US children impacted by family benefits cuts

Global Business

As Washington continually looks for ways to control the U.S. deficit, entitlement programs are being scrutinized for possible cuts.

But a study by U.S. university researchers finds the federal government already spends a relatively low amount of money on children. CGTN’s Mark Niu reports.

A recent study by professors at Northwestern and the University of California at Berkeley finds positive long-run benefits when children have access to safety net programs.

But it also reveals that out of 36 member countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, the U.S. ranks third to last, above only Mexico and Turkey, in family benefits public spending.

“There has been particular in this administration, much more interest in reducing taxes and making people ‘self-sufficient,'” Ertharin Cousin, a Stanford University Lecturer and former executive director of the of the U.N. World Food Programme said. “You can’t be self-sufficient if you are a child and if you don’t have access to the necessary resources because your family doesn’t have the economic ability to provide the assistance that is required to live life to its fullest.”

“All this time I was homeless, I was sleeping on the streets, I was freezing. I wasn’t getting proper nutrition, even though I was on food stamps, nowhere to cook food. It was not like I could go to a grocery store and make healthy meals to provide for my babies that I’m growing,” said 21-year-old single mother Celeste Chacon.

Fortunately, Chacon now has a place to stay with her twin babies.

She credits a non-profit nurse, non-profit organizations and local San Francisco programs for helping her family survive.

Diaper banks and free baby products were also vital.

One of Celeste’s daughters also has a rare brain malformation, making her situation even more challenging.

“Everybody wants you to go school, work, all of that. But it needs to start at home. It needs to start at a safe place,” said Chacon. “Because there’s no way you’re going to be able to work to improve your income while your children are not in a safe space.”

That’s why San Francisco’s new Project 500  – which aims to help lift 500 families out of poverty – provides Celeste with a mentor to provide counseling and guidance in life decisions.

 “When nearly one in five children in the richest or one of the richest countries on the planet is living in poverty and when nearly eight percent of children in this country are living in deep poverty which means below 50-percent of the poverty level, with those facts being what they are, I think we can safely say that federal spending and policy priorities aren’t where they need to be,” said Noelle Simmons,  the Deputy Director of Economic Support and Self-Sufficiency for the San Francisco Human Services Agency. “In the breach where federal spending is not adequate, it’s up to state and local governments to step in and provide additional funding.”

The recent academic study on safety nets showed that while spending on children has remained stagnant over the past two decades, spending on the elderly has actually grown substantially.

“The reality is that too often, political leaders respond to those who vote or who provide political contributions. Children can’t do either one of those,” said Cousin.

For Celeste, her focus is on making a better life for her family.

She also hopes to someday become a non-profit nurse – just like the one who came to her rescue.

Joseph Minarik discusses US spending on child welfare and associated impacts on young children

CGTN’s Rachelle Akuffo spoke to Joseph Minarik, senior vice president and director of research, CED about U.S. government spending on child welfare and education.