit low-income seniors and adults.
We urge members of Congress and President Biden to avoid any steps that
would increase poverty, including child poverty, by rejecting provisions in
H.R. 2811 that would weaken children’s access to cash assistance, health care
and nutrition assistance in TANF, Medicaid, and SNAP. Lawmakers also must
reject across-the-board cuts to discretionary spending programs that serve
proposed crushing spending cuts and policy changes would cause severe harm to
the health, safety, and well-being of our children, families, and people in
need around the country, and would ask our most vulnerable populations to
shoulder the nation’s debt.
Will we measure success by how many we reject or how many we protect?
Today, at 11:59 pm, the Title 42 policy put in place by the Trump
Administration and engineered for the indiscriminate expulsion of children,
families and individuals seeking safety, will finally end.
For more than three years, First Focus on Children has advocated for this
day. We joined other child advocates in a
letter urging the Biden Administration
to end this abuse of federal law that inflicted harm on children. We sadly
marked its anniversary. We applauded the Centers for Disease Control and
Prevention when they terminated the order that put the policy in place, though
that was over a year ago now. It is well past time to end Title 42.
This cannot be a day of rejoicing, but a day to mourn that for over three
years, children, families, and individuals were denied our nation’s promise to
allow those fleeing persecution and violence to “breathe free.” While
unaccompanied children were eventually exempt from the policy, Title 42 has
been used 2.8
million times to turn away
individuals and children in families. According
to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) received through a Freedom
of Information Act request by the Cato Institute, between March 2020 and May 31
U.S. government expelled 125,000 children under Title 42 — including over 30,000 children
and infants — and almost a third of those expulsions occurred after midnight.
The policy has repeatedly put children and families in danger, with more than 13,000 reports
of violent attacks recorded during President Biden’s term alone. Under Title
42, thousands of children have been separated
from family. In fact, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees recommended in January 2022 that
the U.S. immediately end Title 42 because the policy “compels” family
separation. Title 42 fueled chaos at
the border by enabling repeated crossings and further exploitation by criminal
organizations. In June 2022, 50 people tragically
lost their lives in San Antonio because Title 42 was a failed policy that
denied people a safe way to seek entry to the United States. In short, Title 42
Unfortunately, the end of Title 42 does not immediately restore a full
and fair asylum system. In the very first week of this year, the Biden
Administration announced “new border enforcement actions” that favor failed,
deterrence-based policies over orderly and humane restoration of a protection
that our laws have provided for decades. While this announcement included
limited additional pathways for those seeking safety to come to the United
States, it did so at the
expense of a full and fair process for children and families to make their claims for protection by expanding
expedited processing at the border and requiring arriving children and families
to make an appointment on a mobile app to approach the border. The Biden
Administration followed up this announcement with a proposed asylum ban that will punish children, which First Focus on Children vehemently
opposed. That rule has been
finalized. The Administration also
plans to expand expedited processing at the border, which will deny children in families a fair chance to make claims for protection. While the Biden Administration has
also announced expansions to refugee
resettlement and parole programs to allow family reunification and safe pathways to the United States,
those cannot replace the legal right to seek asylum at our border. Instead of
taking the opportunity to build a legacy of restoring welcome for children and
families fleeing danger, the Administration is relying on failed policies that ensure
Some members of Congress are also working to pass dangerous policies in
response to Title 42’s end. House committees have considered border bills that would enshrine harm to children as the law of the land. Even
today as Title 42 ends, the House is expected to vote on a bill that would embrace bans, bars, and jails for children and families
We cannot forget that each child and family arriving has a
face, a name, a story. Many of the children and families coming to the United
States have experienced persecution, torture, trafficking, and abuse in their home
countries or on the
journey to find safety. For them, coming to the U.S. border is a lifeline. The
cost of denying them the opportunity to seek safety is too great — both for
them and for the soul of our nation. Our country has a long and proud tradition
of welcoming children, families, and individuals who need protection from
persecution, violence, and torture. Communities around the country have
already welcomed children and families seeking protection, and they will continue to welcome
of Americans —
regardless of political affiliation — agree that our country should provide
asylum to people fleeing persecution and violence. Policymakers must follow
their lead and hold to our values of welcome and a fair opportunity to build a
new and safe life.
