Shame on United States Senator Joe Manchin for privately expressed comments disparaging working families, as confirmed by multiple sources according to national news organizations, saying that West Virginians who receive the Child Care Tax Credit would “…misuse the payments for drugs.” It’s a horrid description of not only his own constituents in a state with exceedingly high poverty rates but a savage slight to everyday families across the entire country. It continues a warped and ugly mischaracterization of millions who certainly don’t deserve it. He has not refuted that he made the comments.
It is estimated about 10 million American children would fall back into poverty without the Child Tax Credit. For example, as explained by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a working full-time single parent earning the federal minimum wage, caring for two children, received $6,800 in the current year. Without the tax credit’s extension, the same household would receive only $1,800. This is a hit of $4,800.
The American Children’s Campaign supports the hard-working Americans committed to their children and we’re beyond tired of portrayals of tax credit recipients and other supports as being less than worthy.
We strenuously object.
Speaking of Getting Facts Before Acting
Back in May, scores of business leaders converged on the state capitol with a common mantra: “We can’t find workers. End the federal unemployment benefits!” The message was implied if not stated directly: Florida everyday families were receiving too many benefits and weren’t reporting for work, choosing instead to stay at home, doing whatever.
As a result, federal unemployment benefits of up to $300 weekly ended 10 weeks early. This caused great strain on children and families in or near poverty and up to and including the middle class.
Problem is, ending the benefits wasn’t based on facts. It wasn’t young people coasting instead of applying for jobs. And it wasn’t everyday families using the pandemic to game the system.
A better-informed narrative is coming to light. For example, according to reports, of the 3.6 million additional workers who chose not to return to work in November 2020, compared to November 2019, more than 90% were workers 55 and older. They have decided to retire early, aided by a strong stock market and hot housing market, allowing them to sell, downsize, and pocket the balance. They might return to work at a later date but expect them to be choosier.
Workers in other age groups are also looking for jobs with better pay and benefits. Further reports reveal that even with the labor shortages, businesses overall are slow to improve wages and work conditions.
Everyday families, as the pandemic continues, appear to be looking for their piece of the American Dream. And not just to provide labor for someone else’s American Dream.
Unaccompanied Child Treatment Heats Up
The issue of blocking the renewal of shelter licenses and shuttling children around the state has ramped up since our coverage in our previous Capitol Report.
In Jacksonville, it was finally revealed that a plane packed with children and chaperones remained parked on an airport tarmac for more than 10 hours. The entire flight crew had long departed for their hotels. It was not made clear by the Jacksonville Aviation Authority if food and water were provided to the children or if the ventilation systems were left running, a frightening thought with COVID-19 rampaging.
News reports also suggested that a homicide perpetrated by one immigrant who had posed as a child in Jacksonville (not from this flight) may have become a flash point for the Florida Department of Children & Families to deny protective care for unaccompanied children.
While any homicide is horrid, it really needs to be put into context. In Duval County (Jacksonville), in 2021 alone (through November 30) more than 100 murders and 400 shootings have occurred. These are domestic and not border management related.
In December, in Bay County (Panama City), three middle school teens were arrested for bringing guns onto the campus. Bill Husflet, the local School Superintendent, said, “… it’s reflective of what’s going on in our country right now.” He continued, “There have been over 3,000 young people (between the ages of 8 to 18) who were killed with a handgun in 2019, and that number keeps going up.”
Established Policy Conflicts with Recent Executive Orders
It’s important to keep facts in perspective and focus on the legislature’s policy commitment to child protection:
- The Legislature finds that many children in out-of-home care experience multiple changes in placement, and those transitions often result in trauma;
- The Legislature further finds that poorly planned and executed or improperly timed transitions may adversely impact a child’s healthy development;
- The Legislature finds that the best child welfare practices recognize the need to prioritize the minimization of the number of placements for every child.
In none of the legislative findings has the issue of discriminating if “these” children or “those” children are a factor in determining who should receive the best protection caregivers can provide.
Florida appears to have drifted into a confusing separation of powers exercise whereby clearly established legislative policy conflicts with more recent executive orders.
Is there truly a Florida border crisis with children?
Throughout the world children are given special recognition and treatment for their unique vulnerability. Aren’t all children deserving of being treated with dignity and respect?
The resolution of the current dilemma is simpler than some might have us believe: Let those with experience in child welfare and children’s protective services do their jobs. It does not matter whether the infliction of trauma, abuse or neglect is local or not. It is our calling and responsibility to ensure children are safe, fed, provided stable housing, and to prevent future harm.
It’s time for the Department of Children and Families to answer the tough questions: Who exactly is in charge of child protection policy? Is it the legislative branch or the executive branch?
The American Children’s Campaign agrees with the Florida Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics which was joined by more than 70 organizations calling for Governor DeSantis to direct the Florida Department of Children and Families to renew shelter licenses timely, prevent the shuttling of children from compassionate and safe placements to unknown settings, and treat every child in a manner where their protection, care and safety is never left in doubt.
These latest revelations have renewed rumblings that the energy spent debating the care for a relatively small number of unaccompanied children would be better directed at addressing the escalating numbers of domestic shootings in community after community and school after school.
A note from American Children’s Campaign
This Capitol Report concludes our policy coverage for 2021. With the early start of legislative session in 2022, Capitol Report will resume in January.
We have appreciated your support in 2021 for fact-based child and family policy development, advocacy and reporting. We always remain committed to transparency and non-partisanship. If you enjoy our Capitol Reports and would like to help support this work, please click here to make a tax-deductible donation.
Have a healthy and safe and great New Year. We are looking forward to serving your informational needs in 2022.
Watch for some new announcements on how you can support our work and the children and families at the heart of our collective action.
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This Capitol Report is brought to you by Amanda Ostrander, Karen Bonsignori and Roy Miller