Who Will Benefit From Biden’s Infrastructure Bill?

I’m glued to the TV today watching the Congressional drama around Biden’s Infrastructure Bill. Historically, I have identified as a progressive on social welfare issues. Not just a working parent, I’m a parent of a special needs kid. So, I know first hand how badly we need better social supports for working mothers and caretakers. Go back in the archives on this blog, and you’ll see hundreds of blog posts about the need for greater childcare, better special education, and support for adults with disabilities.

During the pandemic, I got burned. My friends and I have never gotten a whole lot from the government for raising special needs kids, beyond some dark basement classrooms in town public schools. In March 2020, what little we had, disappeared. For two years, we have been filling the vacuum in services with private help and our own home cooked efforts. We watched our children regress. Unable to work, because many people with special needs can never be left alone, we were completely ignored by the federal government, local government, and the community.

Some local public schools and programs for young adults with disabilities STILL have not opened.

So, what is Biden’s bill going to do for us?

If he provides money for childcare, do parents who care for their children at home also get compensated? A lot of daycares don’t take kids like mine. When Ian was three, he was kicked out of three daycares, before I bribed a local crappy place another $1,000 per month to take him. I had just taken a new job and I needed two afternoons of help. I was going into the college and giving lectures with two hours of sleep, so I was desperate. It’s really, really hard to work and to find childcare if your kid is disabled, so pay the parents who stay at home. Does Biden’s bill do that? Nah.

Does any of the money in Biden’s bill go directly to parents with special needs kids? No. It goes to local organizations and bureaucracies instead — some of which are still not working. Not a cent goes directly to the families.

In a recent newsletter, I wrote:

Throughout this pandemic, disabled people and their families were completed ignored by government. Not only were existing programs shuttered, but there was no recognition for the unique and extreme challenges as government scrambled to provide some compensations. Biden’s much lauded Family Tax Credits did not provide parents with special needs children more money, even though their children have much more expensive needs.

Money has been raining down from the government for two years. I know people who are making more from unemployment and other COVID benefits than they did before the pandemic. But I have not seen one benefit for my kid and others like him. We have no new programs, no supplementation for our out-of-pocket expenses, not even a “sorry.” I hear horror stories every day from parents who are struggling to cope with high needs caretaking.

Show me the money getting into the right hands, and I’ll be in the front lines supporting the big number that progressives are touting. But the pandemic has made me into a cynic. I want to see outcomes.

36 thoughts on “Who Will Benefit From Biden’s Infrastructure Bill?

  1. “I know people who are making more from unemployment and other COVID benefits than they did before the pandemic.” Who? The additional COVID unemployment benefit ended a while ago. The COVID direct payments were also months ago.


  2. I know a girl who worked for one month at a tattoo parlor before the pandemic. She made a huge amount for a while, and she’s still making money even with the cutbacks. Shrug. Maybe Jersey is more generous than other states.


  3. The child tax credit is designed in part to offer families like those you describe assistance with disability-related expenses. If you were developing a program for individual assistance along the lines that would suit you, how would you do it? Wouldn’t it still fall to states to determine eligibility and set parameters fir what could be paid for or provided? What income limits would you want to see? It may be the case that the additional funds allocated via COVID relief or via the proposed 3.5 trillion package would be allocated to school furriers to accomplish what you seek.


  4. ha. I would like a school fur coat.

    If money was allocated to schools, not a cent has made it to my kid or kids like him. He had no additional help for two years. We have been left entirely on our own.

    Any disabled adult over aged 18 should have gotten a direct payment from the government. Most did not, because they have never worked, so they don’t qualified for unemployment. Ian got nothing and he’s 19 now. Some got COVID money, but it fucked up their disability insurance from social security, so it was actually a net loss for them.

    Parents of disabled kid and teens have MUCH bigger expenses than parents of typical kids and that fact was not acknowledged by the government. There should be higher income thresholds for those families and larger benefits.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I see your cynicism about money to school districts, school lunch programs, tutoring programs not making it to your needs (also doesn’t make it to me).

    But my cynicism reads “how me the money getting into the right hands” as awfully close to “into my hands and to the people I know.

