June 23, 2021

Van Hollen, Menendez, Casey Renew Push for Increased Transparency in Federal Spending on Children

U.S. Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) reintroduced the Focus on Children Act and the Children’s Budget Act, a renewed legislative push to increase transparency about federal investments in children. These bills would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) respectively to produce annual, public reports on proposed and actual federal investments in children’s programs geared towards promoting the physical, mental, and emotional well-being of our nation’s children. This legislative effort is particularly critical given the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on children, which disrupted in-person learning, caused breaks in the continuity of health care, exacerbated childhood hunger in the country, and resulted in higher levels of stress and mental health illnesses.

“Investing in our children is investing in the future success of our nation. These bills are crucial to providing a clear picture of what additional measures we must take to ensure that every child in America has access to opportunity and the ability to succeed and thrive,” said Senator Van Hollen.

“Under the Biden Administration, the new democratic majority in Congress has taken bold action in passing the American Rescue Plan and pushing for more unprecedented investments in the health and well-being of America’s families and children,” said Sen. Menendez. “That’s why I am proud to be reintroducing the Children’s Budget Act and the Focus on Children Act, which will ensure there is greater transparency to support the federal government in building back better for children in communities across the country.”

“In our political system, the best interests of children are often invoked, but rarely provided for. These bills would help ensure that the federal government actually takes into account how major legislation and spending proposals would impact our Nation’s kids,” said Senator Casey.

Approximately one in seven children in the United States live in poverty. In Fiscal Year 2020, federal spending dedicated to children stood at just 7.48%, despite children representing almost one quarter of the United States population, and the share of total federal spending on children’s programs decreased 8.6% between 2016 and 2020, according to a report by First Focus. During the COVID-19 pandemic, children across the country were particularly affected, especially kids from low-income neighborhoods and communities of color. According to Feeding America, before the pandemic started, there were nearly 11 million children in the United States who were experiencing food insecurity, a number which ballooned to 15 million children as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, according to census data, as a result of bold and unprecedented investments in the nation’s children under the American Rescue Plan, which included expanded tax credits and food assistance aimed at lifting families out of poverty, the number of families experiencing food shortages or financial instability has dropped significantly.

The Focus on Children Act, led by Sen. Van Hollen, would direct the CBO to:

·       Provide an estimate of any piece of legislation’s expected impact on children at the request of a House or Senate committee chair or ranking member;

·       Produce several reports to Congress, including an annual report on federal spending and tax expenditures on children and an annual report on the President’s budget’s spending on children; and

·       Develop and maintain a public website that includes a portal providing data on federal spending on children’s programs.

The Children’s Budget Act, led by Sen. Menendez, would direct the OMB to provide a comprehensive accounting of spending on children as part of the President’s budget requests. The analysis would include:

·       Summaries of the total amount of existing and proposed funding for children and children’s programs;

·       An estimate of current levels of spending and tax expenditures on children and children’s programs; and

·       A detailed breakdown of spending on children and children’s programs by agency and initiative.

Both bills are supported by First Focus, Family Focused Treatment Association, Public Advocacy for Kids, Child Welfare League of America, National Association of Counsel for Children, National Children’s Campaign, and National Diaper Bank Network. The Focus on Children Act is also supported by the Children’s Health Fund and the Coalition on Human Needs.

“Children in the United States are not receiving their fair share of federal resources. We’ve seen children’s share of federal spending decline by nearly one-tenth over the past five years as programs and services benefitting them are regularly neglected or overlooked. In part, this happens because government has no comprehensive method to track the overall level of investment in children and the spending trends affecting them. These two complementary bills, led by Senators Van Hollen and Menendez would dramatically change that reality, and I applaud them for their leadership. The bills would finally establish a thorough and transparent process for collecting spending information on the many programs benefitting our kids, including tax expenditures, make the data readily available to the public and help policymakers evaluate where children truly stand in our national priorities,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children.

The Focus on Children Act can be downloaded HERE.

The Children’s Budget Act can be downloaded HERE.