President Biden’s Build Back Better plan is making its way through Congress now. The Build Back Better bill already passed the House and is now in the Senate. This bill has the potential to be transformative for Pennsylvania and the nation. The provisions of the Build Back Better bill can reverse the trends that make it harder for working families to get by, reverse the trends of escalating climate change, and reverse the trends of economic inequality.
Our BBB holiday wish list:
- Universal Pre-K – universal and free preschool for all 3- and 4-year-olds, the largest expansion of universal and free education in more than 100 years. Only 16% of the 244,279 3- and 4-year-olds in PA have access to publicly funded preschool. Those who don’t have access to a publicly funded program pay $8,600 a year on average. The BBB legislation will enable the Commonwealth to expand access to free, high-quality preschool to 199,580 additional 3- and 4-year-olds per year and increase the quality of preschool for all children. Parents will be able to send their children to the preschool setting of their choice—from public schools to childcare providers to Head Start. Research over the last twenty years has shown that quality preschool education leads to lifelong benefits. Children who go to good preschools do better in school, are more likely to graduate from college, have higher incomes, and are also more likely to marry and stay married. Providing access to preschool for every child is a policy that’s critical to reducing economic and racial inequity in the next generation. Affordable preschool also allows more parents to work, leading to a bigger workforce which will encourage businesses to invest and expand in our state, leading to faster economic growth that benefits all of us.
- Affordable Childcare – lowering the cost of childcare for American families of four earning less than $300,000. Childcare is a huge burden for families in our state. The annual average cost of sending a young child to a childcare center in PA is $11,402. A family with two young children would, on average, spend 22% of their income on childcare each year. The lack of affordable childcare keeps women out of the job market, which is why the share of fathers in the workforce is 15 percentage points higher than the share of mothers. The BBB bill will provide access to childcare for 710,000 children up to the age of 5 for families earning less than 2.5 times the state median income—which is $241,946 for a family of four. These families will pay no more than 7% of their income on high-quality childcare. This would be a tremendous help to most families with young children. Parents can redirect money they would normally pay for childcare towards other necessities.
- Child Tax Credit – up to $3,600 (or $300 per month) in tax cuts per child for more than 35 million households by extending the American Rescue Plan’s expanded Child Tax Credit, which benefits 90% of American children by providing up to $300/month/child under 6 or $250/month/child aged 6 to 17. This would continue the largest one-year reduction in child poverty in And the agreement includes permanent refundability for the Child Tax Credit, which means that families with the lowest incomes would continue to receive the full Child Tax Credit over the long run. The impact of the CTC in PA has been dramatic and would continue. The 892,000 children under 17 who were previously left out of the full $2,000 Child Tax Credit would now continue to benefit from it. The 140,000 children under the age of 18 who were lifted above the poverty line would stay above it. And the additional 171,000 children under 18 who were lifted closer to the poverty line would remain there.
- Paid Family and Medical Leave – establishes 4 weeks of paid family and medical leave for all workers. Nearly every other industrialized nation has this kind of policy to support workers by allowing them to take time off when a new baby or child is brought into their family or when they need to take care of a sick relative or is facing illness themselves.
- Higher Education & Job Training – the average cost of a two-year degree in PA is $5,625 per year and $15,312 per year for a 4-year degree, making it difficult for many potential college students to get the education they want. BBB would increase the maximum Pell Grant awards by $550 for students at public and private nonprofit institutions, supporting the 160,211 students in PA who already rely on the program and making college more affordable to those who cannot attend now. The framework will also invest in our state’s 24 minority-serving institutions and their students, including historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs), tribal colleges and universities (TCUs), and Hispanic-serving institutions (HSIs). The BBB bill also invests in training programs that would prepare Pennsylvania’s workers for high-quality jobs in fast-growing sectors like public health, childcare, manufacturing, IT, and clean energy. Twenty public community colleges in Pennsylvania would have the opportunity to benefit from grants to develop and deliver innovative training programs and expand proven ones.
- Reducing Childhood Hunger – about 15% of children in PA live in food-insecure households, which harms their long-term health and ability to succeed in school. The BBB plan will provide access to free school meals to an additional 251,000 PA students during the school year and enable 947,153 students to purchase food over the summer.
