On February 10, 2020, President Trump released the administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) $4.8 trillion budget request. Once again, this administration’s budget proposal includes staggering cuts to critical programs that benefit children and working families. It also breaks the agreement reached in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (H.R.3877) by seeking massive, harmful spending cuts to non-defense discretionary programs and services.

Although policies outlined in the President’s Budget rarely come to fruition, they serve as a telling indication of an administration’s values and priorities. This FY21 budget document provides a stark outline of this administration’s budget and policy priorities, and, alarmingly, children are not high on their list. While some programs and initiatives that benefit children see small proposed increases, they are undercut by much broader policy shifts and funding cuts that far outweigh the incremental changes highlighted in the request. This smoke and mirrors budget proposal will once again call on congressional leadership to correct course and reject these harmful proposals by investing in our children and future.


The 2019 Bipartisan Budget Act increased both the defense and non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending caps for fiscal years 2020 and 2021. However, this year’s White House budget proposal breaks that bipartisan funding agreement by seeking massive, harmful cuts and policy changes to non-defense programs and services. Specifically, the FY21 budget proposal decreases non-defense discretionary spending by 5%, from $622 billion in FY20 to $590 billion in FY21, and cuts NDD spending by nearly $2 trillion over ten years. However, the budget proposal adheres to the agreement for defense discretionary spending, requesting $672 billion in base funding. The proposal also requests an additional $69 billion in the Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO) account, a category not subject to the spending caps, bumping up the total defense discretionary spending to $741 billion. The FY21 budget request also continues a 2 percent OCO increase through the ten-year budget window for defense spending. Alternatively, the budget proposal calls for OCO funding to fall under the baseline funding level for non-defense discretionary accounts, and further targets NDD by requesting a sustained decrease of 2 percent for NDD over the ten-year budget window.

According to the FY21 President’s Budget Briefing Book, the administration would cut a wide variety of programs serving children, including programs addressing childhood poverty, education, and child health programs. For example, the proposal seeks deep cuts to nutrition and income assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), to eliminate 29 programs from the Department of Education including specific funding that helps homeless (McKinney-Vento Act) and low-income students (Title I), and to reduce nearly a trillion dollars in spending for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program over 10 years, which are the nation’s largest insurers of children. At the same time that the president proposes these devastating cuts, the FY21 budget includes a $1.4 trillion extension of provisions in the 2017 tax law to make the individual and estate tax cuts permanent, boosting the income of some of the wealthiest households and paying for those tax benefits with savings from Medicaid, programs to help reduce child poverty, children’s nutrition programs and other services benefitting our nation’s children.

The FY21 budget proposal would significantly decrease spending for many of the Departments administering critical programs that benefit our nation’s children from their FY20 enacted levels:

  • Department of Agriculture — $1.9 billion cut (8.2% decrease)
  • Department of Commerce — $4.8 billion cut (37.3% decrease)
  • Department of Education — $5.6 billion cut (7.8% decrease)
  • Department of Health and Human Services — $9.5 billion cut (9.4% decrease)
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development — $8.6 billion cut (9.5% decrease)
  • Department of Justice — $700 million cut (2.3% decrease)
  • Department of Labor — $1.4 billion cut (10.7% decrease)

The President’s FY21 budget request proposes cuts spanning every issue area impacting children. Below is a breakdown of the ways the proposal affects children by issue area.

Child Welfare

The President’s FY21 budget proposes some human service funding increases and identifies some policy approaches to help strengthen families, focus on addressing the opioid epidemic, and prevent unnecessary trauma and harm to children and families in need of child welfare services. Unfortunately, these modestly positive policy and budget changes would be undercut by massive funding decreases and program eliminations as outlined throughout this document.

Social Services Block Grant (SSBG): The President proposes eliminating SSBG, a $1.7 billion program that currently funds an array of services for children, including childcare, child abuse prevention, counseling, adoption support, and transitional and youth services. States use a good portion of these dollars for services to supplement their child welfare programs and it is the biggest federal funder of child protective services. The administration projects that the elimination of the SSBG will increase the adoption assistance program costs by $13 million.

Community Services Block Grant: The proposal eliminates the Community Services Block Grant, a $740 million program that offers federal resources to states to address the causes of poverty by providing effective services in communities that include coordination and referral to other programs, as well as direct services such as child care, transportation, employment, education, and self-help projects.

