Pages tagged "Press Release"
Earlier this year, Congress passed–and the President signed–a law authorizing funding for the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for an additional 10 years. In passing the 10-year extension of CHIP, Congress acted on a bipartisan basis to provide stability for the program that families, states, and providers need. More recently, when the Trump administration proposed a rescission package of $15 billion to Congress, $7 billion or nearly half of the entire package came from just the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). Today, that plan was rejected in a 48-50 vote in the Senate.
The following statement comes from Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children:
This afternoon Congress targeted the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)– a wildly cost-effective and popular program with the American people–in the name of deficit reduction. This set a dangerous precedent indicating that children are responsible for the rising budget deficit though they are not. The nine million children and families who depend on CHIP already faced months of uncertainty, when its funding expired before Congress took long-overdue action to extend CHIP funding for ten years. After breathing a short sigh of relief, however, the long-term stability and protection these families fought to ensure was once again threatened from those that sought to target our most vulnerable. We are relieved that 50 senators defended the health care of children.
We maintain, along with a coalition of children's health care advocates, that any changes to any changes to our health care system must further improve coverage for children and pregnant women, and we must not backtrack, threaten, or needlessly put at risk the gains we have made.
In May, the Trump administration issued a zero-tolerance policy for families crossing the U.S. border. According to a recent report, 1,887 new children are now in the custody of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) since the enactment of this policy just one month ago. This initiative has created a new category of unaccompanied children who will rely on HHS for their safety and well-being. While the stated purpose is to uphold the rule of law, cruelty as a deterrence tactic has been the point of this initiative from the start. The following statement comes from Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children:
“With dire urgency, the administration’s anti-immigrant and anti-family policies must be rejected. In a democracy, we are all accountable for our government, which includes how we treat the most vulnerable among us. The administration’s family separation policy directly harms children and amounts to child abuse. Anyone concerned about the tragedy of family separation and the harm it is doing to children should contact their elected officials and demand the end to this policy. Our country has to be better than this.”
As a nation that values the well-being of all children and understands the strength of family unity, it is our responsibility to ensure that children and families who are seeking refuge in the U.S. are not deterred from doing so and that our government provides the best protections and services to these vulnerable children during every step of the process. There is room for bipartisan conversations regarding our nation’s broken immigration system. However, tearing children from their parents should never be a part of this conversation.
Statement: Amendment to the Joining Opportunity with Benefits and Services (JOBS) for Success Act (H.R. 5861) would hold the government accountable for reducing child poverty
The First Focus Campaign for Children applauds Congressman Danny Davis (D-IL-7) for offering an amendment to the Joining Opportunity with Benefits and Services (JOBS) for Success Act (H.R. 5861) that would hold the government accountable to significantly reducing child poverty in the U.S. First Focus Campaign for Children also applauds Congresswoman Chu for her leadership and supportive remarks. While we are disappointed that this amendment was voted down 21-14, we appreciate Chairman Brady and Congresswoman Jenkins’s commitment to continuing to work with Congressman Davis on this policy.
This amendment would establish a national child poverty target in the U.S., setting the goal of cutting child poverty in half within a decade and eliminating child poverty within 20 years. It would also mandate the federal government to come up with a national plan to meet these targets that is developed in consultation with nongovernmental entities providing social services to low-income children and families; advocacy groups that directly represent low-income children and families; policy experts; and officials of state, local, and tribal governments, including the working group of the largest state and local associations who administer or direct policy for antipoverty programs.
It was offered as part of the Joining Opportunity with Benefits and Services (JOBS) for Success Act (H.R. 5861), which would reauthorize the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program for five years and make changes that include the addition of child poverty reduction as an explicit goal of TANF. Despite this added goal, we are concerned that the changes proposed in H.R. 5861 would not significantly strengthen TANF’s ability to reduce child poverty. The inclusion of this amendment would have been a significant step towards ensuring that the JOBS for Success Act holds federal, state and local governments accountable to reducing child poverty in the U.S.
In addition to First Focus Campaign for Children, there are several other organizations that support this amendment, including: Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, Children’s Advocacy Institute, Child Welfare League of America, Family Focused Treatment Association, National Association of Counties, National Association for the Education of Young Children, National Diaper Bank Network, National Prevention Science Coalition to Improve Lives, National WIC Association and the Sargent Shriver National Center on Poverty Law. Some members of the U.S. Child Poverty Action Group also sent a letter to the House Ways & Means Committee in support of this amendment.
