The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is grateful for the opportunity to submit this statement for the record to the House Subcommittee on Higher Education and the Workforce. CLASP is a national, nonpartisan, nonprofit advancing anti-poverty policy solutions that disrupt structural and systemic racism and sexism and remove barriers blocking people from economic security and opportunity. We advocate for federal, state, and local policies to strengthen families and create pathways to education and work. CLASP has deep expertise on a wide range of issue areas such as childcare and early education, youth policy, job quality, income and work supports, workforce development, postsecondary education, immigration and cross-cutting issues like mental health, racial equity, and criminal justice. CLASP works to amplify the voices of directly impacted workers and families and help public officials design and implement effective programs.
By Madison Trice
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Students for Fair Admissions (SFFA) v. Harvard College ruling held that affirmative action violates the Fourteenth Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. The decision claims that considering race in holistic admissions is a “zero-sum game…where students compete for a finite number of seats in each school’s entering class,” and that any additional acknowledgment of race will necessarily hurt one race while helping another. This perspective doesn’t reflect the ways that holistic admissions functions. Holistic admissions allow colleges to take race into account as one of many factors that could shape a student’s lived experience. Race is not a positive factor for one race and a negative factor for another. Holistic admissions can intentionally be broadly applied, allowing all students of color to be helped.
Eliminating holistic admissions while preserving legacy admissions won’t just result in a dramatically reduced presence of students of color on campus. This move will also protect advantages conferred on white students. Yet this aspect of the ruling has received less attention.
The retention of legacy admissions, and the advantages they confer, are never negotiated in the fixed pie of opportunity that people of color must compete for. The zero-sum equation is incomplete if systemic advantages to whiteness—white generational wealth, white educational attrition and legacy—are not viewed as a part of the problem. Rather than responding to and reinforcing the confines of a systemically racist educational and economic system, solidarity directs us to this truth: the greater access there is for any underrepresented group, the more all people of color, and the nation as a whole, stand to benefit.
The movement for holistic admissions reflected this truth. I was a witness for the SFFA vs. Harvard trial in the Massachusetts Supreme Court. The people who showed up on the side of holistic admissions were racially diverse. They represented the diversity of my campus, of our home. In preparing for the trial, I saw student organizers from all racial communities on campus: Asian, white, Indigenous, Black, and Latino. Though I received support from my community outside of the trial itself, with Black students bringing me gifts of food hugs and emotional support, most of the students who testified in favor of affirmative action were Asian American. My lawyers were Black American and Asian American. At a rally before the Supreme Court building before the verdict, an Asian American alum and I spoke about the importance of holistic admissions. The image SFFA has presented of affirmative action opposition is predominantly Asian American. In fact, 69 percent of Asian American voters support better access to higher education for women and all communities of color. Behind the scenes, the leaders of SFFA have been white. Prior cases have argued that white students were disadvantaged by affirmative action, as with the University of Texas case in 2016. Anti-affirmative action advocates may have shifted their strategy in SFFA v. Harvard, but the heart of the case is the same: white, rich, powerful people pitting Black, Asian, and Latino students against one another for the sake of limiting people of color’s collective access to education.
The Supreme Court’s ruling neglects the potential educational and sociocultural detriments caused by a lack of diversity in higher education. I have been in spaces that were severely lacking in diversity. My time at Harvard, and at CLASP, have been beautiful because both spaces are so diverse. When police brutality occurred on campus, Black students were able to mobilize for change with a diverse cross-section of other students. Conversely, at my very wealthy, predominantly white private high school in the Southwest, affinity groups of color were actively prohibited from forming spaces to meet together. This is because my high school—like the Supreme Court, SFFA, and Ed Blum (the legal activist and founder of SFFA)—recognized that there is power in solidarity and diversity, and that power scared them. That power is limited when people of color aren’t able to be educated in diverse spaces and build coalitions that will widen the paths of opportunity for those who follow.
