In response to the House of Representatives’ passage today of the landmark Build Back Better Act, Century Foundation (TCF) president and former senior official in the Obama White House and Congress, Mark Zuckerman, along with other TCF policy experts, released the following statements:
Mark Zuckerman, President, The Century Foundation
“With the House passage of the Build Back Better Act, we move one step closer to enacting transformational investments in American workers, families, and our economy that will lower costs for average Americans, create more jobs, and cut taxes for low- and middle-income families.
“The Senate now has the opportunity to pass legislation that would change the lives of tens of millions of Americans for the better. Passage of Build Back Better would result in every family in America gaining access to affordable child care options for their children, in addition to enacting long-sought universal free preschool for three- and four-year olds, particularly at a time when prices for basic goods are rising for average Americans. It will make significant investments in maternal health care to address our alarmingly high rates of maternal mortality, particularly for Black mothers. And it will help fill the resource gap for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), strengthen manufacturing communities, create equitable and quality job training opportunities, provide additional relief to working families and students, and so many other positive outcomes.
“While there is still work to do to tackle racial, gender, and class-based disparities in this country, the Build Back Better Act is an historic step forward toward building a stronger, more equitable, and more just country. I commend President Biden, Speaker Pelosi and her leadership team, and the remarkable TCF policy experts who have been working tirelessly to advance the important policy provisions included in Build Back Better. It’s now up to the Senate to pass this game-changing legislation for the American people.”
In addition, Century Foundation experts who have led the fight for various economic, health care, and higher education policies included in the Build Back Better Act passed today released the following:
Julie Kashen, Director of Women’s Economic Justice and Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation
“Today, we celebrate taking a historic step closer to building the care foundation that children, families, and communities have long needed to thrive—the House of Representatives voted to pass the Build Back Better Act, which includes transformative investments in children and early education.
“The legislation includes provisions that would save a typical family from $5,000 to $6,500 a year in child care expenses, raise the wages of early educators (who are often women of color and who are underpaid for their critical work) and provide the resources to guarantee safe and nurturing child care options for millions of children. Universal preschool would finally be available for three- and four-year olds and parents will have the choice to find the right program for their family in center-based, home-based, family-based, school, and Head Start programs. The paid family and medical leave policy in the bill would make it easier to work, parent, and care for loved ones who face medical crises without risking a job or paycheck.
“These investments would be critical for families, but especially for moms, who have long borne the brunt of child care responsibilities. Millions of moms still out of the workforce would be able to return to work, and others could increase their hours and earnings with access to more affordable child care.
“I commend the House for their work on this critical piece of legislation and urge the Senate to quickly pass it so that moms, families, children, and communities across the nation see the benefits.”
Dr. Jamila Taylor, Director of Health Care Reform and Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation
“Today, the House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act, which includes historic investments in maternal health that would take significant steps toward addressing our country’s maternal health crisis, impacting the lives of millions of women and birthing people, particularly Black women and other women of color who have been disproportionately affected by the crisis.
“The legislation proposes funding for Medicaid coverage up to one year postpartum, which would help eliminate disparities in maternal health, particularly for Black and Indigenous women and birthing people, who are more likely to be covered by Medicaid while pregnant. Ensuring access to health care during the sensitive postpartum period will literally save lives.
“The Build Back Better Act also includes investments in the Black Maternal Health Momnibus, which would expand and diversify the perinatal workforce, address the social determinants of health, invest in research and data collection, expand access to digital health tools, and so much more. These investments will not only impact millions of Black women and birthing people, but were also crafted for and by Black women who are the leading experts in this space.
“There is still much work to be done to end the Black maternal health crisis, but these investments would be transformational for maternal health equity. The Senate must act swiftly to pass Build Back Better, with all maternal health investments intact, so women and birthing people across the country can benefit.”
