What To Expect With The President’s Proposals & Other Federal Developments
Congress is developing a physical infrastructure reconciliation bill, a human infrastructure reconciliation bill, and is beginning to consider appropriations for FY 2022. Other federal developments important for children include the FDA’s ban on menthol cigarettes, the recent ruling on the federal eviction moratorium, and resources for Census advocacy.
The Biden administration has now released three major legislative proposals.
Advocacy Recommendations for President Biden’s Infrastructure Plans
A group of moderate Senate Republicans are proposing a much smaller $568 billion bill focused on more narrow traditional definitions of infrastructure, without any suggestions for “Pay-fors”– revenue increases or budget cuts to offset the costs. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed that no Republican would support either of President Biden’s plans, but are open to a $600 billion infrastructure proposal. Senator Manchin (D-WV) has also indicated he supports a much more targeted bill, completely paid for with offsets, and passed via regular order rather than reconciliation. He also thinks the proposed corporate tax increases (which would pay for the American Jobs Plan) are too high. Since he is a necessary vote for any reconciliation bill, this makes passage of the American Jobs Plan in the form proposed by the President unlikely. Senator Manchin is now leading bipartisan talks to determine what could get 60 votes. If those talks fail, then there will undoubtedly be efforts to get Senator Manchin to agree to moving some form of infrastructure legislation through reconciliation.
Many of the proposed investments in the American Families Plan would be permanent. In reconciliation, anything that is permanent must be fully offset in revenue after 10 years; both the American Jobs Plan and the American Families Plan are fully offset over 15 years. Although much of the conservative commentary about the President’s American Jobs Plan and American Families Plan is the impact that tax increases will have on the economy, the administration and advocates are trying to focus debate over how the investments will benefit the economy. Secretary Yellen claims that centering the conversation on cost is the wrong focus point. The focus should be on the opportunity to create growth by cutting taxes for the middle class and investing in the economy. Damage to the deficit will ultimately be minimal in comparison to the opportunities that are presented in this moment. It is important to note that the Biden administration did offer revenue generating plans to pay for every provision. Moderates and Republicans are more likely to resonate with proposed spending initiatives when they know that it will be paid for, and progressives are eager to see that changes will make the tax system more fair. However, the tax revenue proposals are controversial with the same moderates that want to see provisions paid for.
Leaders are looking at two possible paths. One is to include everything in both plans in a single piece of legislation and pass it via reconciliation, with every Democrat in the Senate’s support for the legislation. That would require the support of Senator Manchin and other Democrats who may be quieter but share his concerns. Or, significantly cut the infrastructure plan to get more Republicans to vote on an infrastructure bill without repealing the 2017 tax cuts, and pass the American Family Plan separately with only Democratic support. It is unclear where Senator Manchin and other moderates stand on passing the American Family Plan by reconciliation if there is a separate infrastructure plan passed through normal order. We have heard that Majority Speaker Schumer would allow a strictly traditional infrastructure package so that it could pass with bipartisan support, as long as Democrats commit to moving the “non-negotiable” provisions through reconciliation.
There could be a FY22 budget resolution (the congressional rule that sets forth the budget amounts for appropriations and the rules for reconciliation legislation) as early as June and reconciliation legislation as early as July or August. The appropriations and reconciliation process will be parallel. The appropriations process will require at least 10 Republican Senator votes, so the final figures will look significantly different. It’s important to approach Republican Senators about these investments as well.
Many of the initiatives will be set in pre-negotiations, similar to the American Rescue Plan. It will be hard to influence decisions further down the road. The most important discussions are happening between now and Memorial Day. Members will be back in office next week. Lawmakers do not want this to go beyond the August recess. State groups will have the most influence reaching out to representatives before the Memorial Day recess.
So advocates may want to approach both moderate Democrats and moderate Republicans (in both House and Senate, because the House Democratic caucus has only a six vote majority), to urge them to meet the needs of children and families and to emphasize how much children and families are still at risk. If your organization supports tax increases now is the time to say so.
It is exciting that kids are front and center in the President’s proposals, but we know that it will be much more difficult to move these bills than it was to move the American Rescue Plan. Advocates may want to reach out to moderate Republicans and Democrats to reaffirm support for the provisions that will pull many families out of poverty, provide essential services (such as educational access), expand nutrition and child care, or protect them from harm (such as the water pipe replacements).