Using the power of coalition building and solidarity is the best way to secure a diverse future for higher education in spite of the Supreme Court’s ruling. For instance, students at UC Berkeley have mobilized with the student organization Bridges, using their manpower to focus on recruiting students of color in their capacity as individuals. Our policies must respond by reinforcing the importance of colleges providing spaces for students to articulate and be valued for their diverse experiences in the application process and on campuses. Policy must refuse to engage with the fixed-pie fallacy and instead carve out a broader path to economic and educational opportunity for people of color.
I would like to extend a special acknowledgment to our Emerson Hunger Fellow, Landy Lin, who helped with this blog.
The following statement can be attributed to Indivar Dutta-Gupta, president, and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).
Washington, D.C., June 29, 2023—Today’s decision by the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn nearly 50 years of precedent—yet again—is ahistorical and harmful to building a multiracial and prosperous democracy. In SFFA v. UNC and Harvard, a 6-3 majority broadly struck down race-conscious higher education admissions as unconstitutional.
Among its many flaws, this ruling fails to appreciate the history of the Constitution’s 14th amendment. Its equal protection clause was widely understood to authorize—not restrict—the sort of race-conscious policies now being struck down.
Holistic, race-conscious admissions policies offer upward economic mobility for Black and brown communities. The Court insists that such policies cannot go on indefinitely. Yet, we are not aware of an expiration date for racism and racial discrimination. As Justice Sotomayor said in her dissent “Ignoring race will not equalize a society that is racially unequal. What was true in the 1860s, and again in 1954, is true today: Equality requires acknowledgment of inequality.”
Today’s decision will make the fight to end poverty in this country, which robs tens of millions of people of their potential, more challenging. Poverty affects a disproportionate share of people of color due to structural, systemic, and institutional racism, including at institutions of higher education. Higher education can be an effective path to economic security and upward social and economic mobility, but the Court today closes that path for many. Going forward, higher education institutions will do more to reproduce racial hierarchies and less to advance equal opportunity.
In turn, our nation’s potential for democratic stability and economic prosperity will be weakened. Sustaining those aims requires the richness that racial equity and diversity bring to higher education, which prepares the vast majority of those who hold significant economic and political power in our nation. Yet, these aims can be realized only by correcting past harms that will otherwise haunt us indefinitely. Because race-neutral efforts in a society rife with racial injustice will inevitably fall short of what our nation’s promises of equality demand, CLASP is committed to working with our partners to reverse the decision and advance effective race-conscious policies to build true unity and undo centuries of harm to communities of color.
By Christian Collins
Accessibility and affordability of postsecondary educational opportunities remain a persistent obstacle preventing millions of Americans and their families from acquiring high-quality employment. Though unlikely to pass through Congress, President Biden’s FY2024 budget strongly signals a priority on increasing accessibility of postsecondary education at community colleges through his administration’s proposed $90 billion over 10 years for universal tuition-free community college. The budget also includes $500 million to implement a new first-dollar grant program that would lay the foundation for free community colleges. Because state-level reforms have a substantially higher likelihood of success, state governments can play an even larger role in increasing both accessibility and affordability of postsecondary education. A highly effective tool available to states is the expansion of dual enrollment programs.
Dual enrollment is the practice of students enrolling in two separate academic institutions simultaneously, most commonly with high school students taking college courses while still in high school. This practice originated in 1955 when the University of Connecticut began offering collegiate courses at area high schools and has since expanded to 82 percent of public high schools offering some version of dual enrollment.
Underfunded, but not Underutilized
Community colleges are the backbone of dual enrollment programs, as roughly 70 percent of all dual enrollment high school students take their courses through community colleges. These programs aren’t just a resource for students seeking access to affordable postsecondary education, they’ve also served to protect the health of community colleges themselves. While community college enrollment rates have continued to drop throughout the last decade, dual enrollment rates have increased. Postsecondary students aged 17 or younger had the only enrollment increases between 2020 and 2022 of any age group in undergraduate education at 9.3 percent, driven by a 12.8 percent increase in enrollment at public 2-year colleges.
Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia offer state-level dual enrollment programs, but not every program is designed with equity in mind. Of the 88 state-level programs nationwide, 40 require students to contribute at least a portion of their tuition, creating a cost barrier for potential students. Twelve states don’t provide any public funds for dual enrollment programs, leaving students and their families to pay all costs by themselves.
This funding patchwork has led to inequitable access to dual enrollment opportunities based on race and family income. Nearly 13 percent of white high school students participated in dual enrollment, making them the only racial demographic with a double-digit percentage and more than doubling the rate of Black students. Schools serving higher percentages of students living in poverty offer significantly fewer dual enrollment options compared to schools with lower poverty levels, even when controlling for school size, school type, and school locale.
Program availability is also limited by cost for under-resourced schools and districts, given that common cost barriers include a lack of available equipment, fewer available staff to facilitate programs, and less physical space to provide courses. Transportation is another cost obstacle to students seeking to enroll in programs, since 24 percent of all dual enrollment students had to commute to college campuses or other high schools to take courses, with this figure rising to as high as 32 percent for students in densely populated areas. The balance of dual enrollment students took their courses either online or at their high school.
Cost barriers don’t affect just students seeking to dual enroll. The very colleges seeking to develop and implement these programs must grapple with financial issues. Tuition at community colleges for dual enrollment programs—no matter whether paid through public funds or by students themselves—is often offered at a discount compared to regular tuition rates due to state laws. Given that dual enrollment students represent nearly 20 percent of all community college students nationally, and with some states approaching 40 percent representation, that’s a significant revenue stream loss for community colleges. States must counter this shortfall through state-level funding to help ensure the financial sustainability of community colleges providing dual enrollment. Coupled with state governments chronically underfunding community colleges, some institutions don’t have the financial support needed to offer dual enrollment programs.
Dual Enrollment is Well Worth the Costs
Dual enrollment programs are arguably the largest available free college program in the country, and they represent a significant opportunity for the continued expansion of accessible and affordable postsecondary education. By contributing to increased income for graduates, helping lower unemployment rates, and generating significantly more tax revenue than they cost to run, community colleges are vital economic mobility lifelines.
Through its $200 million proposal to create a Career-Connected High Schools initiative that integrates dual enrollment into high schools across the country, the Biden Administration is prioritizing the importance of such opportunities for millions of students. States’ underfunding of community colleges has already led to significant revenue gaps compared to 4-year colleges, and allowing these gaps to persist threatens the sustainability of vital anti-poverty programs like dual enrollment. To truly improve outcomes for the next generation, states must not just match the Biden Administration’s efforts but exceed them.
On May 2, Indi Dutta-Gupta will speak on a plenary panel focused on postsecondary policy at National Skills Coalition’s 2023 Skills Summit in Washington, D.C.
By Melissa Young and Emily Andrews
Millions of people in the United States want to work but cannot access employment and quality job opportunities due to many factors rooted in structural inequity. Such challenges disproportionately harm Black, Indigenous, and Latinx individuals, other people of color, women, youth, people with disabilities, and individuals with intersectional identities. Despite economic growth, the Black male unemployment rate remains consistently high.[i] In fact, it is about twice as high as white male unemployment, a ratio that has stubbornly persisted for over 50 years.[ii] Young workers (ages 16 to 24 years old) have also experienced unemployment at extraordinarily high rates, especially during economic downturns.[iii] Even when the economy is strong, these and other workers with intersectional identities face unrelenting challenges in getting and keeping quality jobs.
Recent shifts in federal guidance and an influx of new federal investments have created opportunities to leverage and coordinate funding streams across the federal government to address racial and racial-gender economic inequality. Subsidized employment and transitional jobs are proven workforce strategies that reduce poverty and inequality – specifically for Black and Hispanic workers. These programs are poised to have significant positive impacts for workers if coordinated and deployed in strategic ways.[iv]
The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) believes that aligning subsidized employment and transitional jobs programs across the federal government effectively requires that the federal government take a whole-of-government approach. Such an approach can:
We also believe that taking this approach is in keeping with the Biden Administration’s goals of leveraging comprehensive approaches across the federal government to advance equity for all. That includes people of color and others who have been historically underserved, marginalized, and adversely affected by persistent poverty and inequality.[v]
This brief offers perspectives from CLASP on how the Biden Administration can advance a whole-of-government approach to managing and directing these resources.
