This month, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession, the House is considering appropriations bills for Fiscal Year 2021 to pass and sign into law by September 30. With this deadline quickly approaching, the House Appropriations Committee just this week released their Fiscal Year 2021 subcommittee allocations known as 302(b)’s and began markups in earnest. Appropriations bills are passed every year to fund the discretionary portion of the federal budget including education, defense, housing, and much more. These bills are critical opportunities for Congress to provide robust funding for their districts, states, and programs and resources that children and families need—and this is especially true this year.
Even before the pandemic, more than 11.9 million children—primarily children of color—were poor, more than 12.5 million children were living in food-insecure households, and nearly 1 in 3 children lived in households burdened by housing costs. The pandemic is only exacerbating these alarming trends and racial inequities with millions facing job losses, hour reductions, and threats of eviction. According to the Census Bureau Pulse Survey, children are negatively impacted by the pandemic and face dual dire economic issues of predominantly low-income households facing eviction and food insecurity. 11.8 children live in households that missed a mortgage or rent payment last month and 3.9 million children are experiencing food insecurity, with those numbers growing daily. With this in mind, Congress must provide not only sufficient resources to address the pre-existing racial and economic injustices facing children, but also emergency spending to ensure children and families can weather the ongoing public health and economic crises.
Unfortunately, the Fiscal Year (FY) 2021 nondefense discretionary (NDD) budget cap is woefully insufficient to meet the growing needs of our communities during the pandemic and beyond. The FY21 budget cap is just $5 billion, or 0.8 percent, higher than FY20 enacted at $627 billion. This amount, spread across multiple bills, agencies, and programs, cannot meet the millions of children and families going hungry, in need of housing assistance, and so much more. What’s worse, the large defense budget cap at $741 billion for FY21 exceeds the actual defense needs of our country and is much larger than what can be spent at home to help children and families now.
That is why CDF joined over 40 organizations urging Congressional leadership to prioritize the health, safety, and well-being of our nation’s children and families throughout these momentous budget decisions. Congress should consider increasing the NDD budget cap, offsetting decreases in the defense cap, and adding emergency titles to all NDD bills to further help reduce the growing racial and economic disparities during this catastrophic crisis. We know that appropriations are moral and economic decisions about what our nation prioritizes and what we are willing to invest in. Rather than investing in a militarized border, wasteful Pentagon spending or tax breaks for the wealthiest corporations, we must invest in our children, families, and Black and Brown communities amid ongoing health and economic uncertainties and in the future.
Learn more about the basics of the appropriations process, FY2021 budget caps, options for increasing emergency spending, and policy riders in this recently published explainer by the Congressional Progressive Caucus Center and the Children’s Defense Fund.
Read our full letter to Congressional leadership here.