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7 Reasons the Ryan April Fool's Day Budget Is No Joke

House Budget Committee Chair Paul Ryan (R-WI) chose this morning, April 1, to release his Fiscal Year 2015 budget.  Although calling a budget that guts programs helping struggling families and gives millionaires and corporations trillions of dollars in new tax cuts “The Path to Prosperity” is laughable, this budget is no joke.

  1. It slashes the federal budget by more than $5.1 trillion over the next 10 years, and programs serving low-income people—mostly women and their families—bear the brunt of the cuts.  The cuts are $500 billion deeper than in the draconian budget Rep. Ryan proposed  last year.
  2. The budget repeals the Affordable Care Act , slashes and dismantles Medicaid, and replaces the Medicare guarantee with a limited subsidy. 
  3. It slashes SNAP/Food Stamps, limits eligibility, and turns the program into a block grant that would not respond to increased need during recessions.   
  4. It cuts the funding available for other safety net programs, including Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Section 8 Housing Subsidies, the Low-Income Energy Program Assistance Program, and more. 

Child Care and Head Start Success Stories Show Need for More Investment - Not Cuts

Congressman Paul Ryan released his budget blueprint today and, although it does not provide detailed proposals on funding for each federal program, his budget would severely reduce overall discretionary funding, a category that encompasses many programs that benefit women and their families.  Meeting Ryan’s budget targets would likely require deep cuts in programs such as child care assistance and Head Start—programs that enable families to make ends meet and to ultimately improve their lives.  The positive impacts of these and other supports  are vividly illustrated by the stories collected in a new booklet by Half in Ten.  Our American Story: Personal Stories on the War on Poverty’s Legacy [PDF] compiles the stories of 30 individuals who have been helped by programs that have given parents the chance to work and obtain education credentials that enable them to gain more stable and better-paying employment, and that have given their children learning opportunities they need to succeed in the future.

In one of these stories, Rebecca of Barnesville, Minnesota describes how she and her family have succeeded thanks to safety net programs: Read more »

President's FY15 Budget Proposal Highlights Early Learning

There is good news for young children in President Obama’s budget proposal. The President demonstrates his continued commitment to ensuring children have a strong start by proposing significant new investments in early learning. These investments would support more high-quality options for infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children. The investments would be funded through base discretionary and mandatory funding as well as through a new Opportunity, Growth, and Security Initiative. This initiative would be supported by savings from changes to mandatory programs and the reduction of a tax break for wealthy individuals, with the additional funding split between defense and domestic programs, including early learning programs. The President’s budget would also fund a major expansion of high-quality preschool programs for four-year-olds through a tobacco tax increase, as proposed in last year’s budget. Read more »

A Step Forward for Early Learning

Congress has finally drafted a budget to cover all federal spending for FY 2014 — an omnibus appropriations bill — and thanks to the growing recognition of the importance of investing in high-quality early care and education, and tireless efforts by advocates, it includes significant increases in funding for early learning, despite a very austere budget context. Read more »

Faces Behind the Numbers: The Human Cost of Sequester Cuts

The squeaky wheel gets oiled. Despite my parents’ insistence that patience (and appropriate volume) is a virtue, I learned early on that the person who pipes up and makes a scene gets an audience. Capitol Hill seems to have learned the same lesson.

During the ongoing budget debates, the voices we’ve heard are loud ones – powerful politicians, special interest groups, and newsmakers – who often get what they want when they want it. (You may remember that Congress speedily undid cuts to air traffic controllers when they were in a rush to fly home to their districts last spring.) The quieter voices – those with less influence and, too often, more on the line in this tough economy – have been drowned out. A new report from NDD United aims to change all that.