Child Abuse Programs: The FY21 budget proposes $197 million for Child Abuse Programs, including an additional $16 million for demonstration projects to test the effectiveness of a multi-system approach to strengthen family capacity and to prevent child abuse and neglect before it occurs. According to the HHS congressional justification, approximately 3.1 million children receive preventive services annually.

Foster Care and Permanency: The request includes a $10.1 billion investment for Foster Care and Permanency programs, an increase of $672 million. This includes Adoption Assistance, Guardianship Assistance, Prevention Services, and John H. Chafee Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood programs aimed at providing safety and permanency for children separated from their families, support services to prevent child maltreatment and the need for foster care and help prepare older youth in foster care for independence. The projected increase in funding would help to support the increased number of children participating in the Foster Care and Permanency programs, especially Adoption Assistance, and additional services under the Family First Act.

“Flexible Funding” Block Grant Proposal: The budget includes a harmful “Flexible Funding” Block Grant Proposal. The administration continues to seek a new waiver authority that would allow states to take their Title IV-E foster care maintenance funding as a block grant. The administration argues that the proposal would increase the flexibility of title I-E agencies to use funds to provide services that focus on prevention and address the opioid crisis. However, there is concern that this proposal could result in cuts to spending for children who have experienced abuse and neglect. The administration fails to address how these funds, currently used for placement costs for children and youth in foster care, will cover both the cost of continuing that care and in some instances improving the quality of foster care, while also funding new efforts to prevent future foster care placements. Their justification for needed flexible funds is undercut by their proposed elimination of the flexible SSBG.

Improvements to the Family First Act: The FY21 budget request updates the clearinghouse process to review the effectiveness of prevention services programs. The proposal allows the Administration for Children and Families to approve all programs currently rated as evidence-based by the California Evidence-based Clearinghouse and the HHS Home Visiting Evidence of Effectiveness Projects to help expedite the review of programs to serve more children and families. This proposal would increase spending by $1.2 B over ten years, according to the HHS congressional justification.

New Flexibilities and Support for Youth Who Age Out of Foster Care: The budget would seek more flexibility to the Chafee Foster Care Program for Successful Transition to Adulthood by lowering the age requirement of youth experiencing foster care to 14 for eligibility for state education and employment services and housing assistance. However, the proposal does not increase funding beyond the current $143 million, again raising concerns that the budget request attempts to stretch level funding to cover additional services.

Early Childhood

Administration on Children and Families (ACF): Cuts $5.4 billion from ACF. This agency within the Department of Health and Human Services is responsible for administering programs that promote the economic and social well-being of children and families, including early childhood programs, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), child welfare, child abuse programs, and other social services.

EliminatesPreschool Development Grants: The President’s FY21 Budget would eliminate this $275 million program, which supports high-quality preschool programs and early childhood education programs for children from low-and moderate-income families, including children with disabilities.

Child Care Access Means Parents in Schools (CCAMPIS): The President’s FY21 Budget also proposes a $37.9 million reduction in CCAMPIS, a 72 percent cut. This program supports the participation of low-income parents in post-secondary education through the provision of campus-based childcare services.

Flat-Funding for Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and Head Start: The President’s FY21 Budget proposal would flat-fund CCDBG, our main federal childcare program, and Head Start, an essential early learning opportunity for young children. This continues to drastically underfund these necessary programs that provide vital care, education, and wrap-around services for children and families. CCDBG serves 470,000 fewer children now than it did in 2006, and fewer than one in six eligible children receives CCDG funding. Head Start is currently only able to serve 11 percent of eligible children ages 0-3 and 36 percent of eligible children ages 3-5. Flat funding does not represent an investment in some of the most vital programs for children and their families.

Potentially Harmful Child Care Proposal: The President’s FY21 Budget seeks to address the crisis of inadequate access to affordable, quality childcare and, in a repeat of an FY20 proposal, proposes a $1 billion competitive child care fund available for five years and aimed at building the supply of care for underserved populations and to stimulate employer investment. Unfortunately, the proposal would require states to accomplish so-called “deregulation requirements.” Forcing childcare providers to roll back bipartisan regulatory protections in exchange for these funds would almost certainly jeopardize the safety and well-being of children. A one-time investment in childcare is not reflective of the long-term need to support accessible, high-quality childcare in this country.


Similar to past years, the Trump administration has released a budget proposal that seeks deep cuts to federal spending on our children’s education programs. The bulk of the cuts in this year’s proposal would come from K-12 education and would disproportionately impact low-income, high-need students. The President’s FY21 budget slashes federal K-12 education spending under the guise of state flexibility and school choice, and, as is often the case, our most vulnerable students would foot the bill.

Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged Block Grant (ESED): The President’s budget proposes eliminating 29 formula and competitive grant programs and consolidating them into a single block grant called the “Elementary and Secondary Education for the Disadvantaged Block Grant” (ESED). This consolidation is no more than a thinly veiled cut to education spending, divesting critical federal funds away from K-12 education and leaving school districts to fend for themselves with vastly unequal funding primarily driven by local property taxes. The block grant would eliminate funding for some of the nation’s most crucial K-12 education programs, including Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, 21st Century Community Learning Centers, McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth, Full-Service Community Schools, Promise Neighborhoods, Supporting Effective Educator Development and Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grants, among many others, and replace them with a $19.4 billion block grant. In total, the block grant would cut funding across all 29 programs by $4.7 billion, or 19.5 percent, from FY20 numbers. In addition to leaving less money for these priorities, the open-ended nature of the ESED block grant would provide states with little accountability or direction as to how the money is spent.

Education Freedom Scholarships: For the second straight year, the administration proposes establishing a $5 billion per year federal tax credit called “Education Freedom Scholarships” – a repackaging of school choice vouchers. Under the proposed program, individuals and companies could earn tax credits by donating money to non-profit scholarship funds, which students could then use to attend private schools. These Education Freedom Scholarships would harm the vast majority of low-income students by funneling money away from America’s public schools and toward private institutions.

Special Education: The President’s FY21 budget provides $12.9 billion for special education through IDEA Grants to States, which would be an increase of $100 million over FY20 levels. With this increase, IDEA Grants to States would cover 13 percent of the national average per-pupil expenditure for students with disabilities and provide an average of $1,739 per child for about 7.4 million children. Despite this increase, IDEA spending would still fall woefully short of fulfilling its original promise to cover 40 percent of the extra cost of special education.

Career and Technical Education (CTE): The President’s budget also makes a welcome investment in CTE. The proposal requests $2.06 billion for CTE Grants to States and National Programs, which is a $762.6 million increase from FY20. These grants work with low-income students to obtain career and technical education to connect them to post-secondary career success, and about 55 percent of spending for this program goes to children. However, these spending increases do little to offset the massive cuts in other areas.

Federal TRIO Programs: This year’s budget proposes consolidating all 10 Federal TRIO Programs into one, $950 million block grant called the “TRIO Student Support Block Grant.” This block grant would represent a cut of $140 million across all Federal TRIO programs from FY20 levels. Federal TRIO Programs assist low-income, first-generation college students and students with disabilities in progressing from middle school to post-baccalaureate programs. About 50 percent of all TRIO spending goes to children.

Impact Aid: The President’s FY21 budget would cut Impact Aid by $75.3 million from FY20 enacted funding levels. This program provides financial assistance to school districts affected by Federal activities.

Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS): Additionally, the administration proposes devastating cuts to the CNCS, providing only $81.7 million for the Corporation, and eliminating the AmeriCorps and Senior Corps programs entirely. This slashes funding for the Corporation by $1.022 billion, or 93 percent, from FY20 levels. CNCS is the federal agency that leads service, volunteering, and grant-making efforts in the United States with AmeriCorps and Senior Corps members serving at more than 45,000 locations across the country. More than half of CNCS grantees work on education-related issues with members serving in 12,000 schools including one out of every four low-performing schools.


The President proposes $94.5 billion in discretionary budget authority and $1.3 trillion in mandatory funding for the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and its various sub-agencies.

Severe Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program Cuts: This proposal severely cuts Medicaid funding. The budget proposal includes gross Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) funding cuts of $920 billion over the next ten years. To do so, the proposal calls for the implementation of block grants and per capita caps for Medicaid funding that would reduce access, benefits, and services available to recipients. Currently, Medicaid covers almost 38 million children, including children with disabilities and complex medical conditions, and CHIP covers another nine million children. Cuts, caps, block grants, and other deviations in the funding system would imperil their coverage and care.

Harmful Limits to Continuous Eligibility for Healthcare: This year’s proposal again would allow states to “conduct more frequent eligibility redeterminations” for Medicaid recipients, including children. The budget proposal references an upcoming Proposed Rule, titled “Strengthening the Program Integrity of the Medicaid Eligibility Determination Process” that would permit states to make these more frequent eligibility determinations and add other reforms that will make enrolling and maintain coverage more difficult for eligible kids and families.

