By Mark Zuckerman, President, The Century Foundation

President Biden’s proposed 2024 fiscal year budget represents a bold and far-reaching agenda that puts the American people—and therefore the American economy—front and center. The budget builds on the significant accomplishments achieved in the first two years of the administration, and advances new and previous proposals critical to the health, well-being, and financial security of all Americans. Notably, this budget shows that the Biden administration is committed to protecting Medicare and Social Security, full stop, including proposals to strengthen the vital social insurance programs by closing loopholes and increasing taxes only on the wealthiest earners—reasonable reforms that the public and economic experts alike overwhelmingly support.

The Century Foundation has long made the case that a dynamic and resilient economy is an equitable economy—and vice versa. President Biden’s budget doubles down on that idea. The budget prioritizes investments that will have a beneficial impact on all working- and middle-class Americans, and particularly people of color, low-income people, disabled people, women, and other disadvantaged groups. Specifically, the budget makes powerful new investments in child care, paid leave, and affordable pre-K; lowers health care and prescription drug costs while advancing maternal health and health equity; strengthens the services and support that disabled people rely on; rebuilds our manufacturing sector and expands quality workforce training; improves college affordability and increases funding to HBCUs; and invests in low-income students, English learners, and high-poverty schools; and lifts children out of poverty, among many other provisions.

President Biden’s budget reflects the administration’s support for workers and families, and is rooted in the idea that equitable investments in our people will make our economy and our country stronger. We are pleased that the president’s budget includes a number of initiatives that TCF has proposed, advocated for, and built research-based consensus around for years. Below you will find reactions to selected portions of the president’s budget request in areas where TCF’s experts have knowledge and experience: health care, disability, economic opportunity, and education.

Health Care

Anna Bernstein, Thomas Waldrop, and Vina Smith-Ramakrishnan

This budget continues the Biden–Harris administration’s commitment to addressing maternal health inequity, with an investment of $471 million. This funding is critical: maternal health outcomes continue to worsen, with Black women and birthing people facing unacceptably high levels of morbidity and mortality. The budget’s inclusion of yearlong Medicaid postpartum coverage for all states is central to this mission—as are additional priorities included in the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, such as strengthening the perinatal workforce.

The budget also includes several investments to make health coverage more affordable, including more than $180 billion over ten years to make the American Rescue Plan Act’s premium tax credits permanent. Millions of Medicaid enrollees will have their eligibility reevaluated for the first time in years in the coming months, and many people—especially in states that rejected Medicaid expansion—may lose coverage as a result. This budget invests $8.5 billion to create a new coverage source for low-income people in states that have not yet expanded Medicaid, a group that is disproportionately made up of people of color. The budget also builds on the Inflation Reduction Act’s drug pricing provisions by doubling the number of drugs negotiated and significantly lowering the amount of time before drugs are eligible, and it establishes a new program to guarantee access to drugs that prevent HIV infection at no cost for uninsured and underinsured patients.

The president’s budget is the first since the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the federal right to abortion, and it is encouraging to see this priority named explicitly in the budget summary. We hope to see the full budget remove discriminatory riders such as the Hyde Amendment, which restrict access to care for many of the most marginalized communities—disproportionately impacting people with low incomes, people with disabilities, and people of color.

The Dobbs decisions and other impending court cases affecting the reproductive health landscape also underscore the need to restore the Title X network. Although contraception will never be a substitute for abortion access, it is critical to supporting reproductive equity and must be made available to every person who desires it—regardless of ability to pay. This budget works toward that goal by proposing robust funding of $512 million for Title X, to increase the number of patients served to 4.5 million.

Disability Economic Justice (DEJ)

Kimberly Knackstedt, on behalf of the DEJ Team

President Biden’s budget keeps his promise that equity will be at the core of his policies. In a difficult year amid debt ceiling conversations, the president kept his word by doubling down on commitments made during his candidacy and throughout his time in office. While more is needed in critical areas, this budget represents the starting point needed to chart a course towards the north star of independent living and full participation for disabled people in the United States.

At its core, every issue in the budget is a disability issue as one in four people in the United States has a disability and is impacted by every policy decision made. Specifically, we applaud the request of $150 billion over ten years to Medicaid’s home- and community-based services. While more funding is needed to fulfill the promise of Olmstead, to ensure that community living is within reach for all disabled people, this investment would improve access to care and quality of care while supporting the critical network of care workers.

President Biden’s requests for strong investments in the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) Part B and Part C funding, at $16.8 billion and $932 million respectively, demonstrate a commitment to improving the educational opportunities and long-term outcomes for infants, toddlers, and students with disabilities.

