“I have watched my parents, who work hard, have to decide between paying our rent or buying our groceries. This is not the life I want for them, and it is not the life I want for me.”
A CDF Black Student Leadership Network scholar shared these words to describe the effects of systemic barriers to economic mobility for Black, Brown, and other marginalized communities. The description and frustration resonated with young leaders throughout the room and echoes in conversations nationwide. Yet, Members in the House of Representatives are proposing to build those barriers even higher. As we continue to slowly find a path to recovery from the pandemic’s economic impact, those lawmakers continue to gamble with the well-being of low-income and stifle the economic mobility of already struggling families and children.
On April 26, the House passed a bill that uses the ongoing debate around lifting the debt ceiling to force budget cuts to critical federal programs that support the health and wellbeing of children and youth. This bill would result in millions of Americans losing their access to quality and affordable healthcare, cash assistance and income support through TANF, rental assistance, and access to child care.
Children and youth need stable homes, quality health care, ample nutrition, good schools, safe neighborhoods and access to resources and opportunities that enable them to reach their full potential. The Children’s Defense Fund stands vehemently opposed to any legislation that will prevent children and youth in this country from growing up with dignity, hope, and joy.
The House passed bill proposes cuts to the following vital programs: .
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
TANF, the program that provides cash assistance to families in need, faces cuts that would increase poverty by keeping already low-income families stagnant in their situation or worse off, while imposing economic hardship on new families.
- Members in the House are proposing adding additional harsh requirements to the program creating unnecessary barriers to accessing the vital cash assistance families need to access basic necessities.
- 540,000 families with children, totaling one million children, would be at risk of losing access to cash assistance from TANF.
- A loss of cash assistance increases the chances that families become entangled in the child welfare system, a place where Black and brown families are already disproportionately represented. Research shows that child-neglect reports increased by 23.3 percent in the states that put in place the most extreme penalties for not meeting TANF work requirements.
- TANF already has strict requirements that are currently failing to meet the needs of families and additional requirements could effectively end the program in some states altogether, meaning that the cash assistance that so many rely on would no longer be available.
TANF is specifically a program aimed at providing additional support to children and their families and to make cuts and changes to TANF puts children’s lives at risk. Research shows that investments in public assistance programs are associated with reductions in child fatalities due to maltreatment and reductions in child welfare involvement. Economic stability is directly tied to child welfare involvement.
These proposed changes to TANF would increase poverty by keeping already low-income families stagnant in their situation or worse off, leading to fewer children accessing the resources they need to grow and more children at risk of maltreatment. We know from the Child Tax Credit expansion passed in the American Rescue Plan that giving families cash assistance can cut poverty rates and help families avoid evictions, homelessness and child welfare involvement. Members in the House are proposing budget cuts that will increase child poverty rates and if implemented we will likely see higher rates of child maltreatment.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP is a federal program that provides monthly funding to enable low-income households to afford healthier foods and increase access to nutrition.
- The proposal would also expand the already harsh work requirements to people aged 50-55 who are not raising children, creating additional barriers to accessing food for low-income people. This change would put 900,000 older adults at risk of losing food assistance through SNAP.
- Children’s support systems include older relatives, friends and neighbors who are now at risk of losing access to food. Having an empty stomach makes it more difficult for older relatives and neighbors to support the young people in their communities.
- Current proposed cuts would expand SNAP’s already rigid policies, leaving thousands in the states without the coverage that they have become reliant on.
Medicaid is the nation’s public health insurance program, providing health coverage to millions of Americans with low-incomes. As of January 2023, Medicaid covered 85.9 million people.
Like SNAP and TANF, adding harsh new requirements to Medicaid, create additional barriers to accessing health care coverage. This change would put more than 10 million people at risk of losing coverage including all young adults over age 19 without dependents.
- People in EVERY Medicaid expansion state would be impacted, with more than 1 in 5 of all Medicaid enrollees, at risk of losing coverage.
In addition to cuts and changes proposed to these three essential programs (TANF, SNAP, and Medicaid), Members in the House are also proposing sweeping cuts to discretionary programs that support children and youth in a variety of ways from early childhood education to making college more affordable.
These cuts will make life harder for youth and children. For instance, by cutting access to rental assistance, rates of homelessness among children will rise. Housing insecurity has long-lasting impacts on children and youth’s education, health, sense of safety and overall development. And unlike the harsh work requirements that Members in the House are proposing that would create additional barriers for people in need, it is access to affordable child care that helps parents and caregivers enter and remain in the workforce.
With the Public Health Emergency now ended, Congress should be reflecting on the pandemic-era policies that boosted outcomes for child wellbeing. We have clear and recent data that shows that increased investments and expanded access to vital programs for children and youth pay off in major ways. Under this House proposal, it will be children and youth from households with the lowest incomes that are paying for our national deficit. Congress should be making plans to expand upon investments for children and youth, not playing political games with their future.
JOIN US TODAY as we stand proudly with children, youth, and families, to speak up and speak out on the discriminatory and detrimental actions of our elected officials. We urge those that share our vision for children and youth to tell Congress that you are opposed to these proposed budget cuts and that you stand with CDF against any legislation that would increase poverty and create additional barriers to those most vulnerable in our communities. With your help, we can hold our policymakers accountable and ensure they are fighting for the future of our children and youth and making the robust investments that are needed to ensure they can grow up with dignity, hope, and joy.
Director of Federal Policy
Director of State Policy