Details of American Families Plan
Last week, the president proposed the American Families Plan, a $1.8 trillion blueprint that would be fully funded within the next 15 years by an increase in the top tax for high-income Americans, an increase in the capital gains tax rate for individuals making over $1 million, and eliminating the stepped-up tax basis in assets at death (which would primarily tax the wealthy).
In the president’s speech, he offered several proposals that are centered around children’s well-being and investing in the future of our nation. His speech last week included a resounding declaration that child care is essential and now is the time to fund it appropriately.
There have been many topline summaries of the plan, some are listed below:
Important provisions within the American Families Plan are the expansions to the Child Tax Credit and the EITC for those without children in their tax household (such as opportunity youth). The President’s proposal would make the refundability of the CTC and the full set of changes to the EITC permanent, but only extend the expanded size of the credit through 2025. CBPP expounds on the implications here. The Economic Security Project and Bread for the World also discuss the expansion. The advocacy recommendation is for advocates to ask is to make all parts of the CTC expansion permanent.
A concern with the child care components of this plan is that it does not offer expanded child care subsidies for school-aged children, and it’s not yet clear what happens to their eligibility for the current CCDBG subsidies for this age group. Also, the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit does not fully support low-income families, since lower-income families cannot afford to pay even half their child care costs, and cannot afford to pay the full cost of child care and wait to get half refunded in their tax return. This may mean that low-income parents of school-aged children have no help with child care.
There are a number of other proposals that have been released that center children.
Additionally, here is a great working document from the SPARC network with key provisions for child welfare advocacy from the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021.
FDA Ban on Menthol Cigarettes
On April 29, the FDA announced that they would ban menthol cigarettes and take “steps to reduce addiction and youth experimentation”. The agency said that this decision was an evidence-based decision to reduce death from tobacco products. Communities of color, low –income populations, and LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to use these products. Following the 2009 Tobacco Control Act, menthol is the only flavor that could still be marketed. Almost 85% of Black smokers use menthol cigarettes and the use of menthol cigarettes by non-Hispanic Black and Hispanic youth has remained constant, unlike use by non-Hispanic White youth which has declined. Health care advocates support this ban. However, given the disproportionate use of menthol cigarettes by Black adults and youth, there have been concerns about unintended consequences that would hurt smokers that are people of color if they access these cigarettes illegally, which might lead to unnecessary criminalization. The ban only would have penalties for vendors, but some advocates are concerned that police would use this ban to harass Black smokers.
U.S. District Court Judge, Dabney Friedrich, ruled yesterday that the CDC exceeded its authority to place a temporary ban on tenant evictions. If your state or locality enacted an eviction freeze, this ruling does not affect that policy; 43 states have some form of eviction moratorium for individuals or businesses. The administration has announced that it will appeal the decision and the judge has temporarily stayed her order through May 12 to allow the administration to argue that the eviction moratorium should remain in effect pending appeal. There is also some dispute over whether the judge’s order applies nationwide, only in DC, or only for the specific plaintiffs. This follows the executive branch’s recent warning to landlords to comply with the moratorium. You can read more here and here.
Congress has appropriated nearly $50 billion to help tenants pay their rent, and those funds have largely been distributed to states and localities, but state and local governments are struggling to put programs in place to allocate the funds.
There will be a Census National Advisory Committee (NAC) meeting this Thursday, May 6 and Friday, May 7. They will be accepting public comments in the chat on May 7th, around noon. If the comment can be read in under two minutes, people will be invited to submit comments via chat to have them read out loud. The Partnership submitted more extensive comments in advance which are available here.
You can call-in for May 7 here.
Count All Kids also released a new report describing the Pervasive Nature of Under-Reporting Young Children in Official Data. The paper analyzes how young children are under-reported in the decennial census as well as the American Community Survey, the Survey of Income and Program Participation, and administrative records at a higher rate than other age groups.
Data for Child Advocacy
On April 14th, the U.S. Census Bureau announced the beginning of a new data collection phase of the experimental Household Pulse Survey— an on-going effort by the Census Bureau and other federal agencies to collect and release data on a bi-weekly basis that measures household experiences during the coronavirus pandemic. The additional questions in Phase 3.1 address children’s lack of food, child preventive health care access, childcare, disability, and telehealth. Also included in the new phase are demographic questions to identify service members and military spouses, and questions to classify respondents employed in “essential” worker occupations. You can read more here.