Last week, President-Elect Biden released a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package to address the growing public health and economic crisis brought on by the pandemic, which continues to exacerbate the systems of economic and racial injustice that harm our children. Since the start of the pandemic, CDF has called on lawmakers to prioritize children in their response to the crisis and the President-Elect’s relief package would provide immediate relief while also taking a long overdue step to address our nation’s shameful child poverty crisis that could lead to the largest reduction in child poverty rates in decades.
The President-Elect’s proposal includes the following provisions that would improve the well-being of children:
- A robust expansion of the Child Tax Credit. Making the CTC fully refundable and increasing the credit to $3,000 for kids under 17 and $3,600 for kids under 6 for one year will improve the lives of millions of children, especially Black, Hispanic, and Indigenous children, by cutting child poverty, reducing racial disparities, and helping improve children’s health and education outcomes. This expansion of the CTC will extend benefits for children in households with the lowest incomes and expand the value of the cash benefit tremendously. In total, if made permanent, these changes would nearly triple the poverty-fighting effects of the CTC, lift four million children out of poverty, and cut deep child poverty in half. The impacts on racial disparities in poverty are even more dramatic; these changes would cut poverty for Black children by 52 percent, Hispanic children by 45 percent, and Indigenous children by 61 percent.
- Expansion of nutrition assistance to help dramatically fight child poverty. The proposal includes an extension of the 15 percent SNAP benefit increase through September 2021; $3 billion in funding for WIC; emergency administrative support for state hunger and nutritions programs; and $1 billion in additional nutrition assistance funding for U.S. territories.
- An additional one-time direct payment of $1,400 for eligible adults and children and would expand eligibility to mixed status households and adult dependents who were left out of previous rounds of relief.
- Increase of the minimum wage to $15/hour, as well as an end to the tipped wage and sub-minimum wage for people with disabilities.
- Extension of unemployment insurance benefits for workers who have exhausted their regular unemployment compensation benefits with an additional $400/week as well as an extension of financial assistance for unemployed workers who do not typically qualify for unemployment compensation benefits including self-employed workers.
- Much needed funding for child care, through a $25 billion emergency stabilization fund and an additional $15 billion in funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant program to help child care providers pay for rent, utilities, and increased costs associated with the pandemic so they can reopen and avoid permanent closures. The proposal also includes an expansion of the child care tax credit for one year so families can get back up to half of their spending on child care for children under 13.
- Resources to help schools reopen safely. The proposal includes $130 billion in funding to reduce class sizes and modifying spaces, provide personal protective equipment, close the digital divide, hiring counselors to support students as they transition back to the classroom, and cover other costs needed to support safely reopening and supporting students. It also includes a $50 billion investment in a national vaccination program so parents can return to work safely and schools can reopen safely.
- Housing support, including an extension of the eviction and foreclosure moratorium through September 2021; $25 billion in rental assistance; and $5 billion in emergency assistance to help secure housing for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.
- Additional $1 billion funding for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) to help states provide additional cash assistance to families with children with very low-incomes.
- Expansions of paid family and medical leave. The proposal reinstates the requirement for employers to provide leave and removes the exemptions for employers with more than 500 and less than 50 employees; provides over 14 weeks of paid sick and family and medical leave for those that have to take time for additional caregiving responsibilities, who are quarantining due to exposure, and who need to take time to get the vaccine; expands of emergency paid leave to include federal workers; extends the refundable tax credit to reimburse employers with less than 500 employers for the cost of this leave; reimburses state and local governments for the cost of this leave; and extends emergency paid leave measures through September 2021.
- Additional support for affordable health care. The proposal includes an increase and expansion to the Affordable Care Act’s premium subsidies so enrollees would not pay more than 8.5 percent of their income for health insurance; funding to hire 100,000 public health workers to support COVID-19 response; expansion of Community Health Center and health services on tribal lands; funding to support congregate settings including long-term care facilities, prisons, jails, and detention centers to prevent and address outbreaks; and $4 billion in funding for mental health and substance use services.
President-Elect Biden’s COVID relief proposal is a critical call to action. Congress must work quickly to strengthen and expand on this proposal to truly fight back against the racial, economic, health, and safety consequences of the pandemic. One package alone simply will not be enough to provide the meaningful relief our children need — and deserve.