While we look forward to learning more about the proposals from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and hope to see long overdue reforms to update and strengthen the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program, we are heartened to see the president’s budget include a strong commitment to reject any efforts to cut Social Security benefits. We are also pleased to see the budget request an urgently needed investment in SSA’s administrative funding—an increase of $1.4 billion, a 10 percent increase over the 2023 enacted level. These funds are needed to bring down egregious wait times for disability benefits and to improve customer service and administration of SSA’s programs.

Other key components of the president’s budget that are especially important to the disability community include the creation of a national, comprehensive paid family and medical leave program, as well as a much-needed investment in affordable housing; on any given night, nearly half of individuals who turn to U.S. homeless shelters have a disability.

Women’s Economic Justice

Julie Kashen, Laura Valle-Gutierrez, and Lea Woods

The president’s budget, which prioritizes building a care infrastructure that truly reflects the realities of living, working, and raising a family today, is cause for celebration. We have seen over the last three years that investments in child care and pre-K, paid family and medical leave, home and community-based services, and the child tax credit are life-changing, economy-sustaining policies.

Specifically, the budget includes the biggest investment ever proposed by a U.S. president for child care and early learning—more than $600 billion over ten years to expand child care options to more than 16 million young children and provide access to pre-K in every community. Alongside the investment of $325 billion over ten years for paid family and medical leave and $150 billion for home and community-based services, this is the biggest care budget proposed in American history.

In particular, as the American Rescue Plan Act stabilization funds expire and the child care challenges get worse in communities around the nation, the president’s child care proposal shows a continued commitment to lowering everyday costs for families and giving parents the freedom to choose the child care options that work best for them.

The child care and early learning investments will support children and families and have ripple effects to support economic growth throughout the nation. Last year, TCF and the Center for Economic Progress estimated that significant federal investments in child care could yield annual economic gains of:

  • $48 billion in increased parental employment;
  • $60 billion in gains for businesses and state tax revenue; and
  • $30 billion from expanding the child care sector.

In 2022, Congress got close, but then failed to invest in building the child care and early learning system America needs. The president’s budget shows continued leadership on that essential unfinished business.


Emily McGrath and Michele Burris

The president’s budget does an excellent job prioritizing activities proven to help attract, prepare, and retain a deep and diverse workforce as well as bolster technological innovation and economic growth.

Highlights include funding for a range of educational initiatives that will increase overall educational access and attainment, a critical component of creating a talent pool capable of driving growth in a high-skill, knowledge-intensive economy. Of particular note are programs designed to provide comprehensive support for low-income, diverse, and rural students, ensuring many of our nation’s most vulnerable learners have the guidance and resources to become competitive candidates in the national talent pool.

Other strengths include funding for initiatives designed to expand work-based learning and public-private partnerships. A prime example is the new Sectoral Employment through Career Training for Occupational Readiness (SECTOR) program, which will deepen learning outcomes for students and streamline the hiring and placement process for graduates.

The budget addresses not only talent development, but retention as well, through the inclusion of critical supports for workers, such as paid family leave and child care. These benefits will make it easier for parents to remain in the workforce and bolster overall labor market participation.

The budget also promotes economic development in nascent tech markets via a number of programs. A particularly noteworthy example is the CHIPS and Science Act’s Regional Technology and Innovation Hub program. This effort, which has been a priority at TCF, is designed to spur the development of high-tech ecosystems through a comprehensive set of initiatives, including technology maturation and commercialization, job creation, and talent development. In line with the Biden–Harris administration’s focus on diversity, equity, inclusion, and access (DEIA), these aspiring tech hubs will integrate DEIA considerations throughout program activities. If successful, they will not only catalyze technological progress and economic development, but also responsible innovation and growth that raises the standard of living for all community members.

Despite being grounded in robust strategy and bankrolled by a generous funding package, these ambitious ventures face an uphill battle to success, as the exact formula for launching a successful tech hub via government investment remains elusive. However, given the outsized role vibrant innovation ecosystems play in determining the country’s prosperity and security, the initiative is a critical part of the nation’s effort to maintain our position as global technology leaders.

Overall, the budget’s focus on stimulating inclusive technological progress and economic growth will help ensure that positive labor market outcomes are more equitably distributed throughout the workforce, developing and sustaining a talent pool that reflects the diversity, innovation, and strength of the nation.