First Focus Campaign for Children President Bruce Lesley made the following statement:
“Children continue to disproportionately experience poverty in the U.S. This amendment is a practical first step towards changing that. We see from the UK that child poverty is not an insurmountable problem when there is the political will to address it. We are grateful for Congressman Davis and Congresswoman Chu’s leadership in making child poverty reduction a priority and urge all policymakers to do the same.”
The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildren.org.
Today, the President released his Fiscal Year 2019 budget proposal, which flies in the face of last week’s Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (BBA). The President’s budget violates the BBA’s crucial enactment of parity for non-defense and defense discretionary spending caps and makes draconian, nonsensical cuts to critical safety net programs. As a result, it exacerbates the trend of declining federal investment in our children, which reached an all-time low of just 7.75% of the total federal budget in 2017.
Rather than rectify this harmful pattern, the President’s budget creates a blueprint for an America that trivializes the needs of families and children.
With his $57 billion cut to the BBA’s $597 billion non-defense discretionary cap, the President abandons parity and ignores an obvious opportunity to reinvest in multiple children’s programs that have faced devastating cuts for years. In fact, this proposal shrinks and even eliminates key discretionary programs that benefit children. Reckless cuts of billions from K-12 education programs, not to mention the elimination of key child welfare funding streams via the Social Services and Community Services Block Grants and health supports like Emergency Medical Services for Children, represent just a few of the misplaced priorities shaping this budget request.
On the mandatory side of the ledger, the President has called for dramatic reductions in, and restructuring of, key safety net programs. The budget attacks everything from income support and housing assistance to affordable healthcare and nutrition, all but ensuring that our children will be poorer, without shelter, sicker, and hungrier.
It is no surprise that less than two months after passing a tax bill that exploded the federal deficit by $1 trillion over 10 years, the administration is at the same time attempting to slash hundreds of billions of dollars in mandatory programs that help struggling families get by.
The Administration’s claim that this budget represents a “clear commitment to a better future for all Americans,” does not reconcile with the havoc, if enacted, it would wreak on America’s children.
As we near the eleventh hour of the current continuing resolution to fund the government, the bipartisan progress on a budget deal steers us away from months of uncertainty, multiple continuing resolutions, and a looming debt ceiling, all of which leave children and families hanging in the balance.
“The emerging proposal paves the way for Congress to continue to work across the aisle to address the pressing needs of children and families, which ought to transcend partisan division,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “We applaud Senate leadership for pulling together this important bipartisan agreement to make critically needed investments in our nation’s children and youth.”
In particular, this deal raises the budget caps established in the Budget Control Act of 2011 and increases defense and non-defense discretionary spending with parity. This crucial decision will provide relief from forced cuts that have put downward pressure on federal spending on children.
The Senate agreement also acknowledges the families and children who have been left waiting for the reauthorization of vital programs by extending the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for a full 10 years, the the Maternal, Infant and Early Care Home Visiting (MIECHV) program for five years, and Community Health Center funding for two years. We further applaud the deal’s inclusion of important child welfare legislation in the form of the Families First Prevention Services Act.
The budget deal also commits to several budgetary priorities that will benefit children, including crucial investments in child care for low-income families, provides critical funding for the 2020 Decennial Census, additional funds to combat the opioid substance abuse epidemic, and critical relief for the health, education, and nutrition needs of children in all of the areas recovering from natural disasters.
Furthermore, the agreement recognizes that our current budget process has become unsustainable and rightly highlights the need for reform. Such budget reform offers lawmakers an excellent opportunity to elevate the needs of children and families, and the role that a predictable, transparent budget process plays in their well-being.
“This deal marks a major step forward in the fight to help make children and families the priority in federal policy decisions,” Lesley adds. “In that vein, our support for the Senate budget package must be followed up with a permanent solution for hundreds of thousands of immigrant youth who know only the United States as their home without ceding to the White House’s extreme demands.”
The fifth Continuing Resolution (CR), released by the House of Representatives with a vote expected today, would temporarily extend funding for virtually all federal programs serving children for the current fiscal year that began 129 days ago until March 23.