Welcome and process children, families, and individuals seeking asylum in a manner that keeps families together, provides humanitarian assistance, and connects them with government-supported organizations providing shelter, reception, and support to reach final destinations
Allow children and their families to pursue their immigration cases in the community with access to community-based services that help them understand the immigration system and recover from their trauma
Grant children and families a fair opportunity to make their claim for protection within a meaningful timeframe, and with legal and social services to develop their immigration case.
We are now at the “after Title 42” stage of our history. The question
remains: Does our nation now become a country that measures success based on
the number of people we reject, or the number of people we protect?
Faith leaders, service providers, and advocates joined members of Congress today in holding a rally and press conference opposing the House budget plan. The speakers will talk about the impact the House budget plan will have on individuals and communities across the country, pointing to how the proposal would take away nutrition assistance, health care, and housing assistance away from those who need it. Members of Congress have been invited and Bruce Lesley from First Focus will speak about the specific harm to kids under this budget approach – speaker list below. You are encouraged to join the rally and participate on social media during the rally.
First Focus President Bruce Lesley Remarks
Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children was proud to speak alongside leaders from the Coalition on Human Needs, Caring Across Generations, FRAC (Food Research Action Center), Americans for Tax Fairness, NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, the National Low Income Housing Coalition, and many others. During the rally, he delivered the following remarks:
First Focus Campaign for Children opposes the debt ceiling bill in the House. It is nonsensical to – in the name of the next generation – make 22% across-the-board cuts in funding for education, child health (including Medicaid), early childhood, child care, child nutrition, housing, child abuse prevention, and even kids in foster care.
Harming children does not help them. It is also a disaster for our nation’s future. People need Care Not Cuts. The fact is that we know investing in children works and that it has an incredible long-term return-on-investment.
The American people know it as well. In a May 2022 poll by Lake Research Partners, by a 90-8% margin, voters believe “investing in children helps improve their lives, development, and outcomes.” Moreover, by an 89-7% margin, voters believe “investing in children has a large return in a health society and a healthy economy.” The vast majority of Americans get it.
And yet, House leadership has chosen ethanol over children and families. And when it comes to the cuts, the House leadership is choosing to disproportionately cut funding to children and families, particularly those most in need. Congress should soundly reject it and stop targeting children and families for cuts.
Watch the full live stream of the rally below:
The House of Representatives plans to vote on this bill on Wednesday, April 26th — if you would like your member of Congress to hear you before the vote, click here to be connected right now. Don’t worry — we’ll provide a call script and connect you directly to their office.
Earth Day comes around this Saturday, April 22, and one thing is clear: The climate crisis is not tomorrow’s problem. Children today, in every corner of the country, and the world, feel its impacts first-hand. As if that wasn’t enough to contend with, our children’s air and water is continuously contaminated by polluters operating with little regard for the planet or human life. Kids bear these impacts – mentally and physically – far more than adults, creating an issue of environmental justice that threatens their well-being.
Since their physiology is significantly different from adults’, children struggle with myriad health and other concerns created by pollution, and the climate crisis and its impacts. Every consequence of our inaction, from drought to displacement, will weigh heavily on our children now and in the future.
Last year, Congress took an historic step to combat pollution, environmental injustices, and the climate crisis by passing the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and investing more than $300 billion in our children’s clean energy future. It was the most monumental investment to date, but unfortunately, still leaves gaps that force children to live in unhealthy environments and suffer the consequences of climate change.
Here are just a few of the many ways in which environmental pressures affect children:
Natural disasters leave a lasting impact: The deadly collection of tornadoes, floods, hurricanes, and other extreme weather took 342 lives in the US in 2022 — an aching loss felt heavily by America’s children. After disasters, children, especially those under the age of eight, are more likely to develop anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress disorder. The mental toll of extreme weather can lead to difficulty concentrating, outbursts of anger, and mental health struggles that may follow them into adulthood.
