Texas could test one of Biden's core political bets - CNN
Dec 07, 2021 4 mins, 39 secs
Because Texas has so many low-income families and because state policy has done so little to support them, studies show that the state will reap big benefits from the legislation's key provisions strengthening the social safety net and investing in the education, health care and nutrition of low-income families, though most of them are temporary.

One recent Urban Institute study showed that more than 1.5 million uninsured Texans could receive health care coverage under the bill, twice as many as in any other state.

Another study, by the anti-poverty nonprofit Center for Law and Social Policy, found that because Texas has so many low-income kids, it would receive more funding than any other state to expand child care programs -- more than $11 billion over just the next three years.

Another provision in the bill expanding access to school nutrition programs for lower-income students through the summer could reach more than 3.6 million kids in Texas, nearly as many as California, even though the Golden State has about 20% more children.

Still another analysis found that the bill's changes in the child tax credit could lift a stunning 535,000 Texas children out of poverty, reducing the state's elevated current rate of childhood poverty by more than 40%.

All these provisions, and others in the current bill, will "provide a system of support for families in Texas that is just unprecedented," says Cynthia Osborne, director of the Center for Health and Social Policy at the Lyndon B.

The broad array of direct benefits the bill would provide, especially to Hispanic families facing elevated levels of poverty, may represent Democrats' best chance to reverse those trends -- if not in the 2022 elections, which may come too soon for these programs to be fully felt, then at least by 2024.

Republicans in Texas, as elsewhere, are mobilizing to disparage the bill as accelerating inflation, raising taxes, discouraging work and rewarding undocumented immigrants.

Studies have shown that slightly more than 1 in 5 children in Texas do not regularly get enough to eat, "one of the worst rates of childhood food insecurity in the country," says Marisa Bono, CEO of Every Texan, a group that advocates for low-income families.

More than one-quarter of Texas Latinos, for instance, lack health insurance and nearly one-fourth of Latino children (as well as one-fifth of Black children) live in poverty, according to studies by the non-partisan Urban Institute.

Osborne's center at the University of Texas has identified five state policies that are most critical in improving outcomes for children and families, including setting a minimum wage higher than the federal floor, creating a state Earned Income Tax Credit for low-income working families and expanding eligibility for Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act; Texas is one of seven states that has adopted none of those policies, she says.

Among them:

Health care -- Texas is the largest of the 12 states that have refused to expand eligibility for Medicaid under the ACA; today, eligibility is limited to families earning about one-sixth of the federal poverty rate, which Osborne says is the lowest threshold in the nation.

Fully 6.7 million children in Texas, just over half of them Latino, would receive at least some benefit from the expanded credit, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has calculated; both the center and the Urban Institute project that the credit would lift about 500,000 kids there above the poverty line.

"It's a very direct benefit, and unlike some of the other policies in the legislation that require the state to act for their population to benefit, this is a federal program, so it doesn't matter who the governor of your state is, you are going to get the benefit."

Child care and early childhood education -- Because Texas has so many low-income families, the Center for Law and Social Policy recently projected that it will receive even more from the bill's new child care funding over the next three years than more populous California.

With subsidies for child care costs extending well into the middle class, the bill would underwrite care for about 2 million Texas children, Every Texan estimates.

Again because of the state's concentration of low-income families, the expanded summer eligibility in the bill is expected to benefit more than 3.6 million Texas kids.

Other benefits -- Although precise figures aren't available, local experts believe Texas may have a disproportionate number of multigenerational households, particularly in low-income communities, which means the state could benefit disproportionately from the bill's big increase in funding for home health care and elder care services.

If that legalization provision survives the Senate -- which is highly uncertain -- it would create protections for 1.2 million undocumented immigrants in Texas, one recent study concluded.

But can Democrats sell it in the state?

The political question is whether this towering wave of new federal assistance will change the equation in a state Republicans have dominated since George W.

It appears down there that the Biden administration is out of touch or making the problem far, far worse than it need be."

The legislation Texas Republicans have passed making it tougher to vote and the GOP's aggressive partisan gerrymanders in the state's recently approved congressional and state legislative maps only add to the hurdles Democrats face in the state.

Even with these obstacles, if the bill passes, by 2024 millions of Texans will be directly benefiting from its provisions.

For years, Texas Democrats have beseeched the party to spend millions of dollars on campaign television ads to make the case for the party's priorities; the Build Back Better bill would trumpet those priorities with billions of dollars in tangible assistance to families across the state.

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