I’m feeling a tremendous amount of hope for our children and families right now, and I want to share it with you. Here’s why:
First: COVID-19 vaccines are rolling out nationwide this week for children ages 5-11. As a public health advocate I’m overjoyed at this huge step towards protecting our kids and our whole communities from a pandemic that has claimed the lives of over 700,000 Americans, including over 600 children.
And second: The Build Back Better agreement announced by President Biden last week promises to be the most transformative federal legislation for kids in over 50 years. There were some tears of joy and hope shed at our office last Thursday as our team digested the news about the Build Back Better framework.
This is not a done deal yet.
Important Components of Build Back Better
- Child Tax Credit. Instead of being expanded permanently, the expanded CTC will only be extended for one more year. But (and this is so important!) full refundability will be made permanent. This is a true silver lining, because it means that the lowest-earning parents will continue to be eligible to get this money after 2022 – just not at the increased levels we saw for 2021 (and now 2022).
- A “Coverage Gap” fix for non-expansion states: The bill includes a 4-year extension for the expanded Affordable Care Act premium tax credits. This extension will get coverage to millions of uninsured Americans in the 12 states that still have yet close the coverage gap. THIS IS HUGE! Importantly: Expanding Medicaid is still a much better deal, both for state budgets and for people who need care.
- Free universal pre-K through 2027. Did you read that right? YES. Free. Universal. Pre-K.
- Big increases in child care funding over 6 years. The upshot is that most families will pay no more than 7% of their income for child care. That noise you hear is the cheers of hundreds of thousands of families across the nation who have been unable to find affordable child care.
- 12- month postpartum Medicaid coverage in every state. From reducing infant mortality to helping new moms get the health and mental health services they need, extending health coverage for 12 months is a huge win for moms and babies.
- Permanent reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
- Children will get continuous 12-month eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP.
- The Maternal Black Momnibus package is also included in its entirety.
- Historic investments in Low-Income Housing.
Yearning for even more details about this historic legislation?
- Read more about the children’s health components in this excellent overview from the Georgetown Center for Children & Families.
- Read more about the Early Childhood components in this great update from the First Five Years Fund.
- Find out about historic investments in affordable housing in this fact sheet from the National Low-Income Housing Coalition.
To be sure, there are some compromises that I’m not as happy about. I am particularly disappointed that Paid Family Leave did not make it into the final agreement. The pandemic has made it painfully clear how urgently we need Congress to act, to provide families with paid leave to care for their babies and their elders.
Update (November 3, 2021): House Speaker Pelosi announced today that four weeks of Paid Family & Medical Leave are back in the Build Back Better agreement. Learn more about how to speak up for paid leave.
Speak up for this historic legislation
But it’s vital that we not lose sight of the big picture here. The Build Back Better Act is a game-changer. For child and family health. Child care. Child poverty. Infant mortality. Millions of kids and families will have better lives if this bill is passed.
Update (November 19, 2021): Build Back Better has passed in the House of Representatives. The Senate will be next to vote on this bill. Please, please take a moment to contact our Senators now and tell them to vote yes on this historic bill.