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More Funds for Health, Nutrition Are Urged Through 'Bill of Hope'

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Washington--Urging President Bush to fulfill his campaign promise to "invest in children," the Children's Defense Fund last week proposed a $4.3-billion "bill of hope" that would boost funding for a variety of health and nutrition programs.

"We must begin to work together today with a sense of urgency and commitment" to head off a "growing child crisis," said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the group, at a news conference here.

Ms. Edelman cited data showing that increasing numbers of children from poor and minority families are falling victim to a host of social ills, and that many mothers lack adequate medical insurance and prenatal care.

If present trends continue, she said, one out of every four children at the end of the century will live in poverty. Moreover, she warned, rising infant-mortality, teenage-pregnancy, drug-abuse, and school-dropout rates will lead to a decline in "economic competitiveness and quality of life."

The c.d.f. proposal would:

Extend Medicaid coverage to all pregnant women, as well as to children through age 8, living in homes with incomes below twice the federally defined poverty level.

Ensure that all eligible women and children receive assistance under the Women, Infants, and Children nutrition program, Head Start, and the Chapter 1 compensatory-education program.

Guarantee that all children are fully immunized.

Provide affordable, high-quality care for the children of low-income working mothers through the "act for better child-care services." That measure languished in the Congress at the end of last year but has been reintroduced in the current session.

Raise the minimum wage to keep pace with the level of inflation.

The c.d.f. set out several "spending choices" that could underwrite its agenda, such as cutting tax deductions for business entertainment; halting the forgiveness of loans provided to foreign governments that buy U.S. weapons; taxing furs and other luxury items; and hiking cigarette and liquor taxes.

Ms. Edelman applauded Mr. Bush's campaign pledges to devote resources to the well-being of children. "We eagerly await his action plan," she said.

Criticizing former President Reagan's efforts to cut funding for initiatives for children, Ms. Edelman said her organization wants to work with the Bush Administration to reverse the trend. "We look forward to a warmer budget breeze for children beginning in 1989," she said.

There is cause for optimism, she added, because a "national bipartisan consensus on the importance of early-childhood investment" has been achieved among state and national leaders.

Copies of "A Vision for America's Future--An Agenda for the 1990's: A Children's Defense Fund Budget" are available for $14.45 each from the cdf, 122 C St., N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001.--dc

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