2020 was a rough year for our nation, and in particular, for our children. The coronavirus pandemic and its economic fallout closed their schools, pushed more than 2 million of them into poverty, sent record numbers of them to bed hungry, and affected every aspect of their social and emotional lives.
In Congress, some of my colleagues and I worked hard to mitigate these effects on our children.
We introduced or supported key pieces of legislation on children’s health insurance, hunger, homelessness, tax credits, treatment of immigrant children, and other issues critical to advancing the needs of our kids and families.
For these efforts, the bipartisan advocacy organization First Focus Campaign for Children recently named me a 2020 Champion for Children.
The nonprofit’s 2020 Legislative Scorecard recognizes 120 lawmakers across both parties and chambers who have worked to prioritize children.
Awards are nice. They make us feel good. And they can signal to our constituents that perhaps we are getting things done. But the work behind this award is what really matters.
During these extraordinary times amid COVID-19, families really didn’t have a choice but to opt-out of in-person instruction and choose remote learning full-time.
The transition has been undoubtedly difficult, so I joined efforts with New York City’s Department of Education to help close the digital divide which is core to the systemic and institutional inequity that threatens the prosperity of our communities, an inequity further exacerbated by COVID-19.
Through our efforts, we were able to successfully distribute over 70,000 devices to students across each of the school districts within New York’s 13th congressional district.
Once students received their devices, my office understood that parents were struggling with the various remote learning platforms.
As a solution, my team worked once again with the City’s Department of Education to create a 10-week program to provide weekly remote learning support workshops for parents and caregivers.
These weekly sessions will cover a range of topics, including best practices to navigate remote learning for students with disabilities, multilingual learners, and more topics in both English and Spanish.
Additionally, as part of my legislative efforts in Washington, during the end of the 116th legislative calendar, I was able to successfully help secure an extra $2.5 million for WIC’s Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program as part of the House Appropriations bill.
We must continue such efforts to increase funding for vital programs that support Women and Infant Children by helping those with WIC program nutrition assistance purchase fresh produce from locally-sourced farmers markets.
Furthermore, I have long fought in opposition to the now-former Trump Administration on its harmful Public Charge Rule, which had terrible chilling effects on immigrant families’ access to public services.
Thankfully, the Biden Administration is now reviewing the rule and moving forward to undo this terrible assault on immigrant families.
These are just a few of my efforts to ensure support and protection for children and families. Children in all parts of our country need more attention than lawmakers traditionally have given them.
Children make up one-quarter of our population, but we spend just 7.48% of the federal budget on them, even as the global pandemic threatens to reverse economic gains made since the Great Recession.
Research from the nonpartisan Opportunity Insights project suggests that for every dollar invested in children, our nation gets $1.47 back. Yet the share of federal spending on kids has declined 9% over the last five fiscal years.
This trend must not continue. It is up to us – members of Congress – and the public that supports us, to demand that we put “the best interest of the child” first. Only when we do that, will we finally, truly put the best interest of our country first.
Representative Adriano Espaillat represents New York’s 13th congressional district.
Representative Espaillat is the first Dominican American to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives and his congressional district includes Harlem, East Harlem, West Harlem, Hamilton Heights, Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill and the north-west Bronx.
First elected to Congress in 2016, Representative Espaillat is serving his third term in Congress. Representative Espaillat currently serves as a member of the influential U.S. House Committee on Appropriations responsible for funding the federal government’s vital activities.
He is also a member of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus (CHC), where he serves as the Second Vice-Chair and is a member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, where he serves as Deputy Whip.