Pages tagged "Press Release"
COVID-19 pushing poverty numbers higher
Today’s reintroduction of the Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2020 has come just in time.
The Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2020 (S. 4115/H.R. 7419), put forward by Rep. Danny Davis (D-IL) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), commits to cutting child poverty in half in 10 years, just as the pandemic pushes child poverty toward record levels. The legislation also creates national, evidence-based benchmarks and monitoring to hold lawmakers accountable.
The U.S. Child Poverty Action Group, led by First Focus Campaign for Children, and a dozen of its members applaud the bill’s introduction.
“Child poverty is the shame of our nation,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “There is no reason that the richest country on earth should have one of the highest child poverty rates. In addition to being a flat-out moral failure, our reluctance to end child poverty also limits our country’s economic, social, and cultural future.”
Child poverty has remained stubbornly high in the U.S. despite strong employment and economic figures. Before the pandemic, child poverty afflicted nearly 12 million children, or 16 percent — higher than nearly any other industrialized nation. Research from Columbia University predicts that the outbreak and its economic fallout could increase child poverty by as much as 53 percent. Already, 40 percent of mothers with children under 12 reported in April they are struggling to put food on the table.
Children of color live in poverty at three times the rate of white children. And just as COVID-19 has taken a greater toll on Black, Hispanic, and Native American communities, the pandemic’s economic impact will disproportionately affect Black, Hispanic, and Native American children.
Child poverty, especially for babies and young children, can impair a person’s long-term physical and mental health, as well as their educational outcomes, income-earning potential and other facets of well-being. Because of its impact on children’s individual well-being, child poverty also negatively affects our country’s economy, costing the nation roughly $1 trillion every year.
“Child poverty underlies a persistent tangle of inequities in our society,” said Rep. Davis. “Children who grow up poor end up earning less than other children, they suffer significantly greater health risks, encounter more trauma and social conflict, and face greater barriers in education in proportion to the number of years they live in poverty. We need the tools to measure and understand the links behind childhood poverty and long-term outlooks for child development. This legislation will provide the non-partisan, scientific basis for shaping evidence-based programs and policies to level the playing field for all our children.”
“Over 15 percent of children in Pennsylvania grow up in poverty. This is unacceptable,” said Senator Casey. “The Child Poverty Reduction Act makes a commitment to cut child poverty in half over the next decade. We must ensure every child has the opportunity to grow and flourish and every child in America should have the freedom to reach her or his full potential.”
Child poverty is a problem with proven solutions. A 2019 landmark study from the non-partisan National Academy of Sciences offers evidence-based models for cutting child poverty within a decade, suggesting that lawmakers know how to reduce child poverty, they simply lack the will to do so. The Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2020 establishes a framework for building that political will and ensuring progress by committing to cut our national child poverty rate in half within a decade and directing the NAS to report annually on progress toward that goal.
Similar measures successfully reduced child poverty in the United Kingdom, which halved its rate between 1999 and 2008. Pre-pandemic, Canada had cut child poverty by a third since 2015. Several U.S. states also have mounted campaigns to reduce child poverty.
The following CPAG members endorse the Child Poverty Reduction Act of 2020: Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Health Fund, First Focus Campaign for Children, National Association for the Education of Young Children, National Association of Counties, National Center for Children in Poverty/Bank Street Graduate School of Education, National Diaper Bank Network, National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives, National WIC Association, Save the Children Action Network, ZERO TO THREE.
First Focus Campaign for Children is pleased that The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act (H.R. 1425), unveiled today by chairs of the House health committees, makes a special effort to specifically address the health care needs of children.
“Children too often are an afterthought in our policy and budget decisions,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “It is encouraging to see such particular attention paid to their needs in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Enhancement Act.”
The package, put forward by Energy and Commerce Chairman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Ways and Means Chairman Richard E. Neal (D-MA) and Education and Labor Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), offers many provisions aimed at improving children’s health care and coverage. In addition, the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the legislation could lower prices for some prescription drugs by as much as 55%, and that the savings to the federal government from those provisions will cover the cost of expanded care. Over a decade, CBO estimates, the measures will actually reduce the deficit by $15 billion.
