Moving Families Forward Update

July 2010: Unemployment assistance, child nutrition and more

An Update on the Federal Tax and Budget System

As Congress heads toward its annual August recess, both the House and Senate are busy working to pass key pieces of legislation this election year. As of Thursday afternoon, both bodies passed a much needed extension of Unemployment Insurance benefits. Figures released from the state this week show that Arkansas’s unemployment rate remains above 7 percent, meaning almost 100,000 potential workers remain idle. Congress has acted, though, to try and ease the strain on these families, finally passing an extension of unemployment benefits through November 2010. While this benefit is extremely helpful to thousands of Arkansas families, the package is far from perfect. AACF will continue to call on Congress to pass broader, more sweeping assistance to families in need.

Extension of Unemployment Insurance Benefits

Both houses of Congress have now passed the extension bill, and late Thursday it was signed into law by President Obama. This bill ensures extended eligibility for federal jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed through November 30, 2010. Those benefits were stopped on June 2, 2010, but this legislation makes the extension retroactive to that date. This means out-of-work families can recover the benefits lost since June 2.

Both Sen. Mark Pryor and Sen. Blanche Lincoln voted to approve this extension. AACF is extremely grateful that both our Senators voted to support families. As the economy recovers and jobs return to Arkansas, this benefit will thankfully no longer be needed at current levels.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has more details on the UI extension here.

While the passage of this bill is a step in the right direction, during Congressional negotiations a key provision was dropped.Click here to read more about how and why additional COBRA benefits did not make it into this bill.

Child Nutrition Bill Passes

A House subcommittee this week took one step closer to providing dramatic improvements to children’s health and nutrition. Sen. Blanche Lincoln has led the fight in the Senate on this same issue. In March the Senate Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Committee approved a similar measure.

Child Care Funding Expires

The month of July started on a sad note for thousands of working Arkansas families. Funding for child care from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 has not been renewed, and 4,588 children will now be added to an already bloated waiting list for the program. The subsidized child care program in Arkansas allows parents to put their children in safe daycare facilities while they work.

The House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee marked up its FY 2011 funding bill Wednesday, and included a $700 million increase for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the largest increase the program has received from this committee since 2000. Head Start also received an increase of $866 million. The bill now advances to the full committee. It is unlikely that the full House will consider it until after the November election, but it was a big step forward. On the Senate side, the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services and Education may conduct its mark up soon. Sen. Pryor is a member of this subcommittee.

Take Action

Please take the time this week to call Sen. Lincoln and Sen. Pryor to thank them for voting for the Unemployment Insurance extension bill. While imperfect this was a critical step to help so many Arkansas families that continue to look for work. Both of our senators are to be commended for their support of Arkansas families.

Also remind them that plenty of other economic recovery issues need their leadership to pass. From securing a long-term child tax credit extension to the passage of FMAP and TANF funds that stabilize vital state services like Medicaid, Arkansas families need them to remain strong supporters of recovery bills. They need to know that you support these measures that support our long-term economic recovery.

Worth Noting

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families and the national children’s advocacy organization First Focus honored Arkansas Sen. Blanche Lincoln this month, recognizing her as a Champion for Children. Sen. Lincoln was one of just three members of Congress to receive this honor. First Focus specifically cited Sen. Lincoln’s work on the child tax credit and child hunger & nutrition issues.