Since the Great Depression, policymakers have leveraged federal funding at various times to subsidize wage-paying, real work opportunities for people who want to work but cannot access employment. The goals of these investments have been to connect people to work in times of high unemployment, increase income for individuals and families, and support pathways to unsubsidized employment, among others.
These programs have been called subsidized employment, transitional jobs, and paid work experience. They have also been referred to as publicly funded jobs or jobs of last resort. Currently, smaller uncoordinated pots of federal funding for these programs are housed in the U.S. Departments of Labor; Health and Human Services; Agriculture; Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Justice. Notably, these pots of federal resources are not specifically dedicated to these strategies. Rather, these federal funding streams are used on a discretionary basis to implement subsidized employment, transitional jobs, and wage-paid work, among other uses of funds. Therefore, the whims or political vagaries of the times can limit or derail the use of this funding for these employment strategies. (The table in the Appendix on page 9 lists current funding streams and target populations.)
Subsidized employment and transitional jobs programs have been rigorously evaluated for over 40 years, demonstrating a range of positive impacts for workers, families, communities, and employers.[vi] These positive effects have included stabilizing and increasing income among workers; reducing housing instability; supporting transitions from incarceration to community for people returning from incarceration; improving health and wellbeing; bolstering the educational attainment of children whose parents participate in these programs; and reducing gun violence, among others. Wages paid to program participants stimulate local economies and have been shown to improve access to public services.[vii] Employers routinely articulate the benefits of these programs.
Above all, these programs have a demonstrated ability to directly reduce poverty and economic inequality. Multiple models have shown that subsidized employment and transitional jobs can reduce poverty by double digits—with higher impacts for Black and Hispanic workers.[viii]
More recently, we anticipate seeing increased implementation of these programs by states and localities and higher likelihood and need for federal coordination. This is in part because of new federal guidance and initiatives, along with new or increased funding.
A whole-of-government approach refers to a set of joint activities performed by diverse public agencies to support a common or aligned solution to issues. CLASP recommends the following elements for applying a whole-of-government approach that leverages subsidized employment and transitional jobs programs to reduce economic inequity and marginalization:
Employing a whole-of-government strategy to leverage these resources can support the Biden Administration’s economic and racial equity goals. Moreover, this approach can link current investments for workers with new and emerging jobs and economic development investments galvanized through the implementation of IIJA and IRA.
Depending on the funding stream and the federal agency jurisdiction, the goals of subsidized employment and transitional jobs programs can differ. When advancing a whole-of-government approach, there is value in identifying a set of primary goals and principles to guide how these programs are designed and implemented across the federal government. A common set of goals and principles can support efforts to blend funding to implement these programs at the state and local levels and focus the goals of stakeholders. This practice can also help measure the effectiveness of these programs in increasing income and advancing more equitable access to employment and quality jobs.
Program goals should inform program design. The following three goals should guide subsidized employment and transitional jobs programs across the federal government. At the same time, not every program or funding stream used for subsidized employment or transitional jobs programs will share each of these goals:
The following principles should constitute the foundation for these programs across the federal government:
Many of these principles are reflected in a national framework endorsed by nearly 30 national organizations and are included in recent frameworks by national research and policy organizations. [xvi] [xvii]
As policymakers conceptualize and design subsidized employment and transitional jobs programs funded by the federal government, they can build common or aligned performance measures into funding opportunities. Incentives can support data collection and monitoring over time to understand the impact of these programs on the above-mentioned goals. In some cases, such as the use of TANF funds, programs are prohibited from collecting data beyond the statutory requirements. However, where federal flexibility exists or new programs are established through competitive grants, common aligned data can and should be collected.