Highlights of the package that benefit children include:
- Incorporation of the CARING for Kids Act, sponsored by Reps. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), which would make the Children’s Health Insurance Program permanent;
- Creation of a state option to raise Medicaid and CHIP eligibility to 300% of the Federal Poverty Line, from Rep. Nanette Barragan’s (D-CA) bill to open coverage pathways to children currently without coverage or with unaffordable coverage;
- Extension of Medicaid and CHIP coverage for twelve consecutive months, which will keep kids covered and eliminate churn due to red tape and paperwork;
- Guarantee of twelve months of Medicaid and CHIP coverage postpartum to reduce maternal mortality, especially for Black women, who have the highest rates of dying after giving birth;
- Elimination of the “family glitch,” which will allow millions of families to afford coverage that meets their needs through the Affordable Care Act marketplace;
- Extension of Medicaid to migrants from the Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands, and the Republic of Palau, a long-overdue provision; and,
- Increase of federal matching dollars for Urban Indian Health Programs, which will help stabilize services provided to American Indians and Alaska Natives.
Children need stable, continuous, affordable health coverage that meets their needs. This bill takes us in the right direction.
In response to introduction of the Child Care Is Essential Act in the House and the Senate, Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children, made the following statement:
“We are gratified that Reps. DeLauro and Scott and Sen. Murray are pushing to devote $50 billion to the survival of child care providers and hope the bill succeeds in both houses. America cannot return to work until we secure safe, happy, and healthy care for our children. Child care is vital U.S. infrastructure, as crucial to our economy as transportation or electricity.”
First Focus Campaign for Children joined 44 other advocates in a letter to Congress earlier this month demanding that lawmakers devote at least $50 billion to stabilize our child care system. The group emphasized that our nation’s child care system is on the brink of collapse, with serious implications both now and in the future. Find full text of the bill at this link.
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.
As the economic toll of COVID-19 robs American families of their jobs and the health insurance that comes with them, lawmakers must act decisively to protect children’s coverage.
We strongly support the bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program Pandemic Enhancement and Relief (CHIPPER) Act, which will suspend 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, now is not the time to cut federal support for states providing coverage by billions of dollars.
“Congress missed the opportunity to include this critical suspension in the $3 trillion coronavirus relief package unveiled Tuesday,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “But we are gratified that lawmakers from both sides of the aisle are coming together to get the job done one way or another.”
The bill is sponsored by Pennsylvania Reps. Susan Wild, a Democrat, and Brian Fitzpatrick, a Republican. It has 46 co-sponsors.
CHIP has demonstrated two decades of success, cutting the children’s uninsured rate to just 4.5% in FY 2016. Since then, however, misguided policies have pushed children off the rolls and sent the number of uninsured toward 6%. The dual public health and economic crises of the pandemic ensure it will go higher still.
This CHIPPER bill supports CHIP at a critical time. In addition to the direct impact of COVID-19, which causes a rare inflammatory disease in children, efforts to curb the virus and its economic fallout have delayed treatment for underlying conditions and developmental appointments, increased stress and the need for mental health treatment, postponed immunizations, increased child hunger, and spiked incidents of child abuse and maltreatment.
Advocate Demands Congress Protect Kids
COVID-19 may not be killing children in the same numbers as adults, but the virus that has locked down the world is having a grave and long-lasting impact on children.
“People have been saying, ‘Oh, coronavirus doesn’t affect kids — the kids are alright,” First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley recently told The New York Times. “They’re so not. They’re at greater risk of sexual assault, suicide, substance abuse, hunger — every aspect of children’s lives is being impacted.”
Lesley and his policy team at First Focus Campaign for Children today called on Congress to safeguard the physical, emotional, financial and developmental health and well-being of our nation’s 74 million children in the following areas:
- Health: Increase support for the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid, which together provide health insurance for nearly 40 million children. As families experience record unemployment, these programs are more necessary than ever.
- Child Care: Help providers continue operating and support critical child care and home visiting programs.
- Child Poverty: Enact numerous pieces of legislation on child poverty that have already been introduced and further the recommendations of the 2019 National Academy of Sciences study, A Roadmap to Reducing Child Poverty. Nearly 2 million children slipped into poverty during the Great Recession. Forecasters are predicting worse outcomes from COVID-19.
- Child Hunger: Build on the nutrition assistance provided in previous packages to ensure that families with children can put food on the table.
- Child and Youth Homelessness: Take immediate steps to aid children and youth already experiencing homelessness and prevent more from joining their ranks. The Department of Education identified 1.5 million homeless students in the 2017-2018 school year, a 10% increase over the previous year. As unemployment climbs, so will those numbers.
