Pages tagged "Federal Budget"
HEROES Act shortchanges children
Important strides, but key issues overlooked
The $3 trillion Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, unveiled this week by the House of Representatives, makes important strides in protecting American children, but leaves key issues unaddressed.
“We’re gratified that this bill values children, giving them the same stimulus payments as adults, and that it includes provisions to expand both the Child Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to help struggling families,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “But the bill disappoints in other critical areas. It does not provide nearly enough relief for child care or children’s health care, which both are necessary to begin the country’s social and economic recovery.”
- Stimulus payments: The HEROES Act finally offers children parity with adults, giving both groups $1,200 in direct cash assistance. The legislation fixes some of the shortcomings in the current “economic rebate” program by expanding eligibility to college students, dependents over 16, and immigrant families. However, the bill limits stimulus payments to three children per family, which disproportionately harms Hispanic and rural children. Furthermore, the bill does not increase the amount of the rebates and authorizes just one additional payment to boost household buying power and spur the economy rather than establishing recurring payments linked to an economic indicator so the payments would continue until the economy shows appropriate signs of recovery.
- Health Care: The bill provides critical assistance for Medicaid, increasing the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) payments to state Medicaid programs by a total of 14 percentage points through June 30, 2021. Children make up more than 40% of all Medicaid recipients. However, the bill also exempts one state from the Medicaid Maintenance of Effort (MOE), which requires states to maintain Medicaid eligibility and benefits, both critical during this public health emergency and economic crisis. The exemption imperils the provision's integrity and should be removed. The bill also fails to address the scheduled drop in the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) E-FMAP of 11.5 percentage points in the coming fiscal year. With more than 6 million children projected to lose their health insurance due to the pandemic’s economic fallout, now is not the time to cut federal support for states providing coverage by billions of dollars. (Note: We support the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program Pandemic Enhancement and Relief (CHIPPER) Act, which seeks to suspend the funding decrease.)
- Child Tax Credit: The bill offers a temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit that would make the CTC fully refundable for 2020 and temporarily expand the credit to low and no income families left out of the current CTC program – approximately 23 million children. The HEROES act increases the amount of the credit from $2,000 to $3,000 per child per year for older eligible children and authorizes $3,600 per child per year for children under age six. The bill also temporarily makes 17-year-olds qualifying children and benefits the U.S. territories. The act also requires the Secretary of Treasury to provide the enhanced credits in the form of an advanced payment. Congress must in future legislation establish a permanent child allowance, which the National Academy of Sciences has identified as the single most effective measure to combat child poverty. Columbia University researchers project that economic fallout from the pandemic could push child poverty to its highest rate since the measure was created in 1967.
- Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit: The bill temporarily makes the non-refundable CDCTC fully refundable in 2020 to help lower-income families meet the rising costs of child care. The bill would increase the maximum credit rate from 35% to 50% and raise the phaseout threshold significantly from $15,000 to $120,000. The bill also doubles the amount of expenses eligible for the credit from $3,000 to $6,000 for one qualifying individual and $12,000 for two or more qualifying individuals.
- Hunger: The bill provides a 15% increase to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) maximum benefit, which helps the lowest income families. It also provides an extension of the Pandemic EBT program through the summer and until schools reopen.
- Juvenile Justice: The bill provides $75 million for state and local government grants to ensure the safety of youth (and staff) involved in juvenile delinquency. It also encourages the release of youth to their parents/guardians and discourages the use of fees and fines during the crisis.
- Child Welfare: The bill offers greater flexibility to the use of funds in the Chafee Foster Care Independence Program and Education and Training Vouchers programs, both of which received moderate increases. These measures will assist foster youth who become adults during this crisis.
- Education: The bill provides $90 billion in grants to states to support statewide and local funding for K-12 education, including critical programs such as Title I Grants to States, Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) programs, and the McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth program. The bill also tackles the “homework gap” by providing $1.5 billion for increasing student access to the internet as well as authorizing $5 billion for the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) E-Rate program that helps schools and libraries obtain affordable broadband.
- Other relief: The bill addresses some gaps in relief to children in immigrant families and U.S. territories.
In addition to the three-child cap on stimulus payments and the failure to address the declining federal payments to CHIP, both mentioned above, the HEROES Act contains several major shortcomings:
- Refundable Tax Credits and Stimulus Payments: Unfortunately, the improvements to the CTC and CDCTC are temporary, and the bill authorizes only one additional stimulus payment rather than larger, recurring payments at a time when unemployment rates are projected to remain in double-digits well into next year.
