On March 11, 2021, President Joe Biden signed into law a robust COVID-19 economic relief package. The relief package – known as the American Rescue Plan Act – includes provisions that will provide immediate relief for young children and families, as well as much-needed funding for child care and infant and maternal health.
This historic investment in young children and their families was made possible because of the tireless advocacy efforts of parents, family members, early childhood professionals, community leaders, business owners, and advocates like you. Through countless emails, phone calls, tweets, and meetings with members of Congress, early childhood advocates across Ohio and the nation were able to ensure that the needs of infants, young children, and families were elevated in the American Rescue Plan Act.
So what’s in the American Rescue Plan Act? Among many important provisions that serve children, families, and communities, the recovery plan includes funding for early learning and child care, economic stability for families, and infant and maternal health.
Early Learning & Child Care
Before the pandemic, only 35% of Ohio’s infants and toddlers were accessing high-quality publicly funded child care – mostly due to the lack of available infant-toddler child care providers in Ohio. Unfortunately, the pandemic has only exacerbated our child care crisis as child care providers across the state have closed their doors permanently due to the high cost of providing care, low enrollment, and the inability to find early childhood educators due to low wages, little-to-no employee benefits, and high-stress from the job.
The American Rescue Plan Act supports child care providers, professionals, and infants and toddlers by doing the following:
Investing $39 billion in child care, with $15 billion in funding going to the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) – which helps fund each state’s publicly funded child care and child care quality rating system – and $24 billion to create a fund to stabilize the child care industry. Ohio is expected to receive nearly $1.3 billion total in child care funding, with more than $500 million going to the Child Care and Development Block Grant and nearly $800 million to the stabilization fund
Investing $1 billion nationally for Head Start and Early Head Start programs.
Infant and Maternal Health
Eighty percent of brain development occurs during the first three years of child’s life, laying either a strong or weak foundation for future success. During this time, it is crucial that we invest in moms and babies to give them a strong start in life.
The American Rescue Act supports moms and babies by doing the following:
Granting states the ability to expand postpartum coverage to 12 months after birth for all Medicaid-eligible women without going through the onerous Medicaid waiver process.
Investing $150 million for the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting (MIECHV) Program, which will support Ohio’s Help Me Grow evidence-based home visiting program.
Providing an additional $250 million to support Part C Early Intervention.
Investing $390 million in the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.
Economic Stability for Families
Over the past year, families have experienced great uncertainties and financial hardships due to the pandemic. However, even before the pandemic, 47% of all infants and toddlers were living in poverty (at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line).
The American Rescue Act aims to alleviate child and family poverty by doing the following:
Providing a minimum of $1,400 in direct payments to qualifying families and additional funding up to $1,400 for each dependent. Click here to learn more about who is eligible and how much you are expected to receive.
Expanding the child tax credit to up to $3,600 per child under the age of 6 and allows the credit to be fully refundable with payments sent to families by the IRS throughout the year and in advance of their tax filing. Experts have suggested that this enhanced child tax credit has the potential to cut child poverty in half. You can learn more about the tax credit by clicking here.
Extending $300 per week unemployment benefits until September 6, 2021.
Adding $43 billion in funding for emergency rental assistance and a 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits.
The American Rescue Plan Act provides crucial investments in programs and policies that support young children and their families. However, policymakers at the state-level also have an important role to play in ensuring that all Ohio infants, children, pregnant women, and their families have access to high-quality programs and evidence-based interventions that support early learning and healthy development. Ohio’s ongoing state budget process provides state policymakers an opportunity to invest in Ohio’s youngest children, families, and communities. Learn more about Groundwork Ohio’s state budget advocacy, including how you can engage in the process, by clicking here.