BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — On Oct. 28, President Joe Biden announced he and Democrats have finally agreed on what the White House calls a “historic” framework for Build Back Better (BBB), a broad domestic policy package.
They say the package will allocate $1.85 trillion to invest in childcare and caregiving, combat climate change, expand affordable healthcare coverage and strengthen the middle-class.
The White House also released a brief that details how BBB would impact Alabama, saying it ultimately “will bring down costs that have held back families in Alabama for decades by cutting taxes and making child care, home care, education, health care and housing more affordable.”
Specifically, The Build Back Better framework would reduce the cost of childcare for families earning under 2.5 times the Alabama median income (in total about $195,667 for a family of 4). The average annual cost of a child care center for a toddler is $7,592 in Alabama. If an Alabama family has two young children in need of care meaning they would on average spend 17% of their income on child care for one year. BBB will ensure these families pay no more than 7% of their income on child care by providing access to affordable child care for approximately 301,583 children under the age of five.
Build Back Better will also provide universal, free preschool for every 3- and 4-year-old in America. In Alabama, only 23% of 3- and 4-year-olds have access to publicly-funded preschool. For those who can’t access publically funded preschool, it costs about $8,600 per year. BBB will expand access to free, high-quality preschool to more than 110,000 additional 3- and 4- year-olds per year while also increasing the quality of preschool for all children. Parents will have multiple options for their preschoolers like public schools, child care providers and Head Start.
19% of children in Alabama live with food insecurity. To combat this, BBB will expand access to free school meals to an additional 208,000 students during the school year and provide approximately 467,378 students with resources to purchase food over the summer.
Currently, the average cost of a 2-year college degree in Alabama is $4,929 per year, and a 4-year-degree rings up at an average of $11,124. To help relieve the financial strain of higher education for students in Alabama and across the nation, Pell Grant awards will be increased by $550 for students at public and private non-profit institutions. This will boost support for the 85,000 students in Alabama who rely on Pell. The framework intends to invest in Alabama’s 25 minority-serving institutions including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities and Hispanic-serving institutions.
BBB will also invest in training programs to prepare workers for high-quality jobs in fast-growing sectors like public health, IT and clean energy. 23 public community colleges in Alabama will be eligible for new grants to develop and improve training programs.
The need for high-quality and affordable healthcare for Americans is only growing, but high costs and care shortages mean families often provide care on their own. BBB will expand access to home- and community-based care, especially to Alabama’s senior citizens and disabled citizens, and improve the conditions and wages of caregiving jobs.
Approximately 127,000 Alabamians fall into the Medicaid coverage gap, and the Build Back Better framework will expand Medicaid to cover individuals falling into the gap. BBB will also extend the American Rescue Plan’s health insurance premium reductions for those who buy coverage on their own through 2025. Medicare will additionally be expanded to provide coverage and care to senior citizens. With this framework, 213,000 uninsured people in Alabamwill gain coverage and 97,000 individuals will be able to save hundreds of dollars per year.
The US has set a goal for 2030 to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to half of what emissions were in 2005 and create good-paying union jobs, grow domestic industries and advance environmental justice. BBB will establish the Civilian Climate Corps to carry out this goal and create jobs for Americans that will focus on conserving public lands, bolstering community resilience and addressing the changing climate.
The Build Back Better framework will expand rental assistance for Alabama, where 260,000 renters are rent-burdened, spending above 30% of their income on rent. Nationwide, over 1 million affordable housing units will be rehabilitated or constructed to provide more affordable housing options.
16% of children under the age of 18 in Alabama lived in poverty prior to the pandemic, and the Build Back Better framework will bolster financial security by providing a tax cut of up to $1,500 for 274,300 low-wage workers in Alabama by extending the American Rescue Plan’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) expansion. The Child Tax Credit increases of $300/month per child under 6 or $250/month per child ages 6 to 17 will also be extended, and BBB also includes permanent refundability for the Child Tax Credit.
Though his party has finally agreed on the framework, getting it passed has proved challenging for Biden. Support among some democrats hasn’t been easy to garner, and Biden can only spare a limited number of votes in the House. AP reports that work continued well through Thursday night and Friday morning but no decision has come down yet. If the framework passes, it will go to the Senate, where the 50-50 split is also a major hurdle leaving no votes to spare.