Program evaluators have recommended the following performance measures that may offer a template for federal partners to use. Programs and data should be disaggregated by race, ethnicity, gender, and other participant characteristics, such as:
Requiring or recommending that programs collect these data is not enough. The federal government should incentivize the use of these data in tracking program effectiveness and improving programs over time. Programs should supplement this quantitative data with regular, consistent opportunities for workers and other stakeholders to provide feedback on program structure, design, and effectiveness through qualitative mechanisms. Federal partners should incentivize and support the collection and monitoring of both quantitative and qualitative data. In addition, programs should leverage capacity, technical assistance, and resources to support these goals.
It will be critical for stakeholders to identify and leverage resources at all levels of government to support capacity-building efforts that ensure programs are effective and aligned with identified goals. New resources and increased flexibility will allow an increased number of states, cities, intermediaries, and providers to implement subsidized employment programs.
Policymakers should identify and set aside funds to provide technical assistance to support states and communities in leveraging these resources; designing programs; building data capacity; engaging in cross-agency collaboration; educating on best and promising program practices; conducting program monitoring and compliance; implementing communications; and ensuring worker voice is supported, compensated, and incentivized in program development and implementation.
Programs should also dedicate capacity to support cross-learning among subsidized employment and transitional jobs programs nationwide, as well as lift up implementation profiles and examples of quality programs. Moreover, programs should identify federal agency staff to support capacity-building efforts in alignment with the goals stated here.
To support a whole-of-government approach to these resources, the White House Domestic Policy Council should establish or identify dedicated staff and leadership to promote a vision for these programs and their transformative possibilities. These individuals should share a commitment to building the infrastructure necessary to support this vision for people and communities who have been economically marginalized. Staff should leverage federal leadership across agencies to support program and policy development and alignment and ensure that worker voice is centered in program design.
Leaders selected to steward these resources should also possess the authority and ability to:
Regardless of the business cycle, far too many people face chronic unemployment and poverty. Federal leaders can help people most in need—and advance economic and racial equity goals—by seizing this extraordinary moment. That is, policymakers can leverage a whole-of-government approach for supporting and managing current and future investments and new federal flexibility for subsidized employment.
Using this comprehensive strategy can ensure that these investments have maximum positive impact for individuals, families, and entire communities.
[ii] Valerie Wilson, “Racism and the Economy, Focus on Employment,” Economic Policy Institute, 2020, https://www.epi.org/blog/racism-and-the-economy-fed/.
[iii] Elise Gould, Melat Kassa, Young Workers hit hard by the COVID-19 economy, Economic Policy Institute, 2020, https://www.epi.org/publication/young-workers-covid-recession/.
[iv] Kye Lippold, Reducing Poverty in the United States: Results of a Microsimulation Analysis of the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute Policy Package, table B-3, Urban Institute, March 2015, https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/48586/2000151-reducing-poverty-in-the-united-states.pdf.
[v] Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government, White House, Presidential Actions, 2021,
[vi] Indivar Dutta-Gupta, Kali Grant, Matthew Eckel, and Peter Edelman, Lesson Learned from 40 Years of Subsidized Employment Programs, Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, Georgetown Center on Poverty and Inequality, 2016, https://www.georgetownpoverty.org/issues/employment/lessons-learned-from-40-years-of-subsidized-employment-programs/.
[vii] Jonah Kushner, Chicago Neighborhood JobStart evaluation report: A transitional jobs response to the great recession, Chicago: Social IMPACT Research Center, 2012, https://peerta.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/public/uploaded_files/Chicago%20Evaluation_LK.pdf.
[viii] Kye Lippold, Reducing Poverty in the United States: Results of a Microsimulation Analysis of the Community Advocates Public Policy Institute Policy Package, table B-3, Urban Institute, March 2015, https://www.urban.org/sites/default/files/publication/48586/2000151-reducing-poverty-in-the-united-states.pdf.
[ix] Elizabeth Lower-Basch, Melissa Young, Subsidized Employment: A Strategy to Address Equity and Inclusion in SNAP E&T Programs, Center for Law and Social Policy, 2022, https://www.clasp.org/publications/report/brief/subsidized-employment-strategy-address-equity-and-inclusion-snap-et/.
