Menendez, Casey, Harris Reintroduce Legislation to Spotlight Federal Spending on Children

Menendez, Casey, Harris Reintroduce Legislation to Spotlight Federal Spending on Children

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), and Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) today reintroduced the Children’s Budget Act and the Focus on Children Act, a package of bills aimed at increasing transparency about federal investment in the health and well-being of our children. The legislation, introduced during Children’s Week 2019, would require the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to produce annual, public reports on proposed and actual federal spending on children’s programs. 

“If we as a nation value our children, then our federal budgets must reflect those values,” said Sen. Menendez. “At a time when so many programs that safeguard their welfare are under assault by the Trump Administration, we need to examine how every budget put forward by this President – and all future Presidents – impacts the well-being of our youngest generation. Together, the Children’s Budget Act and the Focus on Children Act will strengthen congressional oversight and better protect the federal investments we make in America’s children.”

 “More than 9 million children in the United States live in poverty. This neglect of our most precious asset is a blight on our nation,” said Sen. Casey. “In order to ensure resources are adequately helping children, we must have greater transparency in federal spending. That is why I am joining my colleagues in introducing the Focus on Children Act and the Children’s Budget Act so that we can have a better understanding of how to fully equip every child for a bright future.”

“The wellbeing of our children should be our top priority as a society,” said Sen. Harris. “Establishing greater transparency around the resources or lack thereof our government is putting into our young people is the first step to ensuring their success and prosperity. There is much work to be done to properly invest in our children, and this legislation will help ensure our spending decisions reflect this as a national priority.”

“Children make up nearly 25% of our population but receive less than 8% of federal spending,” said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus Campaign for Children. “By requiring the government to provide a full accounting of all federal spending on children, Sens. Harris and Menendez will shine a light on this disparity and pave the way for change. These complementary bills are groundbreaking initiatives.”

Approximately one in five children in the United States live in poverty. In New Jersey, 631,792 or 32% of children live in low-income families, according to the National Center for Children in Poverty.  In FY2018, federal spending dedicated to children stood at just 8.06%, despite children representing 24% of the United States population, and the share of total federal spending on children’s programs decreased 1.7% between 2014 and 2018, according to a report by First Focus.

The Children’s Budget Act would direct the Office of Management and Budget to provide comprehensive, separate accounting of the President’s budget spending on children. The analysis would include:

  • Summaries of the total amount of existing and proposed funding for children and children’s programs;
  • An estimate of current levels of spending on children and children’s programs; and
  • A detailed breakdown of spending on children and children’s programs by agency and initiative.

The Focus on Children Act would direct the Congressional Budget Office to:

  • Provide an estimate of any piece of legislation’s expected impact on children at the request of a House or Senate committee chair or ranking member;
  • Produce several reports to Congress, including an annual report on federal spending on children, an annual report on the President’s budget’s spending on children, and warning reports regarding any fiscal year in which outlays for interest on the public debt exceed spending on children; and
  • Develop and maintain a public website that includes a dashboard highlighting key indicators and an open data portal that provides raw quantitative data on our federal spending on programs for children to the public.

The Children’s Budget Act and the Focus on Children Act have the support of the First Focus Campaign for Children; National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement; Child Care Aware of America; MENTOR: The National Mentoring Partnership; Save the Children Action Network; Communities In Schools, National Office; National Respite Coalition; CREA: Center for Reflection, Education, and Action; Media Voices for Children; the National Association of School Nurses; and Campaign for Youth Justice.

The Children’s Budget Act can be downloaded here.

The Focus on Children Act can be downloaded here.