- Child Care: The HEROES Act comes up dangerously short on child care, awarding just $7 billion to the Child Care and Development Block Grant, far short of the $50 billion needed. It is estimated that the child care industry needs $9.6 billion per month to support and stabilize the system. Parents cannot return to work without child care in place, and the House bill will not ensure that the child care system and providers will be available and still in existence as workplaces begin to open again. Congress must make a significant and stabilizing investment.
- Child and youth homelessness: While the bill provides additional funding for Emergency Solutions Grants administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, most children and youth experiencing homelessness are not eligible for the majority of these services. We urge Congress to provide flexible funding for community organizations to meet the unique needs of children, youth, and families experiencing homelessness.
- Child Welfare: The bill misses the mark by providing less than half of the $500 million that advocates and former foster youth have identified as necessary to stabilize older youth who are preparing for independence during this crisis. The bill undercuts the $1 billion request for the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) by offering the program just $20 million. In addition, pediatricians have repeatedly noted that child abuse is more severe, more fatal, and more prevalent during the pandemic, yet the bill offers just $20 million for community-based child abuse prevention grants.
- Children in Developing Countries: As the U.S. emerges from the pandemic, COVID-19 will just be taking hold in many developing countries, where the death toll is likely to be substantial. International organizations are urging Congress to devote $12 billion or more to a global response that will include emergency global health, flexible humanitarian assistance, and urgent economic relief, development of and access to new vaccines, diagnostics, and treatments for low resource settings.
Letter: Correct the Inequities in COVID-19 Response
First Focus Campaign for Children sent the following letter to Congressional leaders in both houses with a set of recommendations to address the needs of our nation’s children and youth as our country faces two crises — the spread of COVID-19 and the resulting economic impact as businesses and schools remain closed and consumers stay home.
Excerpt from the letter:
This outbreak and the resulting economic crisis are falling hardest on the most vulnerable among us, including our nation’s children. It is disrupting every facet of children’s lives and we cannot yet know all of the negative and long-lasting implications it will have on children’s healthy development and future success.
While we applaud the passage of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the CARES Act, we know much more is needed to address all of the ways that this outbreak is affecting child well-being in the United States. We urge Congress to treat children equitably to help meet their needs in additional legislative packages.
Kids & COVID-19: Resource Hub
The impact on children from COVID-19 is immense. It is also variable and complicated. Every facet of the lives of children and families are being disrupted. Unfortunately, in policy discussions, children are often invisible to policymakers and so much of this nuance is ignored. Below, we have attempted to dig into this nuance and provide resources on all of the ways this crisis impacts the lives of children — and how we can work to address these challenges.
Articles & Analysis
The COVID-19 Crisis Is Catastrophic for Children Too
On a daily basis, we are witnessing an ever-changing response to the spread of COVID-19 across the entire nation. Unlike natural disasters like hurricanes, tornadoes, fires, flooding, or man-made disasters like 9/11 that impact the entire nation but have devastating consequences that are more consequential to a specific and defined geographic area, the COVID-19 challenge is that it is a worldwide catastrophe and is creating both health and economic crises simultaneously. Every facet of the lives of children and families are being disrupted. Unfortunately, both the short-term and long-term consequences and challenges are not being fully considered or discussed. This crisis is severe and will last for months or even years to come. Moreover, the health and trauma, impact on education and child development, and economic consequences of this calamity will last well beyond the coronavirus itself.
Building a Better America and World for Our Children
We are living in a life-changing moment where it is clear that the future will look quite different than we had imagined. We are all sheltering at home, practicing social distancing, and focusing most of our attention on the twin crises of COVID-19 and the related worldwide economic recession. Obviously, it is critically important to find that balance between protecting the health of people worldwide and protecting the economy from collapse and the harm that will have on people’s lives. Focusing on the need to improve the care and delivery of services to children and families is desperately needed, but we often forget that such work goes hand-in-hand with advocacy. However, because corporations, interest groups, and the wealthy are engaged in politics and bring money and influence to the table, the needs of children are often an afterthought in public policymaking.
