1. Update
  2. Economic Justice

A Bold Budget for Poverty and Income Inequality

By Amelia Kegan, February 23, 2016

At FCNL, we often talk about the federal budget as a moral document. It outlines the priorities of this country. If ending poverty, advancing economic opportunity, and addressing income inequality are priorities for the U.S., our budget ought to reflect those values.

The president recently released his final budget proposal. What are the priorities it reflects?

I’m pleased to report that when it comes to addressing poverty and income inequality, this is a bold budget in many respects. Here are a few highlights.

The budget has a plan to end family homelessness by 2020.

  • Invests $11 billion over ten years to end homeless for 550,000 families and end family homelessness by 2020.
  • Proposes $182 million this year for the National Housing Trust Fund to produce rental housing for very low-income individuals and families.
  • Includes a mobility counseling program to help families with housing vouchers move into better communities.

This budget has a plan to seriously curtail hunger among our kids and seniors.

  • Invests $10 million in SNAP (formerly food stamps) to help states address senior hunger.
  • Invests $12 billion over ten years to ensure children who receive school meals don’t go hungry in the summer when school isn’t in session. The proposal adds benefits to SNAP EBT cards for qualifying families during the summer months.
  • Directs $35 million to schools so they have the resources and equipment they need to provide healthy yet cost-effective meals for children at school.
  • Includes investments to help seniors and low-income families access and afford farmers’ markets.

This budget has a plan to keep low-income workers from being taxed into or deeper into poverty.

  • Expands the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for low-income working adults without children as well as non-custodial parents. Currently, this group is the only group of people taxed into or deeper into poverty. President Obama’s proposal to expand the EITC would lift half a million people out of poverty and make another 10 million people less poor.
  • Creates a new tax credit to encourage employment by second earners and reduce marriage penalties.
  • This budget emphasizes individuals and families living in extreme poverty—living on less than $2 a day, of which there are 1.5 million households in the U.S.
  • Puts $2 billion into pilot projects to help extremely low-income families facing a downward spiral into severe economic crisis. Most of these families live on less than $2 a day per person.

Some of these are bold proposals, and they contribute to a powerful vision of what this country can and should be. We can end family homelessness. We can end child hunger. We can build off of policies proven effective in the past to create a future where everyone has the opportunity to thrive and live a life of dignity.

It may be difficult to get the biggest proposals through Congress in an election year, but they can help set the stage for 2017. And in the meantime, we can work to get some of the smaller proposals included in the annual spending bills, which have a real shot at passage.

So let’s encourage Congress and our elected officials to take the best pieces of this budgetary vision to pursue our vision of a world without poverty, without hunger, with economic security and opportunity for all.

Amelia Kegan

  • Legislative Director, Domestic Policy

Amelia Kegan leads the domestic policy team's work in analyzing legislation, advocating on Capitol Hill, and developing legislative strategy. Prior to coming to FCNL, Amelia worked at a variety of other national non-profits in D.C. and Chicago, focusing on federal budget, tax, and low-income policy.