President Obama's 2014 budget proposal contains a lot of good news for children and families on the rough edges of America's struggling economy, putting real teeth behind his recent calls for creating ladders of opportunity and helping to level the playing field for millions of Americans wrestling with poverty.
Medicaid and CHIP (Children's Health Insurance Program), the critical foundation programs for health care access for underserved children, fared well in the budget. The president strengthened the commitment to Medicaid expansion, continuing to give states a strong incentive to expand coverage. In doing so, the president has upheld the promise of the Affordable Care Act to make health care services available to as many Americans as possible.
The budget proposal also steps up to the plate on early childhood education with the Preschool for All initiative, which targets $750 million to providing pre-school access to all four-year olds and $1.6 billion in increased discretionary funding for Early Head Start/Child Care.
The budget also seeks to strengthen the social support structure the nation's most economically disadvantaged communities, directing $300 million to Promise Neighborhoods (Dept. of Education) and $400 million for Choice Neighborhoods (Dept. of Housing and Urban Development).
With America's heart still heavy from the tragic Newtown shooting, the president is proposing $130 million in new funding to assist schools in training mental health professionals and to support adolescent mental health access.
And, in one of the key areas affecting disadvantaged people in America - food and nutrition - the president has made a strong commitment to healthy children, restoring previous cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and increasing funding for a range of child nutrition initiatives, including the National School Lunch Program and Summer Food Service Program.
Overall, the president has taken on a delicate balancing act with admirable skill - exercising careful judgment to ensure that the nation continues to support vital core programs while making important new investments for the future.
Despite this generally good news, however, the budget also raises a few warning flags - in particular the proposed cuts to the Prevention and Public Health Fund's Community Transformation Grants program and the Community Services Block Grant as well as Centers for Disease Control and Prevention health disparities mitigation initiatives. You can be sure we will remain vigilant to the potential impact the budget may have on these and other public health and poverty reduction programs.
And, of course, all of us who care about the future of our nation will be keeping a close eye on negotiations going forward, doing all we can to ensure that the final budget protects the needs of the poor - especially the health care needs of the more than 16 million children living in poverty in the United States today.