Bipartisan Spending Bill, Tax Package, Will Help Millions of Children and Families
Gabriel Vasquez (Former Staff)Children of Immigrants Early Childhood Education Federal Budget Health Housing & Homelessness Nutrition Poverty & Family Economics Tax Policy
Washington – The end-of-year spending bill and tax package released by Congress today calls for permanently extending the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), effectively helping millions of America’s children and families from falling deeper into poverty.
Studies have showed that combined, the EITC and CTC expand children’s opportunities to be healthier, perform better in school, and have higher earnings in adulthood. The credits are a critical support to help families offset the cost of raising children.
“We applaud Congress for coming together in the best interest of children and making the EITC and CTC permanent,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children. “Working families need and deserve opportunities to succeed, and today Congress and the White House came together to agree to extend these important federal family tax provisions.”
While the family tax credits benefit the majority of working families, proposed eligibility changes in the new package are concerning, specifically because they prevent some individuals who are issued new Social Security numbers from being able to make retroactive EITC claims. Also troubling is a provision that would make it more difficult for immigrant parents to obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to pay their taxes, an additional barrier that singles out working immigrant families.
“Children of immigrants comprise more than 30 percent of all children in low-income families in America, and it’s critical that Congress makes decisions based on the best interest of all of America’s children,” Lesley said.
Studying the Cost of Child Poverty
Included in the omnibus spending bill is a provision that requests the National Academy of Sciences (NAS) to provide an evidence-based, non-partisan holistic analysis of the cost of child poverty, and make recommendations to Congress to reduce the number of children living in poverty by half in 10 years.
First Focus Campaign for Children has worked diligently with lawmakers in both chambers in support of the NAS study. The study is also a critical component of the Child Poverty Reduction Act, which would establish a national goal of eradicating child poverty in 20 years.
“We’re pleased to see that policymakers on both sides of the aisle are supportive of this practical, first step toward ending child poverty for our children and families,” Lesley said. “We’re especially thankful of the leadership of Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard and Barbara Lee, who championed this effort.”
Strengthening the Pillars of Education
Today’s spending package increases discretionary spending in education by $1.171 billion, including a $500 million increase in Title I allocations and a $4.958 million increase for programs targeting the education of homeless children and youth. The increase in spending still falls under the provisions of No Child Left Behind, as new education provisions under the new Every Student Succeeds Act are not scheduled to take effect until the 2017-18 school year.
“There are more than 1.3 million homeless children and youth in America’s schools today,” Lesley said. “Homeless children and youth face unique barriers to academic success, and we’re grateful that this funding will help the kids who need it most. For many children without homes, school is their life.”
Additional spending provisions that strengthen children’s education include an important funding increase for Head Start and the Child Care and Development Block Grants – by $570 million and $326 million, respectively – and reauthorized funding for Preschool Development Grants. These bipartisan investments are an important commitment to early childhood programs that support and nurture the youngest children during their most important stages of development.
“These programs yield short- and long-term benefits to children’s health, educational achievement, and future success, all to the benefit of our national prosperity,” Lesley said.
Protecting Family Health Plans
The tax extenders package places a two-year hold on the “Cadillac Tax,” a provision of the Affordable Care Act that was intended to rein in high-priced employee-offered policies but instead, disproportionately harms kids’ coverage. The tax incents employers to begin increasing health care costs to families who are already struggling.
The two-year delay will allow working families to avoid higher costs and reduced benefits when it comes to employee-sponsored healthcare.
“Although this is a well-intended effort on the part of the Administration and lawmakers, the reality is that the Cadillac Tax disproportionately harms dependent coverage for children, and we’re pleased to see there is broad, bipartisan support to delay or repeal it,” Lesley said.
Keeping Tobacco out of the Hands of Children
Lawmakers protected the health of children and teenagers by rejecting a proposed policy rider that would have shielded electronic cigarette manufacturers from the standard FDA approval process.
A new generation of smokers is becoming addicted to nicotine. The Centers for Disease and Control Prevention reported that e-cigarette use among middle- and high-school students tripled in one year, and a recent Harvard study has linked the flavoring contained in e-cigarette vapor to a condition called “Popcorn Lung.”
Moreover, e-cigarette retailers have aggressively marketed their products to children, by naming and branding e-cigarettes as popular children’s candy and cereal brands.
“We’re optimistic that Congress will do even more to protect children from these dangerous and deceitful marketing practices,” Lesley said. “For example, the Child Nicotine Poisoning Prevention Act would require child safety packaging for all liquid nicotine containers.”
Better Nutrition for Kids
Child nutrition standards prevailed in the omnibus package by excluding riders that would have undermined them, as previously proposed.
The spending bill also provides $6.35 billion for WIC to fully fund participation of low-income pregnant, breast feeding, and postpartum women as well as infants and children up to age five, and summer Electronic Benefit Demonstration grants will receive $23 million to provide families of low-income children access to food during the summer months when school is out.
“This compromise isn’t perfect, but it’s good for children, good for families, and offers a hopeful glimpse into a more cooperative environment in Congress where America’s children have a better seat at the negotiating table,” Lesley said.
Download the First Focus Omnibus and Tax Agreement Fact Sheet.
The First Focus Campaign for Children is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit organization affiliated with First Focus, a bipartisan children’s advocacy organization. The Campaign for Children advocates directly for legislative change in Congress to ensure children and families are a priority in federal policy and budget decisions. For more information, visit www.campaignforchildren.org.