State, federal budgets need to do more for children

It’s budget season at the Alabama Legislature and in Congress. But many of our state and federal representatives are not doing enough to meet the very real needs of ordinary people.

Gov. Kay Ivey has now proposed an Education Trust Fund budget as well as a General Fund budget, which funds Medicaid, mental health care and other state services. Ivey recommended a needed 4% funding increase for local K-12 schools. But she failed to include funding for two Alabama Arise priorities: public transportation and universal school breakfast. Arise will advocate actively for these critical needs as the budgets move through the Legislature.

Help needed for public schools, public transportation

At the same time, Ivey and education budget committee chairs are pushing HB 129 and SB 61, which would divert at least $100 million annually from K-12 public schools to pay for private school and homeschooling. This proposal would undermine efforts to improve public education and would lay groundwork for even more efforts to defund public schools. 

Ivey’s General Fund budget would provide needed increases for mental health and the Department of Human Resources. But it misses the mark by not requesting money for the Housing Trust Fund and the Public Transportation Trust Fund. Arise will be working during the session to add these critical needs to the final budget. 

Action needed on federal level to help families make ends meet

Federal budgets also have failed to meet critical human needs. A temporary Child Tax Credit (CTC) increase in 2021 cut the national child poverty rate by nearly half, but Congress allowed it to expire. Fortunately, the U.S. House in January passed a bill to expand the CTC for three years. But the Senate has yet to consider the measure.

About 280,000 Alabama children would benefit from the House’s CTC expansion. Arise has urged U.S. Sens. Katie Britt and Tommy Tuberville to approve the CTC expansion quickly and help move thousands of Alabama kids out of poverty.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides nutritious foods for pregnant and postpartum women, babies and toddlers. But WIC faces a budget shortfall because of recent food cost increases and higher participation. Without action by Congress, 92,000 Alabama mothers and young children could lose some or all of their WIC food. Congress must pass budget legislation in March to avoid a federal shutdown, and it’s critical for lawmakers to support our moms and babies by including adequate funding for WIC.