The recent passage of a bill by both the House and Senate to fund the federal government through early next year has averted a shutdown, but it comes at a cost, particularly for children’s programs. This funding extension relies heavily on continuing resolutions, allowing policymakers to sidestep difficult decisions about resource allocation. While this approach maintains current spending levels, it does little to address the long-term needs of crucial programs for children.
The Impact of Continuing Resolutions on Children’s Programs
Continuing resolutions, while preventing a government shutdown, tend to keep discretionary programs, including those vital for children’s well-being, at status quo levels. With minimal adjustments for inflation and no consideration for economic growth, these measures do little to clarify long-term spending priorities.
According to the latest Urban Institute Kids’ Share publication, federal expenditures on children have been on the decline since 2021 and are projected to stagnate in the coming years. This concerning trend affects approximately 10 percent of the federal budget, encompassing essential programs related to health, education, housing, and community services.
Challenges in Non-Discretionary Programs
Even within non-discretionary tax and entitlement programs, stability is not guaranteed for spending on children. The largest child subsidy, the child tax credit, is not adjusted for inflation, and recent legislative changes have led to reductions in its value. Meanwhile, programs like Social Security, designed to grow with or faster than economic growth, often leave children’s programs with a diminishing share of national income and total government spending.
The Long-Term Consequences
As current laws stand, children’s programs are slated to receive an ever-smaller share of total federal spending. This trajectory is worrisome, as investments in children yield significant long-term benefits. Numerous studies demonstrate that targeted investments in early childhood education and poverty reduction can result in returns as high as $10 for every dollar spent.
The Call for Legislative Reforms
The status quo, driven by continuing resolutions and a reluctance to reassess fiscal priorities, leaves little room for reprioritizing spending in favor of children. Urgent legislative reforms are needed to ensure that children do not continue to lose out in the budgetary balancing act.
Jotting it down
While the recent bill to fund the government has averted an immediate crisis, the reliance on continuing resolutions underscores the need for a more comprehensive and forward-thinking approach to budgeting, especially concerning programs that impact the well-being of children. Policymakers must recognize the long-term benefits of investing in children and enact reforms that prioritize their future. Without such reforms, the current trajectory risks undermining the potential of future generations.