How Everyday Americans Fare in Budget and Spending Agreement

Washington, D.C., February 9, 2018—After drama that stretched into the early morning and included an hours-long shut down of the federal government, Congress has passed and the president has signed a bill that includes a Continuing Resolution (CR) to keep the government funded until March 23, 2018, and that sets top-line spending levels for this fiscal year and the next (FY 2018 and 2019). The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is pleased with several important elements of the two-year budget agreement that lay a strong foundation for addressing major national needs—including child care and child health—but we are disheartened with the significant unfinished business that leaves the wellbeing of millions of everyday Americans—and particularly immigrants and their families—in peril. Congress must act immediately to provide a permanent path to citizenship for young Americans whose protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program were rescinded by President Trump in September, threatening them, their families, and their communities and workplaces around the country.

Among the highlights for low-income children, families, and individuals are:

  • A historic $5.8 billion increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG). CCDBG is the nation’s primary source of funding for child care assistance for low-income families and to improve the quality of child care for all children. The context for this increase is that, after years of budget neglect, CCDBG is today serving the fewest children in its history. This major investment will reverse course—expanding access to care and laying the groundwork for future investments. As a result, this doubling of CCDBG funding over two years will help 230,000 children whose hard-working parents struggle to afford quality child care.
  • An additional four years of funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), bringing it to 10 years of funding because the January 22 CR included six years of funding. This newest bill means that CHIP is now funded through 2027. In addition, the bill provides two years of renewed funding for Community Health Centers, which had gone without funding since October 1, 2017 and are a critical source of health care for the uninsured and many who are covered by Medicaid.
  • Renewed funding for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) program, which was similarly left without funding as of October 1, 2017. In the meantime, states have been using leftover funding to keep their programs running. MIECHV now has funding through 2022.
  • Nearly $90 billion to provide critical aid needed by everyday Americans still struggling to recover from recent disasters.
  • An additional $4 billion over two years for higher education on student-centered programs that support college completion and affordability, with the spending details still yet to be determined.

At the same time, Congress left other crucial priorities unaddressed. Most egregiously, Congress failed to protect the Dreamers. With President Trump’s decision in September to rescind DACA program, young immigrants and their families (including 200,000 citizen children) have faced a crisis after losing their protections. Despite promises made during the December CR negotiations, Congressional leaders refused to address a solution—like the Dream Act—for DACA recipients. CLASP stands firmly with our allies in the immigration community in calling for a permanent path to citizenship for these young Americans. Congress must act immediately to address this crisis.

More broadly, it is important to highlight the context for these increases: many years of shrinking resources as a result of federal disinvestment in so-called domestic discretionary programs, the broad category that covers most federal funding for education, workforce and career development, early care and education, youth programs, public health, and many other areas. Thus, while celebrating today’s victories, it is important to note the importance of building on this foundation to turn around years of decline in the public support available to working families, children, seniors, and other Americans of modest means.

Looking ahead, Congress should build on the foundation laid by this budget agreement to meet the continuing needs of everyday Americans. But the debate over this bill should be a warning of dangers over the horizon – specifically, that the President’s budget proposal and future Congressional debates will dangerously reverse course.

After passing a bill last December that included tax giveaways for corporation and wealthy individuals that will increase the deficit by over $1.5 trillion, Congressional Republicans have started to express concern over the deficit again. They have clearly indicated that they would like to pay for their tax bill by cutting key programs including Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). That is not what Americans need. We call on Congress to build on the strengths in this agreement, immediately fix provide a path to citizenship for the Dreamers, and resist pressure to go backward on key programs.

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The Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP) is a national, nonpartisan, anti-poverty organization advancing policy solutions that work for low-income people. With nearly 50 years of trusted expertise, a deeply knowledgeable staff, and a commitment to practical yet visionary approaches to opportunity for all, CLASP lifts up the voices of poor and low-income children, families, and individuals, equips advocates with strategies that work, and helps public officials put good ideas into practice. The organization’s solutions directly address the barriers that individuals and families face because of race, ethnicity, and immigration status, in addition to low income. For more information, visit www.clasp.org and follow @CLASP_DC.