[x] Melissa Young, Nia West-Bey, Designing Equitable Community Violence Intervention Strategies with Employment and Workforce Supports, Center for Law and Social Policy, 2022, https://www.clasp.org/publications/report/brief/designing-equitable-community-violence-intervention-strategies-with-employment-and-workforce-supports/.
[xi] FACT SHEET: President Biden Takes Executive Actions to Tackle the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, Create Jobs, and Restore Scientific Integrity Across Federal Government, The White House, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/statements-releases/2021/01/27/fact-sheet-president-biden-takes-executive-actions-to-tackle-the-climate-crisis-at-home-and-abroad-create-jobs-and-restore-scientific-integrity-across-federal-government/.
[xii] Office of Management and Budget, Interim Implementation Guidance for the Justice40 Initiative, July 20, 2021, https://www.whitehouse.gov/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/M-21-28.pdf.
[xiii] Maxine Joselow, Vanessa Montalbano, “The Climate 202: The Civilian Climate Corps was dropped from the climate bill. Now What?” Washington Post, September 8, 2022. https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/09/08/civilian-climate-corps-was-dropped-climate-bill-now-what/.
[xiv] Back to Work: Listening to Americans, Gallup and Carnegie Corporation of New York, 2021, https://www.gallup.com/analytics/329573/back-to-work-listening-to-americans.aspx.
[xv] Sapna Mehta, Emily Andrews, Updating WIOA to Empower Workers and Create Shared Prosperity, Center for Law and Social Policy, 2022, https://www.clasp.org/publications/report/brief/updating-wioa-to-empower-workers-and-create-shared-prosperity/.
[xvi] Caitlin C. Schnur, Chris Warland, Melissa Young, Framework for an Equity Centered National Subsidized Employment Program, Heartland Alliance, 2021, https://nationalinitiatives.issuelab.org/resources/37934/37934.pdf.
[xvii] Algernon Austin, Annabel Utz, Toward Black Full Employment: A Subsidized Employment Proposal, Center for Economy and Policy Research, September 2022, https://cepr.net/report/toward-black-full-employment-a-subsidized-employment-proposal/.
The following statement can be attributed to Indivar Dutta-Gupta, president and executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP).
Washington, D.C., December 22, 2022—The 2023 Omnibus Appropriations bill offers an important opportunity to advance economic opportunity and strengthen social, gender, and racial justice. Yes, the bill includes some heartbreaks—most particularly by failing to address key immigration issues and neglecting to expand the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which demonstrably led to the lowest level of child poverty on record. Yet the omnibus also includes important wins for people with low incomes, including in the areas of child care; health and mental health; labor and education; protections for pregnant workers; and nutrition supports. CLASP applauds the bill’s passage and notes that the legislation’s key provisions—and what it overlooks—highlight policy priorities for 2023 and beyond.
CLASP joins partners in the immigration community in acknowledging how devastating it is for Congress to fail once again to come together in making critical fixes to our immigration system that promote family unity, including a pathway to citizenship for those who contribute so much to our communities and call this country home. Most notably, the lack of a permanent fix for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients and other young immigrants means more than 600,000 DACA recipients will lose their lawful status and work permits in the near future and thousands of other Dreamers will continue to live in limbo. That said, the bill includes some important resources to support asylum seekers as well as the communities working to welcome them, as well as increases funds to support legal representation, child advocates, and post-release services for unaccompanied children.
Income Supports and Nutrition
Despite child poverty rates that fell to their lowest levels ever in 2021 thanks to the expanded CTC, Congress failed to include this proven poverty-fighting measure in the omnibus bill. Likewise, the bill excludes expansions to the Earned Income Tax Credit, a program with long-standing bipartisan support.
In the nutrition space, the omnibus extends to all states the Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer for Children (Summer EBT) program, which provides additional purchasing resources to address the hunger that many children experience when school meals end in the summer. It also includes a measure allowing states to use federal funds to replace SNAP benefits that are stolen from recipients when organized groups engaged in criminal activity clone SNAP EBT cards and withdraw their funds. Outrageously, the bill also cuts nutrition benefits to other households with low incomes by prematurely ending SNAP Emergency Allotments.