COVID-19: How The Health of Children Is at Stake
Children may not be dying in the same number as adults or senior citizens due to COVID-19, but their health is at risk and so are the lives of their parents and grandparents. While children are often more susceptible to certain diseases and environmental toxins, they are also often more responsive to medical treatment and have a better ability to bounce back and heal from health issues. The latter appears to be the case with COVID-19, but it should not lead to an utter dismissal of their unique health care needs or their special circumstances by politicians.
Coronavirus confirms why we need a national commitment to address child poverty and homelessness in the United States
This current crisis makes clear that anti-poverty strategies are public health strategies. As the spread of the Coronavirus has grown, the vulnerabilities within our system have become clear. As schools close, businesses close or reduce hours, consumers stay home, and events are canceled, low-income household budgets are being stretched even thinner and children’s healthy development is at risk as children miss meals and other resources usually provided in school, and parents miss paychecks due to reduced work hours or lack of childcare. This is why it’s crucial that we address these challenges through a national commitment to cut child poverty in half within a decade.
Congress passes coronavirus relief package — what’s in it for kids?
First Focus commends the passage of the $2 trillion coronavirus emergency bill, and even more, for using it to offer relief to America’s struggling families and children. While some of the deal’s elements will meet the most urgent needs of our nation’s children, it is far from perfect. In this fact sheet, we look at how each of the three Congressional relief packages affect children.
Fact sheet on aid to children and families in the HEROES Act
As part of ongoing efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak and resulting economic crisis, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800) on May 15, 2020, by a vote of 208 to 199. Many of these provisions build on the efforts of the two previous major pieces of COVID-19 response legislation, the CARES act, and the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
Statements & Letters to Congress
First Focus/State Policy Advocacy & Rerfom Center Letter to Congress on COVID Child Welfare (May 26, 2020)
Statement on the passage of the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (May 14, 2020)
Letter to Congress with recommendations on how to correct inequities in the COVID-19 response (April 20, 2020)
Statement on the passage for the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (March 26, 2020)
Letter from Children's Budget Coalition asking Congress to prioritize children and families in Congress’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic (March 24, 2020)
Letter asking Congress to prioritize the well-being of children as they respond to the coronavirus outbreak (March 20, 2020)
Statement on the passage for the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (March 18, 2020)
Selected News Coverage on COVID-19's Effect on Children
- A Gloomy Prediction on How Much Poverty Could Rise via New York Times
- COVID-19 In Children: How They Contract Infection And What Are The Symptoms via NPR
- The pandemic will haunt today’s children forever. But we can help them now via The Washington Post
- Parenting during a pandemic: ‘Our children are not OK via The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
- This Woman and Her Kids Are U.S. Citizens — But They Can't Get Any Coronavirus Stimulus Money via VICE
- Coronavirus's collateral damage: Abused and neglected children via The Hill
- UN: Millions of children at risk of poverty and malnutrition due to coronavirus via AXIOS
- Do not forget the hidden epidemic of child abuse via Portland Press Herald
- Millions of U.S. citizens won’t get help from stimulus checks because their spouses or parents are unauthorized immigrants via Dallas Morning News
- Medicaid saved my son’s life, it saves lives in a pandemic too via The Colorado Independent
- Delays in vaccinations, delays in care: How fear of COVID-19 is affecting children's health via CNN
- Lessons From New Orleans On Child Trauma And The COVID-19 Crisis via Essence
- With no school, calls drop but child abuse hasn't amid virus via ABC News
- Gen Z was fed up with the status quo. Coronavirus could affirm their beliefs via The Washington Post
- 40 million children miss polio vaccinations due to COVID-19 via The Nation
- 25 Kids Test Positive For Coronavirus At Virginia Juvenile Detention Center via The Huffington Post
- Risk of Eviction High For Households With Kids, Especially During Coronavirus: Researcher via Youth Today
- COVID-19 adds to woes of homeless New Mexican youth who age out of foster care via Las Cruces Sun News
