By Jane Kennedy
(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Frequently compared to President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, the $1.9 trillion package – the Build Back Better Act – includes investments in child and elder care, universal pre-K and an extension of the child tax credit to provide economic security for tens of millions of working families and pathways to return to the job market. It also addresses the adverse effects of climate change.
“Honoring President Biden’s vision and addressing the needs of the American people, this legislation presents the most historic and transformative agenda in a century. Build Back Better will forge extraordinary progress for the American people: creating good-paying jobs, lowering costs and cutting taxes, while making the wealthiest and big corporations pay their fair share,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi wrote in a letter to her colleagues.
The Build Back Better Act provides a list of social benefits that would address issues of high importance to African-Americans. President Biden hopes it will be passed by the predominately Democratic Senate and reach his desk shortly after Thanksgiving. Among the benefits:
Lowers Health Care Costs:
Approximately 3.9 million Black people were uninsured in 2019. Despite the Affordable Care Act’s premium subsidies, coverage under the ACA was too expensive for many families, and more than 570,000 Black people fell into the Medicaid “coverage gap” and were locked out of coverage because their state refused to expand Medicaid. President Biden’s framework closes the Medicaid coverage gap while also lowering health care costs for those buying coverage through the ACA by extending the American Rescue Plan’s lower premiums, which could save 360,000 black people an average of $50 per person per month. With these changes, more than one in three uninsured Black people could gain coverage. It also makes an historic investment in maternal health. Black women die from complications related to pregnancy at three times the rate of White women.
The legislation will also:
• Empower Medicare to negotiate lower drug costs for seniors and halts Big Pharma’s outrageous price hikes above inflation for all Americans.Ensure Americans with diabetes don’t pay more than $35 per month for their insulin.
• Create a new, out-of-pocket cap of $2,000 on what seniors pay for their drugs in Medicare Part D.
• Lower premiums dramatically for those who buy insurance on their own through the Affordable Care Act.
• Extend affordable coverage through the Affordable Care Act to millions of Americans in states that have refused to expand Medicaid.
• Expand Medicare to make hearing care more affordable for seniors.
Lowers Child Care & Family Care Costs:
The cost of child care has placed a serious financial burden on Black parents who are two times more likely than White parents to have to quit, turn down, or make a major change in their job due to child care disruptions. In addition, only 26.8 percent of Black 3- and 4-year old children are enrolled in publicly-funded preschool, while the average cost of preschool for those without access to publicly-funded programs is $8,600. Most families will save more than half of what they currently spend on child care, and the vast majority of families will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for child care. It will also reduce the cost of home-based care for the hundreds of thousands of older adults and people with disabilities who need it but lack access. Investment in home care will raise wages for home care workers, 28 percent of whom are Black.
The Build Back Better Act also saves most families more than half their current spending on child care, ensuring the vast majority of families will have to pay no more than 7 percent of their income for child care.
• Expands the basic promise of free schooling in America for the first time in 100 years with universal pre-school for all 3- and 4-year-olds.
• Establishes a universal and permanent paid family and medical leave program, providing four weeks of paid parental, family caregiving, and medical leave.
• Gives more than 35 million families a major tax cut by extending the Biden Child Tax Credit.
• Expands access to high-quality home care for older adults and people with disabilities.
• Cuts the cost of postsecondary education, with such steps as increasing the maximum Pell Grant.
• Reduces families’ housing costs and expands housing options.
Housing and Nutrition
The coronavirus pandemic exposed and created many inequities related to housing and left millions of Americans in fear of facing eviction or foreclosure. Thirty percent of Black renters pay over half their income in rent. The Build Back Better Act will enable the construction, rehabilitation, and improvement of more than one million affordable homes, boosting housing supply and reducing price pressures for renters and homeowners. It also will make investments to improve the safety, energy efficiency, and quality of existing public housing, where nearly half of residents are black, and expands the availability of housing choice vouchers to hundreds of thousands more families, including the nearly half of current voucher holders who are Black. In addition, it calls for the removal of lead-based paint from housing units, which disproportionately affects Black children, and provides grants for resident-led community development projects in neighborhoods that have faced systemic disinvestment.
Food insecurity is another problem that has disproportionately affected Black households at a higher rate than the national average, particularly during the pandemic. To help ensure that no one has to worry about whether they can provide nutritious food for themselves or their children, the Build Back Better framework will ensure that the nutritional needs of Black children are met by expanding access to free school meals during the school year and providing students with resources to purchase food over the summer.
On the night the Build Back Better vote was to take place, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy forced a delay until the following morning by delivering an 8 hour, 32-minute floor speech—the longest in House history—during which he assailed the legislation as “big government socialism.” And, as with most legislation passed by the U.S. House of Representatives, not a single Republican supported the bill, which also lost the support a lone Democrat who voted against it. Now it’s the Senate’s turn. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer hopes to pass the bill by Christmas, but he first has to convince all 50 Democrats and the two independents who caucus with them to back the plan. It won’t be easy. The paid family leave provision may be cut to satisfy a demand from Sen. Joe Manchin, and Sen. Bernie Sanders will call for provisions in such areas as Medicare and climate to be strengthened. Any changes to the legislation will have to be voted on in the House, where Pelosi holds a razor-thin majority and can only afford three defections from her party.
In the meantime, Democrats have some selling to do. Many of the bill’s provisions won’t go into effect until after the 2022 mid-term election cycle where Democrats will go head to head for control of both houses. They will need to convince the American public of the many ways their lives will be made easier and more affordable by the Build Back Better Act.