Work Requirements for Medicaid Program: The budget continues the administration’s attempts to include work requirements within the Medicaid program and promotes their use within states 1115 waivers. This policy reduces access to coverage for many hard-working parents and can also decrease their children’s enrollment in Medicaid or CHIP as their parents face unnecessary paperwork burdens.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): The CDC would receive $11.1 billion in total discretionary budget authority and mandatory spending in FY21 under the President’s budget proposal, representing a $742 million cut from FY20 levels. The budget proposal also would eliminate hundreds of millions of dollars in funding to various public health programs and consolidate them into a block grant with severely limited funding. The budget proposal does make some needed investments in public health priorities for children and families, such as vaccines for children, and maternal and infant health. Still, these modest increases would not offset the major cuts in other areas.

Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA): HRSA would receive a $705 million cut under the President’s FY21 budget request. A number of important programs are eliminated, including providing emergency medical services to children and services for children with autism and other developmental disabilities.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): SAMHSA would receive $5.7 billion, a $142 million cut under the President’s FY21 budget request. SAMHSA funds several programs vital to children and their families, including in mental health, substance use, suicide prevention, and maternal health. Many programs relevant to children would be flat-funded in the President’s budget with a few programs receiving increases.

State Opioid Response Program: The budget proposal includes $5.2 billion for programs across the Department of Health and Human Services to address the opioid crisis. Of that, $2 billion is specifically for SAMHSA programs that combat opioid misuse, abuse, and overdose death. The FY21 budget request would increase the State Opioid Response program funding to $1.6B or $85M above the FY20 enacted level. Unfortunately, this proposed increase would be undercut by other significant decreases proposed for Medicaid.

Housing and Homelessness

Tenant-Based Rental Assistance: The President’s FY21 budget request cuts Tenant-Based Rental Assistance programs by $5 billion, increases the share of income that households have to pay, institutes minimum rent requirements and work requirements. Children make up a large percentage of recipients of rental assistance – nearly half of tenant-based rental assistance.

Legal Services Corporation (LSC): The LSC provides grants for civil legal services for low-income families, including representation for families facing eviction. The President’s FY21 budget again seeks to eliminate the LSC, which Congress funded at $440 million in FY20.

National Housing Trust Fund: The President eliminates the National Housing Trust Fund. This program provides resources to build and rehabilitate housing, including rental housing, for low-income families. In FY19, just over 25 percent of this spending went to children.

Office of Lead Hazard Control and Healthy Homes (OLHCHH): The President’s budget request does include $360 million for the OLHCHH, an increase of $70 million over the FY20 enacted level. The OLHCHH seeks to protect low-income families, particularly those with children, from exposures to lead and health hazards in their homes. These hazards contribute to harmful conditions such as asthma, cancer, and other injuries. Unfortunately, the budget’s other significant cuts and program eliminations for housing assistance undermines this notable funding increase.

McKinney Vento Homeless Assistance Grants: The budget proposes to eliminate the Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program and consolidate it, along with 28 other federal education programs, into a block grant that states could use flexibly. The EHCY program received $101.5 million in FY20, and serves over 1.5 million students experiencing homelessness in the public-school system through providing protections and services to ensure that they can enroll in and attend school, complete their high school education, and continue on to higher education. By consolidating EHCY into a block grant, it dilutes its intended purpose and undermines the legal protections for homeless students provided by the McKinney-Vento Act.

Income Support

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): The FY21 request includes a significant cut to TANF, totaling $21 billion over ten years. This includes eliminating the program’s Contingency Fund, which is a $6 billion cut over ten years. Over 70 percent of TANF funds go to children, and access to cash assistance for eligible families with children already is very limited.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): The President proposes eliminating the program, which received $3.7 billion in FY20. LIHEAP provides assistance for low-income families in paying the energy costs necessary to keep families safe and healthy. Children make up nearly a quarter of LIHEAP recipients.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI): The President’s budget request proposes a cut of $8.1 billion over ten years through implementing a “sliding-scale family maximum” policy for families with multiple SSI recipients. This change would only allow a maximum benefit for a family’s first disabled child but then would reduce the amount for each additional eligible child.

Paid Parental Leave Program: As in years past, the budget proposes a national paid parental leave program to provide six weeks of paid leave to parents of newborn babies or recently adopted children. States would be required to pay for the program through transferring unemployment insurance funds. While a national paid leave program is needed in the United States, this six-week initiative is inadequate and funding this proposal with unemployment insurance funds coupled with cuts to anti-poverty programs in this budget severely undermines the ability of this proposal to support family financial security.

