While the final results of yesterday’s elections are still being tabulated and all the talk is of what will happen over the next two years, it’s easy to forget that the work of the current Congress is not yet finished – particularly in terms of children’s issues.

The so-called ‘lame duck’ Congressional session due to begin shortly is hopefully a misnomer. Given the number of important priorities requiring legislative action by year end, it actually needs to be action-packed. We blogged back in late September detailing the Continuing Resolution (CR) passed by Congress that would essentially keep the federal government running, despite not having completed its annual appropriations process. This funding stream is now due to expire on December 3 – and with it, a number of programs relating to children.

As such, this blog piece details our hope that even post-election, Congress keeps the following issues at the “Top of [Its] List”:

Child Nutrition – The recession has exacerbated child hunger throughout the nation and while the inclusion of child nutrition programs in the CR was critical to address their September 30th expiration, a failure to fully reauthorize child nutrition legislation before the end of this year will be detrimental to the health of America’s children.

Refundable Tax Credits – Much has been made about the upcoming expiration of the Bush tax cuts, with much of the focus on whether or not to extend the cuts for upper income households. However, also due to expire are provisions related to two of the most important federal investments in children: the (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). If no action is on the EITC by the end of 2010, it is estimated that 3 million working families with three or more children will lose out. Similarly, if no action is taken on the CTC: 7.6 million children will lose the CTC completely, 10.5 million children will have their credit cut in large amounts, and 600,000 children will fall into poverty.

Unemployment Insurance – Earlier this year, a First Focus report found that at the end of 2009, 1 in 9 American children (totaling 8.1 million) had an unemployed parent as a result of the recession. Unemployment benefits have kept 3.3 million families (including 1.5 million children) from falling into poverty in 2009 alone. If Congress does not take action to continue this program by November 30th of this year, over 1 million workers per month will be cut off from federal unemployment benefits with severe consequences for their children and families.

Child Support Enforcement – The Child Support Enforcement (CSE) program provides vital assistance in helping millions of families with children collect the income support they are due, but 2005 cuts to this program have limited its effectiveness. Temporary restored funding from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) expired September 30th. For families living below the poverty line, child support represents nearly 40% of their annual income – making this a hugely important addition to household budgets. Congress has a chance to restore the cuts made to this program before the end of the year.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund
– This fund expired on September 30th, despite being hailed as a successful job creation program and a source of additional cash assistance to struggling families. Without an extension of this program, most states will lose subsidized employment programs for low-income parents and likely be forced to cut back on crucial support services for families, such as child care and child welfare.

While reading this long list may be tiring, the items above are by no means exhaustive in terms of outlining what the current Congress should address before the end of 2010. If the state of the economy was one of the driving forces of the election, then taking immediate action to improve the economic security of our nation’s children and families should be top priority. Congress should not wait for next year to take action when the need for it is now.

For more information on children’s initiatives and federal budget visit our comprehensive interactive guide at www.childrensbudget.org.