On Wednesday, April 28, 2021, President Joe Biden used his first speech to a joint session of Congress to outline his “American Family Plan.” The plan is designed to complement or combine with his infrastructure plan to redesign the U.S. economy over the coming years.
The key provisions as outlined by the White House include a major expansion of education by providing expanded 3 and 4-year-old pre-kindergarten services and two years of free community college. Complimenting this is a major expansion of Pell grants for low-income college students and increased funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU) and other institutions that serve high percentages of minority students. This would potentially complement proposed historic increased appropriations of $20 billion for the K through 12 education budget if appropriators agree later this year.
A second major initiative is an expansion of tax credits that benefit lower and middle-class families while paying for it with increased taxes on higher-income families (making more than $400,000 a year). The major feature here is the extension of the temporary increase in the Child Tax Credit or CTC. The March 2021 relief package expanded the CTC to $3600 a year ($300 a month) for each child younger than age 6 and $3000 a year ($250 a month) for children 6 through 17. The President indicated he would seek to extend this for five years (the assumption being it would get extended again by a future Congress). That will cause a debate within the President’s party as many members in both houses want this to be permanent. CWLA has included the CTC as one of its “Hot Topics” for the May 12 virtual Hill Day.
Child care and a new Paid Family and Medical Leave are the third areas of major expansion in the President’s proposal. Complimenting the pre-K expansion is a $225 billion child care proposal would mean that lower and middle-income families would pay no more than 7 percent of their income in child care costs.
CWLA has included as part of its agenda Enacting the Child Care for Working Families Act. The Administration’s proposal would also create for the first time a paid family and medical leave program that, when fully phased in over ten years, would provide 12 weeks of paid leave for caring for a child, caring for a seriously ill loved one and dealing with military deployment.
There are several other items on the agenda, including passing the DREAMERS Act, expansions in some nutrition program, expansion of health care tax credit subsidies through the ACA, and reforms in the national unemployment compensation system.
What happens next is congressional leadership needs to decide how this moves forward. Whether there is any possibility of bipartisan support for this and/or the President’s earlier announcement of an infrastructure plan. If bipartisan support is not possible, then how to use the budget reconciliation process, which helps to short-circuit the Senate filibuster and then decide whether there is one bill or two bills. After that process is decided on, it is likely there will be an intense debate within various committees on the long list of details for each of these.