For months, Empower Missouri and our allies in Missouri have been urging our federal representatives to pass the Build Back Better Act, an opportunity to make historic investments for our neighbors with low incomes. Last week, Congress passed what we hope to be a final version of the bill. It includes targeted investments to reduce child poverty, improve the healthcare system, and correct some of the tax revenue issues created by the previous administration.
Included in the bill, we see many Empower Missouri priorities. The bill addresses prescription drug prices which place life saving medications outside of the reach of our neighbors with low incomes. It includes an expansion of childcare and early childhood education for families in Missouri, in which 115,000 children from low income households will be able to access free preschool. In addition 380,000 more Missouri kids under preschool age will have access to daycare assistance.
There was a rollercoaster of work for housing advocates with this bill. Initially set to include universal housing vouchers, one version of the bill included no housing investments at all. The package as it stands now includes an additional 25 billion in rental assistance, a key first step in moving households into housing security. Public housing is an investment in our lowest income households and nationally, these older homes are crumbling. An infusion of 65 billion will go a long way to address the capital improvement needs of these units.
The Housing Trust Fund is one of the most flexible pots of money used for low income housing investments. It can be used to improve currently existing affordable housing, to build new housing, or to fill gaps in the rental assistance program. Missouri will get an estimated $242 million out of 15 billion dollars nationally to help our neighbors. These resources can also be utilized by homeowners with low incomes, helping them make necessary improvements to their homes to stay safely housed.
Empower Missouri is particularly happy to see the inclusion of 15 billion dollars for targeted down payment assistance for first generation home buyers. This is one step towards correcting the racist loan practices of the 40 – 60s in America which shut Black and Brown families out of home ownership based on their skin color. Grants provided to Black and Brown first time home buyers will allow them to begin to collect the generational wealth that comes from property ownership, however it will not be enough to really address those intentional harms.
Now is the time to act!
We now anxiously wait to see if the Senate will pass the Build Back Better package through the reconciliation process. If passed, we are hopeful it will reach President Biden’s desk before Christmas. Please reach out to Senators Hawley and Blunt and ask them to pass the BBB Act here.
Policy and Advocacy Director