New BPC Report Lays Out Pragmatic Agenda for 117th Congress

December 10, 2020 by Sara Wilkerson
Detail of the U.S. Capitol. (Photo by Dan McCue)

WASHINGTON – The Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington D.C.- based think tank, recently released a pragmatic agenda policy report detailing nine policy recommendations for how Congress can help advance economic opportunity and financial security for America’s working families. The report’s release coincides with the BPC’s Solutions Summit happening this week. 

The BPC’s report, titled “Coming Together to Support Workers and Families: A Pragmatic Agenda for the New Congress” tackles short- and long-term challenges facing the country in the areas of: 

  • Promoting financial resilience and wealth creation 
  • Supporting work and expanding opportunity 
  • Helping children and families 

According to the introduction of the BPC report, the recommendations are meant to, “represent just a first step, or down payment, on future progress. 

“What these reforms have in common, however, is that they have attracted strong bipartisan support in the past and could be enacted quickly. 

“In that sense they represent a critical opportunity—not only to deliver meaningful immediate benefits, but also to demonstrate that the two parties remain capable of coming together to produce results for the American people,” states the report. 

In the first section of the Working Families agenda, the BPC details the financial hardships and the racial dimensions of inequality that have pre-dated and have been exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. 

Discussing issues such as housing inequality, chronic financial insecurity, and the long-term ramifications of Americans’ dwindling retirement security amid the pandemic, the BPC laid out three “first step” recommendations that can address these financial challenges. 

The BPC’s recommendations for tackling these challenges in an effort to promote financial resilience and wealth creation are: 

  1. Allow employers to automatically enroll employees into emergency savings accounts. 
  2. Enhance the Saver’s Credit for low- and moderate-income individuals. 
  3. Expand and reform the housing choice voucher program Housing Choice Vouchers. 

Besides discussing the financial challenges faced by Americans, the BPC report also addresses those related to the changing landscape of the country’s workforce. 

Noting the reduction of economic prospects that have been disrupted due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the BPC discussed the state of workforce participation by highlighting historical trends of the decrease in labor participation among men with low education, as well as the racial disparities in the unemployment rate

Additionally, the BPC describes how higher education access has acted as a “key driver” of economic disparity due to the lack of Pell Grant expansions. 

According to the report, “Pell Grants are the federal government’s main source of need-based aid for postsecondary education—and a vital means of support for low-income students. 

“But the amounts provided through this program have not kept pace with the rising cost of college, excluding many students or forcing them to take on excessive debt. 

“Moreover, the fact that Pell Grants cannot be used for many short-term programs closes off other important avenues for skill development and social mobility.” 

To remedy these workforce related issues, the BPC recommends that Congress should: 

  1. Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit for childless workers. 
  2. Increase Pell Grant funding and broaden eligibility. 
  3. Extend and expand the emergency pandemic paid leave provisions

Aside from addressing the financial and economic problems that are hindering the advancement of America’s working families, the BPC suggested several policy proposals that can provide better support and improve the stability of children and their families. 

Among the greater needs that struggling families have faced since the start of the pandemic, include but are not limited to, the challenges of finding and obtaining affordable child care and stable workplace opportunities while balancing the needs of raising a family. 

Additionally, the report emphasized the need to support child care providers who have faced reduced business and workplace advancement opportunities due to pandemic related shutdowns. 

The full report detailing the BPC’s recommendations for lawmakers, and viable steps on how to follow through with their recommendations, can be read online

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