To Our Human Needs Advocacy Partners
The House has enacted the omnibus spending bill, 225 to 201. Ten Republicans joined 215 Democrats. One Democrat (reported to be Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez) joined 200 Republicans in opposing. So it will go to President Biden for his signature, and the 118th Congress will convene in January.
Your unflagging work led to gains for people who need help, and protected people from hardship. It is a privilege to have the chance to work with you, learn from you, and amplify your voices.
It has been a roller-coaster of a year. We’ve had victories and bitter disappointments. We’ve seen child poverty plummet and then rise because of the help and then termination of the expanded Child Tax Credit. After years of trying, Congress finalized authorized Medicare to negotiate at least some prescription drug prices. Working together, we prevented steep increases in Affordable Care Act insurance, and in the omnibus, ensured that children will get another year of continued Medicaid coverage, instead of losing care because their families get ensnared in red tape. In recognition of the urgent problems of maternal health (including stunningly high Black maternal mortality), Congress increased funding for maternal and child health programs, gave states the option of providing continuous Medicaid coverage for postpartum mothers, and included the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act in the omnibus.
We worked together to make the case for major expansion of affordable housing and child care/early childhood education. While Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Schumer and their leadership teams attempted to get enough votes for these important initiatives, in the end we gained some increases (such as 30 percent more for child care and 11,700 more rental housing vouchers), but we’ve got a lot more to do.
Throughout the omnibus, there are examples of funding increases instead of the cuts that would have been imposed by a flat-funded continuing resolution. There are increases for substance use and mental health treatment, home heating and cooling (LIHEAP), nutrition programs for the aging, and worker protections through the National Labor Relations Board. In the earlier Inflation Reduction Act, there was substantial funding for climate justice projects intended to help disproportionately impacted communities of color.
Anti-hunger advocates were very glad to see a nationwide Summer EBT program for children in the omnibus. But we were disheartened to see it paid for by cutting short higher SNAP benefits that were supposed to last as long as the Public Health Emergency was in place. Similarly, the Medicaid protections mentioned above were offset by reinstating eligibility checks for other Medicaid beneficiaries, with the expectation that many will lose coverage.
Together, we demonstrated strong support nationwide for legal status and a pathway to citizenship for young undocumented people. We showed similar strong support to help millions of poor people (disproportionately people of color) get health coverage in states that have refused to allow them into their Medicaid programs. We still have to fight on – intransigent opposition in Congress blocked these efforts towards justice.
Together, we helped to do something very important: we supported the efforts of champions in Congress to say no to business tax breaks without including improvements to the Child Tax Credit. We know, over and over, that wealth and corporate interests make gains while the poor do not. By stopping some of the corporate gains, we have kept the door open for another chance for the CTC in 2023.
In the coming year, we can anticipate efforts to cut the help we fight for. We’ve been through tough times in years past, with hostile administrations and opponents in Congress. If we continue to work together, we can defend against cuts while seeking the best possible implementation of policies by the Biden administration. We can build greater public understanding of the urgent need to invest in our people.
Thank you so much for your work and your passionate commitment. We at the Coalition on Human Needs wish you happy, restorative holidays, and joy and purpose in the new year.
CHN is closed until Tuesday, January 3, 2023 for the holidays.
Warm wishes from our CHN team,
Debbie Weinstein, Joseph Battistelli, Julia Beebe, Aline Da Fonseca, David Elliot, Dominique Espinoza, Nicolai Haddal, Lecia Imbery, Leo Nguyen, Deborah Stein, and Rebecca Vucic.