Build Back Better Framework is Historic Investment
The following statement can be attributed to Olivia Golden, executive director of the Center for Law and Social Policy.
Washington, D.C., October 28, 2021—”Today’s announcement of the framework for the Build Back Better Act sets the stage for historic investments in children, women, families, people with low incomes, and communities of color. The framework is a transformational “once-in-a generation” opportunity to invest boldly in an economic recovery that will secure a more equitable future for all. Even as we celebrate this historic step, there is continued work to be done to include all pillars of the care economy, including paid family and medical leave, and get the entire package over the finish line for families.”
“The future reflected in the framework announced today will guarantee affordable child care and pre-kindergarten for nearly all families with young children and livable wages for child care providers. It will make permanent a nearly universal child allowance through a fully refundable Child Tax Credit (CTC). The framework will support workers without dependent children with low wages through extending increases to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). It will reach millions of families now left out of health care as a result of the “Medicaid coverage gap.” As part of the largest-ever investment in climate change, it likely includes a record investment in subsidized jobs targeted to young people and others who have been left out of the labor market. And it includes investments to support immigrants and their families.”
How the Framework Changes Families’ Lives
Child Care and Pre-K
The investment in guaranteed child care and universal pre-kindergarten for families with young children reflects a historic change decades in the making. For decades, families have been unable to afford child care while child care teachers have been paid a pittance despite the incredibly important role they play in young children’s development. With the pandemic delivering a final blow to this fragile sector, millions of women have been forced to leave the labor force for lack of care. Now at last, Congress’s $400 billion investment will create a system that works: it enables people who work in child care—who are disproportionately women of color and have been underpaid and undervalued—to get a decent wage and guarantee that parents of young children can access quality child care they can afford. This investment would mark a fundamental departure from our current child care system. Parents will have peace of mind knowing their children are well cared for while no longer struggling with the high costs of care.
CTC and EITC
We know the Child Tax Credit expansion funded by the BBB framework is a game changer. The framework makes “refundability” of the CTC permanent, meaning that children in families with low incomes who need the help the most will continue to be eligible permanently – rather than being cut off because their families earn too little money. Under prior law, more than half of Black and Latinx children were excluded from getting the full CTC payment because their families earned too little to qualify. Providing these children with access to the CTC will have monumental impacts on reducing child poverty. We already know how important these resources are to families, who have reported that they plan to spend their CTC monthly payments on necessities like utilities, monthly bills, and other expenses. The Act’s provisions to continue the CTC refundability permanently, to restore the CTC to “little DREAMers,” and to extend the expanded level of benefits and the monthly delivery of benefits for one year will have significant, continued impact on poverty, especially among Black and Latinx families and children. Moreover, the expansion of the EITC to include more people who earn low wages will be similarly critical in helping them make ends meet.
Jobs and Postsecondary Education
Climate investments offer opportunities to create good jobs, such as through the Civilian Climate Corps. Through this historic investment in climate change and workforce development, this framework provides significant support for subsidized jobs that target youth, individuals impacted by the criminal justice system, and others who have been left out of the job market. In addition, the framework invests in postsecondary education and workforce development to get young people and adults back to work and in good jobs. This includes raising the maximum Pell grant, investing in Historically Black Colleges & Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, and Minority Serving Institutions, as well as investing in workforce development programs like pre-apprenticeships and registered apprenticeships. The framework commits funding and technical assistance to businesses to eliminate the use of the subminimum wage. It also serves to protect workers by increasing funding for labor standards enforcement and strengthens protections for workers exercising their rights to form unions through increased penalties for employers who violate those rights.
The framework’s health provisions take important steps to reduce health inequities by providing affordable health insurance to more people and reducing some administrative burdens. By providing a solution to the Medicaid expansion coverage gap, the BBB plan provides affordable health insurance to the 2.2 million people – primarily people of color in the South – who are uninsured because their state has refused to expand Medicaid. The investments in home and community-based services, 12 months of Medicaid and CHIP coverage after a pregnancy, and increased tax credits to help people with low incomes afford marketplace coverage will all help people receive the care they need. Children will benefit from 12-month continuous eligibility for Medicaid and CHIP, and states will be able to better plan with CHIP becoming permanent. Persons leaving incarceration will benefit greatly from being enrolled in Medicaid 30 days prior to their release. Historic investments have also been included in maternal mental health, in trauma-informed approaches, and for peer support specialists, particularly recognizing the need to support communities of color. As these improvements and other health-related provisions are implemented, mental and behavioral health must continue to be made a priority, to curb the consistent increases in anxiety and depression symptoms by the week.
The framework includes $100 billion for reforms to the immigration system that will provide relief and stability for millions of mixed-status immigrant families, address backlogs, and other key improvements. These provisions will help support the immigrant families who have been delivering for our country and whose children are vital to our nation’s future.
The Work Ahead
We have much to celebrate. But we also have much work ahead. We are deeply disappointed that the framework omits a national paid family and medical leave program—something that every other developed country in the world offers. Working families still need paid leave, and we call on Congress and the Administration to ensure that paid leave is included as a critical support for families.
We call on Congress to act swiftly and codify the Build Back Better framework. These investments are essential to supporting children, families, women, people with low incomes, and communities of color so we can put the country on a road to true economic recovery. And these investments are paid for by increasing taxes on the wealthy and corporations that have avoided paying their fair share. We’ve been waiting generations for a moment like this when Congress makes historic investments in the future of everyone. That time is now.