Children from low-income communities and children of color bear the brunt of the crisis: Children from these households often experience environmental injustices — a deadly form of discrimination where poor and minority communities are exposed to disproportionate amounts of pollution. Companies target these areas knowing that systematic racism and a lack of enforcement will allow them to pollute freely. Children in these areas experience higher rates of asthma, lead poisoning, certain cancers, and developmental issues. Without protection, they will continue to suffer.
The next decade will be pivotal for our children, their children, and all of the generations to come. We can help stave off the worst of the climate crisis and create a healthier future for our kids by:
Committing to update school infrastructure to make sure kids have clean air and clean water
Supporting climate legislation that protects frontline communities and creates a sustainable future
Uplifting children from communities that have been left behind by environmental protection practices and centering them in our policies
Last month, Reps. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Barbara Lee (D-CA) joined Sens. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Cory Booker (D-NJ) to introduce the A. Donald McEachin Environmental Justice for All Act (H.R. 1705/S. 919) aimed at tackling some of the most pressing environmental injustices. Legislation like this bill, which puts our most vulnerable populations first, will help build our clean energy future equitably.
When we commit to our environment, we commit to our kids. Let’s keep them front and center this Earth Day.
As House leadership wrangles with itself over the contours of a budget proposal, one thing is clear: Cuts are coming. Members have floated proposals that would return spending to FY 2022 enacted levels (i.e. not including pandemic funding) or could go even deeper. Vows to leave Social Security and Medicare unscathed put just about every other program in the legislature’s sites. Once again, children are likely to bear the brunt of draconian measures.
2. Housing: A return to FY 2022 enacted levels would cut the Department of Agriculture’s rental assistance program by $325 million. The Rental Assistance Program helps eligible low-income tenants in USDA-financed multi-family housing pay no more than 30% of their incomes for rent and currently serves approximately 288,000 tenants. The House leadership’s planned reduction would cause between 40,000 and 63,000 current recipients to lose rental assistance. The average annual income of families and individuals receiving rental assistance (generally female-headed households, elderly, and the disabled) is approximately $12,501.
3. Education: A reduction to the FY 2022 enacted level would cut funding from multiple programs. Low-income students and students with disabilities would lose 13,000 teachers. Deeper cuts would remove as many as 60,000 teachers from classrooms.
Every few years, the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) releases a comprehensive assessment detailing the latest findings in climate science, from scientists’ worst predictions to our best hopes for adaptation. As UN Secretary General António Guterres says, the report serves as “a survival guide for humanity.”
The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), released in March, simultaneously offered a bleak message and profound hope. Many impacts will be unavoidable, but deep, collective action offers a chance at a liveable future. The science has spoken: This is our last chance to save our children.
A four-fold increase in the number of extreme events experienced by children born after 2010
Sea-level rise that will eradicate their homes and could force more than 200 million people to relocate
An additional 1.4 million children experiencing stunted growth by 2050 due to poor nutrition and decreased food availability
Disruptions to school accessibility and education
Increased exposure to water, food, and vector-borne diseases like malaria and cholera
Children living in a world with 2ºC of warming are less likely to survive, let alone thrive. However, the AR6’s call for action overshadows the bleak data it provides. Our window for action is closing, but for now, remains open. With quick and sustained action, we have the ability to stave off the worst of the climate crisis. First Focus on Children calls on Congress and the Biden Administration to:
Protect low-income and marginalized communities and countries who will feel the impacts of the climate crisis first and worst
Invest in programs that mitigate the climate crisis and slash carbon pollution
Children around the globe, not just in the U.S., feel the impact of our pollution. They bear the weight of our decisions now and in the decades to come. With wide-reaching, all-encompassing global action, we can maintain a planet that is habitable, healthy, and happy for children. For more about First Focus on Children’s environmental health priorities, refer to our Children’s Agenda.
