Menendez, Harris, Casey Introduce Legislation to Shine Light on Spending Programs for Children

Menendez, Harris, Casey Introduce Legislation to Shine Light on Spending Programs for Children

U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced the Children’s Budget Act and the Focus on Children Act, a package of bills designed to shine a light on and provide a full accounting of all federal funding that is spent on behalf of our children.  The legislation would require the President’s budget request to include a separate accounting of proposed spending on children and provide a similar accounting from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) on legislation before Congress.

“The well-being of America’s children cannot continue to be an afterthought, but must be a national priority.  It should be the responsibility of every president, regardless of party, to outline how their proposals would impact our youngest generation,” said Sen. Menendez. “It is also vital that we ensure robust Congressional oversight of federal programs charged with safeguarding the welfare of a quarter of our population.  While we have witnessed the Administration’s attempts at diminishing the already deficient and depleted funding dedicated to our children, it is our responsibility to bring transparency to our government’s investment in our nation’s future. This president’s shameful disregard for our country’s future means now, more than ever, it’s vital to bring children into the equation.”

“One of our government’s top priority should be the health and well-being of children. This Administration’s policies – from threatening CHIP funding to separating children from their parents at the border – demonstrate how far they are from that goal,” said Sen. Harris. “We need complete transparency of the resources or lack thereof our government put into our children. Without it, we will fail to help them reach their full potential. These bills will lead to more efficient spending and make the success of our children the national priority it should be.”

“Our children are our nation’s most precious asset,” said Sen. Casey. “This legislation will ensure that we have greater transparency in federal spending on young people in America. I’m proud to join with my colleagues in introducing these measures so that we can better advocate for the resources needed to give every child a strong start in life.” 

“Children represent nearly a quarter of America’s population, but receive a meager 8 percent of our federal budget. Policymakers must make children a national priority, and to do so they need accurate and comprehensive data that provides a window into how children fare compared to all other federal programs. I applaud Senators Harris, Menendez and Casey for their leadership in introducing complementary budget bills--by directing CBO and OMB to regularly analyze federal investments in children’s programs, this legislative package will help keep our policymakers informed and accountable as they make critical funding decisions affecting our children and families now and into the future,” said Bruce Lesley, President of First Focus Campaign for Children.

Children currently represent 24 percent of the United States population. Yet, according to estimates from First Focus, programs that help children are getting a smaller and smaller share of the federal budget. In Fiscal Year 2017, federal spending dedicated to children reached an all-time low of 7.75 percent, and total spending on children’s programs decreased 5.5 percent between 2014 and 2017. This trend highlights the critical need for a clear and accessible tool that identifies the impact of federal spending decisions on our children. Spending on children is currently difficult to estimate because it is split between mandatory and discretionary parts of the budget and it is spread out over many departments and dozens of agencies and bureaus. 

The Children’s Budget Act would direct OMB to provide a comprehensive, separate accounting of the President’s budget’s spending on children as part of the President’s budget request.

The Focus on Children Act would direct CBO 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.