Child Care and Early Education
To support the fragile child care sector that remains woefully underfunded, the omnibus bill includes a boost of $8 billion—representing a 30 percent increase from fiscal year 2022—for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCBDG). This added funding will help the program serve an additional 130,000+ children. The bill also provides a nearly $12 billion increase (an 8.6 percent jump) for Head Start, along with reauthorizing the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program.
Health and Mental Health
The bill ends the COVID-related protections that prohibited states from disenrolling people from Medicaid. This provision will now end on March 31. However, the bill creates more transparency and allows CMS to hold states accountable if they terminate eligible people from health coverage.
This bill invests in a range of programs that support mental and behavioral health, including more than $1 billion for the Mental Health Block Grant. The bill also includes critical provisions for maternal mental health that support birthing persons where they are and support a diverse set of providers to provide culturally sensitive and linguistically concordant care.
Labor and Higher Education
At the last minute, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, a bipartisan effort prohibiting discrimination against employees affected by pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions was incorporated into the omnibus. Other provisions to support working people include $9 million for the U.S. Department of Labor’s Wage and Hour Division, $20 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and $25 million for the long-neglected National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), averting threatened furloughs of staff. And in the higher education sphere, the omnibus increases the maximum Pell Grant award amount to $7,395, a $500 increase above fiscal year 2022 enacted levels.
All in all, the country will be a better place with the bill than without it. Even this omnibus that falls short of what is needed is better than a year-long continuing resolution that locks in last year’s spending at a time of high inflation—or a government shutdown.
The American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) temporarily expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) eligibility for the 2021 tax year to young workers (19-24) who don’t have dependent children and increased the maximum credit from $542 to $1,502.
This EITC expansion provided income support to 17 million+ people who work for low pay.
The student loan payment pause has helped millions of borrowers avoid financial ruin during the pandemic. In 2022, the Biden Administration implemented $20,000 in debt relief to Pell Grant recipients with loans held by the U.S. Department of Education and up to $10,000 in relief to non-Pell Grant recipients, providing much-needed support to over a third of borrowers.
The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) of 2022 invests in climate solutions to help reduce the long-term negative impact on young people, people of color, and people experiencing poverty. The IRA included climate investments and targeted funding to address the disproportionate environmental and public health harms to communities with low incomes and communities of color. This includes Environmental and Climate Justice Block Grants to invest in workforce development.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the bipartisan American Dream and Promise Act in March 2021, which would provide a pathway to citizenship to Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, undocumented youth, and individuals with Temporary Protected Status and Deferred Enforced Departure. The Biden Administration also published a final DACA rule in 2022 bolstering the previous DACA memorandum through regulation.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act passed in June 2022 requires telehealth in Medicaid and revised guidance on care for Medicaid-eligible young people in schools. The bill also funds increased awareness of mental health issues among children and youth and training for staff to better handle mental health needs. The Biden Administration released a comprehensive mental health plan with proposed investments in youth mental health aligned with CLASP advocacy.
Young people shaped the last election and have the power to shape the next one. Despite uneven wins, young people can and must continue pushing for policies that help end poverty, promote racial justice, and build political power for a safer, healthier, more equitable world.
Making the EITC improvements permanent and including college students with financial needs in such improvements would help improve the financial wellbeing of young adults and other workers without dependent children.
President Biden ran on an agenda that included student debt relief and must now make good on those promises. Congress and the administration should cancel up to $50,000 of student loan debt per borrower, which would immediately increase the wealth of Black borrowers by nearly 40 percent.
Investing in climate solutions while expanding leases and drilling permits harms Indigenous and frontline communities and violates the principles of Environmental Justice. Congress should invest new IRA funding in evidence-based and targeted workforce development strategies that transition us to a green economy.
The Senate Finance Committee developed a legislative package that aligns with CLASP priorities to address gaps in the mental health system. Congress must pass the youth mental health and telehealth provisions not included in the Safer Communities Act, along with the sections that address workforce, parity, and care integration.