At that point, the federal government will be through nearly half the entire fiscal year and still not have set a budget for the vast majority of children’s programs.
“Government by short-term patches and brinksmanship shows just how dysfunctional our nation’s federal government has become. This is unacceptable for the millions of children and families across this country that are being harmed by Congress’s failure to act,” said Bruce Lesley, president of the First Focus Campaign for Children. “President Trump and Congress must sit down and resolve this stalemate once and for all and get this country back on track toward solving the problems that face our nation’s next generation.”
The following are the good, bad, and ugly provisions for children that are either included or left out of this fifth CR.
- Families First: The CR includes language that strengthens families by providing upfront evidence-based prevention services to children at risk of coming into foster care, including mental health, substance abuse, and in-home parenting programs to keep families together and prevent foster care placements. The language also ensures more foster children are placed with families, ending federal reimbursement when states inappropriately place children in non-family settings.
- Child Welfare Program Extensions: The CR reauthorizes (at current levels) an additional four years for the Promoting Safe and Stable Families and Child Welfare Services programs (including the Court Improvement Program), the Adoption and Legal Guardianship Incentive Payments, and the Regional Partnership Grant program.
- Community Health Centers (CHCs): After expiring 129 days ago, CHC funding is extended for two years in this CR to end the CHC current and immediate financial crisis. However, another expiration of funding would come again in less than 20 months from now. Although two years is an important step, five years of funding is necessary to allow CHCs to preserve their staff, clinics, and health services and establish long-term stability for their work in serving low-income children and families.
- Family to Family (F2F) Information Centers: The CR provides a two-year extension of funding to F2F Centers that serve as a central source for families of children and young adults with disabilities and special health care needs to obtain support, advocacy, and information about health care. The extension also provides for the establishment of F2F Centers in the territories and the tribal communities, although five years of funding would provide much greater stability for these programs.
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP): Although the last CR provided for a six-year extension of CHIP, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has found that a 10-year extension would save the federal government an additional $5-6 billion. This CR fails to take advantage of this unique opportunity to stabilize and protect CHIP for the long term, eliminate the unnecessary CHIP funding shortfall that was included in the last CR beginning in FY 2024, and billions of dollars in savings that could be used to extend funding for all the other programs with short-term extensions mentioned in this release.
- The Debt Ceiling: The CR fails to address the looming deadline for a vote to increase the debt limit—which will determine if the U.S. government can pay its bills. Gambling with the debt limit reduces business confidence, stresses financial markets, and delays critical payments for programs on which many Americans depend – including food assistance to children, Social Security, Medicare benefits and payments to the military and our veterans. Crisis management of the debt limit is dangerous and irresponsible. Congress should increase the debt ceiling as part of the 5th Continuing Resolution for FY’18 and improve the process in a thoughtful manner eliminating the need to guess when “extraordinary measures” to pay our bills may be exhausted and the government would default on our nation’s debt.
- Funding for Non-Defense Discretionary (NDD) Children’s Programs: The CR harms children by offering sequestration relief for defense spending for the current fiscal year (FY 2018), without doing the same for NDD spending. NDD spending funds a majority of the programs serving children and families, and as a result of unsustainable budget caps, NDD spending on children has seen a real percent cut of 0.78 percent since 2014. Meanwhile, the share of the federal budget going to children is at an all-time low of 7.75 percent. Without sequestration relief for domestic spending, the federal government cannot prioritize the programs that educate, strengthen, and protect children—which are just as imperative for ensuring the future security of our nation as investments in defense spending.
- Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program: The CR does not include funding for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, which expired more than four months ago. MIECHV supports effective home visiting services that help children and families improve their health, educational attainment and ability to work to support themselves. Congress needs to renew this important program for five years at no less than its current funding of $400 million annually. In fact, an extension of CHIP for 10 years would more than pay for a simultaneous long-term extension of MIECHV – a win-win for low-income children and families.
- Disaster Relief: This CR omits much-needed disaster relief for emergency supplemental funding to enable Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, and California to continue their recovery from Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria and the California wildfires. Congress has yet to deliver on funding that it promised nearly two months ago, and as a result, families and children in these regions continue to lack desperately needed resources.
