End of the Build Back Better plan is a blow to poor children and families


West Virginia Democratic Senator Joe Manchin announced on Sunday that he would vote against President Biden’s Build Back Better plan. The main obstacle in a 50-50 Senate, the lack of support from Manchin, without Republicans willing to break party lines, makes it virtually impossible for the president to push through his $ 2 trillion economic program.

The failure to pass the Social Spending and Climate Bill is a big blow to the middle class and the environment. But the consequences, and in particular the continued lack of federally mandated paid family leave, as well as the lack of an extension of the enhanced child tax credit, are particularly dire for poor families and their children.

Even though paid family leave is associated with a 13% reduction in child mortality, the United States does not guarantee it, one of seven countries that does not. Although federal workers receive 12 weeks of paid leave, only 16% of private sector workers receive it. Many workers do not receive any paid leave, especially hourly workers and those in low-wage industries.

As a mental health clinician, I have found that not being able to leave work to care for a newborn baby can take a toll on infants, children and their families. For low-income parents, paid time off is usually not an option, nor is licensed child care, which costs an average of $ 16,000 per year for infants. This leaves low-income parents with limited choices, fueling burnout, depression, domestic violence and worse. Even the best-intentioned parents can’t help but pass on their stress and trauma to their children, sowing the seeds of personality and behavioral patterns that will last for generations.

Take the story of one of my patients. Like one in seven new mothers, she exhibited signs of postpartum depression after the birth of her son and could barely get out of bed. Even though she needed to work to support her baby, her depression and her deep fear that something horrible would happen to her son if she left him with a neighbor almost fired her. Through psychotherapy, she realized that her deep-seated anxiety was rooted in her past: at the age of 6, she had been assaulted by a relative of a neighbor when her single mother had no other choice. than to leave her and her little brother with the neighbor to go back to work. Realizing how her current situation reflected her past improved her depression. While she might have become depressed without these experiences, the additional trauma of her past would have only made her worse, threatening her ability to provide for the next generation, as it did. Paid family leave could have prevented, or at least alleviated, her situation, as well as that of her mother before her.

But the demise of the Build Back Better plan isn’t just preventing many parents from staying home to care for their children. The plan also included the extension of the enhanced child tax credit. That too, along with improving access to child care and universal preschool for 3 and 4 year olds, which were also in the plan, are now gone.

Children are the poorest age group in the country. In 2019, more than 10 million American children lived in poverty, 71% of whom are children of color. Almost half of poor children in the United States live in extreme poverty, in families with an annual income of less than $ 25,000. In California, the situation is similar. Data from 2018 revealed that 18.8% of California children live in poverty, and in the Bay Area, more than 75% of single parents said they couldn’t “make ends meet,” while nearly 50% of parents with partners responded in kind. And this was all before COVID.

That’s why, in March, Congress passed the American Rescue Act, which increased the old child tax credit from $ 2,000 to $ 3,000 with a bonus of $ 600 for children under. 6 years for the 2021 tax year. It also established monthly payments of $ 300 per child under 6 and $ 250 for those aged 6 to 17. Without an extension, these improvements will expire in early 2022 even though their impact has already been significant: Contrary to Senator Manchin’s concerns that parents would use their child tax credits on drugs, 78% of parents in a recent survey said reported using their payments for help with housing, utilities, food costs, and children’s activities. In addition, according to an August survey by the Census Bureau, the tax credit allowed an additional 3.3 million households to feed their children, and a September report found that 94% of parents carry the same amount. or more work thanks to the tax credit. Had the Build Back Better plan been adopted, the current credit would have been extended until 2025, reducing child poverty by 40% in a typical year.

According to the Columbia University Center on Poverty and Social Policy, improving the lives of children now will save U.S. taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars every year – reducing infant mortality and other health costs for children and parents. , lowering crime rates and improving public safety, and reducing spending on protective services for abused and neglected children. Future generations will benefit from the growth of these economies every year, as today’s children become tomorrow’s workforce, contributing to the well-being of all and expanding the tax base.

Helping children and their families is an investment, not a benefit. It improves short and long term health, lowers health care costs, reduces crime, and increases children’s school performance and adults’ wages. Infants and young children are the most vulnerable of all age groups, so infants cannot wait. There is no reason they should.

Stephen Seligman is a psychologist at UCSF and a Clinical Professor in the New York University Postgraduate Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.


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