Federal spending on children broke records during the pandemic, a new report from First Focus on Children finds, but Congress is quickly abandoning that commitment.

Children’s Budget 2022, to be released tomorrow by the bipartisan advocacy group First Focus on Children, finds that the share of federal spending on children climbed to a historic 11.98% of the U.S. budget in FY 2022, producing remarkable declines in child poverty, hunger and the rate of children without health insurance.

“The unprecedented level of investment in our nation’s children this year showed what we can achieve when we prioritize our kids,” said First Focus on Children President Bruce Lesley. “We made these investments in response to an emergency. But the health and well-being of our children had been in crisis for years before COVID-19 shocked the country’s health and economy. The pandemic is receding, but the emergency of our children’s well-being is not. We urge Congress to apply the lessons learned during the pandemic and to continue investing in our kids at these levels and higher. Our baseline should not be what we have done in the past, but what we have learned is possible.”

Children’s Budget 2022 finds that the share of U.S. domestic and international spending on children rose 21% over the last five years, making up 11.98% of all federal spending in FY 2022 (11.88% for domestic, 0.10% for international). This share stands in stark contrast to pre-pandemic investments when the total share of federal spending on children was only 7.55% of the federal budget. Congress, however, has begun backing off these investments, with inflation-adjusted dollars for children dropping nearly 17% between FY 2021 and FY 2022.

The report tracks federal spending in roughly 250 domestic and international programs. This year for the first time we began to track outlays that protect children from the impact of climate change, air pollution, toxic substances, pesticides and other areas of environmental health.

Sen. Ron Wyden, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, will address attendees at the 2022 Children’s Budget Summit this Thursday, Oct. 6, at 1pm, where policymakers, experts, and advocates will analyze the report’s findings and its implications for future policy. Office of Management and Budget Director Shalanda Young also will join the summit in a recorded conversation with First Focus on Children’s Mr. Lesley. 

Please register to attend the summit at this link. All who RSVP will receive a digital version of Children’s Budget 2022.