In Floor Remarks, Bennet Describes How President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Would Help Vulnerable Families and Kids
VIDEO: Watch Bennet’s Speech HERE
Washington, D.C. – Today, Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet spoke on the Senate floor about the urgency of passing President Joe Biden’s $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan to help vulnerable families and children during the ongoing pandemic and economic crisis.
Specifically, Bennet described how Biden’s relief plan would significantly expand the Child Tax Credit and make it fully refundable so it is available to all low-income families for the first time, mirroring the American Family Act that he has proposed with U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Cory Booker (D-N.J.). If passed, the expanded child tax credit in Biden’s plan would cut child poverty in America by 45 percent and provide immediate and significant relief to almost every middle-class family in the country.
“We will cut childhood poverty in this country by almost 50 percent,” said Bennet in his speech. “I can’t think of anything that we could do that would better recognize the structural nature of the challenges that the American people are facing in this economy before COVID, but certainly in the wake of COVID.”
Bennet continued: “It’s no American’s choice to be born poor. It’s no child’s choice to be born poor. There are many things we can do to improve economic mobility in this country, and I think that this new administration is going to create the beginning of an era that’s going to lead us to a place that when the economy grows, it grows for everybody -- not just the people at the very top. And that families can move themselves up through hard work, save something for retirement, leave something for the next generation. That’s all anybody in this country has ever really wanted, and that hasn’t been true for most Americans for a very long time. This is the beginning of changing that. And that’s why this bill has my enthusiastic support.”
The text of Bennet’s remarks as delivered is below. You can watch a video of the remarks HERE.
I wanted to talk a little bit about our state. You know, the last time I was running for office in 2016, I remember I went to Rifle, Colorado, which the presiding officer knows well, and I met there with a group of moms who were showing off the early childhood center that was there. It was newly created, and they were extremely happy to have it, because before that early childhood center was there in order to get childcare, or early childhood education for their kids, these moms were having to drive through the canyon to Glenwood Springs, you know, about 35 miles away, I guess, or so, and then go to work and then go back and pick their kid up and bring them back.
So they were very, very happy that it was there. But at a certain point during the conversation, one of the moms looked at me and she said, Michael, I work so I can have health insurance, and every single dollar I make goes to pay for this early childhood center so I can work. That triangle that she’s trapped in because of the compression of wages in this country that is a story that millions of American families can tell about an economy that, for 50 years has worked really well for the people at the very top, but not for anybody else.
90 percent of the American people, basically, for 50 years, have not seen a pay increase in this country in real terms. And that’s terrible for them, obviously, because they can’t afford health care, housing, higher education, or early childhood education. They feel like they can’t live a middle class life, or if their kids are living in poverty they can’t get their kids out of poverty.
And it’s a danger to our democracy, Mr. President, because democracies do not do well when prosperity is not shared, and when you have one group of people at the very top that are doing extremely well, and everybody else is struggling to get by. Everybody else is struggling to get into the middle class, or stay in the middle class, or lift their kids out of poverty. That’s where we have been as a country for a long time.
We have some of the lowest mobility rates of any industrialized economy in the world. And it’s taking its toll on the American Dream. And that’s before COVID.
COVID has made matters much, much worse for families in our state, for families in urban parts of the state and rural parts of the state. Even before COVID hit, when people would ask me -- I used to be superintendent of the Denver Public Schools -- people would say, what’s changed in education since you were superintendent until now? And what I would tell people is, mental health, mental health, mental health.
That’s what teachers talk about in the meetings that I have with them -- the mental health of the students, the mental health of their families, and their own mental health. It comes up in every conversation, before class size, before how pitifully we pay teachers in this country.
And we have to confront that as a country now too, on top of everything else, and the economic inequality is greater. Folks that have been on the front lines during this pandemic have had the toughest time economically of everybody.
And that’s why I’m so glad that the administration has come with the package that they have to this floor. $1.9 trillion -- a trillion of which is direct aid to families, and another big piece of which is to support the public health infrastructure in this country so that we can actually vaccinate people in a timely way, so we can test people in a timely way, so we can distribute PPE.
It has been shocking to see how poor the response has been from the United States, a developed country, unable to contend effectively with this pandemic. And we’ve lost almost half a million Americans as a result. So that investment in our public health infrastructure, in effect, a Health Force like the one that Kirstin Gillibrand and I have proposed, is something we desperately need if we’re going to reopen this economy quickly, and if we’re going to open school, and keep it open.
But there’s one other piece of this I wanted to mention this morning on the floor, and that’s the provision in this bill that’s based on the work that I’ve done for many, many years with Senator Sherrod Brown from Ohio. One bill is Bennet-Brown and the other one is Brown-Bennet, and I love both of them the same, even though the order is different.
But the president has decided to include these bills in his package. It’s a dramatic increase to the Child Tax Credit, a substantial increase to what’s called the childless earned income tax credit, so we’ll stop taxing working people into poverty which is what we’re doing in this country today.
With the passage of the [American Rescue Plan], this Child Tax Credit alone, we will cut childhood poverty in the United States of America by almost 50 percent. We’ll cut childhood poverty for Latino kids by 60 percent. For Black kids, for more than 60 percent, or more than 50 percent. For kids living in Tribes, more than 60 percent.
Without adding one bureaucrat to the federal government, without creating one more program, just by taking the tax credit from $2,000 to $3,000, $3,600 for kids under the age of six, by making it fully refundable, which means that the poorest people in America who have been left out of this tax credit, 23 or 25 million children, now will have the benefit of the tax credit for the first time.
Mr. President, we will cut childhood poverty in this country by almost 50 percent. I can’t think of anything that we could do that would better recognize the structural nature of the challenges that the American people are facing in this economy before COVID, but certainly in the wake of COVID.
And I hope the proposal will be able to attract bipartisan support in this chamber, and that once we’ve done it, that we’ll make it permanent. We’ll make it last. And that we’ll imagine that we could live in a country in the United States of America that’s actually eradicated childhood poverty.
Because it’s no American’s choice to be born poor. It’s no child’s choice to be born poor. There are many things we can do to improve economic mobility in this country, and I think that this new administration is going to create the beginning of an era that’s going to lead us to a place that when the economy grows, it grows for everybody -- not just the people at the very top.
And that families can move themselves up through hard work, save something for retirement, leave something for the next generation. That’s all anybody in this country has ever really wanted, and that hasn’t been true for most Americans for a very long time. This is the beginning of changing that. And that’s why this bill has my enthusiastic support.
Mr. President, with that, I yield the floor.