Monday, March 7, 2011

The Budget, FY2012

The President’s budget for fiscal year 2012 was released in February, and in light of the country’s growing deficit, there were some significant cuts in program funding. However, debate continues around whether or not they were the right cuts and if they were too much or not enough. Several controversial cuts were made to domestic discretionary programs like the Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and there has been significant criticism about the effect of the budget on low-income families. However, in tough economic times it is important to look for opportunities wherever possible and there are some positive ones for kids and families and communities in the President’s budget.

There are valuable investments aimed at supporting young children through high quality early childhood programs including $350 million for the early learning challenge fund to improve access to higher education for minority students. To help youth succeed as adults, the higher education incentives, including tax relief through the American Opportunity Tax Credit, investments in community colleges, improved job training through the Workforce Innovation Fund and an $150 million expansion of the Promise Neighborhoods program are some of the ways this budget attempts to support young people.

The President’s inclusion of $2.1 billion in new resources for health care services like health centers, extending the Earned Income Tax Credit and $7.9 billion for efforts to prevent hunger and improve nutrition, including the implementation of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 all help support basic needs that allow children and families a chance to be healthy and economically successful.

Additionally, with proposed support like $150 million for Partnership for Sustainable Communities, incentives can be created that establish comprehensive, multi-agency changes from transit-accessible housing to reduced greenhouse gas emissions. The President’s budget also provides $250 million for the Choice Neighborhoods initiative, designed to revitalize distressed urban neighborhoods.

The President’s budget and the following Congressional budget process are critical for states struggling with budget concerns of their own. The following is a list of some of the resources to help state’s get to the core of the opportunities and concerns regarding the federal budget for children and low-income families.

  • The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released analysis on the severe cut to LIHEAP. They also include state-by-state examples of a current house budget plan and how it would impact at-risk children and families. CBPP also has a primer on the federal budget process, how it works, and the budget timeline.
  • The Children’s Defense Fund has a Budget Watch tool that describes the federal budget process and includes analysis of why this year’s budget process is so complicated.
  • The Center for Law and Social Policy released State Resources to Support FY 2011 & 2012 Budget Advocacy around child care and early education.

Click here for Strategies in Tough Fiscal Times.

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