- The opioid crisis and community-level spillovers onto children’s education via Brookings
- Congress must act to provide millions of children with pandemic food assistance via The Hill
- The America We Need via New York Times
- Children's advocates want more COVID-19 protections via CQ News
- The Coronavirus Class Divide: Space and Privacy via New York Times
- Millions of low-income children are still waiting for federal food aid via CNN
- Gen Z was fed up with the status quo. Coronavirus could affirm their beliefs via Washington Post
- Want To Get Money To People In Need Right Now? Use Food Stamps via Buzzfeed
- States should replace grab-and-go school meals with cash to families via The Hill
- Who will care for the children of COVID-19 patients? via The Philadelphia Inquirer
- The deadly mix of COVID-19, air pollution, and inequality, explained via Vox
- Children's advocates want more COVID-19 protections via CQ Roll Call
- We're all supposed to stay home. What about kids who aren't safe there? via CNN
- The Kids Aren’t All Right via The Atlantic
- Expert warns: Stay-at-home order could increase child abuse via The Missoulian
- Coronavirus roils every segment of US child welfare system via Fort Worth Star-Telegram
- New York Foster Youth Ousted from Dorms Face the Weekend in Pandemic Limbo via The Chronicle of Social Change
- Who’s Left Out of Coronavirus Stimulus Payments? Many College Students, Adult Dependents via The Wall Street Journal
- How US schools are (and aren’t) providing meals to children in the COVID-19 crisis via Vox
- FOX 5 partners with Washington Teachers' Union to air lessons on TV for students without laptops via FOX5 DC
- 10,000 Tenn. children could lose therapy as insurance companies deny telehealth coverage via WZTV Nashville
- The Urgency of Child Care During a Pandemic via DAME Magazine
Presentations & Panels
Statement: Senate package good first step for kids but children need more robust measures
We commend Senate lawmakers’ unanimous passage of the $2 trillion coronavirus emergency bill, and even more, for using it to offer relief to America’s struggling families and children. While some of the deal’s elements will meet the most urgent needs of our nation’s children, Congress must quickly enact even more robust measures.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (H.R.748) sets aside more than $9 billion in food assistance to keep children and families from going hungry. The bill also funds education assistance for kids out of school; community health centers, where 30% of the patients are children; the federal program that helps families pay for utilities; and programs to help support families experiencing homelessness or housing instability.
We applaud the provision of direct cash assistance to children, families and individuals, and the removal of thresholds that will now allow the money to reach the neediest people in our communities. This cash will begin — but only begin — to meet the immediate needs of struggling families for food, rent, gas, utilities and other necessities. The amount of assistance — $1,200 per adult, $500 per child — is inadequate, particularly for children, who are engaged in critical stages of development and whose families are further endangered by lack of family medical leave and other social supports. Lawmakers must move immediately to increase and extend cash assistance, ensure it reaches all children regardless of immigration status, and to create parity in the amounts given to adults and children.
As more parents lose jobs, more families will become eligible for Medicaid. Congress therefore also must increase the amount of federal assistance to states to help them meet the increased demand. We are also pleased that the package provides additional funding for child care, but as in other areas, more is needed. Health care workers and other essential personnel on the front lines of this pandemic need child care more than ever, and child care workers need support.
We look forward to the swift passage of this bill by the House, and the swift remedy of its shortcomings in the near future.
Letter: Prioritize the well-being of children as you respond to the Coronavirus outbreak.
First Focus Campaign for Children sent the following letter to Congressional leaders in both houses, urging them to prioritize the well-being of children in America as they respond to the Coronavirus outbreak.
Excerpt from the letter:
We applaud Congress for passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and now urge Congress to again act quickly to provide additional and immediate economic relief in the form of increased access to healthcare, direct cash transfers, housing assistance, education support, child care assistance and more in order to protect the health of all children and families in the United States and provide households with some financial stability to weather times of uncertainty.
