The American Rescue Plan is estimated to lift more than half a million children across the state out of poverty, state officials said Tuesday at a press conference.
The plan, which was signed into law by President Biden on March 11, 2021, focuses on providing urgent relief, including direct checks for struggling families, increased Child Tax Credit benefits, and funding for nutrition assistance, housing and homelessness. Without the American Rescue Plan, the 2021 annual poverty rate was projected to be 13.7 percent, U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) said; however, with the American Rescue Plan in place, that annual poverty rate is now projected to be 8.7 percent.
“(This plan) is providing direct assistance to families that have been needing relief for months and months and months,” Padilla said at the press conference.
Jeremy Tobias, the Chief Executive Officer of CAPK, said 29.1 percent (more than 73,000) of children in Kern under the age of 18 are living in poverty, and just over 31 percent of children between the ages of 0 to 5 are living below the poverty line, which is an annual household income of $26,500 for a family of four.
“This is a monumental step in addressing childhood poverty,” said Tobias. “As part of our core mission, we work with families to bring them up from uncertainty to self-sufficiency.”
The plan allocates nearly $40 billion to the State, counties and cities and $25 billion to help California’s K-12 schools reopen safely and comply with CDC guidelines and $5 billion to California colleges and universities.
“The more you invest in a child during the first five years of their life, you’re going to see benefits throughout their life,” said Padilla.
For health care, the plan provides funding to address the pandemic, including for vaccines, testing and contact tracing. It also strengthens California’s public health system by expanding the public health workforce and infrastructure and supports Medicaid by expanding the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage to provide extra funding and ensures full coverage of COVID-19 vaccinations and treatment.
The plan will expand the Child Tax Credit from $2,000 to $3,000 per child and makes it fully refundable and advanceable, which benefits nearly 8 million California children, according to a news release.
The plan addresses housing and homelessness by allocating funds to emergency rental assistance, homeowner assistance and homelessness assistance funding.
Nearly $3.8 billion will be allocated to stabilize the state’s child care sector, making child care more affordable for families. SNAP benefits will also increase by 15 percent, as the plan provides an extra $117 million per month to support Californians who rely on the program. Lastly, $4.6 billion will be allocated to transportation services to ensure access to safe, reliable transit services across the state.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating not just from a health perspective but from an economic perspective as well,” said Padilla. “It was intentional to be comprehensive and inclusive for the sake of our health and good economic recovery.”
With the implementation of this plan, many of CAPK’s services will be able to expand to reach more families in Kern. According to Tobias, CAPK’s Head Start Education program and Migrant Child Care Alternative program will be able to expand, and CAPK’s food efforts will be able to continue.
Tobias has seen a major increase in food insecurity with the pandemic. In 2019, CAPK distributed 20 million pounds of food, and in 2020, the organization distributed a total of 33 million pounds of food.
Those interested in learning more about the American Rescue Plan can find details here.