- Medicaid Shortfalls in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands: This CR fails to address an enormous crisis whereby Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are rapidly running out of Medicaid funding to provide health coverage to hundreds of thousands of American citizens. Due to the fact that Medicaid provides an inadequate level of block grant funding to the territories, limiting their access to Medicaid funding, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands face a crisis demanding immediate action from Congress for these citizens.
- DREAM/Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA): The CR continues to woefully ignore a much-needed DACA fix for over 800,000 immigrants. Congress has had more than four months to come up with a solution to a problem created by President Trump’s decision to repeal DACA protections for nearly 1 million young people who know only the United States as their home. The President has indicated that he will not change the current March 5 expiration date for DACA recipients. These recipients and their families, including 200,000 U.S. citizen children, are facing a great deal of uncertainty and fear, heightened by each passing day that a deal is not made. Congress must address DACA as soon as possible to end the needless trauma that has been inflicted on these hardworking immigrants and their families.
WASHINGTON—Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children, reacted to today’s proposed House FY2018 Continuing Resolution (CR):
The Senate should modify this bill to make the Children’s Health Insurance Program’s (CHIP) extension permanent or, at the very least, to extend CHIP for 10 years. Doing so would simultaneously stabilize and protect the health coverage for 9 million children and pregnant women while cutting the federal budget deficit by $6 billion over 10 years and another $30 billion or more over the next decade.
CHIP funding expired 109 days ago and several states are on the verge of shutting down their programs. No other federal health insurance program undergoes constant extensions and reauthorizations like CHIP — not Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, DoD, or FEHBP. CHIP has a 20-year track record of success and successfully covers 9 million children. Congress should seize this opportunity to stabilize CHIP financing.
The Campaign for Children is also deeply concerned that the CR does not include funding for the Maternal, Infant and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, Community Health Centers, or the Parent to Parent Initiative. MIECHV supports effective home visiting services that help children and families improve their health, educational attainment and ability to work to support themselves. We urge Congress to renew this important program in the upcoming continuing resolution for five years at no less than its current funding of $400 million annually. It is time that we make this modest investment in the future success of children and families.
Finally, the CR put forth by the House Republicans woefully ignores a DACA fix for over 800,000 immigrants. Congress has had more than four months to come up with a solution to a problem created by President Trump’s decision to repeal DACA protections for nearly 1 million young people who know only the United States as their home. DACA recipients and their families, including 200,000 U.S. citizen children, are facing a great deal of uncertainty and fear, heightened by each passing day that a deal is not made. Congress must address DACA as soon as possible to end the needless trauma that has been inflicted on these hardworking immigrants and their families.
“The only simple thing about this tax bill is that the bulk of its benefits flow to wealthy families and corporations at the expense of working families and children. Corporations will enjoy a steep decrease in their tax rate, which will plummet from 35 percent to 21 percent, permanently.
In 2027, nearly 83% of the tax breaks are projected to go to the top 1% of earners. On the other hand, hard-working families with children, especially those in poverty, will, at best, see modest—but temporary—tax breaks, with the poorest left out entirely. Sadly, in the name of a partisan victory and so-called simplification of our tax code, the President and his Congressional Majority have ushered through a tax overhaul in record time with no regard for legislative process or bipartisanship. The result heavily and shamefully favors the wealthiest.
At the same time that extraordinary measures were used to rush a deficit-ballooning tax bill to the President, an extremely successful and bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) expired. Ironically, this upside-down prioritization stems from claims that the $8 billion CHIP cost requires funding offsets. This explanation for inaction on CHIP is appalling given that the tax bill will cost more than 100 times that over the next five years.
In addition, this unfair, lopsided and insulting tax bill gambles with our children’s future by relying on unfounded expectations for economic growth. Congress’ own independent analysts estimate that this tax bill will increase the deficit by $1.45 trillion. Our young people can expect to shoulder this debt burden, experience shrinking social services and ultimately pay for the tax cuts with higher taxes.
Already, the tax bill’s supporters have indicated they will dismantle the social safety net to compensate for this explosion in the deficit. This endangers critical programs that serve families and children, such as Medicaid, temporary assistance for needy families (TANF), child nutrition programs, and housing assistance. Families cannot afford to lose these crucial supports, which are already receiving a declining share of the federal budget. As of 2017, less than 8 percent of total federal spending goes to children.
