Report: Federal spending on children rose to 4-year high in 2021 | Friday Morning Coffee

The share of federal spending on children rose to 11.2 percent in 2021, a 3.5 percent increase over 2020, a new report concludes

November 12, 2021 7:14 am
Teacher and students in a classroom.

(Getty Images)

Good Friday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

From lost schooling and mask mandates to a concern over a rise in abuse cases, the fate and future of America’s children was one of the biggest public policy debates of the COVID-19 pandemic.

And a new report underlines the stakes of that debate, finding that the share of federal spending on children rose to 11.2 percent in 2021, a 3.5 percent increase over 2020, reversing a four-year trend in which the share of federal spending shrank to just 7.6 percent of the U.S. budget.

“The pandemic and its economic fallout revealed decades of delayed maintenance on the systems that protect the health and well-being of our children,” Bruce Lesley, the president of the advocacy group First Focus on Children, which authored the report, said in a statement.

“Massive investments in early childhood funding, income supports, education and food programs merely stabilized our kids. And yet, some in Congress are working to reverse even these gains,” he continued.

Indeed, even with that increase in federal spending, American children face significant challenges, as the report makes clear. For instance:

  • “The United States has the 10th highest rate of child poverty among the 38 countries in the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development,
  • “In 2019, more than 1.5 million U.S. students were experiencing homelessness,
  • “Nearly 15 million children experienced hunger and food insecurity in 2020,
  • “Up to 99 percent of students in lower- and middle-income countries have suffered closures of schools and learning spaces due to the pandemic, and
  • “Nearly 4.3 million children did not have health insurance in 2020—a 7% rise over 2019,” the report found.
(Source: First Focus on Children)

“For more than a decade, this report has documented a sharp decline in the share of federal spending for kids. But, in the wake of COVID-19, Congress responded with long-overdue investments in early childhood, child care, education, child nutrition, health care, and income support and reversed that downward spending trend,” the document’s authors wrote.

Much of the increase in federal spending comes via the appropriations authorized under the American Rescue Plan Act approved by Congress and signed into law by President Joe Biden, the organization’s “Children’s Budget,” notes.

And while that funding is temporary, the report also notes that the White House is seeking to extend that funding, notably the Child Tax Credit, which is part of the administration’s sprawling Build Back Better plan. The final payments in the current program, which is already being credited for providing a badly needed infusion of aid to millions of families, are due on Nov. 15 and Dec. 15, Fortune reports.

If the White House can get an agreement, the payments of $250 and $300 a month would continue into 2022, sending aid to 35 million American households, or 90 percent of those with children, according to Fortune.

And that makes continued support all the more urgent, the report’s authors argue.

“Money matters—numerous studies confirm it. And investments in kids deliver a high return-on-investment,” they wrote. “Investing in child care and early childhood education, and adopting an expanded and improved Child Tax Credit … will enrich the lives and well-being of children.”

(Our news partners at City & State PA will recognize forty individuals under the age of 40, who have already distinguished themselves in their fields during a 6 p.m. reception on Nov. 16 at Level 2 in Harrisburg. The event features keynote remarks by House Minority Leader Joanna McClinton, D-Philadelphia, and additional remarks by state Reps. Patty Kim, D-Dauphin, and Jason Ortitay, R-Washington.)

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Seven years after it was first filed, a landmark case challenging how Pennsylvania funds its public schools goes to trial today in Commonwealth Court. Marley Parish has what you need to know about the players — and what’s at stake.

Three municipalities in Pittsburgh’s southern suburbs are suing the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation over a $2 billion plan to pay for the replacement of nine bridges with future toll revenue, Stephen Caruso reports.

In a special edition of The Numbers RacketCassie Miller runs the numbers on America’s veteran population.

Allegheny County officials say a recent spike in COVID-19 cases is showing no signs of abating any time soon, our partners at Pittsburgh City Paper report.

Domestic violence is fueling a rise in gun deaths among women in Philadelphia, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

America’s borders have reopened to tourists, but remain closed for those seeking asylum, our sibling site, the Arizona Mirror, reports.

On our Commentary Page, a formerly incarcerated Philadelphian says it’s time for Pennsylvania to end incarceration for juveniles. And Philadelphia City Councilmember Isiah Thomas says the state needs to follow the city’s lead on decriminalizing minor traffic stops.

En la Estrella-Capital: En Johnstown, Pa. funcionarios buscan detener la marea de sobredosisY a partir de enero, las escuelas K-12 de Pa. pueden modificar y terminar el mandato de la mascarilla universal. 

((c) Jirapong –

GOP gubernatorial hopeful Bill McSwain is waging a social media war over his daughter’s delayed mail-in ballot, the Inquirer reports.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, could be the biggest roadblock to a legislative gift banSpotlight PA reports (via the Post-Gazette).

PennLive updates on the latest on the legal furor over the Wolf administration’s school mask mandate.

In Lancaster County, many districts remain mask-optional despite the ongoing legal battle over the state’s order, LancasterOnline reports.

Despite criticism of their mail-in ballot procedures, officials in York County are ready to certify local election results, the York Dispatch reports.

An anniversary gala for Reading Area Community College raised $1.2 million in scholarship aid, the Reading Eagle reports.

The Morning Call looks at how Lehigh Valley nursing homes have been dealing with a statewide staffing shortage.

The Citizens’ Voice looks at the impact of rising meat prices on local families (paywall).

Glen Mills School, shuttered over a child abuse scandal, wants to reopen under a new nameWHYY-FM reports.

After a court fight, the Wolf administration has handed over judicial appointment records sought by two news organizations, the Associated Press reports (via WITF-FM).

The Erie School District has petitioned the state to end its financial oversight of the once fiscally troubled district, GoErie reports.

In 42 states, there are more jobs than jobless reports.

The Biden administration’s budget bill would mostly raise taxes for the nation’s richest 1 percent, a Roll Call analysis indicates.

Here’s your #Pennsylvania Instagram of the Day:


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What Goes On
11:30 a.m., Capitol Steps: Rally for the start of the school funding trial.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out in advance this morning to veteran lobbyist Morgan Plant; to Tony Ross, of the United Way, and to state Rep. Ryan Bizzarro, D-Erie, all of whom celebrate on Saturday. Congratulations, folks, enjoy the day.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s an old favorite from singer-songwriter Amy MacDonald for your Friday morning, it’s ‘The Furthest Star.’

Friday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link
Pittsburgh beat the visiting Florida Panthers 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday night. Pens’ goalie Tristan Jarry made 36 saves on the way to the win.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.