In response to the unveiling today of President Biden’s American Families Plan, experts at The Century Foundation, a leading progressive think tank, released the following statements on the plan’s child care, paid leave, universal pre-K, higher education, health care and maternal health, and economic, social safety net, and tax provisions:
TCF senior fellow and director of women’s economic justice Julie Kashen on the package’s child care and paid leave provisions:
“President Biden’s plan will lay the foundation for new, comprehensive child care and early learning infrastructure and paid leave for all to bolster women’s workforce participation, support healthy child development and learning, and ensure a flourishing economic future for everyone. In building up our care and early education systems, the United States will start the critical work of reversing decades and decades of underinvestment in our nation’s families.
“The disruption in our lives and in our economy caused by COVID-19 demonstrated the horrific results of our country’s failure to invest in a robust care infrastructure. Today, 1.5 million fewer mothers are in the workforce than before the pandemic. Black, Latinx, and Indigenous women in particular—all of whom have long faced intersecting oppressions—are feeling the multiple effects of being more likely to have lost their jobs, being on the front lines as essential workers, and having to solve their care challenges on their own.
“Quality jobs lead to quality care, and the president’s plan ensures that the disproportionately Black, Latinx and immigrant women who provide child care and early education will be well compensated for the complex and valuable work they do. The plan also ensures that women and other caregivers who take time to care for their families will not suffer grave reductions in income or permanent job loss. The American Jobs and Families Plan will not only pave the way to progress on gender, racial, and income equality; the plan, along with the home and community-based care investments, will also create and support millions of jobs, helping to advance an inclusive and equitable economic recovery.”
TCF senior fellow Halley Potter on the plan’s investments in high-quality, universal pre-K:
“The American Families Plan will make a historic investment in expanding access to high-quality, universal pre-K. Decades of research have shown that funding high-quality early learning programs is one of the smartest investments that our society can make. Attending high-quality early learning programs can have a huge impact on the future success of low-income children—improving learning and development, reducing the chance of incarceration, boosting health outcomes, and increasing future employment and earnings. Recent research shows that middle-class children in high-quality pre-K experience significant educational and economic boosts as well.
“Universal pre-K programs also provide an important opportunity for fostering racial and socioeconomic diversity in early education settings. When middle-class and low-income children have the chance to attend preschool together, both groups benefit from the increased diversity in the classroom. A recent analysis of the impacts of universal versus targeted pre-K found that universal programs produced larger test score gains for low-income children and were more economically efficient in producing these gains than targeted pre-K programs that serve only low-income children. And perhaps even more importantly, diverse preschool classrooms can help reduce prejudice among young children. Fighting racism in all of its personal and institutional forms must include creating high-quality, universal pre-K where children of all backgrounds can learn together. The American Families Plan helps to do just that.”
TCF senior fellow Denise Smith on the plan’s investments in community colleges and HBCUs:
“The American Families Plan is historic in its approach to create a path to ensure that every student has the ability to gain a college degree or certification without the stress of taking on debt. Community colleges are vital American institutions, and play a critical role in offering students local access to a wide variety of options, from job-specific training linked to area businesses, to courses that provide an on-ramp into the nation’s leading universities. The American Family Plan focuses on students in underserved communities, providing a pathway to an education that may not otherwise have been attainable.
“Additionally, the president’s plan is a step in the right direction to close the gap in access to education for people of color. For far too long HBCUs have had to do more with less. The plan’s $39 billion investment to subsidize tuition will provide students and families with much-needed support to ensure students attain a degree, while aiding colleges and universities to increase retention and completion rates. The plan provides funding to ensure HBCUs can build capacity by investing in faculty and leadership that will help these colleges as they grow and ensure that they are able to support more students. Overall, this plan is a promising start toward tackling the longstanding inequities in funding to institutions that best serve low-income and minority students.”
TCF senior fellow and director of health care reform Dr. Jamila Taylor on the plan’s health care and maternal health provisions:
“The American Families Plan takes critical steps to ensure health care affordability by making permanent the expanded ACA premium tax credits from the American Rescue Plan. With an investment of $200 billion, an estimated four million currently uninsured people will gain coverage and millions more will see savings in their insurance premiums. These actions come at a vital time as individuals and families continue to grapple with both the economic and health challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has hit low-income people, women, and families of color the hardest. And while there is much more to be done to build upon the ACA and ensure equity within our health care system, this plan is a move in the right direction.
“The American Families Plan also invests in maternal health, building on key announcements from the Biden–Harris administration in recent weeks, including approval of the Illinois Section 1115 waiver to extend postpartum Medicaid coverage to one year, improving access to maternal health care for pregnant and birthing people in rural communities, and issuing the first ever proclamation marking Black Maternal Health Week. Increased investments in maternal health will help support ongoing efforts to address racial disparities in maternal mortality and curb the disproportionately high death and morbidity rates among Black and indigenous women. However, long-term fixes are desperately needed to play catch-up for a crisis that has been raging for years, and meet the needs of women of color whose maternal health challenges were only exacerbated by COVID-19. I look forward to continuing to work with the Biden–Harris administration and Congress to secure policy advancements aimed at ameliorating America’s maternal health crisis once and for all, such as mandatory postpartum coverage for all new mothers on Medicaid and addressing structural racism within the health care system.
