Congress is working to pass a historic budget reconciliation bill that would address racial health disparities and the health of children in California and across the country. As the House moves to conclude negotiations on the Build Back Better reconciliation bill and prepares to bring the bill to the floor for a vote later this week, Congress must protect and promote the historic provisions that support the health and well-being of children and their families.
Over two in three children in California are children of color and nearly half have at least one parent born outside of the United States. These children face unique challenges that have been exacerbated in the wake of COVID-19. In order to recover from the pandemic and come out stronger, we must work together to advance child health equity by eradicating systemic barriers through policies that prioritize investments for California’s children and families, especially those from communities most impacted by historic inequitable access to high-quality services, programs and resources that support all of their needs.
The Build Back Better reconciliation legislation would promote an equitable recovery from the pandemic through provisions and investments that address whole child and whole family needs, including the Child Tax Credit, child care, paid family and medical leave, continuous health care coverage for postpartum people, universal Pre-K and more.
Among the policies included in the reconciliation package, the Build Back Better reconciliation legislation would advance progressive priorities for children, in particular children of color through the following provisions that we ask are preserved throughout negotiations:
- Reduce child poverty and support the economic stability of children and their families. The bill would extend the American Rescue Plan expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), enabling children in families with little or no income to receive the full value of the CTC for the first time. This is estimated to reduce child poverty by more than 40 percent, with the sharpest reductions in poverty rates for Black and Latinx children. The legislation also ensures that all children, no matter their immigration status, can qualify for the CTC, restoring CTC eligibility to approximately 1 million Little Dreamers who file with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). Restoring eligibility for the Child Tax Credit (CTC) would impact nearly 200,000 children in California and bring $609.5 million into the state.
- Support early childhood development. The bill would invest in early care and education, including two years of universal preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds and a sliding scale limit on child care costs for families that covers the cost of high-quality child care for young children for working families. It would ensure that families earning up to 1.5 times their state’s median income will pay no more than seven percent of their income for high-quality child care for all children under age five.
- Protect infant and maternal health and well-being. The bill would include critical investments from the Black Maternal Health Momnibus Act like continuous Medicaid coverage with full benefits for a year postpartum, resources for community-based organizations, funding to address social determinants of maternal health, and investments in the perinatal workforce. It also provides for one year of continuous Medicaid eligibility for children and makes the Children’s Health Insurance Program permanent.
- Help end child hunger. The bill would expand the number of schools that would be able to offer free meals to all students through the Community Eligibility Provision, allow all states to conduct Medicaid direct certification, and extend summer EBT nationwide for students who receive free or reduced-price school meals to close the summer meal gap.
Although the Senate Parliamentarian issued a recommendation that a pathway to citizenship provision cannot be pursued under the special rules of the reconciliation process, which is being used to consider the Build Back Better legislation, policymakers must still come together to create a pathway to citizenship for immigrants who are an integral part of the nation’s families, communities and economy. More than one in four children in the U.S. (approximately 18 million) live with at least one immigrant parent or are immigrants themselves. For children—and this nation—to flourish and prosper, we must commit to policies that reflect this demographic reality and promote all children’s well-being. The House proposal had included a pathway to citizenship for Dreamers, people with Temporary Protected Status, farm workers, and other essential workers, and it is critical for children and families that we pursue other avenues to access citizenship.
The United States has the opportunity to innovate and learn from the COVID-19 pandemic and direct a powerful response to this crisis that recognizes the ways in which the pandemic – and our systems – disproportionately impact the educational, economic and health outcomes of communities of color. Together, we must work to address the complex issues confronting families right now and advance priorities that value our children. We urge Congress to protect and pass the provisions of the Build Back Better reconciliation legislation that will help children and their families.