Early on Thursday, October 28, 2021, the White House released a new final framework for the reconciliation bill, the President’s Build Back Better agenda. The rest of the day was spent working out details and strategies with the end game still not finalized. The good news for the President was that the House Progressive Caucus had endorsed the framework with the House Rules Committee finalizing actual legislative language. Other parties such as the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities had also supported the package seeing the near-final product as a significant advance forward on several fronts.
While much of the focus of the past several month has been on the total cost, the way it is paid for, the process and what was taken out, what is left in, the framework that was released in itself is historic. While some elements will mean the fight continues for the much-needed reform (family leave), and other elements mean we go back to extend the progress (Child Tax Credit), items included were long fought for goals, especially pre-kindergarten and affordable child care. Key provisions:
• Families making up to 250% of your state’s median income will have child care costs capped at 7 percent of income (approximately $300,000 per year for family of 4). For families making less than that, quality care cost will be based on a sliding scale. Meaning child care to about 20 million children per year – covering 9 out of 10 families across the country.
• Provide universal and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, the largest expansion of universal and free education since states and communities across the country established public high schools. Parents will be able to send children to high-quality preschool in the setting of their choice – from public schools to child care providers to Head Start.
• Extends some of the pandemic-related expansions of the ACA which will reduce premiums for 9 million Americans who obtain insurance through the ACA exchanges. A family of four earning $80,000 per year would save nearly $3,000 per year (or $246 per month) on health insurance premiums.
• Expands ACA tax credits to those people and families who live in states that have refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA. Up to 4 million uninsured people (approximately 60 percent minority individuals and families.)
• Provides $24 billion in new and additional Housing Choice Vouchers for hundreds of thousands of families or individuals and additional billions for housing improvements and expansion.
• Extending for one year the CTC, maintain the monthly payment provision for one year, extension to 1 million eligible immigrant children, continued extension to Puerto Rico and making refundability permanent.
One of CWLA’s top priorities, the Child Tax Credit (CTC) will only continue in its present expanded form for one more year and that would make it a key priority for next year’s agenda. The bill also extends for one more year the Earned Income Tax Credit for single adults (with special coverage for youth exiting foster care). Perhaps the biggest disappointment is the inability to keep in at least some portion of paid family and medical leave, but Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) has been clear and public in his opposition.