NDD Across America Map

The group, a coalition of organizations including NWLC, is dedicated to ending sequestration and protecting nondefense discretionary (NDD) programs. These programs must be funded each year through the annual budget process. Discretionary programs are divided into two groups: defense and nondefense. NDD programs really are the “everything else” category of spending, and they critically affect Americans’ daily lives. NDD programs cover food safety, clean water, public transit, education, health, security… The list goes on and on. Read more »

Shutdown Employment Update: 800,000 Furloughs and Counting

As a result of the government shutdown, the Bureau of Labor Statistics did not release its monthly jobs report that it was scheduled to release today. Even without the BLS jobs report we know that the government shutdown is changing the jobs picture dramatically. 

At least 800,000 federal workers are being furloughed without pay for the duration of the shutdown. Some of these workers have already applied for unemployment benefits, which would need to be returned if they are later issued back pay. Unemployment insurance eligibility requirements vary by state, but in general, employees will be eligible for unemployment if their pay is withheld for seven or more consecutive days. In states with high numbers of federal workers, unemployment offices are already struggling to process the influx of applications

Beyond the dramatic national numbers, stories have poured in from across the country about the number of government programs and the people they serve affected by the shutdown. The shuttering of programs not only strains the lives of already vulnerable families but also causes the loss of wages and jobs for the people who run those programs. 

For example, as a result of the shutdown, states are forced to close 23 Head Start programs that serve 19,000 children and employ thousands of staff. Read more »

How the Shutdown Is Hurting Low-Income Families

We’re on Day 4 of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years. Here in D.C., the subway and the streets are noticeably emptier without thousands of federal workers on the job. And while a few might be enjoying their time off to take advantage of the shutdown-themed happy hours around town, most are worried about the financial consequences of a prolonged shutdown for themselves and their families (especially since many have already faced pay freezes and furloughs thanks to the sequester and other budget cuts).

But it’s not just the 800,000 furloughed federal workers who are affected by the shutdown. Some federal contractors won’t get paid, either – including workers making close to minimum wage who are unlikely to have much in the way of savings to fall back on. And low-income families who depend on federally funded programs are suffering, too. For example:

Stop Tax Haven Abuse—Another Way to Fight Poverty and Inequality

It’s been a roller coaster week, and it’s not over yet. Disappointing news from the Census Bureau that we didn’t make progress reducing poverty or the wage gap last year. Exciting news from the Department of Labor about a new rule that brings home care workers one giant step closer to fair pay. The threat that the House will vote later today to slash vital SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits for millions of Americans and vote tomorrow to extend the sequester for several more months. The sequester vote will include yet another effort to defund the Affordable Care Act.

But even in Congress, there are some encouraging developments. Yesterday, several Members of Congress turned out for a special game of Chutes and Ladders (with hula hoops!) to show their support for investing in early learning. And today, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and cosponsors Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act to close offshore tax loopholes. Read more »

Will Congress Pay as Much Attention to Children as Airplanes?

Congress recently acted with uncharacteristic speed to undo the cuts to air traffic controllers implemented as part of the “sequester” (the across-the-board federal budget cuts), before flying home to their districts for a weeklong break. While making sure that the cuts did not cause them delays at the airport, they ignored the cuts that are affecting vulnerable women and children across the country. These include cuts to a range of crucial supports for families such as child care assistance and Head Start.

The National’s Women’s Law Center’s new fact sheet describes the importance of child care assistance in helping parents afford the care they need to work and support their families, and ensure their children are in safe, reliable care that fosters their learning and growth. Congress should be investing more in child care assistance, not chipping away at the help there is through arbitrary budget cuts. Read more »

Jon Stewart Agrees – Early Learning is a Critical Investment

On Wednesday night, the President’s new Early Learning Initiative got a moment in the spotlight on the Daily Show. Host Jon Stewart, in that way only he knows how, highlighted the importance of investing in children’s early years. My trying to recap the clip will certainly erase all the humor, so I’ll let you watch it for yourself.



Think of life like a marathon (just go with me on this metaphor). Many of America’s most vulnerable children are starting five miles behind everyone else - yet we expect them to finish on par with their peers. Expanding the access these children have to high quality early learning opportunities will be revolutionary. Read more »