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(NEXSTAR) – The Senate’s advancement of a $3.5 trillion budget blueprint brings Congress one step closer to approving money for a number of programs designed to help families and children.
The budget resolution, which would allocate money for programs designed to create jobs, fight climate change and provide social services and economic safety for American families, got the OK from Senate democrats and won approval in the early hours of Wednesday morning. It’s expected to be approved by the House when the chamber returns from recess in two weeks.
“This was one of the most significant legislative days we’ve had for a long time here at the United States Senate,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of the budget’s approval, as well as the approval of the infrastructure bill, at a Wednesday press conference. He also touted the approval of the American Rescue Plan earlier this year, and said the latest trillion-dollar budget plan would help eradicate “structural problems” the country continues to face.
“Now, we’re going from rescue to recovery, to make the economy, to make the American peoples’ lives even better than it was before COVID,” said Schumer.
Among the many provisions in the budget blueprint, several are seeking to ease financial burdens on working parents and families with kids.
The American Rescue plan, passed earlier this year, had increasing the existing maximum child tax credit to $3,600 for children under 6 and $3,000 per kid for children between 6 and 17.
Under the new budget plan, the Committee on Finance would be extending enhanced child tax credits for families with kids, along with extensions for earned income tax credits (EITC) and child and dependent care tax credits (CDCTC).
President Biden said his Build Back Better agenda, fueled by the budget resolution, would ideally extend the child tax credits for “years to come.”
“We shouldn’t let taxes go up on working families,” he said at a White House event in July marking the beginning of the Child Tax Credit payments. “We shouldn’t let child poverty continue to stain the conscience or drag down our economy.”
No new taxes for families making under $400,000
The resolution would instruct the Finance Committee to prohibit new taxes for families earning less than $400,000 per year, in what Democratic senators called a “historic tax cut” in a memorandum outlining details of the resolution.
Free preschool, affordable child care
The framework includes provisions for universal pre-kindergarten for 3- and 4-year old children, free of charge for low- and middle-income families. The plan would also cover the cost of child care for “the most hard-pressed working families,” the White House said in July, while promising high-quality, affordable options for families that earn more.
Working families that earn less than 1.5 times their state’s median income would also “pay no more than 7% of their income for all children under age five.”
Free community college, more affordable tuition
For kids leaving high school, the resolution would provide two years of free community college. Tuition would also be more affordable for low- or middle-income students enrolling at Historically Black Colleges and Tribal Colleges and Universities, as well as other minority-serving institutions.
“This is bolstered by increasing the maximum Pell Grant by nearly $1,500 to help all eligible low-income students pay for a two- or four-year degree,” the White House said.
There will also be investments in “evidence-based strategies” to ensure higher retention rates at community colleges.
Paid family and medical leave
The budget includes provisions for paid family and medical leave, specifically 12 weeks of guaranteed parental, family, and personal illness leave annually, with benefits of up to $4,000 per month.
“The program will ensure workers receive partial wage replacement to take time to bond with a new child; care for a seriously ill loved one; deal with a loved one’s military deployment; find safety from sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence; heal from their own serious illness; or take time to deal with the death of a loved one,” the White House said in July.
The pandemic also resulted in a disproportionate number of women being unable to return to the workforce due to issues arising around child care or parental leave. These new programs would increase the probability of new mothers re-entering the workforce, according to the White House, which cited a study of California’s paid family leave policy.
Speaking of the budget framework on Wednesday, Schumer noted that there’s still “a long road to travel” before final approval and enactment.
Senate Republicans were not fans of the overall proposal, which also proposed funds for green energy and vehicles, affordable housing initiatives and expanding Medicare. During the vote, which lasted 14 hours into Wednesday morning, some voiced concerns over inflation and what they saw to be wasteful spending.
Democrats, however, believe the proposed budget would fuel economic growth and raise many Americans above the poverty line.
“We passed a robust budget resolution that would grow the middle-class in the 21st century and give more Americans a chance to get into the middle class,” Schumer said at the press conference.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.