CHN’s Human Needs Watch: Tracking Hardship, December 18, 2023


December 18, 2023

December 18, 2023  

The bipartisanship edition. When many Americans view Congress these days, they see partisan gridlock. Yes, gridlock is painfully real on many issues, including the basic issues of how to fund government – and what to fund in government. Already there is talk of possible government shutdown(s) in January and February because more extremist members in the House are pushing back on topline spending levels passed as a part of the debt ceiling package with bipartisan support earlier this year.. 

But bipartisan work and bipartisan compromise is happening in Congress, particularly in the Senate but also occasionally in the House. And as a result, issues of importance to the human needs community, particularly in the policy areas that help families in need, are progressing. 

Below you will read about some of these issues. And, after a brief summary, you will see facts and statistics about why these issues are important and why we need bipartisan discussions to continue. 

At a recent policy forum hosted by Spotlight on Poverty and Opportunity and American Policy Ventures, with support from the Doris Duke Foundation, Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA) discussed some of the issues where the two have crossed the partisan aisle to work together, as well as other bipartisan work in the Senate. Here are a few examples: 

Child Tax Credit (CTC). Sen. Hassan is currently working with Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) on a path forward for tax legislation that includes an expansion of the CTC combined with a business tax break for research and experimentation expensing. Although differences certainly continue to exist on how large a CTC expansion should be and how much it would cost, consensus is emerging that the CTC needs to do better at including the lowest income families with children. Many policymakers point to the longstanding history of bipartisan support for the Child Tax Credit in conversations about tax priorities.  

SSI Savings Penalty Elimination Act. Sponsored by 10 Democrat and Republican Senators and nine Democrat and Republican Representatives, this legislation would raise SSI asset limits to $10,000 for singles and $20,000 for couples and would greatly aid low-income people with disabilities. 

No Surprise Act. Sens. Hassan and Cassidy worked together to pass the No Surprise Act, which bans surprise medical bills. Cassidy said the legislation, which was signed into law by former President Trump, is, on average, preventing one million surprise bills per month. 

TRIUMPH for New Moms Act. Sens. Hassan and Thom Tillis (R-NC) cosponsored this legislation, which created a Task Force on Maternal Mental Health. The tax force is now up and running – it held its first meetings this fall. Still pending is the Connected MOMS Act, which would require that pregnant women have access to certain forms of remote telehealth. That bill is sponsored by Sens. Cassidy, Hassan, Young, Tom Carper (D-DE), and Jacky Rosen (D-NV).

In addition, a new bipartisan, bicameral working group in Congress is seeking information about bipartisan paid leave proposals. Other bipartisan efforts address substance addiction and the opioid crisis, a low-income tax credit to make housing more affordable, more funds for child care, and prevention of child abuse. There are others – bipartisanship is not exactly thriving, but it exists and can move meaningful help to millions of people. 

19 million 

The number of children currently excluded from some or all of the Child Tax Credit because their families do not earn enough to qualify for it. 353 organizations sent a letter to Congress this month and advocates from across the country have sent almost 60,000 emails to Congress in support of expanding the CTC. Tweet this.


1 in 8 

When Congress temporarily expanded the CTC in 2021, child poverty fell by 46%, lifting 716,000 Black, 820,000 White, and 1.2 million Hispanic children out of poverty in just one year. But when Congress allowed the CTC expansion to expire at the end of 2021, the proportion of children in poverty more than doubled, from 5.2% to 12.4%, approximately one in eight children. Tweet this.


 1 in 5

Before the No Surprise Act took effect, 1 in 5 emergency room visits resulted in surprise medical bills. This happened when insured patients inadvertently received care from out-of-network hospitals, doctors, or other providers they did not choose. The federal government estimated that, overall, 10 million surprise medical bills were generated each year. Tweet this.



Maternal deaths are on the rise in the U.S. A CDC report found that 1,205 women died of maternal causes in 2021, compared with 861 in 2020, and 754 in 2019. Black maternal mortality is approximately 2.6 times the rate for white women. Tweet this.


1 in 5

Roughly 800,000 families, or one in five new mothers, in the U.S. are affected each year by maternal mental health conditions, either during pregnancy or post-partum. Tweet this.



Opioid-involved deaths have increased almost every year this century. In 2010, 21,089 such deaths were reported; by 2017, 47,600 deaths from opioids occurred. That number rose sharply to 68,630 during the first pandemic year of 2020. In 2021, the figure rose sharply again, all the way to 80,411.


8 million/


Some 8 million Americans receive Social Security Insurance (SSI) benefits – mainly people who are elderly, blind, or have another disability. But outdated SSI asset limits mean that individuals with more than $2,000 in assets or couples with over $3,000 in savings or other assets will no longer be eligible for SSI.



More than five out of every six voters in battleground states favor paid, parental, family, and medical leave. That breaks down to 85% overall, 96% of Democrats, 82% of Independents, and 76% of Republicans. Some 96% of young voters of color favor the policy, as do 84% of suburban women.


1 in 4 

In 2022, only 24% of private-sector employees had access to paid family leave.



As of 2019, 55% of U.S. mothers with children under 18 were employed full-time, up from 34% a half-century ago. 72% of moms are employed either full-time or part-time, compared with about half in 1968. These statistics emphasize the need for a paid family leave policy.





Human Needs Watch