We ask for you to act in the following ways:
- Implement an immediate and direct cash assistance program of at least $2,000 that prioritizes children and available to all children who need it most. The direct cash support should be robust and on scale with the crisis, reach those quickly who need it most, including those with no income, and available in timely payments until the economy recovers. It also should not result in the unintended exclusion of babies and young people who would qualify now but would not have been eligible in 2018. We know that an immediate cash-transfer to low-and middle-income families during this public health emergency will help to address the loss of income too many households are experiencing now, and others will endure as the economy continues to slow down, businesses close and layoffs occur. Expansion of the Child Tax Credit and the Earned Income Tax Credit also would help to ensure some household financial stability for many low-income and vulnerable populations during these times of grave uncertainty;
- Provide emergency cash assistance to families through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program;
- Increase the Medicaid FMAP by at least ten percentage points;
- Mandate 12-month continuous eligibility in Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP);
- Reduce enrollment barriers and red tape for enrollment in Medicaid and CHIP;
- Enroll newborns without alternative coverage in Medicaid automatically;
- Provide Medicaid coverage to any population not currently eligible;
- Increase Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits for every household enrolled in the program;
- Fund McKinney-Vento Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) at $500 million and allow for broader use of funds to meet the temporary housing, health, safety, transportation, and educational needs of homeless children and youth, including the unique needs of young children, unaccompanied youth, children and youth with disabilities, and English Language Learners;
- Increase Runaway and Homeless Youth Act programs by $128 million and bypass the current competitive grant process and distribute to existing grantees;
- Increase the Service Connect for Youth on the Streets program by $22 million and also bypass the current competitive grant process and distribute to existing grantees;
- Ensure that colleges and universities create plans to support students experiencing homelessness or housing instability during campus shutdowns;
- Boost Title IV-E Chafee Foster Care Independence Program (Chafee) funds above the current level of $143 million and temporarily waive the 30 percent Chafee housing cap for the duration of the crisis in order to provide additional support for living independent services for current and former foster youth;
- Require a percent point FMAP increase for Title IV-E to match the Medicaid FMAP increase to support children and families in the child welfare system;
- Implement a moratorium on evictions nationwide;
- Increase access to civil legal services for families facing evictions after moratoriums are lifted, or if moratoriums are not put into effect;
- Suspend the operation of the public charge rule for the duration of the crisis and ensure that no medical services utilized during the crisis apply to any reinstated rule;
- Significant and flexible emergency funding that will allow child care and Head Start programs to weather the growing public health and economic crisis and preserve the nation’s supply of family child care and community-based child care programs;
- Ensure emergency child care funding includes for public health workers and first responders;
- Accelerate efforts to address technology gaps and access to broadband and devices for students and families.
Statement: Congress's coronavirus response is a good first step, but bigger, bolder measures are needed
We applaud Congress for passing the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, providing families and children with increased food and nutrition assistance, supplemental state funding for Medicaid, and paid sick days and leave for some workers. The bill, passed today by the Senate, was a good first step, but bigger, bolder measures are needed to aid the nation’s families.
The financial instability experienced by children living in poverty already deprives them of regular, nutritious meals; stable housing; health care and other resources required for their healthy development. While the public health crisis has taken a toll on the entire country, it has exacerbated the systemic inequities surrounding our most vulnerable families and children.
“As schools close and businesses shut down, low-income households are stretched even thinner,” said First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley. “As parents miss paychecks and children miss meals, we put the healthy development of our kids at risk.”
As bipartisan advocates for making children and families a priority in federal budget and policy decisions, we urge Congress to act quickly and aggressively on additional measures. These should include direct and immediate emergency cash transfers, increased access to healthcare, housing and child care assistance, educational support, and more. For a full list of policy priorities aimed at easing the burden on children and families, please see our Letter to Congressional leaders.
First Focus Campaign for Children identifies 120 lawmakers who prioritize children
In 2019, nearly one-in-six of our nation’s children lived in poverty. The number of kids without health insurance rose to more than 4 million, reversing two decades of progress. More than 12 million children stared down hunger each day. And the federal government worked to deprive millions more of food, housing, and other life-sustaining assistance.
First Focus Campaign for Children today released its 2019 Legislative Scorecard, which identifies 120 members of Congress who had the courage to buck this trend and put children first. These Champions and Defenders of children introduced bills to safeguard children’s programs, supported beneficial measures and voted against those that would harm children. Some even defied their party leadership to protect children’s interests.
“Kids don’t vote and they don’t have political action committees,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “That’s why it’s up to lawmakers to make children a priority and protect their best interests. We commend these 120 members of Congress for putting children first and hope their contribution will inspire their colleagues to do the same.”
FFCC’s 2019 Legislative Scorecard ranks policymakers according to votes and bill sponsorships taken during the first session of the 116th Congress that prioritize the well-being of our nation’s children. The 25-page report examines key pieces of legislation on children’s health insurance, child hunger, homelessness, child abuse and neglect, tax credits and other issues critical to advancing the needs of our kids and families. The report names 40 Senators and 80 Representatives, from both parties, as Champions or Defenders for children in the 116th Congress.
Some key takeaways from the 2019 Scorecard:
- Women were two-and-a-half times more likely than men to be Champions or Defenders.
- Percentage of delegations who are Champions or Defenders breaks along regional lines:
- 43% of lawmakers from Western states are Champions or Defenders
- 40% of lawmakers from the Northeast are Champions or Defenders
- 21% of lawmakers from the Midwest are Champions or Defenders
- 9% of lawmakers from the Southwest/Plains states are Champions or Defenders
- 7% of lawmakers from the Southeast are Champions or Defenders. Florida leads the region with four. Other states in the region have only one.
