Although there has been a strong economic recovery under President Biden, young adults have now lived through two historic economic downturns. In 2008, many young workers without a college degree lost their jobs. In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, the highest proportion of young adults between the ages of 18 and 29 were living at home with their parents since the Great Depression and unemployment for young adults reached a peak of 24.4 percent, and was even higher for young adults of color. The economic events of the past 15 years have made the path to the middle class difficult for many young Americans.
Young adults are facing additional challenges on their path to economic security, including barriers to home ownership, unaffordable or hard to find child care, and the existential threat of climate change. Home ownership rates are at a historic low for young adults. Child care for two children costs at least 50 percent of the median millennial’s salary in 47 states, as well as in the District of Columbia. And the climate crisis poses an urgent threat to our environment, our health, our communities, our national security, and our economy.
President Biden’s Build Back Better plan is a once-in-a-generation investment that responds to the historic challenges facing the country, including young Americans. President Biden knows that it is not enough to restore us to where we were prior to the pandemic – we need to build back better. That means making it easier for American families to break into the middle class, and easier to stay in the middle class. It means reducing the cost of things that working people depend on. And, he knows that, in order to secure a brighter, more equitable future, we need to support young adults, many of whom are dealing with the long-term consequences of two economic downturns.
Education and Workforce Opportunities
Thirteen years of school is no longer enough to be prepared for the jobs of today’s economy. At the same time, the cost of education beyond high school has become unaffordable for too many students across the country. The value of Pell Grants over the last nearly 50 years has fallen from covering more than 75 percent of the cost of a four-year degree at a public university to under 30 percent, forcing millions of low-income students to take on debt. Additionally, as more young Americans rejoin the workforce or seek out new opportunities in a changing economy, there is a greater need for skills development opportunities for workers of all kinds that lead to high-quality jobs. To expand education and workforce opportunities, the Build Back Better plan will:
- Ensure that postsecondary education is accessible and affordable for young adults, and that students who enroll are ultimately successful: Millennials have grown up in and graduated into an economy where the majority of jobs created between 2010 and 2016 require some education beyond high school. Because of this, they are the most educated generation, but have faced challenges along the way. While more young adults from low-income backgrounds are enrolling in college, the Pell Grant has not kept up with the increase in cost. This has contributed to an increasing reliance on debt. The Build Back Better plan makes an education beyond high school more affordable and accessible by providing two years of free community college and by making college more affordable for low- and middle-income students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Tribal Colleges and Universities (TCUs), and institutions such as Hispanic-serving institutions, Asian American and Native American Pacific Islander-serving institutions, and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs). This is bolstered by increasing the maximum Pell Grant by nearly $1,500 to help all eligible low-income students pay for a two- or four-year degree. Finally, President Biden recognizes that access is not enough – students need support to obtain a credential or degree. The Build Back Better plan invests in evidence-based strategies to strengthen completion and retention rates at community colleges and institutions that serve students from our most disadvantaged communities.
- Build the capacity of the existing workforce development systems: The United States has underinvested in the workforce development system for decades. In 2018, for example, we spent less than one quarter of the average that other advanced economies spend on workforce and labor market programs as a share of GDP. This lack of investment impacts all of us: better educated workers create spillover effects for other workers and lack of employment has negative social impacts on communities. President Biden is calling on Congress significantly increase investments in American workforce development infrastructure and worker protection. This includes registered apprenticeships and pre-apprenticeships, creating one to two million new registered apprenticeships slots, and strengthening the pipeline for more women and people of color to access these opportunities through successful pre-apprenticeship programs such as the Women in Apprenticeships in Non-Traditional Occupations. It also invests in sector-based training programs, which are comprehensive training programs that include wraparound services, paired with high-quality training and effective partnerships between educational institutions, unions, and employers — guaranteeing placement in a good quality, in-demand job. The sector-based training investments will provide millions of workers –particularly young workers, women and workers of color –with pathways into high job-quality sectors including, clean energy, manufacturing and infrastructure. This will ensure these underserved groups have greater access to new infrastructure jobs.
