Keeping the Government Funded
Last week, Congress once again passed a short-term spending package that will keep the government open while they try to finalize a spending agreement for the current fiscal year.
As a reminder, Congress was unable to make progress on passing a full year appropriations package by September 30, 2023, the end of the Federal Fiscal Year. To avoid a government shutdown, they have had to pass several short-term spending packages, called Continuing Resolutions (CR). These CRs have kept the government operating at the previous year’s spending levels and provide additional time for Congress to finalize a full year spending plan.
The current CR continues the previous two-part approach to funding the government. Funding for some programs has been extended until March 1, while funding for other programs has been extended until March 8. This keeps two deadlines in place by which Congress will need to reach a funding compromise.
We are glad that Congress has found a way to yet again avert a government shutdown, but this CR still does not include additional funding for WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children), which will not be able to serve all eligible families at its current levels of funding due to increased participation and high food costs. The most recent estimates show that about 2 million young children and pregnant and postpartum adults could lose access to this vital program if additional funding is not provided to sustain the program through this fiscal year.
This is completely unacceptable. Congress must honor its longstanding bipartisan agreement to fully fund WIC and ensure that all eligible children and adults have access to the science-based benefit.
We will continue to tell our legislators that WIC needs to be fully funded in the coming appropriations compromise, and we hope that you will join us in doing the same.
Child Tax Credit
Last week, the Chairmen of the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee announced a bi-partisan tax proposal. This proposal includes an expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) which would help low-income families put food on the table and lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty.
You may remember that as part of the 2021 American Rescue Plan, the CTC was temporarily expanded to provide the full credit to children in low-income families regardless of their families’ earnings, increase the maximum credit, and provide the credit on a monthly basis. The expanded CTC worked. 2021 saw child poverty rates reach a historic low of 5.2%. Sadly, when the CTC was allowed to expire, the child poverty rate more than doubled, reaching 12.4% and showing just how much policy choices matters.
While this proposal falls short of the 2021 expansion, it takes an important step toward supporting low-income families who are not currently eligible for the full tax credit. The proposed expansion to the CTC would be estimated to support 16 million children, including over 500,000 Pennsylvanians who are currently left out of the full credit, in its first year. Additionally, as many as 400,000 children could be lifted out of poverty in the first year of the expanded credit.
While we would like to see, and will continue fighting for, the full CTC expansion of the American Rescue Plan, we celebrate this important first step toward supporting low-income families and urge Congress to pass it swiftly.