- Health Care – the Build Back Better plan would close the Medicaid coverage gap to help millions of Americans gain health insurance, extend through 2025 the American Rescue Plan’s health insurance premium reductions for those who buy coverage on their own, and help older Americans access affordable hearing care by expanding Medicare. About 122,000 Pennsylvanians who remain uninsured would gain coverage and 125,800 who make up to 400% of the federal poverty line would save hundreds of dollars per year. About 140,000 Pennsylvanians benefited from reduced premiums under the American Rescue Plan and would continue to do so under the BBB bill. In addition, BBB would support maternal health and invest in national preparedness for future pandemics.
- Home Care – affordable, high-quality care for older Americans and people with disabilities in their homes while supporting the workers who provide this care. The need for high-quality, accessible, and affordable care for older Americans and disabled Americans is growing, but too many have to rely on family for unpaid caregiving because the costs of paid care are too high. The BBB bill would expand access to home- and community-based care to more of PA’s seniors and disabled people. And, equally as important, it will improve the quality and wages of caregiving jobs.
- Housing – construction, rehabilitation, and improvement of more than 1 million affordable homes, reducing housing prices for renters and homeowners. In PA, 720,000 renters are “rent-burdened” which means they spend more than 30% of their income on rent. And homeownership remains out of reach for many families. The BBB bill would expand rental assistance for PA renters while also increasing the supply of high-quality housing through the construction and rehabilitation of over 1 million affordable housing units nationwide, with an estimated 40,000 new housing units in our state. It would address the capital needs of the entire public housing stock in our state and includes one of the largest investments in down-payment assistance in history, enabling more first-generation homebuyers to purchase their first home. Down-payment assistance is a major step toward repairing the damage that redlining did in preventing Black families from accumulating wealth through homeownership.
- Civilian Climate Corps – investment in a civilian climate corps that would create an estimated 300,000 jobs. The BBB bill would create a new Civilian Climate Corps, an idea advanced by the ReImagine Appalachia campaign which the Keystone Research Center helps lead. The new CCC would enlist a diverse generation of Pennsylvanians in conserving our public lands, bolstering community resilience, and addressing the changing climate, all while putting good-paying union jobs within reach. In clean energy and in other sectors, BBB would also strengthen domestic manufacturing and supply chains for critical goods, benefiting American businesses, workers, consumers, and communities. (For more on all the climate action provisions of BBB—and the bipartisan infrastructure plan—check out this blog of the ReImagine Appalachia campaign, which Keystone Research Center helps lead.)
- Climate Action and Modernizing the Electric Grid – reducing greenhouse gas pollution by well over one gigaton by 2030 while reducing consumer energy costs and creating thousands of high-quality jobs. The BBB bill puts the U.S. on course to meet its climate targets—a 50%-52% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions to below 2005 levels by 2030—in a way that creates good-paying jobs in unionized trades and clean manufacturing while reducing energy costs for every household. The legislation would make the largest investment in our clean energy economy ever. It would transform buildings, transportation, industry, electricity production and transmission, and agriculture.
- Tax Fairness – BBB would be paid for entirely by the richest Americans and the largest, most profitable corporations while cutting taxes for families with the lowest incomes:
- a 15% minimum tax on the reported profits of large corporations, a separate 15% minimum tax on profits earned by U.S. companies abroad, and tax penalties for companies that have their headquarters in global tax havens.
- an additional 5% tax on incomes exceeding $10 million a year and another 3% tax on incomes above $25 million.
- increased enforcement to ensure that large corporations and the wealthy pay what they owe under existing tax laws.
- an extension of the expanded Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for around 17 million low-wage workers so that low-wage workers without children are not taxed into poverty. The BBB legislation would extend the American Rescue Plan’s EITC expansion. Before the EITC expansion, working adults who were not raising children only received a small credit. The ARP raised the maximum EITC for these “childless adults” from about $530 to $1,500. It also raised the income cap for them to qualify from about $16,000 to at least $21,000 and expanded the eligibility of childless workers to include younger adults aged 19-24 who aren’t full-time students as well as those aged 65 and over. The BBB bill would provide a tax cut for 663,000 low-wage workers in PA by extending and enhancing the EITC expansion.