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Two Reports Reveal Grim Outlook for Children’s Programs in the Federal Budget
Press Release

July 20, 2011

Katie Peters
202.657.0685 (office)
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Federal Debt Interest Payments will Outpace Spending on Children’s Programs by 2014

Washington D.C. - As political leaders struggle to reach a bipartisan solution to the debt crisis, policy experts and children's advocates released two detailed analyses on the well-being of U.S. children. The new reports reveal bleak and alarming projections for spending on programs that are essential to the well-being of America's next generation.

The first report, Children's Budget 2011, reveals that spending on children in the 2011 federal budget dropped by nearly 10 percent from 2010, falling from a five year high of 9.2 percent to 8.4 percent. The report further explains that had it not been for the one-time infusion of funding provided by the economic legislation known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), spending on children’s programs in 2010 and 2011 would have been significantly lower. At a time of economic decline, when demand for services like the Children’s Health Insurance Program and Medicaid, child care, food stamps, and other programs have increased, the share of spending on children's programs in 2011 would have declined to levels below 2007 without the ARRA funding. The programs currently benefiting from these additional resources will face a crisis budget situation as ARRA funding ends over the next year and policymakers propose cuts in the debt ceiling debate.

"There is no question that tough times call for tough measures, but reducing spending on children's programs and jeopardizing the future of America's next generation is not the way to solve our budget and deficit problems," said Bruce Lesley, president of First Focus. "Recent spending proposals have shown that policymakers are willing to sacrifice the needs of children in order to protect the interests of others. However, results from a recent public opinion survey prove that protecting programs that improve the well-being of children is immensely important to voters. We urge policymakers to heed the priorities of their constituents and hold children harmless as they work to find solutions to our nation's budget challenges. We also urge policymakers to read these reports and understand that cutting children's programs will do almost nothing to ease our budget and deficit crisis, while drastically affecting the ability of a generation of children to reach their potential. Not only is cutting children's programs morally wrong, it is fiscally foolish, and contrary to the sensibilities of the American people."

The report was released before more than 300 children's advocates, White House staff, Members of Congress, and prominent researchers at the third national Children's Budget Summit. Organized by the bipartisan child advocacy group, First Focus, the event drew attention to the overall declining share of the federal budget dedicated to programs that benefit children, at a time when children need this support more than ever.

Kids' Share 2011, an Urban Institute-Brookings Institution report, also released at today's Children's Budget Summit, shows that the share of the federal budget spent on children rose temporarily in 2010 as a result of the recession and ARRA, but will decline over the next ten years, falling to 8 percent by the end of the next decade. In fact, if current law remains unchanged, by as early as 2014, the federal government is projected to spend more on interest payments on the federal debt than on programs that benefit children.

In addition, Kids' Share 2011 reveals that if the dependent exemption and other tax expenditures are considered as spending, the children's share of the non-defense domestic budget has diminished by twenty percent since 1960, while spending on the non-child portions of entitlement programs has more than doubled.

"As the temporary boost in spending under ARRA ends, federal spending on children is projected to fall, whether measured as a share of the budget or in real dollars. Only once in the last half-century have outlays on children declined as much as our baseline projections for the next five years. And these projections do not incorporate the spending cuts enacted in spring 2011 nor any of the recent proposals for larger cuts." said Julia Isaacs, co-author of the report and Child and Family Policy Fellow at the Brookings Institution.

"A society reveals its preferences in the way it budgets. Right now, the federal government would spend over $1 trillion more in 2020 than in 2010, and kids in the aggregate would get none of it; in fact, they would get less than they do today, " added Kids' Share co-author Eugene Steuerle, an Institute Fellow at the Urban Institute.

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Children's Budget 2011 is the latest edition of the First Focus Children's Budget series. The book provides an analysis of the over 180 federally funded programs that are aimed at enhancing the well-being of our nation's children, and how their appropriations levels have changed over the past five years. The book was published by First Focus with the support of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Click here to download a copy of the book.


Kids' Share 2011 is the fifth annual examination of the federal spending trends and tax policies that support and affect children and families. This year's Kids' Share report finds spending on children rose temporarily during the recession but is projected to fall back to less than 8 percent of the federal budget by the end of the next decade. The report was commissioned by First Focus and produced by the Urban Institute and Brookings Institution with support from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
Click here to download a copy of the report.

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