Miami Herald | by Alex Daugherty | May 6, 2021
WASHINGTON – The latest massive proposed expansion of the federal government from the Biden administration would see Florida’s students and families receive billions in benefits ranging from universal community college to paid family and medical leave.
And the state’s Democrats in Congress are largely supportive of the plan, which was officially unveiled in President JoeBiden’s address to Congress last week. On Thursday, the Biden administration released a Florida-specific “fact sheet” detailing how many children and families would benefit from the estimated $1.8 trillion plan.
“The American Families Plan is an investment in Florida’s children and families — because when American families do well, our nation thrives,” the White House said in a statement.
But the cost of the plan is up for debate. A separate analysis from the Penn Wharton Budget Model estimates that the plan will actually cost $2.5 trillion because the tax credits, universal pre-kindergarten and community college will cost more than the Biden administration estimates. They also estimated that the money raised to pay for the bill, notably a tax on wealthy Americans earning over $200,000, taxing more capital gains and additional IRS funding to crack down on tax evasion, will not be as much as expected over a 10-year period.
Republicans are expected to oppose any legislation stemming from Biden’s plan, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell saying Wednesday that “one hundred percent of our focus is on stopping this new administration.”
“Making up $2.5 trillion in revenue to pay for Biden’s far-left agenda is going to cost American families,” Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott said in a statement. “On average, taxpayers reporting adjusted gross incomes of less than $500,000 will see their tax bills spike by $1,600. That’s $1,600 every year, for the next 10 years.”
LOTS OF POTENTIAL IMPACT IN FLORIDA
If Biden’s plan, which hasn’t yet been drafted into legislation, comes to fruition, the changes in Florida would be immense.
The administration estimates that 474,450 Florida college students currently receive federally funded Pell Grants that would increase by $1,400. And 38 historically Black colleges, tribal colleges and universities and Hispanic-serving higher education institutions in Florida would be in line to get more federal funds. That would include Miami-based institutions like Miami Dade College and Florida International University, which are both classified by the Department of Education as Hispanic-serving institutions.
Additionally, every American student would be eligible for at least two years of free community college.
The plan also includes universal preschool, which the Biden administration estimates would help about 53% of 3- and 4-year-olds in Florida who are not enrolled in a publicly funded preschool.
“I think that Mr. Biden’s vision, our president’s vision, of making sure we have two years of universal pre-K speaks volumes and will lift so many children out of illiteracy and when they get to school they will be on the same par as their classmates,” said Miami Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson. “And then at the end of education they get two years of community college.”
Low- and middle-income parents would pay a maximum of 7% of their income on child care, which the Biden administration says will help alleviate gender gaps in the workplace.
The plan also creates a system for paid family and medical leave, a benefit that exists in most developed countries but not in the United States. And it also expands free meals at school to an additional 1.1 million children in Florida while also providing 2 million students with funds to buy food over the summer while schools are out of session.
In March, Congress passed a $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief bill that sent billions to Florida. That bill provided temporary subsidies to lower health insurance premiums for families who purchased plans on an exchange. The new proposal would make those subsidies permanent.
“In Florida, that means 78,000 uninsured people will gain coverage and 589,100 will on average save hundreds of dollars per year on their premiums,” the White House said.
CHILD TAX CREDITS WOULD EXPAND
Finally, the proposal expands child tax credits through 2025 to $3,000 per child over 6 years old and $3,600 for children under 6, an expansion the White House estimates will benefit 3.8 million children in Florida and 2.2 million children of color in the state. Tax credits for child care that were temporary in the COVID relief bill are also made permanent, and the earned-income tax credit for workers without children would also be expanded, a change that could benefit 1.3 million Floridians.
“I am quite optimistic that we will be able to come out with a plan in a unified way,” said Central Florida Democratic Rep. Val Demings.
Passing a massive bill without GOP support will be tough, as Democrats have slim majorities in the House and Senate. Biden’s COVID relief bill passed on a near party-line vote in March after the language was considered within budget reconciliation, a complicated legislative process which allows bills to pass the U.S. Senate with a simple majority instead of 60 votes. Biden’s $2 trillion infrastructure plan, unveiled in April, can also pass through reconciliation, though negotiations between the White House and Congress are ongoing as the president insists he can get GOP support for the bill.
It’s not clear if the latest plan will be able to pass through reconciliation. If not, expect major concessions in an attempt to get Republican votes or a small enough bill that canpass through reconciliation.
But Florida’s Democrats in Congress say they support the policy goals of the plan.
“We in Congress will now take it from here to make it our own,” Central Florida Democratic Rep. Darren Soto said. “America has more to do to support families. It’s about tax fairness and investing in our future. You’ll find that the vast majority of Americans will only benefit from this plan.”
Image: President Joe Biden waves as he boards Air Force One upon departure, Thursday, May 6, 2021, at Andrews Air Force Base, Md. Biden is en route to Louisiana. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) ALEX BRANDON AP