Supporters of the tax bill have chosen to reward corporations and the wealthiest over children. The First Focus Campaign for Children finds this behavior intolerable and unconscionable and will continue to fight to ensure these policymakers no longer view our children as an afterthought.”
WASHINGTON--With respect to the House Energy and Commerce Committee’s Announcement that the House will consider a Continuing Resolution with a short-term, stop-gap measure for states that will exhaust CHIP funding by the end of 2017, the following statement was issued by Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children:
“Congress is more than two months overdue in fulfilling a self-imposed September 30th deadline on extending funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for 8.9 million low income kids. Consequently, every state is rapidly running out of funding.
Children deserve more from Congress than short-term, piecemeal measures for individual states. For families with children in treatment for cancer, heart disease, Spina Bifida, cystic fibrosis, Rett Syndrome, asthma, or an array of other conditions this funding delay is frightening and unnecessary. Children need Congress to do their job and fully fund CHIP for five years for all states to minimize damage already done by this inexplicable delay.
There is no excuse for further delays on extending this critical and wildly successful program for children, and to do so is harmful. Children and their families are counting on Congress to extend CHIP funding now — without any further delay or excuses.
If Congress does choose to enact a short-term extension, it should be for the purpose of using the time to eliminate the arbitrary funding cliff in the law or to create a permanent CHIP Trust Fund paid for by the offsets or past tobacco taxes that should have been dedicated to CHIP, so that such a crisis never happens again."
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
(WASHINGTON, D.C.)--Bruce Lesley, President of the First Focus Campaign for Children, issued the following statement after House and Senate passage of bills to radically reform the tax code:
“In the dead of night on Saturday, the Senate voted 51-49 in support of a tax bill that will either harm or provide only modest relief to all but the wealthiest families with children.
Among the harmful impacts on children, the House and Senate bills increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion — a debt that the nation will be passing on to the next generation to pay off well into the future.
This tax bill punishes working families by promising eventual tax increases. According to Congress’ own analysis, by 2027, households making less than $75,000 will pay higher taxes. What’s worse, in the preceding years, families with children in the lowest income quintiles will see meager (if any) tax relief compared to the thousands of dollars going to the wealthy.
As Ron Brownstein said in The Atlantic, “The House and Senate measures shower enormous benefits on households at the top of the economic ladder, a group that by all indications is older and whiter than the population overall. Then it hands the bill for those benefits largely to younger generations, who will pay through more federal debt; less spending on programs that could benefit them; and, eventually, higher taxes.”
As an example, the tax bill will trigger budget cuts to numerous programs of importance to children, including education, child nutrition, and child welfare. While assurances were made by Senate leadership that they would protect Medicare from such cuts, no such commitments were made to protect children or the programs that serve them.
Furthermore, the additional debt will put further pressure on all children’s programs, including Medicaid, CHIP, and SNAP. Recent analysis by First Focus illustrates that the share of federal spending dedicated to children has been on a steady decline and now represents less than 8 percent of all federal spending.
Meanwhile, the Senate tax bill targets children for cuts in a number of ways, such as the elimination of the Personal Exemption (which harms larger families), repeal of the State and Local Tax (SALT) deduction (which harms state and local funding for public and higher education, etc.), reduction of the Orphan Drug Tax Credit (which will disproportionately have a negative impact on kids), and elimination of the Child Tax Credit for an estimated 1 million immigrant children through the imposition of a new Social Security number requirement.
Compounding these negative consequences, the Senate rejected two amendments that would have improved the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and helped millions of low-income children and families by Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), failing with votes of 48-52 and 29-71, respectively. Though 68 senators showed the will to improve the tax bill’s impact on children by voting for one or both Child Tax Credit amendments, partisan voting precluded the passage of either amendment. Children, sadly, were once again losers in the halls of Congress.
Two months ago, this Congress allowed funding for health coverage of 9 million children covered by the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to expire, leaving critical healthcare for vulnerable children hanging in limbo. Congress has also failed to fund the government and provide much-needed sequestration relief to programs that serve children. The contrast between that inaction and this bill’s $ 1.5 trillion giveaway to corporations and older wealthy Americans, with its negative impact on children, highlights the continued low priority that Congress has for our nation’s children.”
The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are a priority in federal policy and budget decisions.