    The child tax credit has had tremendous benefits: https://www.politico.com/news/2021/08/12/child-tax-credit-hunger-rates-504258

    We didn’t get anything from the child tax credit (for a variety of reasons, one of which is means testing, but also ’cause of our kids’ ages) but we still spend a lot of money on our kids (including more because of the pandemic). Should we get money? I don’ think so.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Will not forgiving them result in better treatment of children with disabilities? and not just the ones with middle-class/well off parents? And that might sound like a facetious question, but it’s not, I’m actually interested in what alternative solutions to the current patchwork would be.

      But, I don’t see children with disabilities as being a special class whose needs should be met differently than other vulnerable kids who have been dealt unlucky draws (say parents who are drug addicts). Some people do, because they allocate blame differently than I do.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Disabled kids suffered from isolation and lack of therapy and complete neglect in ways that typical kids did not experience. Kids in my neighbor still had baseball, soccer, and a million other supports that were never suspended. Money should have been given to provide those services — many of which could not be provided privately — to help those kids.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Do families with disabilities (it might depend on which ones) *have* much bigger expenses? or do they just need (rather than want) more? My issue with framing this as families that have much bigger expenses is that those families are paying those expenses. Should taxpayer funding be redistributed so that those families can spend that money on something else? or to families that literally don’t have the money to pay for respite care and food? And, what about the families that don’t have money to pay for food (even though no one has a diagnosed disability)?

    I think the world of disabilities and government funding for it is very hidden from those of us who don’t interact with that system and that we need a lot more awareness of it.


    1. Yes, families with disabilities have much more expenses and less family wealth. Lots of evidence of this. So much therapy and support is not covered by insurance. A family with typical kids that makes $50K a year will be much better off than a family with disabled kids who earn the same amount.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Wait, I wasn’t questioning that there are more neecs, but saying that lots of people don’t have the money to pay for them and aren’t getting them. Poor people don’t have 1600 dollars a month to pay or money to pay for expensive babysitting even if children need those services


      2. That would also be true for a family who makes 500,000 and has a child with disabilities (rather than neurotypical children). I do want taxpayer dollars to go to those who need the money to pay for the services, who make 50K a year and not the family making 500K.

        At what income level does this change? that’s always the difficult question, and I think we’ve had similar discussions about the “sour spot” in financial aid for college.

        (Oh, and I am not interested in spending lots of resources on trying to find the most deserving, but, I also don’t think that we legitimately have the resources to redistribute income to people making 100’s of thousands of dollars).


      3. bj said, “At what income level does this change? that’s always the difficult question, and I think we’ve had similar discussions about the “sour spot” in financial aid for college.”

        You could have a heck of a lot higher income than $50k a year and not find it trivial to come up with an extra $1600 a month.

        Our family definitely doesn’t have an extra $1600 a month in cash flow so a) we’re using savings (but they’re not going to last indefinitely at this rate) b) there is some hope of a tax refund at the end of the year if medical and therapy expenses go high enough and c) there’s also some hope that our medical/therapy expenses will go down within 2-3 months. At some point, these extra expenses should go away entirely, but I expect a floor of at least $500 a month in therapy expenses for the next year, maybe two or three years. That’s also not trivial, but at that level, it’s a lot more feasible to trim a bit here and there, bring other expenses down, hustle a bit for extra income, and make it work.

        It’s a murky situation, and I really won’t know how we’re doing until tax time. Also, in all honesty, we do have the option of me working, but the taxes on my likely small income make that really unpalatable, especially since there are a lot of transportation and logistical issues to take care of.

        Another point–if the circumstances are serious enough and time-sensitive enough, you pay for the thing whether or not you have the money or not, and worry about the money later. (This doesn’t work so well if it’s ongoing expenses for a chronic condition, of course.)


    2. bj said, “Do families with disabilities (it might depend on which ones) *have* much bigger expenses? or do they just need (rather than want) more?”


      1. There are more healthcare costs.
      2. Family income is diminished by the need to take care of appointments, extra school demands, etc.
      3. Some normal things are more expensive. For example, my BFF has to pay top dollar for babysitters in order to keep them coming back. (I believe Laura has mentioned something similar.)

