Congress left Washington, D.C., on Thursday, December 14, 2023, without reaching an agreement on funding for FY2024, a bad sign for the new year. Although the Senate is expected to be back this week to work out an agreement on aid for Ukraine, Israel, and new immigration policies for the southern border, it’s unclear if they will be able to come to a compromise or whether the House would return to D.C. to take up the bill, if it does pass.
The House and Senate still have not reached a deal on top-line numbers for the FY2024 spending bills. This will make it incredibly difficult for these bills to be completed by the deadlines of the current continuing resolution, which are January 19 and February 2. There will only be a few legislative days in January before the first deadline hits, putting immense pressure on Congress to find a solution to the current stalemate.
Amid the discussion about foreign aid and border policy, advocates are sounding the alarm about domestic programs that need supplemental funding as well, including child care and WIC. On October 25, 2023, President Biden released his domestic emergency aid priorities, which included $16B for additional child care funding. This funding is needed to avert a child care crisis now that the COVID relief funding has expired. Many congressional Democrats have supported this request.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) has not been adequately funded for next year, as the levels in both the current continuing resolution and the proposed House and Senate budgets will not keep pass with the increased food costs and increased participation rates. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP) released a new report on December 12, 2023, stating that about 2 million parents and young children could be turned away from WIC by September if these funding levels aren’t increased. “Inadequate funding would force states to put eligible new and expecting parents and young children on waiting lists for nutrition assistance, jeopardizing access to this highly effective program during an important window for child development,” said the report.
There may be some good news on the horizon, though: Axios reported last week that there has been movement on proposals to expand the Child Tax Credit in early 2024. There are provisions that have significant support in both parties, and both parties want their members to be able to run on a legislative win on taxes. According to the article, Senate Finance Chairman Ron Wyden (D-OR) and House Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) have been working on a tax package that can clear the House early next year. “Talks are further along than most people realize,” said a senior GOP lawmaker. “All parties are aware that a December timeline is difficult, but that there is a window early next year.” Any package that could gain support from both parties and both chambers would likely be much smaller in scope than the expansion of the CTC that happened in the American Rescue Plan during COVID, but it would still be a significant step in the direction of reducing child poverty.