As negotiations heat up over President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan – his $2.3 trillion infrastructure package – waiting in the wings is his American Families Plan to support children, teachers and working families.
Touted as the second half of an American recovery plan, the $1.8 trillion American Families Plan hopes to support the middle class, and provide equity in the economic recovery by focusing on rural and tribal communities.
“Rural communities require targeted investments that meet the needs of their children and families, along with workforce development for those providing childcare and education,” a fact sheet for the plan said. “The American Families Plan represents a generation-defining investment in rural American, and a commitment to grow the middle-class and expand the benefits of economic growth to all Americans.”
The focus, the administration said, is to cut the rural poverty rate by more than 21% and to cut the rural child poverty rate by 50%.
To do this, the plan focuses on education, child care and paid family leave.
“These are generational investments in our future, in the future of our families and the future of our kids,” a senior administration official said. “They pay enormous dividends.”
The plan includes $1 billion in investments and about $800 million in enhanced tax cuts, according to a release from the White House.
According to the administration, providing universal pre-school for 3- and 4-year-olds, free community college, and investments in teachers will help rural communities come out of poverty.
In order to do that, the plan invests in secondary education by giving scholarships to educators, or making community college free, while giving teachers more job-embedded coaching and professional development, along with commensurate wages to reflect the importance of their work. Those choosing to work in pre-K or Headstart programs would earn a minimum $15 an hour.
With approximately 250 rural community colleges across the U.S., and even more that serve primarily rural student populations, Biden’s plan would provide two years of tuition free community college for first-time college students, and workers who want to learn new skills. Additionally, the plan would raise the minimum Pell Grant Award by an estimated $1,400 to assist low-income students and Dreamers.
The federal government would also provide grants to states, territories and tribes that would support college retention and completion. Additionally, the plan would increase funding to Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and institutions serving Hispanic, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islanders and other minorities. The goal is to provide two years of free tuition in those institutions to strengthen the health care workforce and benefit rural areas that need physicians, nurses and other providers, the administration said.
To further support education, the administration said the plan would double teacher scholarships from $4,000 to $8,000 per year, and expand those scholarships to early childhood educators. The plan would also invest $3.2 billion in cultivating and recruiting teachers from the communities that schools serve.
To address students with special needs, the plan would invest $900 million in personnel preparations funds under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) to strengthen training programs for special education teachers. Biden also called on Congress to create a new fund that would pay for educators to get in-demand certifications, and invest $2 billion in programs that leverage teachers as leaders in order to maximize their impact on student outcomes and teacher retention rates.
The plan would also address child care deserts in rural areas. More than half of rural families live in areas where there are few to no child care options, leaving parents with no options but to stay home with their children instead of working to provide for their families. Biden’s plan would make child care more affordable and invest in the child care workforce.
Biden’s plan would create a national paid family and medical leave program that would ensure workers received at least partial wage replacement to “take time to bond with a new child; care for a seriously ill loved one; deal with a loved one’s military deployment; find safety from sexual assault, stalking or domestic violence; heal from their own serious illness or take time to deal with the death of a loved one.” The administration estimated that the program, which would pay workers at minimum two-thirds of their average weekly wages up to $4,000 a month, would cost $225 billion over the course of 10 years.
Lastly, the program would cut taxes for American families and workers, the administration said by extending Affordable Care Act premium tax cuts, extending the Child Tax Credit increases in the American Rescue Plan through 2025, permanently increasing tax credits for families with child care needs and making the Earned Income Tax Credit expansion for childless workers permanent.
To pay for the plan, Biden would raise taxes on the rich. His plan calls for returning the tax rate on the top one percent of earners to 39.6%. Former President Donald Trump’s tax cuts lowered that rate to 37%.
Additionally, Biden’s plan would require households earning more than $1 million per year to pay higher taxes on capital gains. The plan would require estates to pay taxes on unrealized gains of more than $1 million, but would exempt family-owned businesses and farms when they are passed on to heirs who continue to run the business.
A recent poll from Morning Consult found that nearly 6 in 10 Americans support Biden’s plan. The poll of 1,991 registered voters found that 86% of Democrats support Biden’s plan, while 54% of independents and 25% of Republicans lend their support.
The majority of respondents (3 in 5) to the survey also supported child care subsidies for low- and middle-income workers, and free preschool for 3- and 4-year-olds. Fifty-nine percent of the survey respondents backed Biden’s plan to provide two years of college tuition-free.
Republicans have vowed to block the bill, citing concerns over the price tag and the scope of the proposal. In early May, Senator Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky), the Senate Minority Leader, said Democrats can expect “zero” support from Republicans in Congress.