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How the ‘social safety net’ in a $3.5 trillion budget plan might impact families

While the proposal has a ‘rocky’ path ahead, under reconciliation rules, the budget plan’s details could pass with a simple majority

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., speaks to the press on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021.
Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., speaks to the press on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Aug. 24, 2021. Universal preschool, paid family leave, subsidized child care, significant changes to Medicare and more support to care for elderly loved ones are expected to be part of the social safety net priorities being fast-tracked for congressional action this fall.
Amanda Andrade-Rhoades, Associated Press

Universal preschool, paid family leave, subsidized child care, significant changes to Medicare and more support to care for elderly loved ones are expected to be part of the social safety net priorities being fast-tracked for congressional action this fall.

House Democrats this week managed to pass a $3.5 trillion budget plan, which is expected to contain many of the president’s family-focused priorities, along straight party lines. Passage came with an agreement that the infrastructure bill, which had bipartisan support when it passed the Senate a few weeks ago, would also be voted on by Sept. 27. That bill focuses heavily on “hard” infrastructure improvements to transportation systems like roads and airports, utilities and other public works.

The Senate earlier passed a $3.5 trillion budget plan, which has been called “soft” infrastructure. Because it is a blueprint, not a bill, the details must be worked out and placed in legislation. But the legislation it engenders would not be subject to a filibuster in the Senate, requiring just a simple majority to pass.

“Not only are we building the physical infrastructure of America, we are building the human infrastructure of America to enable many more people to participate in the success of our economy and the growth of our society,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Tuesday.

Monday, she wrote a letter to House Democrats telling them not to “squander ... a once-in-a-generation opportunity to create historic change to meet the needs of working families.”

Many aspects of the budget plan were introduced months ago in the president’s American Families Plan. The cost is expected to be borne by tax increases on corporations and on wealthy taxpayers, according to The New York Times. CNBC reported “the plan would ‘prohibit’ new taxes on families making less than $400,000 a year, small businesses and family farms.”

CNN predicted the path forward will be rocky. While some Republicans support the infrastructure proposal, which was hammered together by a bipartisan group, the Democrats have been split on the budget plan. And CNBC reported that at least two moderate Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin, of West Virginia, and Kyrsten Sinema, of Arizona, don’t approve of the high price tag.

“Officials are keenly aware the path for both remains complex and filled with potential pitfalls — something that the last several days, punctuated by the split between a group of nine moderate House Democrats and the progressive elements of the caucus, laid bare,” according to CNN.

Again, the details need to be worked out. But among the expected components targeting families are:

Paid family leave. The Biden-Harris plan calls for limited paid leave for parents with new children (up to 12 weeks) or for workers with a serious health issue or who care for a loved one. It also could cover injury or illness related to military deployment, domestic violence, sexual assault or connected to grieving a loved one’s death, New America reports.

Free education, including two years of universal preschool and two years of free community college. Money is included in the American Families Plan proposal for “improving teacher training and support so that our schools become engines of growth at every level,” the White House said.

The budget reconciliation bill could also expand the Pell Grant to help more students pay for higher education.

Child care support for low-income workers and also to boost the child care workforce.

Extension of key tax cuts for low-income workers and families, including the child tax credit, earned income tax credit, and the child and dependent care tax credit. Many of them were temporarily bolstered because of the pandemic.

Lower the age for Medicare eligibility and boost coverage. What that age would be has been batted back and forth, but President Joe Biden has suggested he’d like to see the age lowered to 60. Changes could also include covering dental, vision and hearing.

Create a path to legal permanent status for immigrants here illegally.

Affordable housing. Money is included to shepherd legislation for more affordable housing and public housing projects.