      Our family is currently spending about $1600 a month on therapy stuff (for two different kids). I’m hoping that that will decrease in the next month or two and that all the co-pays/out-of-network costs will add up to something that leads to a good tax return–although with the child tax credit being pre-paid this year, who knows.

      Virtually all of the Trump Bucks/Biden Bucks that our family got wound up going to an assortment of medical and therapy expenses.

      Quick note: The pre-payment of the child tax credit this year is going to be a disaster for a lot of families who normally rely on the lump sum. A lot of people are not going to be prepared for the fact that they will not get as much money this spring.


  7. Those who can’t work because of disability are already eligible for federal benefits. Should the principle be that those receiving those benefits should receive additional unemployment benefits when we extend those to the unemployed (which I think also happens during recessions)? Seems like a principle worth bringing to the attention of the representatives who concern themselves with disability benefits.

    I have some vague memory that there have been recessions where people have gotten extra social security payments?


    1. I listened to a webinar last week with policy experts on this area. They said the COVID bonuses, which everyone else (in certain income brackets) in the country received, totally fucked up disability benefits and Medicaid. That was just one problem. Social security offices shutdown so people who applied for benefits at this time had to submit original documents through the mail. So of course, green cards and birth certificates were lost. Such a train wreck. And, yes, there are policy people in DC trying to get politicians to pay attention to a group with no organized PAC or union. Good luck!


      1. :Laura wrote, “Social security offices shutdown so people who applied for benefits at this time had to submit original documents through the mail. So of course, green cards and birth certificates were lost.”

        That’s awful!


  8. To try to be ore clear — I’m not opposing supports for people with disabilities. I’m asking what was done poorly and how programs should be changed and money allocated.

    I know in the 1st Biden relief bill, adults dependents with disabilities were given stimulus checks and that money was targeted at home service providers and a few billion allocated for special needs school funding.


  9. That special needs school funding never trickled down to the kids. I talk regularly to parents with special needs kids of all income brackets. Their kids received no new benefits and often got nothing at all. I know kids who spent two years at home and were too disabled to do zoom school. They got zippo. And money for home service providers is fine and all, but it doesn’t benefit the disabled people, especially when all services to homes are suspended because of COVID.

    BJ wrote: “I do want taxpayer dollars to go to those who need the money to pay for the services, who make 50K a year and not the family making 500K.”

    Wow. I don’t even know where to start first on this one. Alright let me back up…

    1. Many, if not most, services for children in this country are NOT means tested. For example, all children from Bill Gates kids on down get a FREE public education in this country. Local government provides sports and recreation services for its citizens, regardless of income. Public Libraries are open to all children. And so on.

    2. A few government services for young people are actually regressive. For example, elite private colleges are subsidized by the government in the form of a privileged tax status, research grants, and student loans.

    3. Services for disabled children are not means tested. For example, before kids turn three in NJ, the state will provide evaluations and therapy for kids with Cerebral Palsy and autism. After three, the public schools takes over. Now, it’s true that private therapy is better than the free stuff, and rich people usually do that. But private schools for disabled kids are so expensive that they don’t really exist, so even the rich people use state schools.

    4. If you think that the state should not educate or provide therapy to children with special needs, if their parents earn over a certain limit, then that puts you to the right of Rand Paul. Nobody says that.

    5. Biden’s child tax credit was means tested. That does sound fine. I was arguing that the means should be slightly higher for parents with special needs kids, because even though the state does provide education/therapy, it is never enough, and all special needs parents have to supplement with outside services and have huge out-of-pocket expenses. Having a special needs kids, makes a poor person even poorer. That reality should have been acknowledged by Biden’s Child Tax Credit bill.

    6. My big gripe about disability services during the pandemic is that we paid the administrators and service providers, but those agencies/departments/programs did not actually provide any services. Disabled kids sat at home. Here in NJ, the bureaucrats at the Department of Education only worked two days per week (at home or in the office). Our district needed them to sign off on some paperwork to create an 18-21 program, but everything got stalled, because the state bureaucrats didn’t work.


