President Unveils American Families Plan
American Families Plan
On Wednesday, April 28, during a joint session of Congress, President Biden formally announced the American Families Plan (AFP), a $1.8 trillion recovery plan that includes major investments in education, childcare, family and medical leave, and health coverage. The AFP, along with the previously introduced American Jobs Plan (AJP), would invest a total of $3.8 trillion to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and economy. The plan would spend $200 billion on providing universal pre-K to all 3- and 4-year olds, which would affect 5 million children and save the average family $13,000. It would provide another $225 billion into the broader child-care sector using the Child Development Block Grant program. That funding would go to providers, raising wages for workers, and improving child care affordability by requiring that families making less than 150 percent of the median state income spend no more than 7 percent of their income on care for children under age 5. The lowest-income families would receive free child care. This is in line with Senator Patty Murray (WA) and Congressman Bobby Scott’s Child Care for Working Families Act. These investments would be on top of a $25 million set-aside for child care facilities included in the American Jobs Plan. It calls for employees participating in universal pre-K and Head Start programs to receive a wage of at least $15 an hour and it would also dictate that child care workers earn a $15 minimum wage.
The bill would also set aside $225 billion to create the country’s first national paid family and medical leave program, which would increase over 10 years to provide workers with 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave, including at least two-thirds pay, capped at $4,000 a month. The lowest-wage workers would be eligible to receive 80 percent of their wages. After 10 years, workers would also be eligible for three days a year of bereavement leave. The plan also calls on Congress to pass the Healthy Families Act, which would enable workers to accrue a week of paid sick leave. Over 30 million workers, including 67 percent of low-wage workers, do not have access to a single paid sick day, according to the White House.
The President’s plan calls for unemployment insurance to be automatically adjusted based on economic conditions. Currently, jobless benefits are administered through antiquated state systems that are slow to respond to federal-level directives, which has caused many people to suffer a lapse in benefits during the pandemic. The plan includes extensions of Democrats’ recent expansions of the Child Tax Credit, the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit.
The AFP calls for an over $80 billion investment in Pell Grants to help increase the award to $14,000 per student. In addition, it calls for $62 billion to be invested in completion and retention rates at community colleges that serve students from disadvantaged communities as well as providing wraparound services ranging from child care and mental health services to faculty and peer mentoring. It would also invest $109 billion into providing two years of free community college, including for Dreamers.
It calls for $46 billion for historically Black colleges and universities, tribal colleges and other minority-focused institutions. That includes a $39 billion program to subsidize two years of tuition to these schools for qualifying families, $5 billion to expand existing grants to the schools and $2 billion to develop a pipeline of skilled health care workers.
The plan proposes $9 billion to train, equip and diversify American teachers to better prepare high school graduates for the real world, which would help boost earnings and increase employment opportunities in the long-term.
President Biden is proposing to invest $45 billion to expand summer EBT credits to all eligible children nationwide. $25 billion of this would be towards making the program permanent.
Many of the proposals in the American Families Plan satisfy Biden’s campaign promises. The plan would be funded by increasing income taxes on Americans making over $400,000 and various other tax hikes on the wealthy - spread over 10 years.
Selling his American Families Plan to both the public and Congress is now the next step on the President’s agenda as his administration looks beyond its first 100 days. Democrats may need to revisit reconciliation to push Biden’s tax proposals and he will have to maneuver opposition from both sides of the aisle: Republicans object to most, if not all, of the increases, and fellow Democrats have their own demands.
Click here to read the White House Fact Sheet on the American Families Plan.
Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment
On Monday, April 26, President Joe Biden signed an executive order that established the White House Task Force on Worker Organizing and Empowerment, which is dedicated to mobilizing the federal government’s policies, programs, and practices to empower workers to organize and successfully bargain with their employers. Vice President Kamala Harris will Chair the Task Force while Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh will serve as Vice-Chair. The Task Force will include more than twenty cabinet members and heads of other federal agencies who will take a ‘whole-of-government approach’ to empower workers. Click here to learn more about the Task Force.
Increasing the Minimum Wage for Federal Contractors
On Tuesday, April 27, President Joe Biden issued an executive order (EO) increasing the minimum wage for federal contractors. The EO requires federal contractors to pay their workers a $15 minimum wage starting next year, which will raise the wages of hundreds of thousands of workers - many of whom are women and minorities.
Click here to access the executive order.
On Thursday, April 29, the Senate Special Committee on Aging held the hearing “A Changing Workforce: Supporting Older Workers Amid the COVID-19 Pandemic and Beyond” to examine how the COVID-19 pandemic has affected older Americans’ employment and financial security and what must be done to help them get back on their feet as the nation’s economy recovers. Senator Bob Casey (PA), chairman of the committee, highlighted his bipartisan, bicameral Protecting Older Workers Against Discrimination Act (POWADA) and the importance of President Biden’s American Jobs Plan for spurring economic growth and supporting older workers. POWADA would restore critical protections in the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and make it easier for employees to prove when they are a victim of age discrimination in the workplace. Older workers are currently required to meet a significantly higher burden of proof when alleging age discrimination than is required of workers alleging other forms of workplace discrimination.
Witnesses at the hearing included Aging Solutions Advocate and Author Elizabeth White; Economic Policy Institute Senior Economist Dr. Elise Gould; National Council on Aging President and CEO Ramsey Alwin; and Palmetto Synthetics President David Poston.
Click here to access information from the hearing.
On Wednesday, April 28, U.S. Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh testified before the House Appropriations Labor-Health and Human Services-Education Subcommittee on President Biden’s fiscal year 2022 Department of Labor budget request.
Click here to access the hearing.
Initial Jobless Claims
In the week ending April 24, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 553,000, a decrease of 13,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised up by 19,000 from 547,000 to 566,000. The 4-week moving average was 611,750, a decrease of 44,000 from the previous week's revised average. This is the lowest level for this average since March 14, 2020 when it was 225,500. The previous week's average was revised up by 4,750 from 651,000 to 655,750. The advance seasonally adjusted insured unemployment rate was 2.6 percent for the week ending April 17, unchanged from the previous week's unrevised rate.
Click here to access the full report.