Month: May 2017

Trump’s Paid Leave Proposal: Not the Plan America’s Families Need

The words “paid family leave” made it into the Trump administration’s 2018 spending plan. This may seem like a step in the right direction, but 1,000 Days sees this for what it is: a second-rate policy proposal that does not meet the needs of America’s hardworking families.

The Trump plan would allow states to establish programs that provide six weeks of paid leave to new mothers and fathers, including adoptive parents. For starters, six weeks of leave does not come close to meeting families’ care-giving needs. 1,000 Days supports a minimum of 12 weeks of paid leave for working parents upon the birth or adoption of a child. Furthermore, the President’s plan for paid leave is flawed in its proposed implementation. Built upon state unemployment insurance programs—the majority of which are underfunded and pay an average of just 46% of employee pay—it’s likely that America’s workers will receive just a fraction of their paycheck while on leave. Evidence from existing paid leave programs in states like California shows that when the wage replacement is too low, many workers—particularly low-wage workers, the vast majority of whom are women—cannot afford to take advantage of family leave. Given that states would have wide latitude to design the program the way they want, we don’t know what this program would look like, who would get which benefits and how much.

Details like this matter. And America’s families deserve better.

And while the inclusion of paid leave in the President’s budget is on the one hand a testament to the growing public demand for paid family and medical leave, it’s important to realize that it comes at the expense of health, nutrition and safety net programs that many families with young children rely on.

The time is now for Congress to act to support a well-designed and comprehensive paid leave program that truly benefits families. Earlier this year, Senator Kristen Gillibrand and Representative Rosa DeLauro introduced the FAMILY Act to provide up to 12 weeks of paid leave to all workers, regardless of the size of their employer, their gender, their marital status, or need for paid time off. Congress should dismiss the President’s paid leave proposal and get to work on passing common-sense legislation like the FAMILY Act to enable working families in the U.S. the opportunity to give their children the strongest start to life.

Trump’s Budget Cuts Will Harm Young Children and Families

At 1,000 Days, we believe that children are the foundation of a country’s greatness. When young children thrive, so do nations. It is why we are deeply concerned by the Trump Administration’s proposal to slash funding for basic nutrition, health and anti-poverty programs that give children here in the U.S. and around the world a strong start to life. By cutting vital domestic safety net programs and foreign assistance, the Trump Administration will not only weaken America’s foundation, it will also put vulnerable children and their families in harm’s way.

It is troubling to see that the President’s budget takes aim at programs that many hardworking American families of young children rely on to make ends meet: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps or SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 1,000 Days is particularly concerned about cuts to SNAP because nearly HALF of families that participate in the program include at least one child under age 5. It is unconscionable that the Trump Administration would propose massive cuts to SNAP when nearly 1/3 of preschoolers in the U.S. rely on the program each month for their nutritional needs. We are also deeply troubled by the proposal to slash funding for Medicaid and CHIP which together serve the health care needs of almost HALF of all children under the age of 6 in the U.S. These programs are vital to ensuring that all kids in America have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

By proposing deep cuts to foreign assistance, the President’s budget will also hurt young children in some of the poorest countries throughout the world. Each year nearly 3 million children under age 5 die from malnutrition—a condition that is almost entirely preventable. The U.S. has been a leader in the fight against global malnutrition and America’s investments in life-saving programs to improve maternal and young child nutrition costs a fraction of a penny of every dollar spent by the U.S. government. There is little question that eliminating or scaling down U.S. global health, development and humanitarian efforts will cost lives and reverse more than a decade of progress against poverty and disease. These devastating cuts come at a time in which the world is facing severe famines and other humanitarian crises and when over 1 million children are at risk of dying from starvation.

The President’s budget proposal is not only mean-spirited, it is also short-sighted. It will fail to balance the federal budget and will actually cost more money in the long run as taxpayers contend with the sickness and suffering that cutting vital health and nutrition programs will create.

Americans deserve better than a federal budget that puts the health and well-being of young children and their families at risk. Congress must reject the President’s proposal and start over to build a budget that is worthy of our children and our true greatness as a nation.

Babies Health or Corporate Bottom Lines

Every day, a billion-dollar battle is waged for a baby’s first food. It takes place the world over, from maternity wards in Uganda to OBGYN offices in Manhattan, from corner stores in Detroit to market stalls in Thailand. And it is fueled by a handful of large and powerful multinational food and drug companies that manufacture the bulk of the world’s infant formula and pour hundreds of millions of dollars each year into marketing their products.