    1. Good summary.

      Indeed I do agree that public education should be free for all and not be means tested (though a variety of education adjacent services are means tested —free full day kindergarten in my school district, for example). I also agree that access to school should be provided equitably, and that means kids who need more resources to reach their potential should get them. That group includes children with disabilities, homeless children, poor children, English language learners, . . . .


    1. Reminds me of a Seattle Public School incident i which a law firm charged with answering a FOIA request by a guardian for their charge’s records (it was a brother) resulted in the lawyer accidentally releasing 7000 student’s special needs records. The lawyer then sent a follow up email asking for the inadvertent records release be destroyed (and, yes, legal action was threatened).

      I think the use of FOIA to get the records of minor children’s records by their parents is problematic.

      My son once received the vaccine records of a kid in Kentucky (or something like that) because his gmail address was similar enough to the mother’s.


  10. I think I’m not getting my point across because it is not that I oppose any supports for individuals for disabilities but that I don’t oppose a bill that gives benefits to the poor even if benefits aren’t given to the disabled. For example, 20% of SNAP beneficiaries are disabled, too.

    I find myself concentrating on the issues of the poor because I know a lawyer who advocates for poor parents with children with disabilities, who don’t have the money in savings, from friends and relatives, from loans, to pay for their child’s needs. The stories are horrible and one result is that group settles for not enough and even awful solutions because they are desperate.

    But, my goal is not to take away money from one group of people with needs (well, except the carried interest deduction) to another; I just don’t want to let the lack of addressing one problem result in not helping others.


    1. bj said, “I think I’m not getting my point across because it is not that I oppose any supports for individuals for disabilities but that I don’t oppose a bill that gives benefits to the poor even if benefits aren’t given to the disabled.”

      I have a lot of concerns about interactions with taxation, and how top 20% families like mine are the cow that is supposed to produce milk for everybody, while at the same time we have extremely large medical and therapy expenses ourselves.

      We may be pleasantly surprised at tax time, but maybe not. I just don’t know right now.

      Also, I don’t care what the Biden administration is saying about not raising taxes on any household under $400k. They don’t mean it, and any increased tax on corporations reduces the value of fairly ordinary people’s pensions, 401ks, educational savings accounts, etc. Squeezing corporations harder means squeezing people’s savings harder. Throw in issues with inflation (both reducing spending power and pushing people into higher tax brackets without raising their quality of life) and wow, you’ve got a party.


  11. Also, I saw the article about social security & mothers who have been in and out of the work force that Laura tweeted and I was annoyed because it wasn’t a very good article. It complained without solutions and did not address the ways social security does try to protect spousal benefits (receiving 50% of a divorced spouse’s benefits is better than what alimony is these days) and the death benefits. What would a better solution be?

    I thought the author was writing a quick and dirty article and I was frustrated that she got the space instead of Laura. I think there’s age bias in the media and that it decreases perspective. Will that author really arrange her life so she doesn’t make her mother’s mistake? Will she be able to? We’re losing the perspective of actual lives and I’m annoyed.

    (I mean, maybe, Laura doesn’t want to write the articles at the pay offered, and that’s OK. But, more of the media needs to reflect non 20 something voices rehashing the same stories).


    1. That article is about the financial distress of a mid-fifties post child raising woman. Why isn’t a woman that age writing it?

      ultimately the author made the story about herself, too.


    2. Thanks, bj. I haven’t pitched anything in several months. I’m really burned out, and my writing light is not “on.” I’m selling books right now. Just got off the phone with the lawyer to set up an LLC.

      I totally agree with you about the agism in journalism. I have stories, but I can’t talk about it even in the comment section here.


    3. Yeah, but I think they should hire you as a staff writer. I wish there was a way for me to make them make that offer and I’m a bit annoyed that I don’t have that power, too.


      1. Ha. They have very, very few staff writers right now. I don’t think there’s much of an audience for the policy/serious stuff writing that I do. I think the world is burned out. I care about politics, so I’ll keep writing here and on the newsletter, but it’s just for fun. Maybe I should make a TikTok dance video.


    1. yes, and Alabama says it’s spending relief funds on prisons.

      I do think the non spending is relevant to Laura’s basic issue that she wants to see results.


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