Help for Young Adults Who Care for Their Families
The hope of a middle-class life has gotten further and further out of reach for too many American families, as the costs of raising children – from child care to taking leave time to care for a child or family member – have grown. The cost of child care is now more than in-state tuition at public four-year colleges in over half of the country. Difficulty in finding high-quality, affordable child care and lack of access to preschools leads some parents to drop out of the labor force entirely, some to reduce their work hours, and others to turn down a promotion. When a parent drops out of the workforce, reduces work hours, or takes a lower-paying job early in their careers, they can suffer lifetime consequences on earnings, savings, and retirement. Similarly, high costs and increasing shortages of care for disabled and elderly people leave many to rely on unpaid caregiving – nearly a quarter of millennials are providing care for a family member. To help young adults care for their families, the Build Back Better plan will:
- Create free universal pre-K: President Biden is calling for a national partnership with states to offer free, high-quality, accessible, and inclusive preschool to all three-and four-year-olds, benefitting five million children and saving the average family $13,000 when fully implemented. This historic investment in America’s future will prioritize high-need areas and enable communities and families to choose the settings that work best for them, including schools, child care centers, family child care providers, Head Start, and other community-based providers. The President’s plan will also ensure that all publicly-funded preschool is high-quality, with low student-to-teacher ratios, developmentally appropriate curriculum, and supportive classroom environments that are inclusive for all students.
- Guarantee access to high-quality, affordable child care for low- and middle-income families and offer universal free preschool to all three- and four-year old children. Families will pay only a portion of their income based on a sliding scale. For the most hard-pressed working families, child care costs for their young children would be fully covered, and families earning up to 1.5 times their state’s median income will pay no more than 7 percent of their income for all children under age five. When fully implemented, this plan will save the average family $14,800 each year, help parents better manage work and care, and produce lifetime benefits for children. The President’s plan would also make permanent the dramatic expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit (CDCTC) enacted in the American Rescue Plan. With this expanded credit, families can receive up to half of what they spend on child care for children under age 13, up to a total of $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children.
- Create a national comprehensive paid family and medical leave program. The program will ensure workers receive partial wage replacement to take time to bond with a new child, care for a seriously ill loved one, deal with a loved one’s military deployment, find safety from sexual assault, stalking, or domestic violence, heal from their own serious illness, or take time to deal with the death of a loved one. It will guarantee 12 weeks of paid parental, family, and personal illness/safe leave by year 10 of the program, and also ensure workers get three days of bereavement leave per year starting in year one. The program will provide workers up to $4,000 a month, with a minimum of two-thirds of average weekly wages replaced, rising to 80 percent for the lowest wage workers. Additionally, the plan has an inclusive definition of family, ensuring workers can care for and be cared by a loved one who is not related by blood.
- Significantly expand the Child Tax Credit and deliver it monthly. The Build Back Better proposal would extend the Child Tax Credit (CTC) expansion first enacted in the American Rescue Plan from $2,000 to $3,000 per child six years-old and above, and to $3,600 per child under six. Parents can use this tax credit on everything from diapers to putting more food on the table to paying the rent or mortgage. For a family with two parents who earn a combined $100,000 per year and have two children under six, the Child Tax Credit expansion means the family’s credit would go from $4,000 total to $7,200 total, an additional $3,200 per year in tax relief. For a family with two parents who earn a combined $24,000 per year and have two children under six, the expansion means even more; they would see roughly an additional $4,400 in tax relief because the full credit was not previously available to them. The Build Back Better proposal makes the credit fully refundable on a permanent basis, so that low-income families—the families that need the credit the most—can benefit from the full tax credit. An estimated 66 million children (90 percent) are already poised to benefit from the expanded tax credit, including over 9 million Black children and over 17 million Latino children.
