In the next few weeks, the US Senate is expected to vote on the Budget Reconciliation package (commonly referred to as “Build Back Better”) which passed the House of Representatives on Nov. 19, 2021. The 1.9 trillion budget reconciliation packs in a number of groundbreaking policies and funding for government programs.
While many of the details are still in flux and subject to change, the current package includes many wins for kids, especially for children here in Texas. A recent CNN analysis found that Texas would benefit from Build Back Better more than any other state. Here are 5 provisions of the latest plan that we at CHILDREN AT RISK are excited about.
1. Increasing access to high-quality, affordable child care.
Build Back Better promises an unprecedented $4 billion to expand access to high-quality affordable childcare and pre-k and support the childcare workforce. Specifically, this money would do the following: ensure universal pre-k for 3- and 4-year-olds through a mixed-delivery model, limit childcare expenditures for families to 7% or less of their income, increase compensation and training opportunities for child care workers, and require participation in a quality rating system.
2. Extending the Child Tax Credit.
Under the American Rescue Plan (March 2021), the existing Child Tax Credit (CTC) was expanded both in terms of amount and availability. The amount parents can receive (annually) increased from $2000 to $3000 ($3600 for young kids), and half that money is being distributed in monthly payments of $200-$300. Additionally, more children, specifically those whose parents previously made too little income to qualify, are now benefitting from the credit. Continuing the expanded credit through 2022 is estimated to reduce child poverty by 40% compared to what it would be otherwise. Across the board, families at all income levels benefit from extra money to put towards bills, back-to-school gear, or even college savings.
3. Keeping kids covered.
Build Back Better will ensure continuous healthcare coverage for children through CHIP and Medicaid regardless of state opt-in. Texas currently leads the nation in un-insured rates among children and non-continuous coverage is causing thousands of children to lose Medicaid coverage every month due to paperwork issues, not eligibility. Access to Medicaid for eligible children has been linked to better education, financial, and health outcomes in the long term.
4. Closing gaps in maternal and infant health care.
In addition to closing coverage gaps for children, Build Back Better requires states to permanently expand Medicaid coverage, which currently pays for half the births in the country, for mothers and infants for a year after the end of pregnancy (compared to the current 6-week coverage). This would mean more parents and infants have access to doctors’ visits, pre-natal vitamins, nursing assistance, and other services, especially in states like Texas who opted out of this program in the American Rescue Plan.
5. Reducing child hunger.
Maybe the least reported on Build Back Better provision for kids is the expansion of school meals. The legislation will expand free school meals to 8.7 million children during the school year by lowering school eligibility standards and increasing federal reimbursement. In other words, schools will qualify for meal reimbursements at a higher rate (more money) with a lower percentage of low-income students than they’ve previously needed (more schools participating). States would also be able to provide summer EBT to families through WIC to assist with lost meals between school years.
Passing Build Back Better with the provisions included above could cut child poverty in half and make life better for millions of Texas families. The package will be up in the US Senate any day now. You can join us in standing up #ForChildren by contacting your senators today! Click the button below to send a message of support.
This post was written by Lauren Biegel. Lauren is a Program Coordinator at CHILDREN AT RISK where she provides support to the Early Childhood Education and Media Activism Teams.
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