The Build Back Better Act, currently under consideration in Congress where West Virginia’s Senator Joe Manchin will be a deciding vote, would create bold, long-lasting change for West Virginia families, workers, and our state’s economy. The legislation contains landmark policies that will create millions of good jobs nationwide, while also addressing crucial needs in the care economy that will allow Americans to better balance family and work responsibilities and fill the jobs of today and tomorrow.
It contains historic investments that would address longstanding needs in our communities like child care deserts, health and food insecurity, and lack of good pay for critical jobs like our child care and home health workforces. The plan also reduces economic inequality and raises revenue by closing tax loopholes and increasing tax rates for the very wealthy and profitable corporations, and in turn invests those resources in our communities.
The United States has a far higher child poverty rate than most developed nations due to fewer investments in public programs that address these needs, and West Virginia ranks worse than the national average, with one in five children living in poverty in 2019. West Virginia’s median household income was second-lowest among the 50 states, at $16,862 below the national average.
The Build Back Better Act would improve economic security among households with children by extending critical improvements in the historic, poverty-reducing Child Tax Credit (CTC) made via the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA). In West Virginia, the CTC reached 346,000, or 93 percent, of all children under 18, including 170,000 who were previously left out of the full value of the credit. This would drive an historic reduction in child poverty, lifting 22,000 West Virginia children above the poverty line.
The legislation would also make permanent the ARPA’s Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) expansion for adults who do not have children in the household and who work in low-wage jobs. This provision increased the maximum bottom-up EITC tax credit amount from $540 to $1,500, extended the income cap for eligibility, and extended eligibility to include younger workers and seniors. Extending these provisions would benefit 102,900 West Virginia workers.
Child care is a significant cost for families with young children, costing more than in-state college tuition across West Virginia. Over the past 30 years, child care costs have risen at more than twice the rate of inflation, resulting in fewer parents in the labor force. Lack of adequate public investment has resulted in a system that is underfunded nationwide, producing a child care market without enough supply to meet demand. This is particularly evident in West Virginia, where nearly two-thirds of households live in child care deserts.
Through funding for universal preschool and expanded child care, the Build Back Better Act would ensure the availability of affordable, quality care and education for West Virginia’s 89,607 children under the age of five. While West Virginia already makes preschool available to all four-year-olds and some three-year-olds with special needs, the Build Back Better Act would expand the program to all three-year-olds.
The Build Back Better Act’s child care provisions would occur in two phases. First, it would expand the state’s existing Child Care and Development Block Grant to cap child care costs at a sliding scale of no more than seven percent of income for low- and middle-wage households. Then, it would phase in a shared state-federal entitlement program, extending the sliding scale of no family paying more than seven percent of their income toward child care regardless of income.
Additionally, child care would be no-cost for West Virginians earning under 75 percent of the state median income (SMI), which was $48,850 in 2019. As a result, child care would be free for any households making under approximately $36,639 annually. For any West Virginia family with an income of approximately $66,000, this plan would cut child care costs by an estimated $103 per week by capping their share of child care costs at no more than five percent of household income.
Across West Virginia and the United States, fewer than one in five private-sector workers have access to paid time off to care for a new child, deal with a serious illness, or care for a seriously ill family member. Among low-wage workers, fewer than one in 20 have access to this important benefit. Research shows that paid family and medical leave policies result in higher worker productivity and morale and lower employee turnover. States and countries with family-friendly policies like paid leave also boast higher workforce participation rates.
Under the Build Back Better Act, workers would receive up to 12 weeks of paid leave under the aforementioned categories: care of a new child, one’s own serious illness, or caregiving responsibilities for a seriously ill family member. The benefit would replace lost wages on a sliding scale with low-wage workers receiving 85 percent wage replacement. In order to claim this benefit, workers would need eligible work history prior to using the leave.
Currently, West Virginia has no laws requiring employers to provide this critical benefit for its total nonfarm workforce of 690,000.
West Virginia has an aging population and ranks poorly for many chronic health conditions. As such, many workers and individuals have family members who require long-term services and supports, but would prefer that those be received in the home or in the community rather than in a nursing home.
The Build Back Better Act would provide $190 billion nationally to address the needs of families and to support the home care workforce by increasing the share that is paid for Home and Community-Based Services by seven percentage points. This increased investment would provide services to more people, expand services offered, and improve worker pay and benefits.
The Build Back Better Act would reduce housing instability by making investments in Housing Choice Vouchers, a federally-funded program that provides rental assistance to families, including households with children, people with disabilities, and seniors. In West Virginia, the expansion would reach 8,000 people, including 3,000 children and 2,000 people with disabilities.
West Virginia has one of the highest food insecurity rates in the nation, with one in seven residents and one in five children experiencing hunger. The end of the school year usually coincides with a concerning spike in childhood hunger as children stop receiving the school meals that they and their families typically rely on. Building on the success of the Pandemic-EBT program that helped provide food to over 222,000 West Virginia students while schools and child care centers navigated the COVID-19 pandemic, the Build Back Better Act would make Summer-EBT available nationwide, providing families with low incomes $75 per month in grocery money.
Climate change provisions in the bill would meaningfully address carbon emissions through a range of investments and incentives to support clean energy. One provision, the Civilian Climate Corps, would be particularly important in rural West Virginia, putting residents to work in land restoration. These policies would also promote production and manufacturing in the United States, all while supporting good-paying jobs, unionization, and workforce development.
In addition to critical programs and services that will benefit nearly all West Virginia families, the Build Back Better Act closes loopholes and raises tax rates for very high-income people and corporations to raise over $2.1 trillion in revenue over 10 years, making our overall tax system more progressive and combating rising income inequality.
An analysis of the proposal prepared by the Institution on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) found that just 1.6 percent of individuals will pay more in income taxes, with 97 percent of the increases being paid by the wealthiest one percent of Americans. Corporate tax increases will primarily be borne by the wealthiest five percent of Americans along with foreign investors. The proposal also increases federal taxes on tobacco products, impacting all income groups, but except for those in the top five percent, increases will generally be offset by enhancements to the CTC and EITC.
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