Please view and download the full report at www.ffccscorecard.org.
Letter: Children should not be treated as an afterthought — pass these bipartisan and common sense bills
First Focus Campaign for Children sent the following letter to all 100 U.S. Senators, urging them to consider legislation that would improve the lives and well-being of children.
Excerpt from the letter:
In the past, an important hallmark of the Senate has been its ability to work on a bipartisan basis to reach agreement on major important problems facing the nation and its future. At this moment in time, there are a number of critical challenges facing our nation’s children that the Senate should address. Children should not be treated as an afterthought. The best interest of children should be bipartisan and something that is in all of our interest. Children are our future. Unfortunately, here are areas in which we are currently failing our children...
Highlights From the Fiscal Year 2020 Spending Packages
On December 17, 2019, the President signed into law two spending packages that cover all twelve annual appropriations bills, funding hundreds of federal agencies, bureaus and initiatives totaling $1.4 trillion for Fiscal Year 2020. Together, the packages include important investment decisions for our kids and several policy provisions benefitting children and avoids a disastrous shutdown like the one in early 2019. The two-bill package (H.R.1158 and H.R.1865) includes a $22 billion increase in defense discretionary spending as well as approximately $25 billion in additional funding for non-defense discretionary programs. The top-line spending numbers for the package adhere to the levels set forth in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2019 (H.R.3877), which codified the federal budget for the next two years.
The deal boosts funding for key agencies that serve children and families, including the Agriculture, Commerce, Education, Labor, Health and Human Services, Justice, and Housing and Urban Development departments. The funding package also includes several policy changes that are beneficial to children. However, some key priorities were neglected in the deal, especially regarding tax and immigration policies.
Below are some highlights from both bills regarding funding for programs serving children and families as well as some successes and shortcomings for certain policy changes crucial for the well-being of our children:
H.R. 1158 “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020”
Division B: Departments of Commerce, Justice, Science, and Related Agencies
Department of Commerce: $73.2 billion in total funding – $9 billion increase from FY19 levels
- $7.6 billion in funding for the Census Bureau, with $7.3 billion of which dedicated to carrying out the 2020 Decennial Census. This level is $1.4 billion above the President’s budget request.
Department of Justice: $32.6 billion in total funding – $1.67 billion increase from FY19 levels
- Juvenile justice programs: Both Title II and Title V received a funding increase. Title V has a significant increase at $42M from $27.5M. This is the first time Title V funding is not entirely earmarked for programs and available for all programs under the Juvenile Justice Reform Act passed at the end of 2018.
- $87.5 million for Missing and Exploited Children, an increase of $5.5 million over FY19 levels.
- $27 million for Victims of Child Abuse, an increase of $4.5 million over FY19 levels
- $97 million for Youth Mentoring, an increase of $2 million over FY19 levels.
H.R. 1865 “Further Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2020”
Division A: Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, and Related Agencies
Department of Labor: $12.4 billion in total funding – $291 million increase from FY19 levels
Employment and Training Administration —
- $1.74 billion for Job Corps, an increase of $25 million over FY19 levels and $728 million over the President’s budget request. Approximately 39% of Job Corps money is spent on children.
- $913 million for Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act Youth Training programs, an increase of $9.7 million over FY19 levels
- $94.5 million for YouthBuild Activities, an increase of $5 million over FY19 levels
Department of Health and Human Services: $94.9 billion in total funding – $4.4 billion increase from FY19 levels
Administration for Children and Families (ACF) – $24.4 billion, an increase of $1.2 billion over FY19 levels.
- $5.8 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant, an increase of $550 million over FY19 levels
- $10.6 billion for Head Start, an increase of $550 million over FY19 levels
- $275 million for Preschool Development Grants, an increase of $25 million over FY19 levels
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – $8 billion, an increase of $636 million over FY19 levels
- $25 million, split evenly between the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for conducting research on firearm injury and mortality prevention services. This marks the first time in history that these agencies will be able to conduct research on gun violence.
- $37 million for Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Program, an increase of $2 million over FY19 levels
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) – $7.3 billion, an increase of $177 million over FY19 levels
- $944 million for programs to improve maternal and child health, including an additional $5 million to reduce maternal mortality. This is a $17 million increase over FY19 levels.
Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) – $5.9 billion, an increase of $140 million over FY19 levels
- $102 million for Project AWARE, an increase of $33 million over FY19 level.
Department of Education: $72.8 billion in total funding – $1.3 billion increase from FY19 levels
Programs Serving Students K-12 – $40.1 billion, a $5.9 billion increase above the President’s budget request.
- $16.3 billion for Title I Grants to Local Educational Agencies, an increase of $417 million over FY19 levels.
- $13.9 billion for Special Education funding, an increase of $417 million over FY19 levels.
- $12.8 billion of this Special Education funding will go to IDEA Part B Grants to States, an increase of $400 million over FY19 levels.
- $20.1 million will fund Special Olympics, an increase of $2.5 million over FY19 levels.
- $1.48 billion for Impact Aid, an increase of $40 million over FY19 levels.
- Three programs slated for elimination under the President’s budget received funding increases:
- $2.1 billion for Supporting Effective Instruction State Grants, an increase of $400 million over FY19 levels.
- $1.2 billion for Student Support and Academic Enrichment State Grants, an increase of $40 million over FY19 levels.
- $1.2 billion for Nita M. Lowey 21st Century Community Learning Centers (Renamed from 21st Century Community Learning Centers), an increase of $28 million over FY19 levels.
Other Education Highlights
- $101.5 million for the McKinney-Vento Act’s Education for Homeless Children and Youth (EHCY) program, an 8.5% increase over the previous year, and a 32% increase over the past four years.
- An overall increase for Higher Education programs, including the Federal TRIO, GEAR UP, Teacher Quality Partnerships, and Child Care Access Means Parents in School programs.
Division B: Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
Department of Agriculture: $23.5 billion in total funding – $183 million increase from FY19 levels
- $6 billion in funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). This provides full funding for the program based on its projected caseload for the year.
- $90 million for WIC’s Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program, which is the program’s full authorized amount. This marks the first time that the program has been funded at its authorized level and will enable staffing of peer counselors in every agency across the country.
- $526 million for the Summer Food Service Program, $35 million for the Sumer EBT Program, $30 million for School Kitchen Equipment Grants, and $5 million for school breakfast expansion grants. All of these programs ensure low-income students continue to receive nutritious meals both when in school and during breaks.
Division H: Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Related Agencies
Department of Housing and Urban Development: $49.1 billion – $4.9 increase from FY19 levels
- $290 million for the Lead Hazard Reduction Program, an increase of $11 million over FY19 levels.
- $175 million for Choice Neighborhoods, an increase of $25 million over FY19 levels.
- $2.78 billion for Homeless Assistance Grants, an increase of $140 million over FY19 levels.
Policy Provisions Benefitting Kids and Some Unfinished Business
Along with funding the government, the spending package also contained a number of extensions for expiring tax and health provisions as well as other policies. While we are pleased that some of these provisions were able to pass as part of the package, some stopped short of their full potential to help children and some key provisions were left off entirely.
- Extends the Community Mental Health Services demonstration program
- Extends Medicaid funding for U.S. Territories for 2 years
- Delays Medicaid payment cuts to Disproportionate Care Hospital (DSH) for 5 months
- Extends Community Health Centers, the National Health Services Corps, and Teaching Health Centers
First Focus on Children supports the language in the bills that eliminates the pending Medicaid funding cliff to the territories caused by Medicaid block grants. However, the legislation limits Medicaid relief for Puerto Rico and the other territories to a mere two years and fails to adopt a more generous bipartisan proposal. This failure to protect American citizens in the territories highlights the vast inequalities, rationing of care, and financing problems caused by Medicaid block grants.
- Repeals the “Cadillac Tax,” an Affordable Care Act (ACA) tax on the most generous health insurance plans intended to limit the growth of private-sector health care costs, but was crafted in a way that would have incentivized employers to increase out-of-pocket expenses for family and dependent health coverage, particularly for families with children.
- Repeals the “Kiddie Tax,” a provision of the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that created a tax on children’s unearned income. The provision had the unintended consequence of raising taxes on income such as survivor benefits received by the children of fallen military members and first responders.
One major shortcoming of the spending package is that it leaves out an expansion of refundable tax provisions, such as the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). These provisions aim at helping low-income children and families make ends meet and have a successful track record for lifting children and struggling families out of poverty. This package neglects to act on recent bipartisan proposals to expand these credits, which is a crucial missed opportunity for lifting millions of children out of poverty.