Congress must pass a pathway to citizenship for DACA recipients and other immigrant youth, given the threats to DACA and uncertain future facing thousands of young immigrants ineligible for DACA. The Biden Administration must also provide access to health care for DACA recipients through the Affordable Care Act.
The Bipartisan Safer Communities Act provided funding for school hardening and surveillance measures, which are the opposite of “safe.” These measures, which disproportionately harm young people of color and young people with disabilities, conflict with the administration’s commitment to racial equity and must be rolled back.
Even before the pandemic, young people were leading the charge for broad, systemic, and transformative change. In partnership with CLASP, the New Deal for Youth is a youth-led, youth-centered effort to create new systems, policies, investments, and structures that reimagine life for young people. Join the movement, read about their policy demands
Federal Pandemic Unemployment Assistance—enacted by the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act—helped people unable to work due to the pandemic. This included self-employed workers, those seeking part-time employment, or people who otherwise wouldn’t qualify for regular unemployment benefits. At the pandemic’s peak, 1 in 4 workers received this assistance.
2021’s temporary expansion of the earned income tax credit (EITC) nearly tripled the maximum benefit for workers without children in the home, raising it from $543 to $1,502 and making it available for the first time to workers younger than 24. This expansion supported over 17 million people who work for low pay.
Congress also expanded the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and made fit fully refundable in 2021. The expanded credit kept nearly 3 million children out of poverty, especially benefiting families earning too little to receive the full CTC previously.
In October 2021, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ended its practice of worksite raids, which have devastating consequences for families, workers’ rights, and local communities. DHS was also required to work with the U.S. Department of Labor on policies that encourage immigrant workers to collaborate with law enforcement in holding unscrupulous employers accountable—to include providing relief to workers who come forward—and prevent employers from misusing the E-verify program to exploit immigrant workers.
In 2020, Congress passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, implementing the first national requirement for paid family and medical leave and paid sick days. These provisions were extremely effective in combatting COVID-19, reducing cases by 400 or more per state per day. Policymakers allowed both provisions to expire in December 2020.
Using American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, states and municipalities created, expanded, or supported paid sick leave, paid family leave, and paid medical leave programs.
The expanded CTC led to an unprecedented decline in child poverty. However, Congress didn’t extend it in 2022, and immigrant children without Social Security numbers remain ineligible for this proven poverty-fighting tool. Congress should make the EITC and the CTC expansions permanent. The CTC should include:
While a historic step, the 2020 paid family and medical leave and sick leave provisions were temporary and flawed. Millions of workers in low-wage industries were either excluded by employer carve-outs or unaware of the program. Congress must pass the full care agenda to support working families. This includes:
Care jobs, which have long been underpaid and undervalued, have historically been held by women—and disproportionately by women of color. Congress must invest in child care and home care to transform care jobs into family-sustaining jobs—while also establishing a national paid-leave program to help more working people care for loved ones.
Strengthen Collective Bargaining & Workers’ Rights
Pass the Protecting the Right to Organize (PRO) Act to protect workers’ rights and hold employers accountable for violations of labor law.
Pass the bipartisan Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act to ensure pregnant workers can prioritize their health and maintain their financial security at a critical time.
Make good on the infrastructure and climate job creation investments in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and Inflation Reduction Act by ensuring these bills support diverse workers with the resources needed to enter and succeed in these sectors and occupations.
Fully fund President Biden’s Civilian Climate Corps and ensure pathways to these quality jobs through equitable subsidized employment and pre-apprenticeship and apprenticeship programs.
Codify and fully fund the Reentry Employment Opportunities Program to meet the scope and scale of mass incarceration and correctional control.
Congress must pass a pathway to citizenship for Deferred Access for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients, Temporary Protected Status (TPS) holders, farmworkers, and other undocumented immigrants. Our workforce and economy depend on immigrants, many of whom filled essential roles during the pandemic and beyond.
By Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies
The student loan debt crisis threatens the economic security of Black women, according to CLASP (Center for Law and Social Policy). Black women carry about 20% more debt than white women ($33,851 vs. $41,466) in undergraduate loans one year after graduation.
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