Let’s start with the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), commonly called food stamps, which several lawmakers have squarely in their sites. SNAP currently feeds more than 14 million children. Four million of them could go hungry, as First Focus on Children’s policy experts note in this recently released brief, under current proposals to expand SNAP’s work requirements to parents and caregivers of school-age children, that is, kids 7-18 year-olds. But children will also suffer even under legislation that focuses specifically on individuals without children. The fact is that families are often complex and multi-generational, and in many cases, low-income families pool resources. Taking food from adults in the household affects everyone who sits at the table.
The word “dependents” causes part of the problem. Non-custodial caregivers — aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents — may provide most of a child’s care even if they do not have legal custody. One proposal suggests raising the age for work requirements from 49 to 65, which would implicate a large number of care-taking grandparents.
The term “work requirements” offers another thorny issue. Data shows that in most low-income households at least one family member has a steady job. In many cases, “work requirements” simply “require” the employed individual to document their “work,” erecting new barriers to aid for those who need it most. Low-wage earners often work an unpredictable number of hours from week to week. Many immigrant workers are paid in cash and therefore have no evidence of employment — or bosses who are unwilling to provide evidence. Many individuals are self-employed, complicating employment verification. Perhaps most important, none of these proposals consider uncompensated childrearing “work.”
Increasing work requirements will ripple through aid to children. For instance, 85 million people — including more than 34 million children — have health insurance through Medicaid, another program being considered for work requirements. Data shows that children are much more likely to be insured when the adults in their household are insured. Pandemic-era provisions that suspended disenrollment pushed the number of uninsured individuals: Just 5.4% of children were uninsured during this time. Those provisions have now ended.Federal research suggests that 74% of the kids who lose coverage now will actually still be eligible, but will be disenrolled as a result of bureaucratic red tape. Compound this red tape with the red tape of work requirements and you’ve created a fast lane to coverage loss for eligible people, with and without children.
Supporters cite record employment and a dearth of workers as part of the rationale for work requirements. Pandemic-era assistance such as the improved Child Tax Credit showed that when you give people — especially single mothers — unrestricted aid, they will use it on child care, transportation, and other services that make it possible for them to get to work. So perhaps restricting aid is not the way to encourage more people to enter the workforce.
As a child advocate, it is deeply frustrating to people in our community that issues of great importance to children, such as education, are rarely debated in Congress. Just a few years ago, we could not identify a single bill or vote in the U.S. Senate that was taken related to issues of importance to our nation’s children, who represent about one-quarter of the nation’s population.
failing to recognize that children have a right and role to play in their education;
creating significant new bureaucracy, red tape, and reporting requirements for every single public school in this country that results in funding, time, attention, and services being diverted away from educating and serving children in every single public school across this country;
promoting and facilitating book bans and censorship rather than greater access to books, reading, and learning;
threatening access to health care, privacy, and confidentiality of students;
promoting division and animosity between parents and educators in the education of children rather than helping facilitate partnerships and greater civility between parents and educators; and,
urging the reporting of “violence” in schools after the fact rather than the protection and prevention of violence to students, teachers, other educators, and school board members.
Education is a children’s issue. You would never know that from much of the House debate on H.R. 5, which often had nothing or little to do with the educational, health, nutritional, or safety needs and concerns of children. Instead, the debate often focused about the agenda of a certain set of parents and the imposition of new federally imposed mandates upon public schools across this country without a single dollar of funding to help pay for these requirements.
And yes, money matters.
If H.R. 5 were to be enacted into law, school districts would be required to respond with resources, time, and attention to the numerous new demands in the bill. Unfortunately, the supporters of the legislation failed to recognize or acknowledge that the funding, time, and attention that schools would need to spend in response to H.R. 5 would come at the direct expense of children.
Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-CA) offered an amendment to ensure such resources would not be diverted from children. As she explained, “This is a simple, commonsense solution that removes a potentially costly barrier for school systems that are already struggling to maintain their budgets.” Sadly, her amendment was defeated by a vote of 203–217.
