On Friday, September 22, 2023, First Focus on Children released its annual Children’s Budget Book in a live event hosted by the Senate Budget Committee. Chairman Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) opened the event, stating, “there is no better investment the Federal government can make than in children and families. We save $7 for every $1 we spend on reducing child poverty.” He highlighted several key policy issues, such as the expiration of the expanded child tax credit and the impending child care funding cliff this month.

After a keynote speech from Dr. C. Kirabo Jackson, an economist appointed to President Biden’s Council of Economic Advisors, panelists spoke to the need for increased investment in children. Nell Menefee-Libey, Public Policy Manager for the National WIC Association, shared that currently none of the funding proposals that have been introduced will provide enough funding to cover all of the moms and children expected to participate in Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) this coming year. Shaquita Ogletree, Federal Policy Director for Youth Villages, spoke to the need to prioritize funding services for children and families to keep families together and avoid family separation through child welfare and juvenile justice system involvement. Mary Nugent, Early Childhood Education Advisor at Save the Children, impressed upon staff the importance of fully funding child care, particularly in the face of the upcoming expiration of COVID relief funding. And Kathy Sacco, VP of International Children’s Policy at First Focus, noted just how small a proportion of the total budget is spent on children internationally, despite significant returns on investment.

Overall, First Focus finds that U.S. spending on children, both here and abroad, accounts for just 9.89% of the FY 2023 federal budget, a decrease of nearly 16% in real spending from the previous fiscal year. In four of the 11 areas analyzed in the new Children’s Budget Book, there was a notable decrease in the share of children’s spending between FY 2018 and FY 2023, indicating a lag between spending on kids and increases in the federal budget. For instance:

  • Income Support: Income support for children declined more than 19% as a share of federal spending in FY 2023 compared to FY 2018, primarily as a result of the expiration of the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) in January 2022.
  • Health Care: The share of federal spending on children’s health care declined nearly 10% in FY 2023 compared to FY 2018, including a nearly 16% decrease in real funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which covers roughly 9 million children.
  • Housing: The share of federal spending on housing for children and families decreased by nearly 11% from FY 2018 to FY 2023. And despite skyrocketing rents, housing assistance for families makes up just 0.3% of the federal budget in FY 2023.
  • Early Childhood: The share of federal spending on early childhood programs declined more than 16% between FY 2018 and FY 2023 and makes up just 0.4% of the federal budget in FY 2023.