Housing Affordability and Access
Homeownership remains stubbornly out of reach for young Americans due to interrelated issues of rising costs and scarcity of supply. Millennial renters report declining optimism about the prospect of homeownership and cite affordability as their greatest concern. But even for the majority of millennials who aspire to own a home, high rental costs, plus other expenses that many carry, make it difficult to save up money to buy a home. A recent survey of millennial renters showed that 63% of renters planning to buy a home had no down payment savings. Whether they seek to own a home or not, a lack of housing supply drives up housing costs for young renters and homeowners alike. To help renters and homeowners, the Build Back Better plan will:
- Expand access to federal subsidies that will enable the construction or rehabilitation of more than 1 million affordable rental housing units. President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan would bolster funding for successful housing subsidy programs to produce and preserve housing that is affordable for very- and extremely-low income renters. This includes investments in the HOME Investment Partnerships program, the Housing Trust Fund, and the Capital Magnet Fund. The President is also proposing authorizing $2 billion in new project-based rental assistance agreements for the first time in more than 20 years to help even more working families access affordable housing. Together, these investments will produce, preserve, and retrofit more than a million affordable rental housing units in big cities and small towns across the country.
- Build and rehabilitate more than 500,000 homes for low- and middle-income homebuyers. President Biden is calling on Congress to take immediate steps to spur the construction and rehabilitation of homes for underserved communities. Specifically, he is calling on Congress to pass the innovative, bipartisan Neighborhood Homes Investment Act (NHIA). Offering $20 billion worth of NHIA tax credits over the next five years will result in approximately 500,000 homes built or rehabilitated, creating a pathway for more families to buy a home and start building wealth.
- Incentivize the removal of exclusionary zoning and harmful land use policies. For decades, exclusionary zoning laws – like minimum lot sizes, mandatory parking requirements, and prohibitions on multifamily housing – have inflated housing and construction costs and locked families out of areas with more opportunities. President Biden’s plan seeks to help jurisdictions reduce barriers to producing affordable housing and expand housing choices for people with low or moderate incomes. The Build Back Better Plan will create an incentive program that awards flexible and attractive funding to jurisdictions that take concrete steps to reduce barriers to affordable housing production.
The climate crisis is one of the greatest threats America and the global community face. And it is this younger generation that will inherit the worst impacts of this crisis. That is why on Day 1, President Biden mobilized the whole of government to tackle the climate crisis, rejoined the landmark Paris Agreement, and set an ambitious and achievable goal of cutting emissions by 50-52% below 2005 levels by 2030. To meet this goal, this Build Back Better plan will make once-in-a-generation investments in clean energy and infrastructure that can help tackle the climate crisis and advance environmental justice in communities across the country. To address the climate crisis for young Americans, the Build Back Better plan will:
- Invest in clean energy manufacturing right here in America. The plan will provide tax cuts for businesses and consumers to deploy clean energy technology like renewables, battery storage, and electric vehicles. These along with investments for retooling factories and growing supply chains will spur demand for more domestic manufacturing. This will not only grow our capacity to build these technologies here in America, but also create millions of good-quality jobs when paired with strong labor standards and a free and fair choice to join a union and bargain collectively. When paired with an Energy Efficiency and Clean Electricity Standard (EECES), it will help get America on track to meet the goal of 100 percent carbon pollution-free electricity by 2035 and zero net emissions economy-wide by 2050.
- Create a new Civilian Climate Corps. In 1933 President Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps, a popular New Deal program that transformed the American landscape and put unemployed Americans back to work. During the 9 years of the program’s existence, more than three million young men ages 18-28 served for up to two years earning $30 per month – the equivalent of $600 per month in today’s economy – in addition to meals and lodging. Today there is an opportunity to put a new generation of climate, conservation, and resilience workers to work – paid a living wage and provided a pathway to public service or good-paying union jobs. The plan will enlist a new, diverse generation of Americans to work conserving our public lands and waters, bolstering community resilience, and advancing environmental justice – all while maximizing the creation of accessible training opportunities.
- Invest in Clean Energy and Energy Efficiency Block Grants to spur thousands of local projects. This includes installing community solar in disadvantaged communities, replacing street lights with LED bulbs manufactured in America, and making upgrades to a community center to cut its electricity bills—that prioritize worker empowerment and advance environmental justice. These block grants will support states and local governments that are stepping up to lead on climate—by implementing policy measures that accelerate progress toward clean energy goals