Denise A. Smith, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation
“The House of Representatives’s passage of the Build Back Better Act, which includes a $3.5 billion investment in HBCUs and minority-serving institutions (MSIs), is an achievement for financial equity in higher education. It is a much-needed first step toward providing new funding for research and development dollars at HBCUs, giving them the opportunity to close gaps in funding as well as to expand opportunities to compete for more research dollars. In order for HBCUs to achieve equitable funding levels to non-HBCU colleges and universities, however, further investments are also needed moving forward.”
Andy Stettner, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation
“The Build Back Better Act represents a series of historic moves toward a more equitable and sustainable economy. It is hard to think of two greater challenges to our economy than climate change and support for caregivers, and the BBBA’s sweeping moves go a long way toward meeting these existential challenges.
“Beyond these headlines, the legislation also delivers support targeted at economic weaknesses identified during the pandemic. Though record numbers of Americans lost work in 2020, Congress did not include enhanced support for job training to speed the recovery in any of its previous major packages. The BBBA includes $20 billion for workforce training, including $5 billion for industry partnerships that enable companies and communities to work together to get aspiring workers the skills they need to begin careers that will deliver living wages. In addition, the bill reauthorizes the pivotal Trade Adjustment Assistance program, which retrains those who are permanently displaced by trade but is set to permanently expire at the end of 2021. In fact, this bill would restore key improvements, such as enhancements to community college training, first enacted by President Obama but later repealed by Congressional Republicans.
“The COVID-19 pandemic and the recovery demonstrate how the decline in U.S. manufacturing has thinned out supply chains for vital goods in our economy. The BBBA includes transformative programs, such as major new tax credits for manufacturing of solar panels and other green products, as well as incentives to reduce carbon emissions among factories. It also includes new funding that finally ensures federal support for manufacturing—including small business support (the manufacturing extension partnership), manufacturing innovation (Manufacturing USA institutes) and regional manufacturing economic development—closer to the levels of international competitors. Too often, the Build Back Better Act has been called a social welfare spending plan. It’s time to give it the economic credit it deserves.”
Rebecca Vallas, Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation
“While a slimmed-down version of President Biden‘s original Build Back Better agenda, the amount of good the historic legislation that passed the House of Representatives this morning would do in the lives of American children and families, people with disabilities, and seniors cannot be overstated.
“The bill’s $150 billion investment in home and community based services in particular would be transformational in the lives of millions of people with disabilities and seniors, marking a huge step forward towards achieving the still-unfulfilled promises of the Americans with Disabilities Act, thirty-one years after its signing. The legislation will shrink inhumane waiting lists for home care, making it possible for disabled people to live independently and to remain in their communities, rather than being warehoused in institutions that were often “death traps” long before the pandemic.
Meanwhile, the bill extends America’s first-ever guaranteed income for families with children—which has already yielded unprecedented reductions in hunger and hardship for families across the United States in just its first year. Critically, the bill makes permanent the child tax credit’s full refundability, ensuring it will remain fully available to the children and families who need it most.
“As the Senate takes up this historic legislation, there is still time to make small but important changes, such as including at least a down payment on President Biden’s commitment to bringing the Supplemental Security Income program into the twenty-first century, so that its eight million disabled and older beneficiaries are no longer trapped in needless poverty due to Congressional neglect. The Senate should act to swiftly take up and pass this transformational legislation, which truly reflects government working for the people—and those peddling baseless concerns about the deficit or a CBO score should reflect on the hypocrisy that deficits apparently only matter in Washington when it’s working families’ well-being that’s at stake.”
Daniel Edelman, Associate Director, and Emma Vadehra, Executive Director, Next100
“Next100 appreciates the promising measures that will advance equity in existing national service programs, as well as the exciting creation of a new Civilian Climate Corps, that are included in the Build Back Better Act.
“Especially notable are the significant increases in AmeriCorps living allowances, education awards, and payments to grantees who host members, which will all make program participation more accessible to the residents of the low-income communities and communities of color that AmeriCorps programs often serve. The Civilian Climate Corps likewise opens up the possibility of not just addressing our sustainability and resiliency needs, but creating new pathways into high-quality green careers for the nation’s young people.”