Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) and members of the First Focus Children’s Budget Coalition make the case in the video below for filling the budget gaps that hamstring children’s programs, especially in the wake of COVID-19.

In conversation with First Focus President Bruce Lesley, the junior senator from Maryland calls for greater investment in child nutrition and education programs and highlights the need to defend Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program from funding cuts and threats such as block granting. Van Hollen also urges the increase and expansion of the child tax credit to better aid low-income families, who have suffered disproportionately during the pandemic and its economic fallout.

“For all of us who are determined to invest more in our kids and reduce and eliminate child poverty, this is a moment where we have to work harder than ever,” he says.

The HEROES Act, passed by the House of Representatives in May, addresses many of these issues. Van Hollen urges his Senate colleagues to follow suit.

The First Focus Children’s Budget Coalition includes more than 80 organizations dedicated to making children a priority in federal budget policy. Members who advocate on behalf of education, early childhood education, and child hunger join First Focus budget lead Michelle Dallafior in urging quick and continued emergency funding to blunt the pandemic’s impact on children.

“One-in-four children are at risk of hunger since the pandemic,” says Monica Gonzales, associate director of government relations at Share Our Strength. “Our children can’t ‘wait and see.’”

Among key demands, these advocates name including Puerto Rico in emergency food assistance, shoring up education budgets, and investment that will avoid the permanent loss of 4.5 million child care slots. The 2008 financial crisis claimed 300,000 educator jobs, a federal lobbyist for the National Education Association Corey Williams says. The current COVID-19-induced recession, she says, is projected to take more than six times that.