Building Back Better for Kids and Families- Update 11.5.211 Comment
As Congress is poised to act on the social infrastructure agenda known as Build Back Better, we wanted to give a better sense of the transformational impact this legislation will have on kids and families. The goal of Build Back Better is to address the inequities that existed before the pandemic and have been exacerbated by the pandemic. The policies are intentionally designed to target economically disadvantaged children, children of color, and women to provide the resources that have previously been unavailable or unaffordable. These policies will also deliver immediate relief to families by continuing the monthly Child Tax Credit payment for the lowest income families and improves conditions in the long-term by providing more equitable access to child care and prenatal care.
UPDATE 11.5.21- House of Representatives Vote
Today the House of Representatives will vote on the Bipartisan Infrastructure package and the Build Back Better Act. The Senate has already approved the Infrastructure bill so it will head to the President. The Senate has been given a deadline to approve Build Back Better before Thanksgiving and the contents could change to reach an agreement between the House and Senate. Particularly at risk in the Senate are the paid family leave provisions.
Our hope for Build Back Better was that it would provide the three things we heard from families throughout the pandemic that they needed most—child care assistance, flexible cash assistance through the Child Tax Credit, and paid family medical leave. House negotiations and incredible advocates have made it possible to put four weeks of paid family leave back into the bill. It will be critical to continue to speak up to ensure it stays in the Senate version.
There are many provisions of the Build Back Better plan. Here are some key highlights for children and families:
Extension of the enhanced Child Tax Credit for one year:
The new framework keeps the higher payment amounts and fully refundable payments in place for another year. This will allow for the families who previously earned too little to qualify for the benefit to receive assistance and for “little DREAMers” to qualify. This expansion will impact Black and Latinx children significantly as more than half of the children who were previously excluded for earning too little were children of color. The flexible cash assistance provided through the Child Tax Credit will continue to help families cover basic necessities like food and child care.
Transformational investments to make child care and preschool more affordable and accessible:
Congress’s $400 billion investment in child care and preschool will dramatically impact a system that is struggling to recover from the impact of the pandemic and help get mothers back into the workforce. The comprehensive proposal addresses the child care supply and affordability angle from all sides—it reduces parent costs to no more than 7% of income, provides resources to increase early educators compensation, and builds on a mixed-delivery system of public, private, and Head Start programs. With funding specifically for 3’s & 4’s in preschool, this significant investment provides an opportunity to improve the child care assistance policies around the needs of infants and toddlers.
Child and maternal health improvements to address racial disparities:
While Virginia lawmakers have already approved the extension of Medicaid eligibility for 12 months postpartum, Build Back Better makes this extension a requirement for states. It also includes all of the provision of the Black Maternal Health Momnibus package, which would support training and diversification of the perinatal workforce, maternal health quality improvements, better data systems to track and identify causes of maternal mortality, investments in historically Black colleges and universities to conduct research into maternal health disparities, and grants to support implicit bias training for frontline health care professionals.
For children, the legislation would require Virginia to provide 12 months of continuous eligibility for Medicaid and FAMIS. Currently about 5% of children enrolled in Medicaid/FAMIS lose their coverage during the year. It also makes the federal funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (known as FAMIS in VA) permanent.
Improvements to nutrition access will keep children from going hungry:
Build Back better would provide better nutrition access to students by expanding the Summer EBT program allowing eligible families to receive additional assistance to purchase meals during the summer months or while schools are closed. The proposal also strengthens the Community Eligibility Provision that allows schools to opt in to provide free meals to the entire school enrollment.
House version provides four weeks of paid family medical leave:
Parents need paid family medical leave after the birth of their children, when kids are sick, to care for other families and to provide for their own health. The U.S. is alone among wealthy nations for not providing a paid family leave program. The House proposal would create a program to offer every worker access to a national paid family medical leave program. Creating a universal program will impact more parents of color working in jobs who currently do not offer paid leave. And importantly, it will give more new parents time off to care for their newborns and for mothers to recover from giving birth.
More to come…
While more details are forthcoming, the bill also includes investments in trauma-informed care peer support specialists. here are also provisions on immigration reform and affordable higher education that we are monitoring. It’s now up to Congress to act on or improve on this bill. Watch this space for more detailed information on the proposals. Stay tuned on our blog and sign up for emails to get the latest updates.