On the eve of his 100th day in office and in advance of his first address to a joint session of Congress, President Biden released the American Families Plan, outlining a bold proposal with $1.8 trillion in historic investments in our nation’s children and families.
This sweeping proposal comes on the heels of enactment of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), which provides immediate relief for children and families and addresses the racial and economic injustices that COVID-19 has exacerbated. The American Rescue Plan also took an initial, long overdue step to address our nation’s shameful child poverty crisis, with projections that the legislation would cut child poverty in half in 2021. The newly introduced American Families Plan follows the introduction of the American Jobs Plan, and together they direct Congress to act on a major legislative effort to further invest in our children’s future.
President Bident’s American Families Plan proposal calls for:
- Extending the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) through 2025 and making it permanently refundable for families with little or no income. This is an important step toward promoting families’ economic well-being, however we must ensure it is made permanent so that families have a guaranteed income that is generous, inclusive, and permanent – not a smaller cash benefit in a few years that could undermine the progress our nation is making on ending child poverty.
- Making a $225 billion investment in child care, the largest in our nation’s history,, to ensure families earning up to 1.5 times the state median income will pay no more than seven percent of their income on child care and to increase the pay and training of child care workers. This comes in addition to permanently expanding the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDTC) to help families earning less than $125,000 cover up to 50 percent of their child care needs. These investments will ensure that more children have access to quality care during critical years of development and more families won’t have to make the impossible choice between paying for rent or paying for child care.
- Ensuring, high-quality, accessible, and inclusive preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds. This $200 billion investment will benefit five million children, save the average family $13,000 annually, and ensure that early childhood educators are paid their fair share of at least $15 an hour.
- Investing in our nation’s teachers, with $9 billion to train, equip, and diversify our teachers to support our students.
- Expanding access to higher education so more young people of color and young people from families with low-incomes can attend college without being burdened by decades of debt.This includes:
- $109 billion for two years of tuition-free community college, including for Dreamers;
- $80 billion to increase the maximum Pell grant by $1,400 and expand eligibility to Dreamers;
- $62 billion for student retention and college completion strategies; and
- $46 billion to ensure two years of subsidized tuition for students from families earning less than $125,000 to attend Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal College and Universities (TCUs), and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), as well as additional funding to expand existing institutional aid grants to strengthen and expand programs at these institutions.
- Reducing child hunger and improving child nutrition through $45 billion for nutrition assistance including:
- $25 billion to create a permanent expansion of the summer EBT program to expand the program to all eligible children and ensure the 29 million children who receive free or reduced-price meals during the school year do not go hungry when school is closed;
- $17 billion to expand school meal programs and provide free meals to more children by increasing meal reimbursements, expanding community eligibility to allow more high poverty schools to serve universal free meals, and expanding direct certification to automatically enroll more children in school meals;
- A lower threshold for the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) so that all students can receive free meals if 25 percent or more of the students in an elementary school are participating in SNAP (compared to the original 40 percent or more requirement);
- $1 billion to create a healthy foods incentive demonstration and help schools serve healthier and tastier meals; and
- A lift on the egregious and racist lifetime ban on SNAP assistance for individuals previously convicted of a drug offense, many of whom are raising and supporting young children.
- Making health coverage more affordable by permanently extending the Affordable Care Act’s premium subsidies. This is estimated to save nine million people money on their premiums and ensure coverage to four million who are currently uninsured.
- Creating a national paid family and medical leave program, proposing $225 billion so no parent or caregiver has to choose between a job and paycheck or taking care of themselves and loved ones. This includes:
- 12 weeks of paid leave phased in over a 10-year period to bond with a new child, care for a sick loved one, or heal from one’s own illness;
- 3 days of bereavement leave phased in over a one-year period;
- Replacement of a minimum of two-thirds of a worker’s average weekly wage, rising to 80 percent for the lowest wage workers and capped at $4,000 per month; and
- Recommended passage of the Healthy Families Act which would allow workers to accrue seven days of paid sick leave per year to recover from illness or seek preventative care for them or their family.
- Permanently expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit for workers without dependent children to help lift more people out of poverty. The American Rescue Plan tripled the value of the EITC for these workers and, in total, expanded the credit to 17 million workers with low wages.
- Pledging to work with Congress to make improvements to unemployment insurance including automatically adjusting the length and amount of UI benefits unemployed workers receive depending on economic conditions. These improvements would help keep families from waiting months to receive essential benefits in times of economic crisis, however more reforms are needed to expand eligibility to workers who are excluded from these benefits and to update the financing of the system so benefits aren’t slashed after periods of crisis.
The President has outlined a bold and ambitious plan and Congress must now take it, together with the American Jobs Plan, as a starting point to develop and pass a major legislative package aimed at not only economic recovery, but ensuring the robust, long-term systems and structures our children and families need. This includes a permanent expansion of the CTC expansion that is accessible and inclusive to ensure that all families with children get the support they need; additional investments in housing vouchers and other rental assistance programs; universal free school meals and out-of-school time EBT benefits; additional investments to build on this child care down payment and build the comprehensive child care and early learning system children, families, and workers need; and a pathway to citizenship for essential workers, Dreamers, and TPS holders to promote family unity and protect the health and well-being of immigrant children and families.
The Children’s Defense Fund looks forward to working with Congress to advance these long overdue investments in children and families.