Congress Returns to Work
Members of the US Congress have come back to Washington DC as their Christmas recess has come to a close. We wanted to give you a few items of business that took place at the end of last year before we head to the pressing budget issues of 2012 and the election.
Congress Passes Omnibus Fiscal Year 2012 Appropriation Bill
In December, the House and Senate agreed to a $915 billion bill (H.R. 2055) that funds the nine remaining appropriations bills covering a wide range of government activities including defense, foreign aid, children’s services, public health, education and training, veterans, the environment, and homeland security.
The largest of the non-defense appropriations bill is the one that funds Labor, Health & Human Services (HHS), and Education programs. It will provide $156.3 billion for FY 2012, $1.1 billion below the FY 2011 level. Programs critical to low-income families that received additional funding include the Community Services Block Grant, funded at $714 million, an increase of $12 million above last year’s level, Head Start, funded at $8 billion, up $424 million over last year’s level, and the Child Care and Development Block Grant which receives a $60 million increase to $2.3 billion. The maximum Pell Grant award is maintained at $5,550.
While the US House proposed and passed cuts to these and other children’s programs, it is not a victory for children even if they ultimately escaped budget reductions. With millions of children living in poverty, uninsured, unable to participate in preschool education, and alone after school, major NEW investments in children are necessary to keep our economy globally competitive. Even prior to the Great Recession, millions of America’s children and youth were struggling due to lagging investments in their future. Now the situation has become much more urgent as numerous states have slashed billions in spending for children.
Throughout 2012, the Every Child Matters Education Fund is committed to highlighting the important decisions Congress and whoever wins the presidency must make in 2013 to secure a prosperous future for America’s children. Children didn’t crash our economy. Children didn’t create the federal debt. Cutting health, education, and child safety programs won’t make a dent in the federal deficit.
Millions of Young Adults Benefit from the Affordable Care Act
A major component of the health reform law passed last year was allowing young adults under the age of 26 to stay on their parents’ health plan. Many young people lose that care when they turn 18 and do not become insured. This has been a greater problem in recent years as youth unemployment has skyrocketed due to the recessions. This feature has been even more successful at covering young adults than initially predicted. The decline in uninsured youth is two-and-a-half times the figure indicated by government and private estimates from earlier this year.
Nearly 36 percent of Americans age 19-25 were uninsured in the third calendar quarter of 2010, before the law’s provision took effect. That’s over 10.5 million people. By the second calendar quarter of 2011, the uninsured dropped to a little over 27 percent, or about 8 million. The difference is nearly 2.5 million more young adults getting coverage.
Some in Congress and running for President still say they want to repeal this law. If repealed, millions of young people would lose coverage and insurance companies would again be allowed to deny coverage for children with pre-existing medical conditions. No politician should be allowed to say they would repeal the law without saying what they will do for the children and youth who would lose their current coverage. Click here for more information.
US Troops Come Home from Iraq
December marked the official end of combat operations in Iraq with remaining troops coming home. While many disagree about what got us into the war and how it was managed, we honor the sacrifice of the brave men and women who served in Iraq since 2003. We also honor the sacrifice of their families and children who have paid the biggest price when their spouses and parents have been deployed. During this time, many children and families of service members in Iraq have benefited from government programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid, and the State Children’s Health Insurance Program. We oppose efforts of some in Washington to cut these programs that benefit both the children of those in the military and children whose parents are not in the military.
Thank you for your support and we look forward to giving you more information about how congressional actions will impact America’s children.