In addition, over 230 child advocacy organizations, parent groups, education organizations, and an array of other groups signed a letter organized by the U.S. Conference on Civil Rights and signed by First Focus Campaign for Children in opposition to H.R. 5 and in favor of H.Res.219 by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR). We were disappointed that the House of Representatives acted to pass H.R. 5 by a vote of 213–208 and turned down H.Res. 219 by a vote of 203–223.
Among the amendments, there was one offered by Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) that called for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education and its role in providing funding to our nation’s schools with concentrated poverty, child care, after-school programs, the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA), Special Olympics, Education for Homeless Children and Youth, Full-Service Community Schools, GEAR UP, Impact Aid, migrant education, and TRIO.
Although the amendment fortunately failed by a vote of 161–265, it is disturbing that so many members of the House would actively choose to leave millions of the most vulnerable children and their education worse off. Therefore, it is important to acknowledge the 60 Republicans and 205 Democrats who voted against the Massie Amendment.
It is also important to highlight that there were some important advocates in the House of Representatives who spoke out in support of the needs, concerns, and best interests of children in last week’s House debate.
A number of members expressed support for a larger “Children’s and Parents’ Agenda” with respect to education, the Child Tax Credit, health, nutrition, and safety for kids that is quite different from what was offered and promoted in H.R. 5, such as book bans, attacks on LGBTQ students, and new unfunded mandates upon schools.
Here is a sample of those statements in Congress in defense and support of children:
Rep. Bobby Scott (VA)
Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA) led the opposition to H.R. 5. There are many clips of him speaking against H.R. 5 on March 23–24 that it was impossible to pick just one. Therefore, it is important to just thank him and his staff for their leadership in opposition to H.R. 5 and for their support of H.Res. 219.
Rep. Maxwell Frost (FL)
This bill focused on parents’ rights, but what about the rights of our students? What about the rights of our young people?
… what about the kids who are gunned down in their classrooms? The leading cause of death for young people in this country is gun violence.
None of that is in this bill.
Rep. Suzanne Bonamici (OR)
We have put forward a substantive plan (H.Res. 129) that will actually increase the frequency, quality, and accessibility of parental involvement and engagement in schools; a substantive plan that invests in evidence-based models and support systems that have been shown to increase family engagement and improve student achievement; a substantive plan that encourages parents to be partners, not adversaries, in their children’s education; a substantive plan that roots out discrimination based on race, disability, socioeconomic status, sexual orientation, or gender identity in our public schools; a substantive plan that, unlike H.R. 5, doesn’t carry dangerous, authoritarian undertones encouraging book bans, discouraging the teaching of scientifically and historically accurate curricula, and leading to the micromanagement of the work of educators.
Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (PA)
…this bill pits parents against each other and against teachers in a way that creates more chaos and community discord. That hurts students and families, disregards talented educators, undermines public schools, and detracts from what should be our ultimate goal, providing the best possible public education for America’s children.
Rep. Mark Takano (CA)
…children have a God-given right not to be physically or emotionally harmed…. Good teachers care about their kids. Good teachers know that a relationship with parents is important. But when a home is not safe for LGBTQ kids, school becomes their safe place, and teachers need to be their cheerleaders, not their first bullies.
This bill forces good teachers to do bad things. It alienates students from their parents. It outs kids. It forces kids back into the closet. It is a fundamental invasion of privacy that puts children in danger.
Rep. Jahana Hayes (CT)
This bill will not improve educational outcomes. This bill caters to a small group of individuals who seek to impose their world views on entire school districts, on my child.
Rep. Sara Jacobs (CA)
My colleagues glaze over the causes of real violence at our Nation’s schools, like proper investments in school-based mental health programs, social, emotional, and cultural competency professional development for educators and administrators, disciplinary measures that eradicate the cradle-to-prison pipeline, and, more importantly, gun control measures to ensure that our youth are safe from school shootings.
Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (FL)
Make no mistake, H.R. 5 undermines teachers, and instead of offering students more support, it effectively denies it. The result of this law in Florida has cleared bookshelves and canceled coursework and an AP exam on African-American history.
As a mother whose children attended public schools, I speak for millions of moms when I say all we want for our children is a safe learning environment that ensures they discover the wider world, and not force them to grow into narrow-minded, ignorant adults. This legislation just hands a vocal and extreme minority of parents the power to dictate what every American child learns.
Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX)
Child tax credits should now be made permanent, taking care of additional childcare for those parents who are burdened, and for those who need housing, investing more so that children have roofs over their heads, as well as ensuring that no one is left alone looking for housing.
…I am against undermining vulnerable children, such as transgender children. I am against banning books, such as a book about a Black astrologist, a scientist, Neil deGrasse Tyson, or the story of a man ultimately of peace who brought South Africa together, Nelson Mandela.
Rep. Jamie Raskin (MD)
Mr. Chair, 2 years ago, more than 1,600 books were banned in the United States of America…
It is amazing to me to see politicians who oppose a universal violent criminal background check and who defend assault weapons after the massacres at Columbine; after Parkland, Florida; at Sandy Hook in Newtown, Connecticut; after Uvalde; after Santa Fe, Texas, that they are now going to keep America’s children safe by banning “The Handmaid’s Tale’’ and “1984.’’
…we can do better for the children of America.
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (WA)
So don’t tell me this is a parents’ bill of rights. This is not addressing gun violence. It is not addressing mental health. It is not addressing childcare, pre-K, and all of the other things that would be a part of a parents’ bill of rights.
Instead, we are spending time on a bill that sows doubt about public education and our teachers and also targets our very vulnerable trans kids who are absolutely no threat to anyone in this body.
Rep. Jim McGovern (MA)
This bill is going to be weaponized by far right groups and used to threaten schools with legal action if they don’t pull books off the shelves.
Rep. Joe Neguse (CO)
[Parents in Colorado] are concerned about their students — their children — coming home from school alive. They are concerned about the ability of children to be able to get a quality education and not go hungry, to not be poisoned by lead pipes in some of the dilapidated buildings in rural and urban communities across this country, and about the cost of childcare.
Mr. Speaker, that is what they are concerned about.
Rep. Frederica Wilson (FL)
This bill is nothing more than a talking point of the extreme MAGA agenda that will hurt children and hurt our schools. Let’s face it — there has been a movement to eliminate public education since the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision.
…You will never eliminate public schools. We will fight you as long as it takes. This is all that the little children who look like me have. Public schools are the bedrock of this Nation.
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (NY)
This flowery language of “parental rights and freedom’’ hides the sinister fact of this legislative text… It includes two provisions that require schools to out trans, nonbinary, and LGBT youth even if it would put said youth in harm’s way.
One of the highest rates of youth homelessness is in the LGBT community, from parents who want to kick their children out in households that may be unstable or abusive. For so many children of abuse, school is their only safe place to be.
Rep. Morgan McGarvey (KY)
In addition to restricting parents’ rights, H.R. 5 hurts some of our most vulnerable kids in the LGBTQ community. Why? According to the Trevor Project, one LGBTQ youth attempts suicide every 45 seconds, 45 seconds. Why?
Why are we being more cruel?
I believe that not just in politics but in life we are judged by how we treat those on the margins. My message to my colleagues is simple: Stop being mean to kids. We can be involved and be inclusive.
Normally, we warn our kids about dealing with bullies in their classrooms. We shouldn’t have to warn them about bullying from adults, too.
Rep. Angie Craig (MN)
If you want to support parents, let’s fully fund our public schools and sharpen our focus on special education programs. Let’s figure out how we recruit and retain talented teachers. Let’s get our kids and educators the mental health resources they desperately need.
House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries (NY)
…every single child should have access to a high-quality, first-rate education.
…every single child throughout America should learn reading, writing, and arithmetic at the highest level possible.
…every single child should be exposed to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics so that they have the skills to succeed in the 21st century economy.