TCF senior fellow Rebecca Vallas on the plan’s child tax credit, earned income tax credit, SNAP and SSI provisions:
“Together with the American Rescue Plan and the American Jobs Plan, the American Families Plan represents an historic commitment to addressing America’s shameful and unjust levels of poverty and inequality. One of the most historic components of the American Rescue Plan was the one-year expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which created the first-ever guaranteed income for children and families in the United States—a policy that is estimated to cut child poverty in half for the next year. The American Families Plan continues that critical investment in children by extending the expanded CTC for four more years, to 2025, and making full refundability permanent, which will ensure the lowest-income families will continue to receive the full value of the credit. While this is a welcome and significant step, Congress and the Biden administration should act to make these historic CTC expansions permanent. We should not leave children and families’ economic well-being to the winds of an uncertain political future by setting an arbitrary expiration date on this critical income support. Importantly, the American Families Plan does make permanent the American Rescue Plan’s vital expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income workers not caring for children in their homes, to ensure the federal government no longer taxes already struggling workers deeper into poverty.
“With a $45 billion investment in nutrition assistance for children and families—including making the American Rescue Plan’s expansion of summer EBT permanent and available to all children who qualify for free and reduced-price school meals, and expanding free school meals for children in the poorest school districts—the American Families plan takes important steps toward addressing unprecedented levels of child hunger. And, in a fitting move during Second Chance Month, the plan takes the long overdue step of removing the unjust and racially discriminatory lifetime ban on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits for people with felony drug convictions—barriers which make successful reentry even more difficult by putting basic nutrition out of reach.
“During the presidential campaign, President Biden pledged that disabled people and seniors should never have to live in poverty in America, and made historic commitments to update the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, which has been left to wither on the vine for more than thirty years. Biden’s commitments include increasing SSI’s sub-poverty-level benefits to at least the federal poverty level, raising long-outdated asset limits last updated in 1989, updating archaic income rules that haven’t changed since the program was established in 1972, and eliminating harmful marriage penalties that put marriage equality out of reach for millions of disabled Americans. While these updates to SSI were unfortunately not included in the American Families Plan released today, a group of fifty-one members of Congress have joined together to call on the Biden administration and Congress to include these urgently needed reforms in the next recovery package. Strengthening SSI has become even more urgent as COVID-19 long-haulers—many of whom are so-called essential workers exposed to coronavirus on the job—begin to turn to the program for critical income assistance. We must now turn to Congress to ensure that SSI provides a lifeline to economic security and dignity for disabled and older Americans instead of consigning millions to deep and inescapable poverty.”
TCF senior fellow Andrew Stettner on the importance of unemployment insurance system reforms:
“The Biden administration has scored a hat trick with its third sweeping plan to address a deeply inequitable and wounded American economy. To build on a point from my colleague Julie Kashen, the last year has proven beyond doubt that our economy cannot function without the guarantee of affordable child care and paid family leave. Moreover, it is promising to see that President Biden did not miss the opportunity to voice his support for structural reform of the unemployment insurance system. While the UI program has pumped billions of spending into the economy, workers have had to navigate crushing delays in payments. These challenges were exacerbated by chronic underinvestment in UI that forced Congress to add a slew of rapidly patched together emergency programs like PUA and PEUC—programs that Congress will once again have to haggle over before workers face another benefits cliff on September 6.
“It’s imperative that Congress heeds the lessons of the pandemic while they are still fresh, and follows the president’s directive for stronger technological and systems infrastructure for timely and accurate payments, as well as automatic triggers that quickly deliver additional benefits when the next crisis hits. This next set of UI reforms cannot go forward without strong federal benefits standards that ensure adequate support for workers regardless of their race, where they live, or whether they work in the gig economy. There are already thirty-eight members of Congress who have banded together to ask for this type of UI reform in the American Families Plan. The next few weeks will be among the most important in the history of this eighty-five-year old program.”
TCF senior fellow and director of government affairs Danny Weiss on the AFP’s tax provisions:
“The truth is that average taxpayers have been footing the bill for far too long for things that corporations should do on their own but do not to support their employees. Restoring some of the corporate tax revenue, in the American Jobs Plan, that was lost under President Trump is an important, justified, and overdue step. And the dramatic rise in multi-millionaire and billionaire wealth during the pandemic is as sure a sign as any that greater equity in our income tax and investment tax policy, as is called for in the American Families Plan, is needed to grow the economy in a stronger and more balanced way.”
header photo: U.S. President Joe Biden departs after speaking about updated CDC mask guidance on the North Lawn of the White Housein Washington, DC. source: Drew Angerer/Getty Images