Children’s HealthWatch Statement on ARPA and Public Charge

Children’s HealthWatch applauds the recent passage of the American Rescue Plan Act and celebrates the withdrawal of federal appeals and subsequent vacatur of the harmful Department of Homeland Security (DHS) 2019 public charge rule. Together, these actions ensure families have resources necessary to afford basic needs and signal a strong commitment to expanding and restoring benefits for marginalized communities and reducing racial and economic inequities.

The American Rescue Plan Act, which was signed into law on March 11th, provides essential and sweeping relief for families, and is a critical step in the legislative path to ending child poverty in the US. Notably, the bill’s temporary expansion of the Child Tax Credit will result in a historic reduction in child poverty, particularly for Black and Latinx children who disproportionately live in poverty and have suffered drastic financial hardship over the past year. Geared to stabilize Black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC), immigrant, and low-income families hardest hit by the pandemic, the American Rescue Plan Act builds on previous down payments and includes strong provisions that align with the recommendations that Children’s HealthWatch has been advocating for well before and since the start of the pandemic. Among other provisions, we are pleased that this plan further extends the national eviction moratorium, provides rental and utility assistance, expands the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, extends and strengthens federal nutrition programs, helps stabilize the child care sector, and provides financial relief to families through direct cash payments and additional unemployment insurance.

Simultaneously, following the Biden-Harris Administration’s executive order directing agencies to review the impact of the previous Administration’s public charge rule, legal and subsequent administrative actions resulted in the overturning of the harmful and racist wealth test policy that penalized participation of immigrant families with children in evidence-based programs with demonstrated positive health and developmental outcomes. In addition, the Department of Homeland Security rescinded a related proposed rule that would have further threatened the health of immigrant families. We are grateful for the Administration’s recognition of the harmful and discriminatory impact of these policies, and swift response that paves the way for undoing harm caused by years of anti-immigrant rhetoric and policy. Now, we look forward to working with the Administration, DHS, and other agencies to combat the chilling effect caused by the previous regulations. These agencies must provide accurate information about the public charge policies to immigrant families and fulfill their commitment to immigrant-inclusive policies and the implementation of reforms that improve our immigration system and reduce barriers and inequities among the immigrant community.

While more must be done to end child poverty and inequity in this country – including making provisions of the American Rescue Plan Act permanent and reinvesting in critical infrastructure, such as housing and child care, that support the well-being and economic security of all families – we applaud these recent actions and look forward to continuing to work with Congress and the Biden-Harris Administration to ensure every child in this country has access to basic needs and the ability to thrive.