By: Mindy Binderman, Executive Director, GEEARS
The American Rescue Plan of 2021, signed into law by President Biden yesterday, includes critical and historic measures to reduce childhood poverty, support struggling families, ensure child and caregiver health and well-being, stabilize the child care industry, and expand access to child care for working families.
The pandemic has taken a significant toll on American families, creating increased economic insecurity. Poverty and stress during early childhood have lifelong impacts, affecting children’s future educational, health, and economic trajectories. The American Rescue Plan will buffer young children and their families from the impacts of the pandemic, providing the security they need to thrive today, while also laying the foundation on which to build with future investment.
The American Rescue Plan includes $39 billion for the child care industry to support providers, programs, and families. Georgia is expected to receive an estimated $1.57 billion according to the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). The COVID-19 pandemic has devastated Georgia’s child care industry, with many programs reporting reduced revenues, decreased enrollment, and increased overall costs.
With such a large infusion of federal dollars, the state has the opportunity to not only stabilize the industry but to expand access to high-quality, affordable child care to more working parents. Currently, only a fraction of eligible families have access to child care subsidies. Affordable child care will be a critical component of our economic recovery.
The American Rescue Plan’s provisions to reduce childhood poverty and support families include an enhanced, fully refundable Child Tax Credit equating to $3,600 a year for children under six. The Center on Poverty and Social Policy estimates the tax credit will reduce childhood poverty in Georgia by as much as 38%. The plan also includes funding for paid sick and family leave benefits, direct stimulus payments, expanded unemployment benefits, family support programs such as Home Visiting and Head Start, nutrition assistance, and housing assistance to meet rent, mortgage, and utility shortfalls.
In addition, the plan includes provisions to increase healthcare access for thousands of Georgians. The plan gives states the option to extend pregnancy Medicaid coverage from 60 days postpartum to 12 months. This would ease the path for Georgia’s waiver submitted last fall requesting an extension from 60 days to six months postpartum. The bill also provides additional Medicaid enhancements, incentives to states to expand Medicaid, and increased tax credits for health plans purchased through the insurance exchange.
GEEARS would like to express our gratitude to Georgia’s Congressional Delegation for recognizing the importance of investing in our youngest and most vulnerable residents and to our many state and national partners for their relentless advocacy on behalf of young children and their families. We also acknowledge the tireless Georgians who advocated on behalf of their children, neighbors, and friends through many phone calls, letters, emails, and action alerts. Your efforts paid off.