Changes to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): The President’s FY21 budget request includes a policy change to the tax code that would limit access to tax credits for immigrant families filing taxes with Individual Tax Identification Numbers (ITINs). The proposal would require social security numbers for the CTC, EITC, and the credit for other dependents. The proposal projects that it would reduce tax credits to low-income families by $2 billion in FY21 and cuts approximately $73 billion over ten years. Over 4 million children in immigrant households would be put at a much greater risk of poverty.

Changes to the Poverty Measurement: The request also includes a provision to review the existing poverty measure, claiming this would help deploy government resources to the neediest communities more effectively. Based on other efforts from this Administration to underestimate poverty in the United States, we remain concerned this effort would result in an undercount the number of kids in poverty, therefore limiting their eligibility for critical health, nutrition, and child well-being programs and services.

Juvenile Justice

Juvenile Justice Programs: In the FY21 budget, $227.5 million in discretionary funding is requested for the Juvenile Justice Programs account. The FY21 discretionary request for this account is a decrease of $92.5 million below the FY20 enacted level. These programs support state, local, and tribal governments as they address juvenile crime and delinquency, assist children who have been victimized, and develop community interventions for at-risk youth and justice-system involved youth with reentry into their communities following their release from secure correctional facilities. The bulk of the cuts come from reductions to the Youth Mentoring Program, including mentoring for youth impacted by the opioid crisis.

Missing and Exploited Children (MEC) Program: Funded at $85 million, a cut of $2.5 million from FY20. The MEC program supports the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Program, National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and the AMBER Alert Program.

Part B Formula Grants: Funded at $58 million, a cut of $5 million from FY20 levels. These grants support state and local programs designed to prevent and address juvenile crime and delinquency, as well as improve the juvenile justice system. Grantees may use these funds to: 1) support the development and implementation of comprehensive state juvenile justice plans; 2) improve the fairness and responsiveness of the juvenile justice system and ensure juvenile offender accountability; and 3) support training and technical assistance to help small, non-profit and faith-based organizations with the federal grants process.

Victims of Child Abuse (VOCA): Improving Investigation and Prosecution of Child Abuse Program – Funded at $20 million, a cut of $7 million from FY20 levels. VOCA enhances the effectiveness of the investigation and prosecution of child abuse cases. This program provides training and technical assistance to professionals involved in investigating, prosecuting, and treating child abuse. It also supports the development of Children’s Advocacy Centers and multidisciplinary teams that prevent the inadvertent re-victimization of an abused child by the justice and social service systems.

Youth Mentoring Program: Funded at $43 million, a cut of $54 million from FY20 levels. The mentoring program is aimed at reducing juvenile delinquency, gang involvement, academic failure, victimization, and school dropout rates through one-on-one, group, and/or peer mentoring.


Child Nutrition programs: The FY21 budget request cuts Child Nutrition programs by $20 million in FY21 and $1.7 billion over ten years in mandatory funding. Under the justification of improving the integrity of the child nutrition programs, such significant cuts for school meals largely stem from increased verification of eligibility requirements and by limiting the Community Eligibility Provision that schools use to streamline access to free meals. The budget proposal also zeroes out the Summer Demonstration program and the School Meal Equipment Grants. It is well-known that consistent access to enough healthy food is critically important for the development, learning, health and well-being of children. These proposals go in the wrong direction to help ensure all our nation’s children and families will be able to afford to put food on the table.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Cuts $15 billion from SNAP in FY 21 and $183 billion over ten years. The President’s budget also replaces a portion of electronic benefits with a Department of Agriculture food package called the “harvest box.” The cuts would disproportionately impact households with children, who tend to have higher benefit rates. There is no evidence to support the proposed system and its implementation would be complicated and prohibitive for states responsible for its administration. The change also would undermine the quality of SNAP diets and create undue hardship for families experiencing homelessness and housing vulnerability.

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC): The President’s budget request calls for a reduction in federal resources for WIC, with an overall budget authority of $5.5 billion which is a $500 million cut from the FY20 enacted level. The President’s budget also proposes cutting the set-aside for breastfeeding peer counselors to $60 million, a $30 million reduction from the FY20 enacted level.


Job Corps: The President’s FY21 budget request includes $1.016 billion for Job Corps, which is a $72 million cut from the FY20 enacted level of $1.743 billion. Job Corps provides young people ages 16 through 24 education and vocational training at no cost. The program also offers students a monthly stipend, assistance in job placement, and career counseling and transition support for up to twelve months after they graduate. An estimated 39 percent of Job Corps participants are under the age of 18.