- Immigration: Prioritize the well-being of all children regardless of immigration status. Children of immigrants are the fastest-growing group of American children, with 1 in 4 children (18 million) living with at least one immigrant parent. Many of these children, including citizen children, were excluded from previous aid packages.
- Child Welfare: Strengthen supports that are critical for the children, youth, and families that receive services from state child welfare agencies. COVID-19 has caused increases in known risk factors for child abuse and neglect: social isolation, parental stress, and economic strain.
- Education: Ensure that emergency resources allocated for education reach all students equally and provide all students with the ability to continue learning during this crisis.
Find the complete and specific package of legislative proposals at this link.
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.
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.
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.
A bipartisan team of lawmakers have introduced a bill to make the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) permanent, a move overwhelmingly supported by pediatricians, advocates, parents, and the American public.
The Comprehensive Access to Robust Insurance Now Guaranteed (CARING) for Kids Act (H.R.6151), introduced Monday by Reps. Abby Finkenauer (D-IA) and Vern Buchanan (R-FL), would remove the recurring uncertainty around the federal health insurance program that covers 10 million of our nation’s children. CHIP is the only federal health insurance program subject to expiration, funding cliffs, offsets, and re-authorization votes.
“CHIP is a bipartisan success story that has, since its inception more than two decades ago, dramatically cut the uninsured rate for children,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “Paradoxically, it is also the only federal health insurance program that is regularly used as a bargaining chip on Capitol Hill. During these times more than ever, children and their families must be able to trust that their health care coverage will be there for them and will be affordable, accessible and meet their needs. We are thrilled that Representatives Finkenauer and Buchanan have tackled this long-standing issue and we fully support this bipartisan bill to protect the health coverage of children by making CHIP permanent.”
A bipartisan coalition in Congress created CHIP in 1997 to address a national health care crisis in which 15% of our nation’s children lacked coverage. The program targets families who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford other health insurance options. By guaranteeing pediatric-focused care to millions of children, CHIP played a critical role in ensuring that 95% of children in America were insured by 2016.
Despite its success, CHIP remains temporary and requires an increasingly elusive act of Congress every few years simply to keep it going. Lawmakers have missed reauthorization and funding deadlines over its 23-year history, most recently in 2016 and 2017, and have even threatened to eliminate the program entirely. The repeated uncertainty has harmed children by threatening to interrupt protocols and on-going treatment plans and creating toxic stress for families trying to keep their kids healthy. Threats to CHIP also can force state administrators to suspend program outreach, enrollment, and other activities in order to plan for its possible demise.
Congress most recently pushed CHIP reauthorization to the brink in 2017, when it took lawmakers 132 days — more than four months — to reach a final agreement. First Focus Campaign for Children was instrumental in renewal efforts, bringing to Washington eight families whose children relied on CHIP so they could talk with lawmakers. First Focus also ran national newspaper ads, created online campaigns, educated members of Congress on the need for CHIP and advocated for its extension.
The uncertainty and lengthy delay of the 2017 reauthorization fight led to the first increase in the percentage of uninsured children in two decades. Trump Administration regulatory policies to push children off of health insurance since then have amplified this decline, with the percentage of uninsured children rising to 5.5 percent in 2018.
No other federal health insurance program – not Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, TRICARE or FEHBP – is subject to frequent expirations, funding cliffs, the need for offsets, or the potential to be used as a bargaining chip.
CHIP remains a popular, cost-effective, public-private partnership. A 2017 poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 88% of American voters consider CHIP reauthorization an important priority for the president and Congress.
The Finkenauer-Buchanan bill would ensure the long-term future of CHIP, finally answering the repeated call from pediatricians, public health officials, parents and members of Congress themselves to guarantee the health and well-being of our nation’s children.
The CARING for Kids Act would:
- Protect the health coverage of 10 million children;
- Give CHIP equal status with other federal health insurance programs;
- Protect CHIP from changes to or elimination of the Affordable Care Act that could make CHIP extension more difficult in the future;
- Allow health experts and advocates to shift their focus to important problems facing children, such as infant mortality, mental health, substance abuse, diabetes, asthma, and oral health; and,
- Let states pursue innovation and improvements to CHIP rather than contingency plans for its elimination.