Unemployment Insurance

Michele Evermore

The Biden administration continues to push for the most important element in making sure that state unemployment agencies have the resources they need to pay the right people the right amount on time, and protect their systems. The administration has once again requested an appropriate increase in unemployment insurance (UI) administrative funding of $3.4 billion. In addition, the budget recognizes that better funding alone is not enough to ensure that all people who find themselves out of work through no fault of their own get an appropriate benefit, but comprehensive UI reform is necessary to make sure all states are providing a meaningful benefit to all workers who have earned it. The budget also pursues additional improper payment prevention mechanisms, which meet the dual goal of preventing funds from falling into undeserving hands while hopefully helping claimants to avoid making innocent mistakes that cause problems for themselves and state agencies.

PreK–12 Education

Conor Williams, Jonathan Zabala, Halley Potter, Lara Adekeye, and Stefan Lallinger

Over the past three years, TCF’s preK–12 education policy researchers have proposed bold federal policy changes to support English learners, increase the number of children who attend integrated schools, equitably fund public education, and expand access to early education. We are pleased to see that the Biden administration’s budget proposal makes progress on each of these critical, research-grounded policy priorities.

Dr. Conor P. Williams and Jonathan Zabala have called on federal leaders to support English learners by:

  1. investing more resources in the Elementary and Secondary Education Act’s Title III, which supports the linguistic and academic development of English learners (ELs);
  2. launching targeted federal investments to expand the United States’ pool of trained bilingual educators; and
  3. relaunching federal efforts to support districts in growing their bilingual and dual-language education programs.

The administration’s $1.2 billion proposed budget for Title III would represent an historic increase in EL funding that—after years of neglect—begins to reflect the decades of steady growth in schools’ EL populations. Its proposal to dedicate funding toward training, recruiting, and hiring more bilingual teachers would significantly assist in making the American teaching force more diverse. Finally, its proposal to devote funding towards launching more multilingual instruction in PreK–12 public schools would help many more schools offer the bilingual and dual-language education models that best support ELs’ linguistic and academic success.

Halley Potter, Lara Adekeye, and Dr. Stefan Lallinger, working with education and housing leaders from across the country through TCF’s Bridges Collaborative, have advocated for increasing access to socioeconomically and racially integrated schools through new funding opportunities as well as increased enforcement of existing desegregation orders. The administration’s proposal for a $100 million grant program to support locally driven school integration efforts would provide crucial funding for communities to study segregation in their region, evaluate current policies, revise school boundaries or establish equitable school choice programs, create innovative school programs that appeal to diverse groups of families, and recruit and train diverse teachers. The proposed 27 percent increase in funding for the Office for Civil Rights would also provide much needed resources for increased federal monitoring and intervention in response to civil rights violations, including in the more than 700 school districts and charter schools that have been ordered by a court to integrate, or have signed onto an agreement with the same effect, but where orders are often inconsistently enforced.

Moreover, the proposed $20.5 billion to Title I spending, while still far short of the federal investment needed to fully address the roughly $150 billion annual underinvestment of U.S. schools, represents a move in the right direction. Likewise, the proposed federal–state partnerships to expand access to preschool would mark an important step toward universal access to high-quality, integrated early education.

Higher Education

Peter Granville and Tiara Moultrie

President Biden’s budget would improve college affordability for generations. The budget proposes a down payment on a federal–state partnership that would make community college tuition-free for 8 million students, increase public university funding, and help low-income community college students cover their basic needs. Through investments in the institutional capacity of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and other Minority-Serving Institutions (MSIs), plus tuition support for their four-year students, the budget makes progress to offset the historic underfunding of these vital institutions. We also applaud the $500 increase of the Pell Grant and support accountability provisions to ensure institutions pass the benefits onto students. President Biden is delivering on his promises to America’s students, and we urge Congress to enact his budget.

The budget proposal calls for increased investment in Federal Student Aid (FSA) operations support during a crucial moment in our nation’s history. As we await a decision from the Supreme Court regarding student debt cancellation, the 2024 fiscal year budget request to Congress sends a strong signal to borrowers of color—who hold a disproportionate amount of student loan debt—that the U.S. Department of Education is committed to protecting financially vulnerable families. All borrowers deserve access to quality servicing and assistance as they prepare to return to repayment, as do families and schools navigating a reformed FAFSA. The proposed income-driven repayment regulations will provide a tremendous benefit to borrowers who can access the program, and increased staffing is the key to giving borrowers that struggle to make ends meet a meaningful pathway to debt relief.

If you’d like to speak to one of our experts regarding the budget or our other work, please contact [email protected].

Header image: U.S. President Joe Biden talks about his proposed FY2024 federal budget during an event at the Finishing Trades Institute on March 09, 2023 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)