…every single child in this great Nation should have the opportunity to robustly pursue the American Dream.
Far too often, children are an afterthought in debates in the halls of Congress. Much of the debate around H.R. 5 completely ignored the needs, concerns, and best interests of children. But to these 17 House members and others who also took to the House floor in support of children, we see you and appreciate your commitment to children.
Special acknowledgment to Reps. Wasserman Schultz and Jackson Lee for putting the First Focus Campaign for Children letter into the Congressional Record. Thank you!
No child should go a single day without access to health care coverage. Even short gaps in coverage interrupt children’s access to care, which, especially for young children, can impact their health and development into adulthood. Starting tomorrow, April 1st, families around the country will begin to see a process unfold that could result in nearly 7 million children losing their health coverage. No, that is not an April Fools’ joke.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress provided additional Medicaid funding to states based on meeting several requirements, including a continuous coverage requirement that prohibited states from terminating a child or parent’s Medicaid coverage during the COVID-19 public health emergency (PHE). With the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2023, Congress delinked the continuous coverage requirements from the end of the PHE and set April 1st as the date when states can begin what has been called “unwinding.” “Unwinding” means that states can disenroll children and families from Medicaid who no longer qualify and resume the state’s normal course of annual Medicaid eligibility reviews. States will have the next year to conduct the unwinding process and make redeterminations for the 85 million Americans enrolled in Medicaid, including over 34.7 million children.
While unwinding might seem like a simple return to the normal operating procedure for state Medicaid agencies, if they do not proceed with caution people will unnecessarily lose coverage. In fact, children are at the greatest risk of unnecessary coverage loss. According to a report by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), nearly 74% of children who are projected to lose coverage will still be eligible for Medicaid.
You might be asking, “How can so many children be disenrolled despite remaining eligible?” There is no single answer but some reasons include:
Barriers in the renewal process: Certain individuals will be at higher risk of experiencing a gap in coverage or losing their Medicaid completely due to barriers in the renewal process, including:
Children of families who moved during the pandemic not receiving important information about their Medicaid renewal or other notices
Notices not being in clear, understandable language that articulates the steps families must take to renew their child’s coverage
Families with limited-English proficiency (LEP) not receiving paperwork in their preferred language
People with disabilities encountering challenges due to not being able to access information in needed formats.
Crushing workload: The unwinding process will mark the first time since March 2020 that many state Medicaid workers are processing redeterminations — and they have millions to process. Even the most well-intentioned workers are likely to make mistakes due to the sheer workload. Additionally, while some states have made efforts to ramp up their staffing for redeterminations and call centers, the number of redeterminations will test capacity levels.
Short processing windows: States can take the next year to get through their Medicaid redeterminations. However, some states plan to unwind with shorter time frames. For example, Arkansas has said it wants to do the entire process in six months. Forcing short time frames on families to return paperwork and on state workers making the redeterminations will increase the likelihood of mistakes that can cause kids to slip through the cracks.
Update enrollee contact information through national databases
Make good faith efforts to contact enrollees before disenrolling them based on returned mail
Not raise premiums or make changes to their Medicaid eligibility standards, methodologies, or procedures
Submit monthly reports with information about redetermination activities
In line with these requirements, states must, to the greatest extent possible, use available data to renew the eligibility of children and families without requiring additional paperwork unless absolutely necessary. Where paperwork is necessary, states must send information and notices that are clear and available in the preferred language of families; follow up with families who need to submit documents through multiple methods of communication; and make good-faith efforts to contact families who may have moved during the pandemic.
Beyond state action, HHS must ensure the appropriate and timely oversight of state unwinding activities. For states that are struggling with unwinding, the Secretary must use his authority to ensure those states swiftly implement a corrective action plan and, in the most egregious cases, are penalized (as allowed by law) or have their eligibility redetermination activities suspended.
Again, kids losing health care coverage is no joke. We are counting on the states to mitigate unnecessary coverage losses for children and the federal government to hold them accountable for doing so.