BEYOND THE NUMBERS
5 Reasons Why Congress Should Quickly Pass Build Back Better
Build Back Better, which the Senate is expected to consider soon, would help families meet everyday challenges such as paying rent and putting food on the table, affording child care and preschool, securing health coverage, and paying for college. The package — which is fiscally sustainable, based on solid research, and builds on successful existing federal and state efforts — would make us a fairer, more equitable nation. The Senate should move swiftly to pass this legislation. Here are five reasons why:
1. It would lift millions of children above the poverty line and give them a strong start in life.
Build Back Better would help families with the cost of raising children by extending the American Rescue Plan’s increase in the Child Tax Credit amount and inclusion of 17-year-olds for one year, and by permanently ensuring that the full credit is available to children in families with the lowest incomes, locking in substantial expected reductions in child poverty. But those improvements will expire on December 31 unless Congress acts. Failing to pass Build Back Better would take away the entire credit from many children who would no longer qualify at all and would cut the amount of the credit for millions more. Moreover, the monthly payments that families are using to meet basic needs would stop.
Build Back Better would also help young children get a good start by making historic investments in child care and preschool and would help keep children from going hungry by extending through 2024 a summer grocery benefit for children at risk of hunger when schools are out and by expanding access to free school meals.
2. It would expand access to affordable health coverage and lower drug costs.
Build Back Better would expand affordable health coverage for millions by providing coverage through 2025 for people with incomes below the poverty line whose states have refused to adopt the Affordable Care Act’s Medicaid expansion — 60 percent of whom are people of color — and by extending the current increase in premium tax credits to reduce or eliminate premiums for millions of marketplace enrollees, also through 2025.
Other provisions of the bill would also significantly improve the affordability of marketplace coverage and reduce surprise demands that people repay premium tax credits.
The legislation would also strengthen Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program coverage for parents and children, people rejoining their communities after leaving jails and prisons, and people with disabilities and older people who need services to live safely in their homes and communities rather than in nursing homes or other congregate settings.
Finally, the bill’s measures to lower prescription drug costs would ease financial burdens and reduce federal spending.
3. It would increase stability and broaden opportunity for families, people working for low pay, and those seeking better jobs.
Build Back Better would help families afford stable housing and avoid evictions and homelessness, including by funding new Housing Choice Vouchers for roughly 300,000 households with the lowest incomes.
It would also help people working for low pay by extending through 2022 the American Rescue Plan’s expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for low-paid workers not raising children at home.
The bill would make it easier for parents to work by increasing access to affordable child care, and it would enable workers — particularly low-paid workers, women, and workers of color — to take paid time off from work to care for a new child or an ill loved one or to attend to their own health issue.
The bill also includes substantial investments to make college more affordable and accessible and to expand workforce development opportunities that help people develop skills for in-demand jobs — investments that can reduce student debt, improve job prospects, and boost the nation’s productivity.
4. It would raise revenues to finance its investments and would make our tax system fairer.
The bill would shrink tax breaks for wealthy households and profitable corporations and give the IRS resources so it can do more to ensure that individuals and corporations pay what they legally owe. These revenue provisions — coupled with the bill’s provisions that would reduce the cost of prescription drugs — are important policy advances on their own and would provide needed resources to finance the bill’s investments. The fiscal impact of Build Back Better is roughly zero over the next decade, and around $2 trillion in deficit reduction in the subsequent decade.
5. It would reduce racial disparities and expand protections for immigrants.
The investments in Build Back Better would narrow racial and ethnic disparities in poverty, health coverage and access, housing, and education stemming from generations of racism and other forms of discrimination, which have systematically limited opportunity for people of color.
- The Child Tax Credit provisions in Build Back Better would reduce Black and Latino annual child poverty rates by an estimated 9 percentage points — from 22 percent to 13 percent for Black children, and 21 percent to 12 percent for Latino children — and would reduce the white child poverty rate from 8 percent to 5 percent, relative to child poverty without the credit expansion.
- We estimate that about 70 percent of those who would receive the new housing vouchers funded through Build Back Better are people of color. People of color made up over half of those who experienced homelessness in 2020, and are 62 percent of renter households with low incomes who are paying over half their income for housing and are at elevated risk of homelessness.
- As noted above, the bill would provide a pathway to coverage for people with incomes below the poverty line in states that haven’t expanded Medicaid. People of color make up 60 percent of the 2 million people in this coverage gap, including 28 percent who are Latino and 28 percent who are Black.
Additionally, Build Back Better’s investments in higher education would help reduce racial disparities in college attendance and completion by, among other things, increasing the maximum Pell Grant (which helps a larger share of students of color than white students) and expanding eligibility to certain immigrants, and investing in colleges that serve large numbers of Black, Indigenous, Latino, and Asian and Pacific Islander students. Build Back Better would also provide protections for certain immigrants by allowing immigrants without a documented status who have been in the U.S. since the end of 2010 to work lawfully and live in the U.S. without fear of deportation through 2031.
Build Back Better would make transformational investments in children, families, workers, climate, and health coverage. It’s time for the Senate to pass this legislation.