AUGUSTA, MAINE — James Myall, economic policy analyst at the Maine Center for Economic Policy, released the following statement regarding the American Families Plan, a new legislative package unveiled today by President Joe Biden:
“We have a historic opportunity to build a strong recovery and a more equitable economy, and the American Families Plan puts us one step closer to seizing that opportunity. MECEP calls on Maine’s congressional delegation to move swiftly to build on this proposal to improve the health and economic security of families and children in Maine.
“While the recently enacted American Rescue Plan is already providing much-needed relief to the people of Maine, that relief is temporary. Policymakers can’t stop there. The pandemic and its economic fallout have exposed glaring, long-standing problems that have held back families for decades, with particular harm to Black, brown, indigenous and immigrant people. One in every 12 Mainers were uninsured even before the pandemic, despite progress under the Affordable Care Act. Before COVID, one in five Maine adults couldn’t afford their monthly bills and roughly one-quarter reported they’d struggle to afford a $400 emergency such as an unexpected hospital or auto repair bill — if they could afford it at all.
“Too many Mainers lived on the edge long before the pandemic, and the president’s recent proposals — the recent American Recovery Plan and today’s American Families Plan — are a ground-breaking agenda to create a more equitable economy. But there is room for Congress to improve the plans. We urge Congress to craft recovery legislation that ensures:
- equitable access to health coverage, housing, nutrition and child care
- protection from hardship and poverty for children through a permanent expansion of the Child Tax Credit and other investments;
- support for low-paid working people through a permanent expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit; and
- a strong, modern unemployment insurance system.
“Our wealthy nation can afford to make these critical investments — and can’t afford not to. For decades, corporations and those at the very top have reaped outsized gains and used special tax breaks and loopholes to avoid paying all the taxes they owe. We applaud the president’s proposal to ask the wealthiest among us and corporations to pay more to fund the investments that would help build a more economy that works for all of us.”
Additional background: Policies needed for an equitable economy
Many of the policies we call for are included in the president’s plans and should be part of recovery legislation. In addition, Congress should address shortcomings in the president’s plans and further develop his proposals to build a more equitable economy. For example:
- Congress must permanently extend the recent temporary improvements in the Child Tax Credit. The American Families Plan proposes to extend the recently enacted Child Tax Credit expansion through 2025 and makes permanent provisions that make the full Child Tax Credit available to the poorest families. While these steps are important, Congress should go further and make the full Child Tax Credit expansion permanent, as House Ways and Means Chairman Neal proposed this week. Improving these tax credits benefits 229,000 Maine Children.
- Congress must also provide multi-year housing assistance through vouchers. Though the president’s plan proposes an additional 200,000 vouchers for next year (a nearly 10 percent increase in the total vouchers available nationwide), the American Families and American Recovery Plans do not provide the multiyear, guaranteed funding to expand housing vouchers that is needed to build a more equitable economy and make progress toward making housing vouchers available to everyone who is eligible. The American Recovery Plan proposes significant funding to build and refurbish low-income housing, but Congress must include multi-year voucher funding in the recovery package as well.
- Congress must fix the unemployment insurance system. The president endorsed this priority in the American Jobs Act but left to Congress to design the policy.