What’s at stake for kids if Congress doesn’t pass Build Back Better
Aubrey Edwards-Luce (Former Staff), Averi Pakulis, Cara Baldari, Carrie Fitzgerald (Former Staff), Conor Sasner (Former Staff), Elaine Dalpiaz, Haley Winter, Kathy Sacco, Michelle Dallafior, Miriam Abaya (Former Staff), Olivia Gomez (Former Staff), First Focus Campaign for ChildrenChild Care Early Childhood Education Federal Budget Health Housing & Homelessness Nutrition Poverty & Family Economics Racial Equity
As negotiations have stalled and the fate of the Build Back Better Act hangs in the balance, children stand to lose access to monthly payments, healthcare, nutrition assistance, and other critical support that endangers their physical health and economic security. The negative reverberations of the pandemic continue to be strongest for families with children who were already struggling to make ends meet, with communities of color bearing the brunt of this hardship.
The most imminent loss of support are Child Tax Credit payments that expire at the end of 2021, and if allowed to lapse, will cause our nation’s child poverty rate to nearly double, with close to 4 million children being forced to experience poverty and material hardship.
This is happening at a time when millions of families are facing compounding barriers to keeping their households healthy and economically secure – 91% of families with low incomes are spending the expanded CTC on basic needs and education. In addition, health insurance coverage for children is on a downward trend, many workers lack access to paid family and medical leave and/or paid sick days, enhanced unemployment insurance benefits have expired, access to affordable child care remains limited, and tens of millions of households are at risk of eviction.
The spread of the Omicron variant threatens to only cause further harm and slow an already-tenuous economic recovery. We urge Congress to resume negotiations on the Build Back Better Act immediately. The provisions in this bill must be viewed as a combined effort to better the lives of children across the country.
Our nation’s children cannot afford to lose any of these essential investments:
Child Tax Credit: Monthly payments of up to $300 per child would continue reaching nearly 90% of the country’s children through 2022. These changes to the CTC have helped slash child poverty. Critically important, the bill makes permanent full refundability, which will help support 26 million children previously left out because their families make too little. It also would restore the credit to ITIN filers as of December 31, 2021 and benefit children in U.S. territories.
Read more on the Child Tax Credit: Congress May Slash Benefits for Struggling Families
Watch West Virginia Moms Share the Impact of the CTC: CTC is a Relief for Families
Children’s Health Insurance Program: CHIP, which covers roughly 10 million children, would be made permanent, sparing it from serial expiration every few years.
Read more on the need to make CHIP permanent: Policy Brief: 10 Ways to Improve the Health Coverage of Our Nation’s Children
12-Month Continuous Eligibility: Would require states to provide 12-month continuous eligibility for children in CHIP and Medicaid to ensure kids no longer churn out of coverage. CHIP and Medicaid combined cover more than 40 million children.
Read more on Continuous Eligibility: Issue Brief: Early Childhood Continuous Eligibility
12-Months of Postpartum Coverage: Would guarantee 12 months of postpartum coverage for individuals covered under Medicaid, rather than the current 60-day benefit.
Universal, Free Preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds.
Affordable, High-Quality Child Care: Out-of-pocket expenses for most families would be limited to 7% of their income, with many families receiving free care, and the bill would increase the current low wages of the child care workforce.
Read More on Child Care: Congress Has a Chance to Get Child Care Right. They Need To Take It.
Greater Access to School Food Benefits: Though the original $35 billion for nutrition has been pared back to just $10 billion, the legislation includes improved access to school meals year-round such as a nationwide extension of Summer EBT, which will stave off summer hunger for 29 million children.
Read More on Child Hunger: What Congress Can Do About Hunger and Homelessness This Holiday Season
Earned Income Tax Credit: Lowers the age of eligibility for the EITC to 18 from 25 for former foster youth and youth experiencing homelessness without qualifying children, and drops the age to 19 for other adult, childless workers. The improvements also nearly triple the amount of the benefit and are expected to reach an estimated 380,000 to 500,000 former foster youth.
Read More on the EITC: 200 Groups Urge for Permanent Expansion of the EITC
Paid Family and Medical Leave: A permanent paid family and medical leave program that provides 4 weeks of paid leave to care for a new child, a family member, and a worker’s own medical needs. The average worker would receive about 2/3 of their wages, with the lowest-income workers receiving about 90% of their wages.
Increased equity for U.S. Territories – Increases the Medicaid cap amount and match rate for the US territories. The federal matching rate for their Medicaid programs would be permanently adjusted to 83% for the territories beginning in FY 2022, except Puerto Rico, whose match rate would be 76% in FY 2022 and increase to 83% in FY 2023. Also ensures that families in Puerto Rico and the other territories could continue to access the enhanced Child Tax Credit. Families in Puerto Rico would begin to receive advanced CTC payments in July 2022.