Demand Congress address childhood hunger and poverty
Throughout the pandemic, Congress and the Biden Administration demonstrated how government can be a source for good, lifting up millions of children and families.
From the expanded Child Tax Credit to healthy school meals for all, together we dramatically reduced childhood hunger and poverty. But now, the Senate’s failure to act has meant needed help has run out just as rising prices have made things much harder for families. Hunger is rising. Women can’t return to work because child care is unaffordable or unavailable. We can’t give up now.
The second half of 2021, more than 61 million children in roughly 36 million families across the U.S. received a monthly Child Tax Credit payment of $250 or $300 per child.
Then because the Senate failed to act, the Child Tax Credit payments stopped in January, and 3.7 million children were plunged back into poverty.
These monthly payments also help alleviate the scourge of racial inequality in the U.S. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that 9.9 million children will fall back into poverty or deeper into poverty without an extension of the expanded CTC―and disproportionate poverty for Black, Latinx, and American Indian or Alaska Native (AIAN) children in particular will grow even worse.
We know that when children do not have nutritious meals, they are more likely to fall behind in school and experience more health problems. Now, as rising costs and supply shortages have hit school food programs, Congress needs to provide more funding so more high-poverty communities can provide free meals to all students. Of course, children need to eat when school is out, so Congress should create a nationwide Summer EBT program, providing debit cards for eligible families to help them purchase food when schools are closed.
Finally, we cannot fully invest in families if we don’t address the crisis in child care and early education.
The Biden administration and the House have proposed adding billions of dollars into federally supported child care and pre-k programs. This will help ensure child care doesn’t bankrupt families with low and moderate incomes, ensure child care workers are paid a fair wage of at least $15 an hour, and provide voluntary free pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds.
Aside from difficulties finding quality child care spots, costs remain astronomical―exceeding $10,000 a year in many parts of the country. Under the President’s plan, the cost of child care would be capped at 7% of a family’s earnings for millions of working families.
The two years in edition. Two years and one week ago, the World Health Organization declared a pandemic. Today, in the U.S., there is cause for optimism. We see that daily infections, hospitalizations, and deaths all have fallen precipitously – to levels we have not seen since last summer. There are hints of a return to normalcy in our everyday lives.
Still: three red flags appear on the horizon.
First, the omicron variant is surging in parts of Asia and throughout Europe, where infections on a per capita basis are almost ten times the rate in the U.S. Across the European continent, 95 cases per 100,000 people are being reported. In the U.S. and Canada, that figure is 10 cases per 100,000 people. Experts say a resurgence in cases in the U.S. could be imminent – or it could happen in the summer or fall. The early detection system of wastewater surveillance is raising flags, with more than one-third of sites seeing increases.
Second, despite all we have learned, all we have experienced, the U.S. is woefully unprepared for the next pandemic – or a worsening of the current one. The Biden Administration has – often and aggressively – warned Congress that the federal government is running out of money for vaccines, testing, and treatment. The White House Tuesday warned in a letter to Congress that the country risks being “blindsided” by future coronavirus variants.
Congress failed to include additional COVID-19 relief in its latest appropriations bill; prospects for passage of a stand-alone measure appear uncertain. “We need to have this money,” Jeffrey D. Zients, President Biden’s outgoing coronavirus response coordinator, toldthe New York Times this week. “This is not nice to have; this is need to have.”
The third red flag? Even as the country struggles to emerge from the pandemic’s long shadow, Americans are suffering from crippling costs. Gas and heating prices are soaring. Rents are skyrocketing. Groceries seem more expensive than ever. Inflation threatens a year of strong recovery, record-breaking economic growth.
But Congress dawdles.
What we need is for Congress to act quickly to pass economic legislation that helps families and workers manage high costs now and advances an economy where everyone can share in the nation’s prosperity.
It shouldn’t be too much to ask.
On Thursday, March 17, 30,550 average daily COVID-19 cases and 1,224 deaths were reported in the U.S. That’s a 41 percent decrease in new cases and a 28 percent decrease in deaths. Hospitalizations dropped by 43 percent.Tweet this.
The amount of money the Biden Administration has sought from Congress to purchase treatments, secure boosters, and ensure there is sufficient testing in case of new variants. That’s a tiny fraction of the nearly $6 trillion allocated so far for pandemic relief. The $22.5 billion was whittled down to $15.6 billion during negotiations, but later was stripped out of the omnibus spending package altogether. Tweet this.
The White House saidit will have to cut back shipments of monoclonal antibody treatments to states by 30 percent next week because Congress has been unable to agree on new COVID-19 funding. Tweet this.
In February, when inflation was 7.9% higher than the previous year, the increase in prices was costing the average household $296 a month – up from $276 in January. If Congress reinstates the expanded Child Tax Credit, families with a child younger than six would resume receiving $300 per month, helping them to manage higher costs. (If they had a second child age 6-17, they would get another $250 per month.) Tweet this.
The American Rescue Plan’s expansion of the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit will significantly reduce poverty in Puerto Rico. The two credits combined could provide more than $2 billion to Puerto Rican families in 2022 as they file their 2021 taxes. The ARP permanently fixed a longstanding flaw that limited the CTC to families with three or more children in Puerto Rico. Now families with one or two children can claim the credit – a reform that makes 89 percent, or nearly 304,000 families with children, newly eligible. Tweet this.
Puerto Rico has among the highest poverty rates in the U.S. — 44 percent for its general population and 57 percent for families with children. The island has been particularly hard hit by a combination of factors – pandemic, a slew of natural disasters, and bankruptcy reorganization. That’s why the CTC and EITC reforms were particularly welcome.
Between February 2020 and February 2022, the U.S. economy losta net 2.1 million jobs. 1.4 million of those jobs were lost by women – 68.5 percent. Although 678,000 jobs were addedin February and 481,000 in January of this year, we still have not made up all the jobs lost early in the pandemic.
In the Boston region, 60 percent of students at some high-poverty schools have been identified as at-risk for reading problems – twice as high as before the pandemic. Nationwide, experts warn that about a third of children in the youngest grades are missing reading benchmarks, much higher than before the pandemic.
As many as 16 million Americans, including millions of children, could lose Medicaid coverage when the nation’s public health emergency ends. That declaration could come as early as mid-summer. The Biden Administration is working with states to minimize the harm, but health advocates are worried.
Young children in the U.S. were hospitalized at much higher rates this winter as omicron became the dominant variant – five times the rate documented during the delta wave. However, few deaths were reported. Children under 5 remain ineligible for the COVID-19 vaccine.