As many of us know, the infant formula marketing onslaught begins before baby is born—sometimes, as soon as a few weeks after we find out we’re pregnant. Free samples, cute gifts branded with formula company logos, clever commercials, and coupons galore are all harmless right? Not quite. All this marketing is designed to do one thing and one thing only—to get you to start using infant formula, as soon as possible and as much as possible.

And while formula itself is a necessity for many babies, the marketing of it is not. For starters, marketing drives up the cost of formula. It is one of the industry’s dirty little secrets: free samples aren’t really free. Formula-feeding families end up paying dearly for these so-called free samples because the cost of making and distributing the samples (often in hospitals and doctors’ offices) is baked into the high price of name-brand formula. It is important to remember that for many parents in the U.S and throughout the world, infant formula is a costly but necessary expense that strains the family budget. The high cost of the product is one reason why financially-strapped parents sometimes end up diluting formula to make it last longer, inadvertently putting their babies at risk for malnutrition. The marketing of formula is also engineered to undermine women’s confidence to breastfeed. Infant formula companies very often employ messaging and tactics (and even messengers such as health care workers and pediatricians) that prey upon nursing mothers’ fears and anxieties—am I making enough milk? is my baby getting fed enough? is my baby getting all the nutrition he needs? This kind of marketing is not only predatory and unethical, it is also detrimental to the well-being of women and children. The more formula companies push their products, the less moms and babies benefit from breastfeeding and the more their health suffers. For mom, longer durations of breastfeeding is associated with lower risk of heart disease, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. For baby, breastfeeding protects against illnesses and infections and offers unparalleled brain-boosting benefits.

While the aggressive marketing of formula does little to help families, it does a lot to drive profits for infant formula companies and Wall Street. Make no mistake, infant formula is big business. Globally, annual sales of formula are projected to grow from about $45 billion to almost $71 billion in the next two years. Most of this growth is expected to come from emerging economies in Asia and Africa where high rates of child mortality and malnutrition persist. This global growth has meant huge profits for companies and has made formula company executives very wealthy. In fact, one of the highest paid chief executives in American business is the CEO of Abbott Labs, the maker of Similac. The U.S. accounts for about $4 billion in sales each year for formula makers, though sales here have been stagnant as breastfeeding rates have been inching upward. Even the slightest increase in breastfeeding rates can spell trouble because every breastfed baby is a lost sale for formula companies. Pressure by Wall Street investors to boost profits have led formula companies to spend big on promoting their brands and pushing new “super premium” (i.e. high-priced and heavily marketed) product offerings. It has also led companies to be even more aggressive in their promotion of formula: marketing their products as “closer than ever to breast milk”, making bogus and misleading health claims on product packaging, and pushing supplementation for breastfed babies by stoking parents’ fears about underfeeding.

As many families struggle with the high cost of formula-feeding and mothers deal with confusing and conflicting messages on how and what to feed their babies, it is time we take a stand against the aggressive promotion of infant formula. Expensive advertising and marketing tactics and bogus product claims benefit no one except the big formula companies and Wall Street investors.

If you agree, join us in taking action. On Thursday, May 18th, we’re teaming up with Public Citizen, Best for Babes and ROSE for a day of action to send a message to infant formula companies that it’s time to put #HealthOverProfit. You can get involved in this day of action here. We hope you’ll join us in standing up for formula-feeding and breastfeeding families the world over and let formula companies know that our babies’ health is more important than their bottom lines.

Statement on the Passage of the American Health Care Act

Today, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act (AHCA)—a dangerous and irresponsible piece of legislation that puts the health of moms and babies at risk. Under the AHCA, millions of hard-working families stand to lose the guaranteed health benefits that are critical to ensuring that their children get a strong start to life.

With this bill, Congress will force many women to pay more out-of-pocket to get the care that they need before, during and after pregnancy, putting themselves and their babies at risk for serious medical complications. Millions of people with pre-existing conditions—which could include pregnancy itself—will no longer be guaranteed affordable coverage to meet their needs. In addition, the AHCA also takes us back to days when women can be denied coverage or charged a lot more for health insurance just for being of child-bearing age.

It is deeply troubling that the AHCA includes severe cuts to Medicaid and CHIP, which play a critical role in providing health insurance to low-income families. Almost half of all children under age 6 in America rely on these programs for health coverage. Because the AHCA cuts billions of dollars from Medicaid and weakens the program, Congress has voted to eliminate coverage for millions of low-income children and their families.

As this bill now heads to the Senate, 1,000 Days urges Senators to vigorously oppose this proposal and instead focus on building a healthcare system that ensures all mothers, babies and toddlers in America have the care they need to thrive.