Other Policy Riders That Impact Kids:
- Increases the legal purchasing age of Tobacco from 18 to 21
- Temporarily reauthorizes Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) for 5 months until May 5, 2020. This short-term extension provides an opportunity to realize the substantive reforms and additional funding that is needed to make TANF more effective at reducing child poverty. This includes clarifying that an explicit purpose of TANF is to reduce child poverty.
- Adopts the Family First Transition Act to help states successfully implement the Family First Prevention Services Act that aims to prevent children from entering foster care by allowing federal reimbursement for mental health services, substance use treatment and in-home parenting skill training, along with other initiatives to improve the well-being of children already in foster care.
Unfortunately, the legislation does not include an agreement to extend the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) with a doubling of the funding for four years. The legislative package also does little to address grave and widespread concerns for the treatment of children at the border, and, in fact, continues funding for DHS’s outrageous “Migrant Protection Protocol” program that continues to cause harm to tens of thousands of vulnerable children and families every day. Furthermore, the funding package fails to restrict the administration’s practice of transferring funds to pay for the southern border wall or more immigrant detention, therefore putting at risk essential resources that may benefit our nation’s children.
Congress must prioritize children and address unfinished business in budget deal
First Focus Campaign for Children (FFCC) is pleased that Congress has produced an appropriations package for Fiscal Year 2020 (FY20) that includes important investment decisions for our kids and several policy provisions benefitting children.
“We applaud the bipartisan effort to finalize an appropriations package that prevents another disastrous government shutdown while making crucial investments in America’s children,” said FFCC President Bruce Lesley. “As we head into the new year, we urge Congress to prioritize children and address the unfinished business left from this deal.”
We support the spending package for meeting the overall target of funding for non-defense discretionary (NDD) spending. The legislation makes crucial investments in early childhood programs, including the generous increases in the Child Care and Development Block Grant and Head Start. Other areas gaining important increases in funding for children include USDA’s food and nutrition programs, education programs, Health and Human Service’s health and mental health services for kids, juvenile justice initiatives and job training programs.
FFCC also supports several other key provisions benefitting children within the package. For the first time, the Centers for Disease Control and the National Institutes of Health will receive money to research the impact of gun violence. Congress has allocated $7.6 billion to adequately conduct the Decennial Census effort, which has historically severely undercounted young children. The legislation also adopts the Family First Transition Act and provides a five-month extension for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program. However, we still recognize that substantive reforms to TANF are paramount to making it more effective at reducing child poverty.
The spending package addresses a wide range of policy issues as well, including expiring healthcare and tax provisions. While FFCC welcomes some of these provisions, there were still glaring missed opportunities to improve the lives of America’s children. We are pleased that the package eliminates the pending Medicaid funding cliff caused by Medicaid block grants to the territories but disappointed that the agreement limits Medicaid relief for Puerto Rico and the other territories to only two years. This failure to protect American citizens in the territories rejects a more generous bipartisan proposal and highlights the extensive inequities, rationing of care, and financing problems caused by Medicaid block grants. FFCC also is disappointed that the final package did not include an agreement to extend the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program with a doubling of the funding for four years. The legislative package also does little to address our concerns for the treatment of children at the border, and it does nothing to restrict the administration’s practice of transferring funds to pay for the wall or more immigrant detention, therefore putting at risk essential resources that may benefit our nation’s children.
FFCC welcomes the legislation’s repeal of the “Cadillac Tax,” a provision in the Affordable Care Act (ACA) that was intended to limit the growth in private-sector health care costs but was crafted in a way that would have incentivized employers to increase out-of-pocket expenses on family and dependent health coverage, particularly children. Americans are not suffering from having too much insurance coverage. Instead, many families are increasingly harmed and negatively impacted by underinsurance from high deductible health plans, overly exclusive in-plan networks, and high copayments.
While the tax amendment wisely corrects a 2017 tax law “Gold Star/Kiddie Tax” provision that resulted in higher taxes on military survivor benefits, it sadly and unacceptably failed to include an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to reach low-income families and children, despite bipartisan efforts to do so. An expansion of the CTC would help to address the vast inequities and problems caused by the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) that failed our children. We know the TCJA widened income and racial disparities, which makes this massive legislative package’s inability to reverse this trend a regrettable missed opportunity for a bipartisan effort to build a tax code that is fairer and more equitable toward struggling families and children.